Imagine 2 opposing countries, Country A and Country B, about to launch into war against each other. For argument’s sake, suppose that both A and B have evenly matched numbers of individuals capable of military service – 100,000 a piece.
So, not counting potential civilian casualties, A and B stand to lose up to 100,000 people each. These people will either be killed in battle and lost forever, and in any case they’re temporarily of no economic value to the country, as they have had to leave their regular jobs to join the military.
Either way, there’s no benefit from these people being in the armed forces, other than to square up against their opposite numbers in the other country.
Now. The peace talks have broken down. The negotiations have come to nothing. 200,000 troops are set to clash. There is little for them to look forward to other than destruction, death and misery.
That is, unless they participate in Mutually Agreed Downsizing.
This is how I suggest it works. Each of the individuals serving in the military is scored with a ‘fighting factor’ on a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being a soldier who might have trouble enlisting with Dad’s Army, and 10 for Herculean warriors who make the SAS look like sissies.
The scores of an individual’s fighting value could be decided by volunteers from a neutral country - It could even be done on the internet, with a 'HotOrNot' style website, where volunteers view the soldiers' photos and use those to rate their machismo and fighting power. 'ShootOrScoot.com'? Never mind.
With the volunteers' ratings published, the belligerent countries must then ‘down-size’ their armies, each expelling equal numbers of soldiers of comparable combat value. These de-mobbed soldiers are sent to internationally monitored camps – I’ll call them ‘Non-Combat Sanctuary Zones’ for the moment. Using the word ‘Zone’ should appease war-mongers because it sounds like military jargon, and the generals can pretend it’s all part of their strategic plan - while the name encapsulates what it basically is – a hide-away for retired cannon fodder.
Ex-soldiers from both sides would have to mix together in the Non-Combat Sanctuary Zones, so they serve as ‘human shields’ for each other, disincentivising either country from wishing to attack the N-CSZ.
Ideally the armies actually conducting combat operations could be reduced to a few dozen, allowing the war to be settled quickly and with minimal casualties. It would also be impossible for one country to occupy another’s territory with just a dozen or so troops. Invading armies would be ridiculed and probably battered by old men with pitchforks.
That is basically the idea.
Probably wouldn't work.
However, I believe Mutually Agreed Downsizing of armies would be a worthy avenue of diplomatic endeavour, alongside economic sanctions and that sort of thing.