The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H104: 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?

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September 21, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized

7 Comments »

  1. The advantages of a conscript army stem from the fact that a conscript army is the nation’s army. Soldiers are motivated by loyalty to their country as well as the defense of their homes and families. A conscript army with a system to optimize the deployment of each individual is also able to harness the talent of the entire population. It also serves as a common experience that strengthens societal cohesion.

    There are two key disadvantages of a conscript army. First, the opportunity cost to conscripted soldiers. Instead of being conscripted, soldiers could be furthering their studies or advancing their careers. In a democratic country, public support is therefore essential for the sustenance of conscription. Second, the proficiency of conscript soldiers. The typical model of conscription is a period of full-time training followed by periodic currency training. It is therefore important to ensure training is effective within the limited training period.

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

  2. I do not agree with the above analysis of volunteer armies versus professional armies. The reason is the duty concept behind every military professional in the contemporary force complemented by the reality of economic constraints. While the volunteer forces of the Revolutions and World Wars I and II potentially possessed equally altruistic intentions as today’s soldier, the Revolutionaries and Doughboys inevitably received recompense and pension. Today’s soldier requires numerous skills while overcoming hardships and demands which translate to a professional occupation. The difference for the professional soldier, unlike other jobs, is that he or she is willing to sacrifice their life, if necessary, for their duty concept.

    The state must care for its protectors. Conversely, the protectors must commit their time in order to justify their nation’s investment of training. In this vein, the state must provide surety and commitment back to the professional soldier via financial recompense and pension. In today’s military, the duty attracts and sustains the soldier while recompense ensures a career opportunity.

    I do not think the US professional army is appropriate for Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead, each nation must tailor an army appropriate to its populace and societal needs. The American military is expensive, capable, and rooted in heritage. A force of this caliber cannot be transplanted to another nation. Instead, just as China opts for conscription to meet its national ends, the United States forged and maintains an army appropriate to its national objectives. This American mentality is appropriate for Iraq, Afghanistan, and any other country.

    Comment by Matt Wunderlich, 19A | September 22, 2015

  3. I do not agree with the text above. One of the definitions of voluntary is “done or undertaken of one’s free will”. The definition says nothing about getting paid. To narrow the definition down to the next definition, “acting or done willingly and without constraint or expectation of a reward”, is incorrect, in my opinion. People in the military volunteered to join. There is no king or elected body demanding they join due to reason X.
    Conscription armies do have their advantages. Per the H105 class we learned they are motivated, willing to take casualties, and can amass quickly.
    The Chinese conscription army is great if they need to invade another country or use a show-of-force. However, the troops are ill-trained, probably lack resources, and will only be useful in wars of attrition. A professional army gets you highly trained, resourced, and prepared force.

    Comment by Tim Lawrence 19C | September 23, 2015

  4. I did find the same definition as Tim, that something done voluntarily is “done or undertaken of one’s free will”, but the second definition was “willing to do work without compensation”. Soldiers in a professional army, like in the US, are not volunteers. I do believe that there is something noble to the fulfillment of duty to your country that joining a professional military entails; however, if you want to consider me a volunteer, then you also have to consider a DA Civilian working as a security guard on Ft Leavenworth or a civilian police officer a volunteer.
    So why do we say we are an all volunteer force? I think we do it in order to create an honorable job and help Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice. Even the most dedicated Soldier would prefer to live than die, but we may be asked to die in service of our country. In the case of the French Revolution Army, all of the armies in WWII and the initial deployment in the War on Terror, I believe that Soldiers were just as happy dying for their cause as coming home. Many Soldiers believed that their death would be a symbol of dedication and their fight against a true evil. I know I felt that way in 2001-2005. But any professional army has certain risk aversions in it. You have to be willing to sacrifice lives, but there is still a cost that you have to consider before committing.
    We compensate for the potential cost of dying in service of your country with health benefits, insurance, a monthly pay check and death benefits. Painting a picture of an all volunteer force will of patriots with high morals and values encourages new recruits to join and for trained professionals to continue to stay and develop. Being classified as a non-volunteer force does not take away from the fact that Soldiers join and may be called to sacrifice their lives in defense of others. It is still an honorable profession.

    Comment by Laura Proffit 19C | September 24, 2015

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

    The analysis above is misleading because the phrase of “all volunteer army” is usually taken out of context. For example, in the United States, every Soldier and Officer IS a volunteer. This is because, at one point, every Soldier and Officer formally volunteered to serve the army. After the action of volunteering, a contract was then signed, but not until after the Soldier or Officer volunteered.

    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 benefits to the state of having a conscript army is the power to employ their services in the interests of the state with less concern of personal interests interfering with national goals. The war making advantages the state possesses with a conscript army is multi-faceted. Foreign policy will be influenced based on the ability of the conscript army and the intimidation/threat is a valid policy. A conscript army usually ensures that those who served will have a better understanding of the importance of serving, the sacrifices made will serving, and the knowlegde required if the need to be recalled is inevitable.

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

    A conscripted army has benefits that ensure those who can serve, will serve and gain experience from it. However, as the case is in Syria, if national policy does not align with personal views and beliefs, loyalty becomes an issue and may lead to desertion or other compromising situations for the national force. Below is a link that demonstrates the disadvantages of a conscripted army compared to a professional army in regards to Syria.
    http://www.ibtimes.com/syrian-men-conscripted-bashar-assads-army-choose-escape-over-kill-or-be-killed-1919724

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

    A consistent concern of a small professional army when compared to the overall population of a state is the level of support from the public and elected officials. This results in the fact that with such a small percentage of the population serving, the needs, benefits, and sacrifices are often times not realized and may have a tendency to be disregarded or at least have that perception.

    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?

    The American model of army creation is a proper choice. However, it must be made clear we do not model other armies after our own image and capabilities. In my experience, we use the host nation capabilities to create units from available populace.
    The economy and amount of money available for sustainability and maintenance must be the first planning factor when building Armies. Initially, training will occur, immediate fielding of equipment will take place, and a very inexperienced force will be employed. However, as requirements and complexity increase, sustaining a force that has the WILL to fight becomes difficult. Religion, global politics, and cultural norms, such as drug usage, economic structure, education levels, civil rights, employment opportunities other than the Army, and long term strategic goals of all nations involved must be considered when constructing a security force of any level or size.

    Comment by Joshua Shaver | September 30, 2015

  6. I agree with the assessment above. Although we are volunteers, we expect to be well compensated for our service both financially as well as tangible and intangible benefits. For instance, I have asked several students in the class if they would serve if their pay was cut in half. All of them said no. I asked the same question with the following caveat: 1/2 the pay, but the Army provides everything you need for free. Most said no, they want the money to spend the way they see fit. The Majors with numerous kids thought more than those without or few kids, but the response was similar. For years, Soldiers have complained about their compensation and we continue to do so despite being handsomely rewarded for what we do. If we were truly volunteers, we would be willing to endure greater hardships for our country.

    The biggest advantage to a conscript Army is cost. Conscript or drafted Armies can be paid a much lower wage so the government gets more bang for their buck. The problem with this would be morale; forcing people do things like serving in the military can create second and third order effects that are negative. For instance, the Army prides itself on superior morality, but we have tremendous problems with our “volunteers” and it is getting harder and harder to discharge them. I can only imagine the problems we would have with Soldiers if they were forced to be here. Drugs and SHARP issues would run rampant and the common defense would be “I never wanted to be here in the first place”. Next advantage is large formations. Drafting ensures plenty of Soldiers to do the job. The problem with this is motivation and sustainment. Large unmotivated formations barely equipped are worse than smaller, motivated well resourced formations. I would take smaller and well resourced formations any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

    Comment by Major John McAlister | October 15, 2015

  7. 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?

    I do not agree with the above analysis between a volunteer army versus a professional army. I believe that our current military force is both a volunteer force and a professional army because everyone within the force volunteered to be in. Every individual made the choice to sign up for service, they were not forced like in conscript armies. Also many Soldier continue to serve after their initial contract is up, thus volunteering to stay in. However in order to keep the incentive to stay in, the military must provide a living wage for Soldiers to provide for their families.

    Conscripts have their benefits because you do not have to waste money or time in recruiting strategies. You will always know that you will meet the needs of the force in size. When war breaks out, a conscript force can generate a large army fast. However there are many disadvantages like Soldiers that are less dedicated to the cause because they don’t want to be there, and you don’t know the quality of person you get.

    The Chinese has a largely conscripted force, I don’t think it is a better alternative to the professional army, however in the Chinese case it has to work because they want to keep and maintain a very large force and if they went to a professional army based on volunteers like the US then they may not meet the needs of their army. Therefore they must keep a conscription to ensure they have the amount of Soldiers they require.

    The problems with a professional army that is not directly connected tot he majority of the citizens of the state could be that their overall intent in a campaign wont match the ends the public would like to achieve. In our society where the Military is ran by the civilians, we must be in tune with what the majority wants because they are the ones that support our military financially.

    In Iraq and Afghanistan the US model of professional army can work because they have high support for their military and the people have a vested interest in having a national army to protect the citizens from criminal and terrorist organizations. Political and cultural factors that should be taken is who they are to work for, like a dictator versus a democracy. And culturally whether or not the public has the same ideals and interests of the national army.

    Comment by James Stall, 19A | November 11, 2015


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