The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

The Professionals

The 18th Century saw the perfection of the concept of the professional army. From the point of view of the monarch they were a great asset to the kingdom –ensuring protection from enemies from within as well as without the crown’s borders. The professional army had numerous positive attributes. It also had limitations. Both its attributes and its limitations directly effectived how the Kingdoms and Empires of the 18th Century waged wars. What were those effects?

Today the Western military forces, including the U.S. Army, are considered the finest professional military forces ever produced. As a professional military force, what attributes, both positive and negative, does the U.S. military, and the army in particular share with the professional forces of Frederick the Great’s Prussia?

Do the professional attributes of the U.S. military effect how the U.S. military wages war in a way similiar to the professionals effect on war in 18th Century? If so, how?


September 5, 2013 - Posted by | H100, Professional Military Education


  1. Three thoughts for today as there was lots of information and little time to discuss:

    1. The profession of arms. How did warfare evolve as a profession?
    The formation of a profession is often defined as: the development of formal qualifications based upon education, apprenticeship, and examinations, the emergence of regulatory bodies with powers to admit and discipline members, and some degree of monopoly rights.
    Free companies demonstrate many of these attributes. When did the codification of ethics happen? This seems to be the gateway to professionalism.

    2. Why was there no emergence of a workers union, per se? If the situation was so dire for a soldier/warrior/mercenary why couldn’t they agree on a collective bargaining agreement?

    3. Have professional sports evolved from the necessity to satisfy rivalry without bloodshed? General Managers (Generals) and Team Captains (Captains) seem very familiar.

    Comment by Maj Jim Smith, 17B | September 5, 2013

  2. As the resident Diplomat, I’d offer up another aspect of the time period of Louis XIV’s reign that I believe is relevant to this lesson.

    While I have never heard the term “diplomatic revolution” (if new, I want credit for the term!), Kissinger might say that the early 17th century (in the lead up to the Peace of Westphalia) would be the first – and perhaps most significant – diplomatic revolution. Cardinal Richelieu, chief of state to the French monarch, was the one who coined the phrase “raison d’etat,” or “reason of the state,” or as we would say today: national interest. Richelieu famously went against the Catholic church and aligned France with protestant countries simply because he believed it to be in the best interest of France. But it was also Richelieu who was responsible for the consolidating of power in the monarchy, in the process weaking the aristocracy but strengthing the state – before the time of Louis XIV (Richelieu’s hand-picked successor continued that process into Louis XIV’s reign, especially during the new king’s early years when the minister held inordinate amount of control/power given that Louis XIV became king at age 5).

    Bottomline, the reconstruction of the French state under a centralized government lead to a need for states to professionalize their armies (because Catholic troops wouldn’t otherwise fight against the wishes of the Church, for example). This new way in which France waged war altered the landscape, and the Peace of Westphalia resulted in a new system of political order throughout Europe, revolutionizing the way states conducted diplomacy and war ever since. I would contend that while the technological advances certainly made a difference in the military revolution of the time, without the political/diplomatic revolution of the time it never would have happened.

    And as an FSO, I’d also like to see more credit given to Richelieu, even though he does get a bad rap in the 3 musketeers…

    Comment by Roger Webb, 17B | September 5, 2013

  3. One attribute shared by Fredrick the Great’s Army and the U.S. military of today is the use of a formalized NCO corps. Two primary duties of NCOs in Fredrick the Great’s army are still fundamental to NCOs’ duties today. First, is the training of Soldiers. Fredrick recognized the necessity of drilling Soldiers in preparation for battle, and, as an extension of that necessity to execute Soldiers’ training, grew the need for men (exclusively in the 18th century) to lead and supervise it. The NCO corps was, if not born during that time, at least professionalized to a degree that had not been seen prior. Today, training Soldiers remains a basic NCO corps task. The second use of NCOs in Fredrick’s army which remains a primary function for them in the modern U.S. military is discipline. NCOs, namely corporals, in the 18th century, oversaw the physical (corporal) punishment of men who violated army rules and regulations. Today, UCMJ authority rests with commissioned officers; however, non-judicial punishment/corrective training is almost exclusively handled by NCOs. As it was in the army of Fredrick the Great, the NCO corps remains invaluable to the success of modern U.S. armed forces. Training Soldiers and Soldier discipline remain at the forefront of an NCO’s duties.

    Comment by S. Hall | September 5, 2013

  4. Roger, a diplomatic revolution is an interesting concept. I think you are on to the real reason/requirement for the first Military Revolution we discussed in Knox and Murray. The creation of the modern state is the cultural change that accompanied a change in Warfare. I like the idea that the needs of the state are emerging as the priority. It shows the growth of the state as the preeminent power although; the rise of the powerful state was primarily enabled by the professional military.

    “States” began as territories of a particular ruler and the army quickly became the true power of the king. If we look back at the discussion from class, it is obvious that the rulers of the societies became interested in a strong standing army because this was a tangible instrument of power. This is one aspect of the current force that ties back into Frederick the Great’s Army. The Military is an instrument of power, as employed by the rulers of today to gain political advantage and ensure security. So, I would say that, while Cardinal Richelieu was not given credit, you are right to point the discussion back to the political reasons for the Military Revolution vice just the convenient formation of a professional army.

    Comment by Aaron M. Parker | September 5, 2013

  5. Aaron, you started me thinking about what might be considered a diplomatic revolution, and which drives the process: the diplomatic or military revolution. Thinking through this overnight, I can think of three possible diplomatic revolutions:

    1. Richelieu’s raison d’etat. Probably the most significant, because even today every country frames its actions in terms of its national interest.

    2. Metternich and the Congress of Vienna. This was the diplomatic response to the Napoleonic Wars. Metternich’s revolution focused on maintaining the status quo among nation’s. He did this by working to strengthen the domestic institutions of other countries regardless of form of government, believing that countries with strong institutions are less likely to wage war against each other. The result was the longest period of peace in European history. And modern diplomacy must now take into account every aspect of the country, not just the head of government (coalition building in the lead up to Iraq is a good example).

    3. Bismarck and the Balance of Power. Bismarck’s ideas were hardly new, but it was the culmination of philosophies and events. Bismarck leads this revolution because he was the one to make it work, resulting in the unification of Germany. Kissinger explains that the Balance of Power diplomacy depends on an estimate of each other’s strength. However, this is just an estimate and the only way to know for sure is to go to war. Franco-Prussian war (which resulted in the unification of Germany), WWI, and WWII were all balance of power wars. The entire discussion at Versailles was balance of power theory (make Germany too weak, and France and Russia couldn’t help but invade; leave Germany too strong and Germany would again seek to expand outward). After WWII, the world rejected the idea behind the balance of power concept, but then plunged into a cold war which was defined by the balance of power during which the US and USSR continually tested each other’s strength in proxy wars.

    So which comes first? The diplomatic or military revolution? Richelieu definitely paved the way for that military revolution, but Metternich’s was clearly in response to French agression (although, one could probably argue that Metternich’s approach would not have been possible without the rise of democracies and the weakening of monarchies which began long before Napoleon). As for Bismarck, I think this is an interesting case. For as much as we hail Frederick the Great’s military inovation, what did he do with it? Only Bismarck, armed with both Frederick’s legacy and a balance of power mentality was able to alter the map of Europe.

    Comment by Roger Webb, 17B | September 6, 2013

  6. 1. I think one of the effects was the sense of nationalism, especially after the decline of the feudal states. Kings owned armies, not the nobles in some extend. In Prussia and during the Seven Years’ War, regiments were almost entirely composed of native Prussians at the end of Frederick the Great’s reign and the army had become an integral part of the Prussian society. They were no longer mercenaries or disloyal armies.
    2. One of them, religious toleration for civilians and military.
    3. Military leaders focused on drill and discipline like we do now. Uniforms were improved, especially in Prussia. Medical care improved significantly after the formation of regiments (wives provided first aid care, plus the cooking). Also, Veterans had good opportunities for public employment.

    Comment by MAJ Emilio Rodriguez-17B | September 7, 2013

  7. The development of a professional army from the 18th century not only impacted the Kingdoms and Empires, but also contributed to our current military structure.

    One of the biggest developments was the management in logistics, operations, and personal. Louis XIV understood the linkage between timely supplies and a well run army; he even put civilian officials in to handle such “mundane” administrative tasks. Today, sustainment (logistics, personnel and health services) aids in the depth and duration necessary to maintain operations (ADP 4-0).

    Additionally, Under Frederick the Great, the concept of an officer corps strengthened. There was less physical segregation between officers and soldiers as Prussian officers, not sergeants, supervised and led units. As Seth mentioned, a formalized NCO corps developed as well, but emphasis was also put on the importance of the officer in the development of his unit. No longer were officers, nobles or aristocrats, allowed to not be present at times of training. Prussian officers were being held to a higher training standard.

    Comment by Mai Lee Eskelund | September 9, 2013

  8. They were also held to a higher responsibility standard. Remember that young Frederick was court-martialed by his father because of his behavior as a Prussian officer, not because he was an unruly son. The Prussian officer standards were high –but this was not the case in many European armies where noble class was still more important than competancy. One of many reasons the Prussian army was the best of the professional forces.

    Comment by dimarcola | September 9, 2013

  9. Emilio –many of the characteristics you list here are key. However, nationalism has not yet become an important factor in Warfare. It will in 50 years (or one more lesson).

    Comment by dimarcola | September 9, 2013

  10. The rise of the nation state –as opposed to the feudal monarchy, is a very complex process that includes advances in economics, political structure, military power, and yes, diplomacy. As we will see throughout our history lessons, which came first is often difficult if not impossible to determine.

    Comment by dimarcola | September 9, 2013

  11. Good point Aaron. Of course you can’t have a professional military unless you can pay them. Pay requires currency, requires banking, requires a major economic shift from a subsistance / barter economy to a market econmy (which means trade and excess goods).

    Comment by dimarcola | September 9, 2013

  12. Interesting ideas Roger. Would you consider attempts at collective security/standards through the Leauge of Nations and then the UN a fourth diplomatic revolution? Were they failed attempts at revolution –ie. failed efforts to superceed the balance of power world? Or, maybe they were before their time, the day of the UN is yet to come and requires increased economic and digitally enhanced globalization?

    Comment by dimarcola | September 9, 2013

  13. Excellent point Seth.

    Comment by dimarcola | September 9, 2013

  14. WOuld workers / soldiers unions enhance or degrade military capability?

    Comment by dimarcola | September 9, 2013

  15. I hadn’t considered the rise of the UN as a possible fourth diplomatic revolution. On the surface, it certainly fits the bill as the structure for a new world political order in response to the world wars. My argument against it would simply be that it remains to be seen if it will catch. The League of Nations couldn’t prevent a balance of power driven second world war; and a stronger UN had little influence over the balance of power Cold War, despite the fact that everyone rejected a balance of power system. The UN also has had little effect over other wars of national interest, and also failed to prevent genocide in Bosnia and Africa. Even though the world is desperately seeking a new diplomatic revolution, no matter how much we want the UN to work it still seems impotent. We are clearly still defining world events in Richelieu’s and Bismarck’s terms, no matter how much we have come to dislike them.

    That said, while I think the UN as an institution comes short of a bona fide diplomatic revolution, I think the idea of collective security/action is taking root and may very well be seen as a revolution eventually. I just don’t think that the UN – which has symbolized that idea to date – will produce the vision of the world we all want. Whatever comes next, I feel we are still operating under the black cloud of the World Wars and the one requirement we want to impose on the next diplomatic revolution is that it is a basis for peaceful coexistence. In this light, it might do us well to examine more closely Metternich’s revolution.

    Comment by Roger Webb, 17B | September 10, 2013

  16. Napoleon Dynamite – the Opportunist

    By the end of the eighteenth century the ratio of women than men in France was 3:2. Significant numbers of men had been killed during the wars leading up to the revolution. The Napoleonic Code led to an increase in women’s rights; however, it paid lip service to liberty, equality, and fraternity. A woman’s liberty was subject to her husband’s temper; equality could not exist while she did not share rights of citizenship and property. As for fraternity – I’m sure there was excessive debauchery.

    I’m not sure Napoleon actually supported the revolution. He even re-introduced slavery in France. Power to the people!

    Comment by Maj Jim Smith, 17B | September 10, 2013

  17. Soldiers unions would significantly degrade military capabilities by creating a system and atmosphere that is prejudicial to good order and discipline. The basis of military order and regulation requires unwavering compliance with legal verbal and written orders and any form of Soldier’s union which would attempt to dictate conditions of service (be it the type of work, pay and incentives or any number of factors) would undercut the Chain of Command. Internal struggles to affect decisions, policy and orders negatively impacts the mission and erode the force by removing the ability of commanders to command, conduct decisive operations or act to achieve mission success. While this may seem simply untenable while in a garrison or home-guard environment, it is gravely dangerous during crisis, conflict or war. The existence of sanctioned unions within the force structure would threaten national security as well as damage, destruction, injury or death.

    Unions in the civilian sector are a means for workers to unite and use a combined leverage to better pay and benefits, working conditions, division and assignment of labor/tasks, or to address fair treatment standards and grievances against management for mistreatment, cruelty or abuse. Inherent within the military system exists avenues for Soldiers to pursue all of these aims, but not conditionally as a group using the potential refusal to work or follow orders as leverage. We have set laws and standards, checks and balances, notification and trained on rights regarding Inspector General notification, official grievance policies, legal protection, the ability and rules governing how to contact their elected representatives as well as participate in the political system (political parties, special interest and lobbyist groups). Further, the financial structure of the DoD and each service is greatly constrained based on defense and service related priorities, contracting laws, legislative requirements and policy; were Soldier’s unions to take a stance demanding action, policy change or compromise, they would not achieve the same leverage as in the commercial world because of the way funding and decisions are structured at the highest levels of government.

    The importance of maintaining good order and discipline within a professional military and loyalty, throughout all ranks up to the commander in chief, is not a new concept. It is the basis for orders, regulation, military law and discipline that has been a vital part of military service and culture from our UCMJ to the Prussian Army and before. It forms the foundation of the good order and discipline that is essential to military success and actions during war as well as training and readiness in peace. Historical events, such as the one in post 8 above, acknowledge the importance of good order and discipline of the military at all times, functions which would be jeopardized by creation of any semblance of Soldier’s unions.

    Comment by LCDR Matt Krull | September 10, 2013

  18. Good Comments Matt. Some of the more progressive European militaries created soldier unions in the 1980s. There was even a move in the US to do that in the 1970s. To my knowledge some of the European military unions still exist and are a consistant problem for commanders

    Comment by dimarcola | September 11, 2013

  19. Reading the discussion about military unions reminded me of conversations I had with a Lieutenant Colonel from Norway I worked with while deployed in Afghanistan. The Norwegian military is subject to a collective bargaining agreement. Because of his seniority, the LTC I worked with was essentially the representative for this union in RC-N. He often groused about what a pain it was for him to deal with the issues that would arise. He did not support the concept. However, it is not what we would refer to in the U.S. as an “open shop” where one could choose whether to belong to the union. It’s compulsory to be a part of the collective bargaining agreement as a condition of service. Many of the issues he described to me seemed to be what we would refer to the IG or EO channels in the U.S. Armed Forces. Here is a link to a rather lengthy explanation of collective bargaining in the public sector as it pertains to Norway, including their military:

    On another note, in my private sector experience prior to coming on indefinite active duty in the AGR program, I managed both union and non-union crews in my role as a construction project manager. Whether the projects I worked were union was largely dependent upon the laws of the state in which I was working (i.e. whether that state was a “Right to work state”). In right-to-work states, none of our crews ever organized; a good example of this would be in Utah where we employed 2,000 workers in the Salt Lake Valley to reconstruct Interstate 15. The total compensation package my company offered was better than what the local unions were able to negotiate. During this 4 year project, the local unions saw their membership substantially decline and the union shop companies were left with a less able workforce.

    My deepest experience with a unionized workforce was in Hawaii. Here, the unions were less concerned about the welfare of their working members than they were about collecting dues. The unions were definitely not concerned with providing quality training for their members. For example, when I would place a call to the union hall for them to send me a pipe layer I would get an inexperienced and untrained general laborer who I was expected to pay $36/hour in total pay and benefits ($24/hour in wages and $12/hour in fringes). Since I had to turn a profit, my work around was to import experienced, non-union workers from the mainland (mostly Washington State), pay the union what I called “blood money” to allow the worker to join the union, do a by-name request for that worker to the union, and then provide the worker with housing and per diem while they were “TDY”. The “blood money” was usually $1,000 to the labor union or $2,000 to the operating engineers union. While this sounds costly, the increase in productivity was substantial enough to offset the additional cost and give us an acceptable margin. Another work around was a clause in the union contract whereby I, as the employer, could fire any employee without cause during a 14 day probationary period. For those positions where I didn’t import a worker, I would fill it with a local union employee. If after 13 days that employee’s performance was not such that I had no doubt in my mind they were capable of performing the job, I would fire them. On one project that was high risk, I hired and fired approximately 95 workers in 2-1/2 years for about 10 positions on my crew. Had it not been for the union, I would have been inclined to give many of them much longer to prove themselves capable.

    Based on my experience, my position is this: While I’ll concede unions perhaps had their place during the industrial revolution (I haven’t studied enough of the history to form an opinion one way or another), I don’t believe they have a productive place in a free market society, including in a military that doesn’t practice conscription. When left unencumbered, compensation will always find a price to the market and unions serve to distort this price and hinder both productivity and individual professional proficiency. The compensation our military pays us is priced to the market of the quality and numbers of individuals our military seeks. We saw substantial pay raises during OIF/OEF. As the VCSA indicated to us yesterday, we are unlikely to see any substantial raises or increased benefits in the near future now that fewer of us are needed. In fact, many of our benefits (free for all tuition assistance comes to mind), will likely decrease or disappear altogether. When the next war starts, we’ll see another increase and so on.

    Comment by Rusty Rhoads | September 11, 2013

  20. To add on to my final thought above: During the period in which we are unlikely to see substantial increases to our total compensation during the current draw down, our “real wage” will likely decrease because of inflation. A 1% or even 1.8% pay raise – the two numbers thrown out by GEN Campbell – will not keep pace with inflation. I would predict this trend will continue until either 1) the military needs to ramp up numbers again, or 2) there is a noticeable flight of talent from the military to the private sector. In other words, it will price to market.

    What does this have to do with the topic? If we are arguing that the U.S. military is a profession, professionals will tend to migrate to the employers who offer the most satisfaction – satisfaction being a combination of total compensation, professional development, and other factors such as frequency of relocation (PCS). Professionals don’t have jobs, they have careers composed of a combination of jobs. Playing into the military’s favor, the threshold to break from the military for many of these professionals will likely be a bit higher than a professional in the private sector who is considering a change of employer. This is because an officer or NCO will percieve it as a permanent decision; meaning once they leave, they can’t come back. Over time this will trend to an overall loss of talent as military professionals with commercially marketable skills depart the service while those who don’t have such skills remain.

    Comment by Rusty | September 11, 2013

  21. Great ideas Rusty — I had not been keeping up with what the Europeans have been doing lately but based on your experience many of them are continuing similar practices as they have in the past. They may even be effective in small exclusive militaries but don’t scale up well to very complex multipurpose organizatons like the US.

    Comment by dimarcola | September 12, 2013

  22. Interesting observation Rusty. From what you say, it would seem that if you want to keep Pro level talent, than rather than personnel costs going down they will have to go up if the military wants to remain “competitive” for talent on the open market. Do you think this is compatible with the trends of the future.

    Comment by dimarcola | September 12, 2013

  23. Dr. DiMarco – I don’t necessarily want anything per se. I recognize the reduction in total compensation as one legitimate “lever” the military has at its disposal to naturally attrit the force without a RIF. Examining the merits of using this lever would require in depth research and discussion. I have faith this has been done. I have no doubt our senior leadership recognizes the risk it poses. Evidence of this understanding can be seen in the proactive push for “talent management” that has coincided with talk of budget reductions. The talent management push is, among other things, an effort to increase the overall satisfaction of our top performing professionals to entice them to continue in the service.

    I do however, doubt the majority of our mid and junior level leaders recognize it for what it is. This is evidenced by the cries of outrage in the Army Times or to Congressional Representatives whenever a popular benefit is cut or eliminated, tuition assistance once again being a great example. My point is simply that it is a truth we should all recognize so we may each make an informed decision about where to take our professional career.

    Since the services’ pay tables are all tied together, I would be interested to hear Matt’s take on how this might impact the Navy considering the Navy is far more technically oriented than the Army.

    Comment by Rusty Rhoads | September 12, 2013

  24. Dr. DiMarco: For the failed initiative in the 1970’s to start a union within the ranks of the Army (I assuming that the goal was a Soldier’s union that would not include commissioned officers) do you think this movement was a byproduct of the draft still being in existence and this non-military principle permeating the ranks of the US Army more easily because the United States was not working on the volunteer service / professional military model and having a large conscripted force and increasingly unpopular conflict?

    Comment by LCDR Matt Krull | September 13, 2013

  25. I think that may have been a factor. I think another important factor was the perception that the military was not operating in accord with the desires of the population (ie. the Vietnam War). Though, to be fair, the union movement never got seriously started in the US –unlike some European countries.

    Comment by dimarcola | September 23, 2013

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