The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H103: 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 21, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Professional armies are more effective than mercenary armies, which are profit-motivated and casualty-adverse. In King Louis XIV’s professional army, officers were nobles motivated by higher ranks and privileges. Nobles competed for military rank to enhance their social standing. This resulted in loyalty to the throne and contributed to the effectiveness of the professional army. A key limitation of the professional army is its inability to maximize its stock of talent. As officership in the professional army was limited to the higher and middle classes, the army was unable to optimize the talent of its entire population, within which might contain soldiers with a better aptitude for leading.

    Comment by Luke Goh, 19B | September 21, 2015

  2. The professional army of the 18th Century effectively consolidated military power under the monarch and transitioned away from the mercenary forces of the Middle Ages. This professional army embraced the chain of command, a transparent rank system, and a common uniform. With these core concepts, the monarch leveraged prestige against his military professionals; this power consolidation and dispensation capability translated to the correlation between rank and privilege. From this monarch-appointed hierarchy, the professional army derived military law with the coercive elements of punishment to manage the lower ranks.
    While the basic structure of Frederick the Great’s professional army still exists today, the all-volunteer force of the American Army effectively engenders nationalism, opportunity, and duty concept to the state in lieu of fear through discipline. American soldiers supplant monarchical responsibility with duty to the nation. Instead of fear, soldiers gather additional forms of motivation as specialists. The professional soldier of today is more versatile, innovative, and responsible therein enabling the military to wage a highly dynamic and complex version of warfare vice the type of combat seen in the 18th Century.

    Comment by Matt Wunderlich, 19A | September 21, 2015

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