Thanks to Hollywood and NPR's foreign correspondents, most of us think we have a good idea of how each country's military works. China is scary, the U.S. patrols the world, the Middle Eastern countries only have armies big enough to fight each other, and everyone else just keeps the guns around for parades.
But there are some countries that never turn up in war movies or video games that you still wouldn't want to mess with. For instance ...
#5. Switzerland Is One Big Explosive Booby Trap
We usually think of Switzerland as a tiny little snowy postcard of a country. Want to buy some watches, fine chocolate, or neutrality? Go to Switzerland. Want to buy military aggression? Try the 1930s Germany Store, because you're not going to find it among the Swiss.
Frederic J. Brown
You can't blitz with this, let alone krieg.
If you're wondering how Switzerland can remain famously neutral, there are several reasons, but let's start with this: The entire country is rigged to blow.
There are at least 3,000 points of demolition built into bridges, highways, and railroads throughout the nation. And those are just the ones acknowledged by the government. Some of those beautiful mountains are hollow enough to fit whole military divisions. There are cannons hidden in houses -- just waiting, just begging for the chance to kill someone. There are man-made rock slides waiting for the trigger. And all of these Wile E. Coyote traps weren't just set up and abandoned after World War II -- civil engineers undergo regular drills all the time. You know, just in case.
"C'mon, Germany ... see what happens!"
What we're trying to say is that Switzerland is like that quiet kid in the back of class who you just don't fuck with because he knows muay thai and has a weird twitch. Oh, and he has a lot of guns. In Switzerland, every man is required to join the military once he hits 19. That in itself isn't too weird; lots of countries have compulsory conscription. What's different about Switzerland is that once discharged from basic training, everyone takes their weapons home with them. They have to. It's the law. And they can keep those guns forever, which is one reason why the only two countries that have more firearms per capita than Switzerland are the United States (no surprise there) and Yemen. Not that we can get accurate numbers, because gun registration isn't a thing in Switzerland.
Sven Nackstrand / Getty
"What, because you always register your computer?"
Why couldn't someone just bomb them into submission? Well, the country has spent the last 50 years building bomb shelters, for one. Beginning in 1963, every household was required to build its own shelter in case of nuclear attack. In fact, by the 1980s, the Swiss could shelter up to 83 percent of the population underground should the U.S. and USSR lose their shit. Which is so cute, because American funding for fallout shelters ceased altogether in the mid-1960s.
So when the aliens finally come and try to take over, we should just mutually agree to send them to Switzerland first.
"Well, if you wanna conquer the Earth, the first thing to conquer is a steaming mug of Swiss hot chocolate!"
#4. Canada's Secret Forces Are Great at Murdering Terrorists
O Canada, you're so adorable with your maple syrup and hockey and "Eh"s and moose. You're like North America's great big fuzzy John Candy-shaped teddy bear.
We don't understand poutine at all, but, darn it, that just makes you cuter.
Canada's special operations unit is like a bear alright -- a stealthy grizzly bear that has mastered modern weapons and can silently kill you in the night (so we guess it's more like a group of highly trained humans, which it is, so just ignore the whole bear thing). Not only does Canada have a military, which in itself is probably a surprise to some people, but their anti-terrorist unit is one of the best in the world ... a world that never ever attacks Canada.
Nazim Kadri / Getty
"Try us, hosers!"
Joint Task Force 2 started out in the 1990s as sort of bodyguards for Canadian politicians and diplomats. By 2001, they had the chops to participate in the war in Afghanistan -- secretly. Forty elite JTF2 soldiers worked alongside U.S. forces and took out about 100 high-ranking Taliban and al-Qaida leaders. The Canadian public didn't even know they were there until someone accidentally published their Joint Task Force pictures, but credited them as Americans.
Spencer Wynn / Toronto Star
Eh, same continent.
The JTF2 were especially valued for their cold-weather training when it came time to coordinate Afghan mountain missions. That's not a joke -- the Canadians were literally cold-weather specialists. They're also valued as stone cold killers. One expert put it this way:
"What they do is infiltrate into dangerous areas behind enemy lines, look for key targets, and take them out. They don't go out to arrest people. They don't go out there to hand out food parcels. They go out to kill targets."
Are you hearing that in Liam Neeson's voice? No? Read it again.
#3. The Vietnamese Had a Killer Air Force
Thanks to Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick, and your granddad's night terrors, we all have a pretty good idea of what the Vietnam War looked like. There were lots of guys wading through rice paddies, tramping through the jungle, running to choppers, and passing doobies. And we might have won if not for those pesky jungle fighters, the primitive Viet Cong, armed with nothing but AK-47s and crude booby traps.
Young Macaulay Culkin could've taken out a whole armored regiment.
Sure, much of the Vietnam War was fought in the muck, but a whole damn lot of it was fought in the air ... where the Vietnamese were really, really good.
So good, in fact, that the real-world training program portrayed in Top Gun was started to deal with the Vietnamese Air Force. Not the Nazis. Not the Soviets. The Vietnamese. Which is especially impressive considering that they didn't form their first squadron until 1964. By 1965, Vietnamese planes had claimed their first victory -- one that pitted eight Russian-built MiGs against 79 American planes. And the clunky MiGs shot down two F-105s. And that was before the Vietnamese got slick new MiG-21s from Uncle Brezhnev.
Somebody translate "Danger Zone" into Vietnamese.
By the end of the war, the top American ace had six kills, while the top Vietnamese had nine. And more than that, the Americans only had three aces in the entire war. Vietnam had 17. When all was said and done, the Vietnamese lost a total of 131 planes. The Americans lost over 2,000. This killer record ranked Vietnam as one of the most successful air forces in the world, coming behind only the USA, the USSR, and Israel.