The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

The True Volunteers

To call an army of paid professionals a volunteer army is a misnomer. Paid professionals don’t volunteer for service, they are paid compensation for services.

A Parent who “Volunteers” at the school library isn’t paid.  A professional who is paid to work at the library is not a volunteer but rather a contracted employee of the school.

Professionals are essentially mercenaries who are hired by the state. The only difference between a paid professional army that works for the state and mercenaries is that the mercenaries work for a sub-contractor of the state. The details such as citizenship, military law, and other differences are not differences in kind, but rather just differences in the nature and strictness of the contract that governors the relationship between the paid professional and his employer.

True volunteer armies are those that are manned by the democratically authorized conscription of citizens. A truly volunteer army was the French Army of the Napoleonic period or the American Army of World War I and II. The citizens voluntarily consent to military service through the actions of their elected representatives. That service is truly voluntary in that there is no contract between the state and the individual, and there is no just compensation provided back to the individual soldier.

Do you agree with the above analysis of volunteer army versus professional army? Why / why not?

Regardless of the validity of the above argument, conscript armies have many benefits to the state. What are they? What war making advantages do they have? What are their disadvantages?

The Chinese military is currently a largely conscripted force. Is it a better alternative to the professional army?

What are the concerns regarding a professional army that is not directly connected to the majority of the citizens of the state?

Finally, when helping to create national armies in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, is the US model professional army the right model for those societies?  What cultural and political factors should be considered when choosing the appropriate army model?


September 12, 2014 - Posted by | H100, Uncategorized


  1. I do not believe implementing the current US model of creating national armies in Afghanistan would be successful today, but may be the right future model. Two major challenges found in Afghanistan today are geographic and cultural. The first challenge, geographic, relates to the mass dispersion of the population across challenging and isolating terrain. The geographic challenge results in the country not only lacking any accurate data on its population size but also its general demographics, there is data for the cities however, is still rough estimates and speculation at best. The geographic dispersion in conjunction with a lack of infrastructure and no wide spread communication system would make recruiting challenging and limited to the few populated cities and towns. The next challenging which is tied directly to the first is a lack of nationalism throughout the country. Due to isolation of most villages and towns the resulting population only identify with their region, or in many cases, their village. A lack of nationalism would prevent popular support, leaving a conscripted force lacking in belief, motivation and will. As a result the resulting force would be plagued with desertion and be void of all initiative. In the future as the country improves its infrastructure, tax system, government etc. and the people experience widespread interconnection the resulting bi-product will be a fledging sense of nationalism and the economic stability to support a permanent, people-supported, army which could then support the current US system.

    Comment by R. Edwards-17B | September 17, 2014

  2. Conscript Armies provide many benefits to the state that supports them. One of the most important is that they are cheaper, which means they can be much larger. As a result of their larger size they are also less casualty adverse than a professional army. Another benefit is that they are more expandable than a professional army. These inherent benefits provide some war-making advantages to the state. As I already stated, because this type of Army is cheaper it allows the state to build a large force. This allows the state to overcome and defeat smaller and even more professional armies by massing this larger force and overwhelming their smaller enemies. As a result of their expand-ability, a state can contract the force and expand the force when needed. This allows a state to quickly mass a force when needed. However, an immediately apparent disadvantage to this force is their lack of war-fighting proficiency compared to a professional army. A conscript Army’s lack of training has to be overcome by its sheer size and being less casualty adverse. Another disadvantage, is that a conscript army is less tied to a ruler and has a more interdependent relationship with both the people and government. Thus, for a conscript army to be truly effective, it must be tied to some measure of nationalism or it will ultimately fail.

    Comment by Eric Peterson, Major, SG 17B | September 27, 2014

  3. There are two main concerns with a professional army in regards to its separation from society. The most important relates to the two-way relationship between the commander of the Army (President in our case) and the Army itself. This is concerning because the Army has a loyalty to its leader and is not directly connected to the people. This creates a large problem if a situation arises when the leader of the Army does not follow the will of the people. The other concern of not being connected to the citizens is that the Army’s values will not be in line with the people it protects. The values of the people should dictate what the Army looks like and what the Army fights for and not the other way around. The combination of these potential effects could create an Army that imposes its values back on its own people. There are many examples in history of this very thing happening and the result is a military dictatorship.

    Comment by Eric Peterson, Major, SG 17B | September 27, 2014

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