Small Wars Journal

A Question of Legitimacy

Fri, 12/16/2011 - 5:42am

 Abstract.  The American Military has consistently been regarded as one of the most trusted institutions in the United States[1]. By and large, American military personnel are trusted to do the right thing and behave with an honor and dignity uncommon among the militaries of all but our closest allies. However, extended conflict over the last decade has placed enormous strain on the force and while it has maintained its position in society, the forces that have been steadily driving it towards becoming a separate class, distinct in its ideology and culture, have been accelerated. In academic thought much work has been done to determine if such a class is beginning to form but little work has been done on the effects such a class might have on American Society. Perhaps more importantly – no work has been done to try and identify how a Military Class in the United States might react to threats to the democratic regime and in so doing, start the process of identifying how to properly develop a military society which always sees the American People and The Constitution as its sole sources of legitimacy and reason for existence

There have long been questions about the role and impact of a professionalized and standing military in an established and democratic state – especially one with the martial history of the United States. In the United States, it was not until after the Second World War that a large standing army was formed and only in the last 40 years has that Army been a professional and volunteer force[2]. Partly due to the period into which they were thrust, the founding fathers feared the implications of a standing Army and worried about what it might do[3]. They demonstrated no such concern for a Navy, for while funding of a standing Army was authorized for no more than two years at a time, the Navy is the only service explicitly authorized in the Constitution to be permanent[4]; an overt admission of the need to protect the sea lanes upon which the United States so heavily relied for trade. As a result, the military had typically been maintained at a size sufficient to allow for immediate defense and the training of a large, conscripted Army to deal with conflict, a concept commonly referred to today as a Cadre Army. At the end of the World War II this changed for a variety of reasons. Chief among them being that the United States found itself suddenly the only remaining power with its entire industrial complex intact and at the front of an ideological conflict between liberal and communist ideologies. It was from this moment, and from these roots, that the modern American Army derives its modern organization and mission.

After the Vietnam Conflict, the United States made what may be the most significant change to the structure and recruitment of the American military. The AVF or All-Volunteer Force was born. This force would not be the traditional, small volunteer military Americans had known during previous periods of peace, but would be a large standing force at least theoretically capable of meeting all of America’s Cold War obligations while simultaneously protecting its interests and preparing to fight the Soviet Union. While initially, many career officers were the sons of WW II veterans; this in itself was not at the time a matter of concern. After all, with over 10 percent of the population in uniform for that war, nearly everyone knew or was related to a veteran. However, over time it has become apparent that today’s career officers are still coming from the families of the veterans of our previous wars, somewhat startling given that so few of their parents’ generation are veterans. This has given rise to a new debate over the last few years, why is the military self-selecting? Does it matter? Is it becoming a class, separate and distinct with its own cultural and ideological norms? What does it say about society when such a small portion of the population serves? Is it important that most Americans don’t actually know a veteran?

Among the many thinkers in the field of Civil-Military Relations, a few have been from the military. One, General Creighton Abrams, feared an AVF would lead to a military which was easily deployed due to reduced political cost, essentially that so few Americans would be in the service, politicians could deploy them knowing only a small portion of voters would be impacted. This led to what became known colloquially as the Abrams Doctrine, the idea that the military must tie as many of its critical functions to the reserve force as possible in order to ensure a greater impact on a wider segment of the citizenry if the political leadership chose to deploy the military to conflict; at least to deploy it meaningfully. This plan would have decidedly mixed results with some military leaders concluding by the end of the 20th century that it had been a failure, reasoning that it had failed to truly constrain political actors, had contributed to degradation in operational readiness, and exposed the military to greater risk.[5]

Brigadier General H.R. McMaster would approach the problem differently when he wrote his book, Dereliction of Duty. BG H.R. McMaster argued that the Generals during the Vietnam era were in fact derelict in their duties by fighting the Vietnam War in the way they were directed by President Johnson. Indeed, according to BG H.R. McMaster, the Generals, caught up in inter-service rivalry and career-centric actions, should have resigned in protest over the war and by not doing so, failed their subordinates, the President, and the country[6]. Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling would take this a step further and apply it to the modern era when he accused the Generals in charge of the Iraq operation of much the same crimes[7]. This line of thought, in civil military relations, will be termed, in this paper, as Military Preference Primacy (MPP) and together with other theoretical advocates, will be set against Civilian Preference Primacy (CPP).

Both described in some detail by Peter Feaver,[8] military and civilian thinkers in the field of Civil-Military relations can be broken down into these two camps. Those in the MPP camp would be inclined towards more active and directed involvement in the development and formation of strategies governing the use of the American Military. An officer or academic of this camp would be opposed to any micro-management or involvement of civilian leaders in “internal” military and professional matters and would argue that once the decision has been made to go to war, the “job” of the civilian leaders has ended and it is up to the military to achieve the elected leader’s desired outcome. A member of the CPP camp on the other hand, would argue that the military should not operate without civilian leader involvement at all levels of the strategic and operational decision making process owing, to the civilian leader’s broader list of things to consider. Thinkers in this field would expect senior military leaders to provide their input based solely on the military conditions and without consideration for any other factors such as public will, additional funds from Congress, etc. A CPP adherent would expect elected and appointed civilian leadership to take an extremely active role in the formation of strategy, and the execution of operations to achieve it. While both theories advocate different levels of civilian oversight, neither theory suggests military leadership should not be subordinate to elected civilian leadership.

Recently, literature has been published by a handful of civil-military thinkers, many of them officers themselves[9], which address the possible rise of a Warrior Class (or something similar) and the reasons why such a class might be developing. However, extremely little has been done on the implications of such a class nor has an in depth study been conducted to identify if there is such a grouping, save for a very recent dissertation written by an Active Duty officer, Major Heidi Urben[10]. Major Urben found, while conducting a random survey of over 4,000 active duty Army Officers that more than half of all officers felt that the military should insist on clear political and military goals for any proposed operation.[11] It could be said that more than half of all officer adhere to a basic tenet of military supremacy theory. While “insisting” is not the same as “demanding”, it is close and the implications are clear – what happens when the political leadership refuses to provide those things? More importantly, what happens when the military concludes its interests are not being served by the government, or worse, that the government is no longer protecting the interests of the people or adhering to the Constitution?

Current analysis of the ways in which militaries, especially those in democratic societies, behave when faced with these sorts of problems are often done in the context of regime change and have been focused exclusively on individual cases. That is, current arguments take the case of the German military’s acquiescence to the rise of Hitler and the end of the Weimar Republic and treat it as a completely separate and distinct case from that of, say, the American Civil War and the American military’s behavior then. It seems reasonable however, that the internal debates in each respective military’s response would demonstrate some common thread which underpinned the decisions the military leadership made at those times, some reason why they did as they did which could serve as a point of instruction for democratic states as they decide how to structure, train, and recruit their military organizations. Warrior Classes have made decisions about the future of democracy in many nations; therefore we would be wise to understand what motivates them towards their choices and under what circumstances a military organization would diverge from the desires of the government, population, or both.

The State of the Literature

A review of the body of literature on the topic provides precious little understanding of what to expect in a system such as that found in the United States, or indeed in any established democratic State, and it is here that I expect to make my contribution. If threatened, what can we expect the American military to do to preserve the regime, or to protect the interests of the people. Will the American military guard the will of the American citizen even if that means regime change? If faced with government acting outside of its interpretation of the Constitution, but within the will of the population, will the American military acquiesce to change? While current literature hints at the factors which drive decision making in military organizations during times of crisis, it categorically fails to recognize the single underlying variable common to all cases: from where does the military derive its legitimacy. The answers to these questions are of paramount importance if the United States hopes to retain its AVF system in this current form. We must understand how exactly a Warrior Class in the United States will behave and what can we do to ensure that if allowed to rise, it perpetually perceives itself as guardians of the population and not the regime, of the Constitution and not individual leaders.

The question of civ-mil relations has been a concern for all governmental systems, but is of particular concern to those of a democratic form as a function of the absolute requirement to maintain civilian control over the military.  The roots of inquiry on the topic can be traced all the way back to Plato’s Republic and his theorizing of a Guardian Class which existed separately from society but remained responsible for societal survival and ethical ordering[12]. However, while The Republic can provide an interesting intellectual framework for examining civ-mil relations, its overall value diminishes when the differences between Plato’s “city” and modern democratic government are considered.  From an American perspective, civ-mil relations are at the core of our founding, as emphasized by General George Washington in his famous address at Newburgh, where in no uncertain terms he defined an understanding of civilian control of the military which has become one of the main underpinnings of American military culture[13]

In the field of American political development, the role of the military in politics has been examined from multiple perspectives. Although not considered a traditional civ-mil work, in her book Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: the Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States, Theda Skocpol, discusses the political dynamics surrounding pensions for soldiers following the Civil War and the impact of both the military and veterans groups on these programs[14]. While most historical accounts such as Skocpol’s provide interesting perspectives on civilian-military relationships, they focus primarily on the institution of the military and its relationship to governing institutions: the executive, legislative and judiciary branches and not specifically on ideological differences between the military and civilian populace. The politicization of military leadership positions, especially during the Civil War, predominate many early discussions of the concept of civ-mil relations. Again, these historical accounts do not delve deeply into any potential ideological disparities and the norm for that time was for military members to refrain from any political participation[15]. This is a great weakness in early civ-mil literature and even studies of militaries in non-democratic states do not discuss any ideological differences between the defenders and the defended. Rather the reader (or researcher) is left with indications of a difference from the diary entries and personal letters of military leaders, but nothing as to the character of the difference or the implications for the societies they defended. 

Following WWII, the rise of a large standing Army forced policy makers and academics to more deeply consider the concept of civ-mil relations. The Soldier and the State[16] by Samuel Huntington became the seminal work in the field and still drives much of the contemporary literature. Huntington developed a model which is known as institutional theory or objective theory and characterizes the civ-mil relationship as one possessing distinct civilian and military spheres of autonomous authority based on an underlying assumption that the U.S. military embodies a certain moral character that can be trusted to support and promote civilian control of the military[17].  New models such as Feaver’s Principle-Agent model[18] , Rebecca Schiff’s Concordance Theory[19], and Eliot Cohen’s Subjective or Unequal Dialogue Theory[20] question the concept of an autonomous military framework and instead characterize the relationship as one of distrust and probing military oversight (unequal dialogue), one of rewards and punishments for compliance with civilian leaders (principal-agent), or one defining the basis of cooperation as one that demands a confluence of military culture with that of society (concordance).  However, this research primarily focuses on the military as an institution and its institutional relationship with other governing bodies. The role and proper protocol of military advice to civilian leaders, actions by senior military officers with respect to budgeting decisions, and the tension between executive and legislative branches over control of the military hold sway in this literature. Here again, a discussion of any tension between the defenders and the defended is not, in an academic sense at least, seriously discussed.

The end of conscription in 1973 brought new concerns to the field and began to look at the issue from more sociological frameworks. Research by the late Morris Janowitz, who authored The All-Volunteer Military as a ‘Sociopolitical’ Problem[21] and another important work Five Years of the All-Volunteer Force: 1973-1978[22], written by Janowitz and the late Charles Moskos, led this development. The sociological perspective focused on demographic issues, including race and gender, and other cultural implications of the all-volunteer force. Primarily though, this research focused on the kinds of people joining the military – specifically using ethnic and economic categorizations and did not focus on ideology of the military versus that of the civilian citizenry.

Despite the multiple research avenues pursued, little attention has been paid to the possibility of a culturally different military “class” developing in the United States. Research commissioned by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies (TISS) Project has begun to look more closely at the existence of a gap between the military and American Society in general. In Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Force[23], Peter Feaver and Christopher Gelpi begin to examine the topic in light of the current conflicts and the resultant tension; however, the studies still overwhelmingly focus on the interaction of upper echelons of both military and civilian leadership. 

A recent publication, Our Army[24], by Lieutenant Colonel Jason K. Dempsey begins the work of identifying this class by analyzing the results of an Army wide survey which, among other topics, questions Army personnel on their attitudes toward society. Dempsey’s findings show that many political stereotypes regarding political affiliation were not supported by the survey results. Dempsey also conducted a survey study of West Point cadets and then compared the results with a previous study completed with Harvard students. While a significant attitudinal difference was shown to exist, it was not as dramatic as current stereotypes would suggest. The cadet study does begin to shed light on the foundations of ideological differences, but the underlying populations used for the sample are not ideal and can be improved. However, more importantly the question should not be focused solely on political association, but rather about ideology itself; specifically, what does it mean to serve, are those who serve in some way superior, and should it be an obligation of all citizens to serve?  

Another study which looks at this issue is one completed by Snider, Priest, and Lewis[25]. They examined attitudes and perspectives of ROTC and civilian college students in order to determine whether or not there is a significant gap between the two.  They find that there is no civ-mil gap, although their results are based off of a population limited to just a few ROTC programs and one private university.  I believe their findings need to be retested for two major reasons: 1) the limited scope of the previous study needs to be broadened to include a better representative sample and, more importantly 2) the U.S. has been at war for nearly a decade since their results were published in 2001, which I suggest will impact the results of any new study.  Because the U.S. has been in an ongoing combat situation, I anticipate that the gap will be more readily discernible. Demonstrating no discernible gap exists at the point of entry into service at a single, small private university is neither wholly unexpected nor significant; it does nothing to highlight what the effect on attitudes might be as a result of military service.

Finally, the very recent dissertation completed by Major Urban, “Civil-Military Relations in a Time of War: Party, Politics, and the Profession of Arms”[26], demonstrates that indeed a very real and important ideological gap does exist between the defender and the defended. In her survey of over 4,000 randomly selected active duty officers, MAJ Urben highlights some very concerning statistics about the views of the American Military towards their political (and Military) leaders. Not only does she show that over half of them believe the military should insist on defined political and military objectives prior to entering into conflict, she also shows that nearly half of the population felt military leaders should insist on a clear exit strategy; but most significantly, she shows that over a third of officers believe the President would be more credible as Command and Chief had he (or she) served in the military[27].

Major Urben shows there are many traits within at least the Army’s officer corps that suggest a class is beginning to rise. However, despite showing voter turnout among officers (and the military in general) to be much higher than that of the American public, she also highlights very low levels of political activity, something which would be concerning for scholars studying the separation problem. Additionally, Major Urben demonstrates that while significant numbers of officers feel the military should take a more assertive stance in determining how it is used, very few officers would consider public acts of dissent, resignation not withstanding – to be an acceptable course of action. Finally, her research suggests that officers typically believe a political actor considers more heavily politics rather than national security when utilizing the Army[28]. These results point to the possible formation of a separate ideological and social class, but they do not suggest this class is presently tacking towards actions undesirable the public and elected leadership.

Before entering into analysis and debate, an explanation of the terms I will use is in order. A professional military, for purposes of this paper, will be defined as a military organization, led by career military commissioned officers (and possibly non-commissioned officer) who attend some institutionalized training regimen and are promoted based on agreed standards. A standing military is one which is employed full time at both the officer and enlisted levels and could reasonably be considered capable of defending its host state without outside help. By my definition, the modern American military would be a professional and standing military whereas the Somali military would be neither. Countries in between might include the Lebanese Army (standing, not professional) and the Swiss Army (professional, not standing). Perceived threats to the regime will be considered as actual threats as they can be reasonably expected to elicit a reaction since, for the parties involved, the threat is real.

Legitimacy, for the purposes of this argument, will be the basis from which a Military Class derives justification for its existence and its authority to wield weapons in the service of the State, and thus how and what they perceive themselves to be guardians of. This distinction is critical, because I argue that it is what a Military Class considers to be its reason for existence that will be the lens through which they determine and then justify their course of action if faced with a threat to the regime, especially a domestic threat.

The Argument

If it comes to a choice between being a good Soldier or being a good human being, be a good human being - because that makes you a great Soldier.

– Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, as a Major in 1987[29]

Current research suggests a class, separate and distinct in cultural and ideological norms, is in fact developing and as such, I believe it is in the interests of the literature to begin debating the anticipated effects in order to identify ways in which policy makers can prevent, or mitigate the rise of a Warrior Class here in the United States. I will show it is more accurate to describe a Warrior Class as an independent cultural group than it is to describe it as an organization or bureaucracy, significantly changing the ways we would expect it to behave. Specifically, we would expect a bureaucracy drawn from a broad spectrum of the citizenry to self-police and be fairly attentive to the population it serves. But a cultural group, especially one which feels uniquely exposed to peril and perceiving itself as the guardians over a tradition, could rationally conclude itself to be better at interpreting this tradition or at least trend towards the interpretations offered by its leaders over those offered by leaders outside of the group. An expected result would be that a Warrior Class will develop a sense of legitimacy based on cultural norms not common and likely distinct from the population as a whole. In this sense, a Warrior Class could directly contribute to a military developing an ideology not in sync with that of the population it must defend.

I will defend the position that the causal variable which will explain the expected response of a Military Class to a regime threat is its perceived source of legitimacy. In the context of current theoretical frameworks, I will argue that understandings of the role this variable plays in military organizations can serve to expand current understandings of the way militaries interface with the population they ostensibly defend and the regime they are commanded by. While this research cannot definitively prove this variable is the causal mechanism in all cases[30], it will demonstrate that additional understandings of the theories governing Civil Military relations are needed and that at least in these cases it can explain why the militaries in question chose as they did. To use Jon Elster’s Rational Choice Theory[31] to explain: perceived sources of legitimacy can be considered the belief system through which individual desires and evidence are viewed by, and lead, to actions by the individuals within the organization. At the organizational level, given that culture groups commonly have similar belief systems, we would expect to see similar interpretations by leadership and then acceptance of those interpretations by subordinates.

In order to fully analyze this problem, I will examine the behavior of the American Military during the most pronounced threat to American Democracy, the Civil War, and its behavior afterwards. I expect to show that officers chose their side based on where they perceived their legitimacy as officers (and thus guardians) to be derived from and that in doing so, risked the future of America because they felt morally obligated to defend the thing they felt most beholden to. Specifically, I will argue that the typical military officer will conceive of him or herself as guardians of the source of their legitimacy; in this case of the Confederacy, the individual states from which they came and in the case of the Union, the supremacy of the Union[32]. I will, most importantly, show that their ideas about from where they derived their legitimacy were decided prior to the actual point at which they chose which side to serve. This case is relevant to the modern era because it demonstrates the impact leaders within the military community can have on the organization as a whole – especially when these organizations are charged with the defense of ideas which are often open to interpretation.

For some of these officers, such as Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, we find that while they were internally conflicted about the causes of the war, they ultimately chose to side with the Confederacy, Virginia in particular[33]. By their own admission, we know that this decision was prompted by their loyalty to the State of Virginia and validated by their interpretation of the Constitution. As with many Confederate officers, we can conclude that by taking up arms in defense of their state, Generals Lee and Jackson determined that their legitimacy as military officers, or guardians, was derived from their state and/or its population and they interpreted the Constitution as granting states a higher level of sovereignty than the Federal Government. Paradoxically, this placed both Confederate and Union officers in the same role as guardians of their perceived source of legitimacy under the Constitution – for the Confederate, the state and its population and for the Union, the union of states and the national population.

In the context of an American Warrior Class, and using the Civil War as a case study, I will examine how in the defense of its legitimacy (the Constitution), the American Officer Corps, regardless of its level of isolation as a class, could interpret their obligation in contradiction to the will of elected leaders and by proxy, the intent of the American public. It is worth noting here that Civil-War historians argue that as much as three-quarters of the American Population at the time was opposed to either radical pro or anti-slavery measures; that in fact, they were indifferent to the issue itself and preferred not to fight over it[34]. Despite this indifference, war occurred and the officer corps was willing to fight over the objections of the majority of Americans[35]. During this era, the officer corps was not nearly as isolated from American citizens in community and elected leadership, yet war still occurred and sides were chosen over interpretations of the Constitution. This case is interesting in addition because of the observation that different interpretations allowed the war to occur. Had the military sided with one interpretation or another as a Warrior Class, it could be argued that the side without a military force would have been unable to resist the change and that by choosing sides, officers allowed the war to occur. Demonstrably, that by taking their positions the generals swayed significant portions of the soldiery and junior officers to their respective causes[36].

Following this, I will examine how issues of legitimacy affected another nation’s military faced with regime change. This case will be the German military during the collapse of the Weimar Republic. I believe this case to be important, because it demonstrates how a military actually reacted when a regime changed from an established and democratic one to a totalitarian one. Further, it highlights what can happen when a military derives its reason for existence, or its legitimacy, from something other than a Constitution or other governing ideology[37]. I expect this analysis to show that generally military organizations will react to threats, real or perceived, to the source of their legitimacy. In most cases, the threat to the regime is also a threat to legitimacy, however if the military feels that regime change will not affect its legitimacy, it will be unlikely to use force to prevent regime change from occurring; at least against domestic threats to the regime. This will also explains why militaries act to remove regimes who themselves threaten the sources of legitimacy for the military. This case directly relates to the argument by demonstrating how a military that has become ideologically distinct from the population will act in defense of its perceived source of legitimacy; as it relates to the U.S. case, this shows how even Democracy is not in and of itself sufficient to prevent a potential Warrior Class from being in opposition to the regime.

Case One: The American Civil War and the Division of the American Officer Corps

I shall never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in defence of my native state, Virginia.

–General Lee, 1 April, 1861

Perhaps the single most pronounced threat to the American democratic system came during the years of the Civil War when the nation divided over which entity was supreme, the various State governments or the Federal government. The politics which led to this confrontation are not relevant to this paper, however the basic thesis behind the division, that the individual state was or was not subordinate to the federal government, is. Officers of that time took an oath of office which was very different from the oath taken today, the Oath of Office at that time reads:

I, _____, appointed a _____ in the Army of the United States, do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers [sic] whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles for the government of the Armies of the United States.[38]

Nearly every senior leader in the Confederate Armies was trained by the United States Army and at one point or another held a commission granted by the President of the United States, meaning they had taken this oath and had sworn to bear allegiance to the United States of America, in the plural sense. While for some, it might have been easier to rationalize the choice to join the Confederacy having prior to the conflict resigned their commissions, Stonewall Jackson for example, others were on active duty or in a reserve status when the decision was made to join the Confederate Army. These officers had not renounced their oaths prior to the onset of conflict and as such had to either knowingly commit treason or interpret differently their oath of office.

From memoirs written during and after the war, it appears that officers of the time did in fact struggle with how to interpret their oaths and obligations. The idea that the states themselves were individually sovereign and members of the Union by choice and consent was pinned against the idea that the states were subordinated to the Federal Government and that they could individually be called on to sacrifice for the greater good of the whole. As it relates to the internal debate over which side could lay the greater claim to the loyalty of the military’s officers, the phrase “I will serve them honestly and faithfully…” absent from all future versions of the oath, was the point of contention.  Presumably, any military officer would identify as an “enemy” or “opposer” a person or entity which would take away by force (real or perceived) the sovereignty of their nation. Given this, if in fact the states were individually sovereign, then anyone who might take away part of all of that sovereignty would be an enemy, even if that person were the President. This idea was pitted against the argument that the officer was beholden to ALL of the states and thus his loyalty lay with the Federal Government as the legitimate representation of the collective states.

This debate was the topic of many discussions in the year leading up to the outbreak of hostilities. In her memoirs, published after the death of her husband Major General Hancock, Almira Hancock recounts her husband’s (then a Captain) conversation with several officers seeking advice before making their decision regarding which side to fight for:

I can give you no advice, as I shall not fight upon the principle of State-rights, but for the Union, whole and undivided, as I do not and will not belong to a country formed of principalities. I cannot sympathize with you; you must be guided by your own convictions and I hope you will make no mistakes[39]

Among these officers were men such as George Pickett, Lewis Armistead, and Richard Garnett, friends of General Hancock who would go on to fight for the Confederacy.  Mrs. Hancock states that several southern officials made frequent visits to their home in Los Angeles to try and persuade as many officers as possible to side with the Confederacy. She speaks of frequent, intense and impassioned debates among the officers at their station about where their loyalties lie and for whom they would fight if it came to war.

…I revert to those days of trial, when the hearts of some of our gallant officers were torn almost asunder by the conflicting passions of fidelity to their country and to their state, the sovereignty of which they were educated to believe superior to all other.[40]

Another officer who would decide to fight for the Union was John M. Schofield – he would attain the rank of Major General during the Civil War, and Lieutenant General before his retirement, he would start the war as a Major. During the year leading up the war, LTG Schofield invested much of his time researching and contemplating where his loyalty should lie. He writes:

As the period of the Civil War approached a very large part of my time was occupied in reading and studying as coolly as possible, every phase of the momentous questions which I have been warned must probably be submitted to the decision of war. Hence, when the crisis came I was not unprepared to decide for myself, without prejudice or passion, where the path of duty lay, yet not without some feeling of indulgence towards my brother officers of the army who, as I believed, were led by the influence of others so far astray.[41]

The question was obviously heavy on his mind, much as we see it was in the writings of other leaders of the era. Most importantly though is the sense, much like that given in Ms. Hancock’s account of her husband’s advice to his friends, that they believe the “other” side to be fundamentally incorrect in their interpretation of their oaths. This is key, it shows that it the very least the oath and the associated obligations factored into decisions made by the officer corps as the Civil War approached.

Another prolific writer and senior military officer of the era was General Philip Sheridan, a Second Lieutenant at the outset of the war and stationed on the Pacific Coast, he would attain the rank of Major General during it.  General Sheridan would, while fighting with and “civilizing” the various Indian Tribes in the Cascade areas of the Washington Territory, follow the developments leading to the Civil War as best he could. He writes that information was difficult to come by, but that his relative isolation prevented his position from being “disturbed by any discussion of the questions from which the war grew.”[42] When his unit was called into service for the war, General Sheridan was left behind to command the post until he could be relieved. The first officer sent was a Confederate Sympathizer – a Captain – which then 2nd LT Sheridan refused to yield his command to owing to this Captain’s conduct upon arrival being such that “I would not turn over command to him for fear he might commit some rebellious act”.[43] He wrote again during this time that he “felt confident that in the end, the just cause of the Government must triumph.” It is clear that General Sheridan had chosen to side with the Union and not the Confederacy. While never taking an explicit position on the question of slavery, he is quite clear on his belief that the Union held the higher claim to sovereignty and that defending the Union was where justice would be found and that his purpose as an Officer was to the defense of the Union of States.

Among officers who chose to side with the Confederacy, few are as well documented as General Robert E. Lee. It is in General Lee that we see perhaps the best case for how the oaths of office, the sense of to whom he must be loyal, factors into the decision for whom to fight. General Lee believed firmly in the sovereignty of the states, but was willing to fight against that principle providing the state of Virginia, his home state, was prepared to side with the Union and by extension, forgo some of that sovereignty. General Lee made clear in the time leading up to the secession of Virginia where his loyalties lied:

I wish to live under no other government [than that of the United States], and there is no sacrifice I am not ready to make for the preservation of the Union save that of honor. If a disruption takes place, I shall go back in sorry to my people and share the misery of my native state… Save in her [Virginia’s] defence [sic] there will be one less soldiers in the world than now. [44]

Note that General Lee was willing to make any sacrifice with the exception of the one of his honor, that he would go back and defend his native state and its sovereignty because he felt his oaths bound him to his home state first, the Federal government second, and the remaining states third. 

The officers which formed the United States Regular Army in the days, weeks, and months before the Civil War found themselves dealing with the fundamental question any officer, in any nation, faces when deciding how to respond to threats of regime change; that is, “to whom and to what am I sworn to defend? If tomorrow this regime passes, will I have maintained by oath and will I still be a guardian of those to whom I am sworn to defend?” For the 239 officers who joined the Confederacy, they believed their oath obligated them to their state and to the populations within those states. Indeed, they believed that the Constitution they were sworn to defend gave this sovereignty to their home states and entitled them to this act or at least, that their state in being superior in sovereignty to the Union, could demand of them their service to protect that sovereignty. In the end, General Lee and 238 other officers believed that their legitimacy as officers, the very thing that granted them that authority, obligated them to defend state’s rights; specifically the right to defend themselves against federal aggression and to use arms, and revolution if necessary to achieve that end. They might have pointed to the fact that their oath obligated them to the defense of these United States and not the United States.

The opposite view, elucidated by Major General Hancock, Lieutenant General Schofield, and General Sheridan was that the Union in fact was paramount and that the states must subordinate themselves to it. Whether this view was one of conviction or practicality we may never know, but the fact remains that most U.S. Army Officers chose to fight on the side of the Union. While majority does not always make right, it was clear there had been significant discourse among the officers at that time about what to do and a majority interpreted their oath to mean they must defend the Union and in fact would take the subsequent oath declaring allegiance to the Constitution and swearing to defend it against “all enemies foreign and domestic” – a clear reference, among others, to the Confederacy.

In all, of 1,105 officers in the Regular Army, 296 resigned or were otherwise dismissed; 239 of these would go on to fight for the Confederacy,[45] slightly over 20% of the officer corps at that time. It is clear in these numbers that a fundamental dispute existed over exactly to whom the officers were to be loyal and over which entities were “supreme” in the constitution. During the years of the Civil War, Officers remaining loyal to the Union took this oath:

I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I have never borne arms against the United States since I have been a citizen thereof; that I have voluntarily given no aid, countenance, counsel, or encouragement to persons engaged in armed hostility thereto; that I have neither sought nor accepted nor attempted to exercise the functions of any office whatsoever under any authority or pretended authority in hostility to the United States; that I have not yielded voluntary support to any pretended government, authority, power, or constitution within the United States, hostile or inimical thereto. And I do further swear (or affirm) that, to the best of my knowledge and ability, I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.[46]

In 1884, the oath was shortened to read:

I, _____., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.[47]

While the requirement that an Officer swear to obey a given leader would pass with the memory of the Civil War, this one phrase, “against all enemies, foreign and domestic”, was to become a permanent fixture in not only the military officer oath of office, but also every oath of office taken at the Federal Level. The hope being that never again would there be a question of whom the enemy should be and to what the officer derived his or her legitimacy from.

Case Two: The Reichswehr and the Fall of the Weimar Republic

I swear loyalty to the Reich's constitution and pledge that I as a courageous soldier always want to protect the German Reich and its legal institutions, (and) be obedient to the Reichspräsident and to my superiors[48].

-German Military Oath, 1919-1933

The German Army (Heer), such as it was[49] after World War One, was formally dissolved[50]. Several of the former Soldiers of the Army joined loosely organized and informal groups known as Freikorps, or Free Corps. These groups were usually quite small and informally responsible for the defense of local communities. In early 1919 the Vorläufige Reichswehr (Provisional German Defense Force) was established, drawing about 400,000 men from the Freikorps and by late 1919 the remaining Freikorps and the Vorläufige Reichswehr were combined to form the Übergangsheer (Transitional Army). In 1921, this organization was reorganized to meet the constraints of the Treaty at Versailles and became the Reichswehr (German for National Defense). It was the Reichswehr who put down Adolf Hitler’s first putsch in 1923 but would ultimately become the core[51] that the Wehrmacht[52] (Defense Force) was built around.

In 1934, when Hitler assumed the office of Reichspräsident upon the death of Paul von Hindenburg, he required all military officers and soldiers to swear an oath of personal loyalty to himself. This oath would supersede any previous oath to the Weimar Republic and transferred the legitimacy of the German Officer Corps from the Weimar Republic and more broadly the German people, to the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler. The question is why did German officers at that time almost uniformly step away from their oaths to the German people and swear fealty to Adolf Hitler? I believe the answer to be that the German Officer of the time deprived of any investment in the government and concerned for the future of Germany, came to see their legitimacy as being derived solely from the need to keep Germany safe and to restore it to its rightful place among the nations. Disconnected from the government ostensibly charged to do the same, the German Officer came to believe that only they could empower a leader to achieve these ends. Given this, Hitler provided them the means and opportunity to achieve what they believed to be their purpose as officers. That is, the development of a secure Germany with all German peoples living within its borders and all of its enemies conquered or otherwise subdued.

To understand this, it is first and foremost critical that we have an understanding of the geo-political situation in which Germany found itself during the inter-war years. Heavily burdened by debt, suffering from massive inflation, rampant unemployment, and fearing the rise of Stalin’s Soviet Russia, the German nation was in shambles. Its people dreamt of restoring their nation to its “rightful” place in the world order, and viewed the restriction placed on it by the Treaty at Versailles with great resentment[53]. Further – the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I and its subsequent reorganization into several smaller states posed additional troubles for the German people. These states were designed primarily by the victorious western powers and typically failed to be ethnically homogenous, often at the expense of Germans living in these new states. By the mid 1920’s the German people saw themselves as weak, exposed, and in desperate need of a new plan to first prevent their eradication and then restore their former glory - they began to see a form of Imperialism as the answer to their troubles[54].

The typical German Officer of the inter-war period (especially by the early 1930’s) was sympathetic to National Socialism (although not necessarily a Nazi) and believed that in order to achieve security for Germany, conscription should be reinstated and that Germany should become a militaristic state[55]; sometimes referred to as a Wehrstaat (Defense State). German officers of the era were also aristocratic, were threatened by communist movements in Germany at the time, and because during this period, political involvement to include voting was outlawed in the German Army,[56] politically isolated. Those remaining in the reserve force[57] with any experience in combat were aging rapidly, and those in the active force were inadequately equipped, and generally ill-prepared for war. In addition, they viewed the total destruction of German civilization as both likely and imminent, and believed that the militarization of the country would both prevent this destruction and put Germans back to work[58].  Without the right to vote, and absent conscription, the military felt no real allegiance to the Weimar Republic and indeed by the late 1920’s had begun to take steps to install a dictatorship, steps which would ultimately make Hitler’s ascension to power that much easier[59].

While, many German Officers considered the need to rebuild the German military to be the greatest priority and began to work towards this end, there was significant debate about the role the Reichswehr should play. Opposition to political involvement, at least direct political involvement, remained strong among many officers in the Reichswehr through the early 1920’s; especially among those stationed in and around Munich. This did not translate, however, to direct support for the Weimar Republic but rather illustrated frustration with political intrigue and shifting allegiances among political leaders[60]. While the Reichswehr did not support Hitler’s first attempt to seize power, this should also not be misconstrued as Reichswehr support for Weimar Germany. In fact, the German Generals who put down Hitler’s Putsch did so because they had their own plans for dictatorship, for some a plan towards restoration of the Bavarian Monarchy and secession; but in any case, plans in which Hitler did not play a part[61]. The idea remained among most in the German Leadership that a dictatorship was the answer to Germany’s troubles. At least for the time being, General Von Seeckt’s idea that the Reichswehr should work within the Republic to rebuild itself and then replace the Weimer Republic with a “better” form of government held sway[62].

By 1930, the German Officer Corps contained within it a significant cadre of officers loyal to Nazi ideology. Apparent in the 1930 trial of three officers for distributing Nazi literature, multiple senior military leaders testified in the defense of the accused, despite a clear violation of the laws governing the Reichswehr; even Hitler himself testified to the character of the Nazi Party and along with several senior military leaders argued that the Nazi Party should be allowed within the Reichswehr because it was committed to restoring German power and prestige, and that these things were consistent with the purpose and intent of the Reichswehr[63]. By the time the trial was over, the popularity of the Nazi Party among the German Officer Corps had dramatically increased; if for no other reason than an increasing awareness that the Weimar Republic stood in the way of rearmament and security while the Nazi party provided a way forward[64].

It is in this light that we now can consider the actions of the Reichswehr at the rise of Hitler. While some, such as B.H. Liddell Hart argued that the German military may have made it easier for Hitler to rise to power but did not necessarily support it[65], others such as Omer Bartov argue the Reichswehr was complicit in his rise and in his prosecution of war[66]. What is clear is that in the 1920’s, the Reichswehr did not consider the Weimar Republic to be legitimate and created within itself, its own Office of Ministerial Affairs (Ministeramt), charged with lobbying the government to obtain funding for the Reichswehr[67]. Further, many new, young officers were members of the various Nazi Party youth movements before joining the military and were well indoctrinated in Nazi Party ideology. By the end of the 1920’s, the Reichswehr had reached a point where they had an interest in maintaining the Weimer Republic only insofar as it was providing the Reichswehr with the means to rearm. Further, as an isolated class, the officers of the Reichswehr came to conclude, probably correctly, that they could play an active role in bringing a new form of government to power that would be more supportive of their goals. The moment a better opportunity arose, the Reichswehr would certainly seize upon it, and in fact, it did.

Kurt Von Schleicher rose to power throughout the inter-war period and was at his strongest by 1928.[68] Like many in the Reichswehr, Schleicher believed firmly in the need to reinstitute conscription, the need to rebuild the Germany military, and most significantly in the need to replace the Weimar Republic with a dictatorship of some sort; preferably headed by himself[69]. In positions of power, Schleicher worked against the Republic and to bring about dictatorship; a confidant of the President and in near perfect control of the Reichswehr[70], it is clear why he might have thought he could be that dictator. His plan was to find a Chancellor acceptable to the Reichswehr, and together with the President he was so close to, appoint a cabinet which would allow them to send the Reichstag away under Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution translated as:

In the event of a State not fulfilling the duties imposed upon it by the Reich Constitution or by the laws of the Reich, the President of the Reich may make use of the armed forces to compel it to do so.

If public security and order are seriously disturbed or endangered within the Reich, the President of the Reich may take measures necessary for their restoration, intervening if need be with the assistance of the armed forces. For this purpose he may suspend for a while, in whole or in part, the fundamental rights provided in Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153.

The President of the Reich must inform the Reichstag without delay of all measures taken in accordance with Paragraphs 1 or 2 of this Article. These measures are to be revoked on the demand of the Reichstag.

If danger is imminent, a State government may, for its own territory, take temporary measures as provided in Paragraph 2. These measures are to be revoked on the demand of the President of the Reich or of the Reichstag.

Details are to be determined by a law of the Reich[71].

His plan then was to irrevocably tie the President to the Reichswehr and make clear that any President could only rule by the consent of the Reichswehr. This would be accomplished by highlighting the loyalty to the President in the Constitution to the exclusion of all other articles and amendments within it[72].

This is where the German Officer would face his decision with respect to where his legitimacy, his reason for being an Officer in the Reichswehr would come from; or at least where he would perceive it to come from. Schleicher argued that the purpose of the Reichswehr was to defend the State, not the political parties[73] – not the Republic. More specifically, that the German Officer should know the difference between the “provisional regime”, that is the Weimar Republic, and the “permanent identity” of the State of Germany, and that he should serve the latter[74]. This distinction is key, and that it was readily accepted before the moment that the Weimar Republic was dissolved demonstrates prior acknowledgement of the German Officer’s source of legitimacy.

While it was not Schleicher’s intent that the German Army follow Hitler, his elucidation of the source of the German Officer’s legitimacy would ultimately be the thesis from which the German Officer made his decision. Hitler would pick up this message and begin preaching it in 1929 as he sought the loyalty of the Reichswehr. Translated he says:

The Italian Army did not say “our job is to maintain peace and order”. Instead they said, “It is our duty to preserve the future for the Italian people”…. You as officers, cannot maintain that you do not care about the fate of the nation… Either you have a healthy State with a really valuable military organization, which means the destruction of Marxism, or you have a flourishing Marxist State, which means the annihilation of the military organization capable of serving the highest purposes[75].

To which Gröner publishes an order in response which read:

It is the sacred task of the Wehrmacht to prevent a cleavage between classes and parties from ever widening into suicidal civil war. In all times of need in their history of a people there is one unshakable rock in the stormy sea: the idea of the State. The Wehrmacht is its necessary and most characteristic expression. It has no other interest and no other task that service to the State. Therein lies the pride of the soldier and the best tradition of the past…. [The Wehrmacht] would falsify its essence and destroy itself if it descended into party conflict and itself took part. To serve the State – far from all party politics, to save and maintain it against the terrible pressure from without and the insane strife at home – is our only goal[76].

By the time Gröner had realized the extent of the problem however, it was too late. Already, the majority of the German Officer corps had taken Schleicher’s argument for to whom they should be loyal, applied it to their belief that they served to maintain a strong Germany, and determined that Hitler provided the best way to achieve that. Gröner was too late and had failed to ensure Hitler did not appear the best way for the German Officer to achieve his purpose. Indeed, Gröner himself was admonished by the German military leaders and ultimately forced into retirement by Schleicher and Hindenburg.

In the end, Schleicher himself was unable to use his power and influence well-enough to obtain control of the State. In January of 1933, Hitler became Chancellor and the Weimar Republic was near its end. During the first year of Hitler’s Chancellorship, the Reichswehr stood and watched him consolidate power either convinced that their legitimacy was not threatened, or that in fact Hitler presented the means to achieve their purpose, a stronger Germany positioned to destroy her enemies. Either way, the decision of the majority of the German Officer corps can be traced to their belief that they existed to serve the State, that the State and the Republic were two different things, and that Germany must be made stronger. Hitler would need to remove some senior leaders who did not support Hitler’s ascension to power, but it is important to note that these leaders did not necessarily object to dictatorship, just to Hitler.

The Reichswehr, sick of the Republic, tired of Gröner  and Brüning’s policies (and the effect they had on the military’s growth), and believing that only a dictatorship could allow them to build the modern and powerful army they felt they were called to build[77] was nevertheless still unwaveringly loyal to the President and would have, as late as 1934, been willing to destroyed the Nazi’s[78]. However, in absence of that order to do so, and with the assumption of total power by Hitler, the Germany Army simply and rationally transferred its loyalty to Hitler. He provided both the means and the opportunity for the Reichswehr to rebuild and rearm, and to destroy the enemies of the German nation. Hitler became, in effect, the source of their legitimacy by embodying those things which the German Officer felt he was obligated to do. 


In the broader context of civil-military literature we can see how issues of legitimacy might have an effect regardless of which theoretical camp an officer might be in. For a thinker or actor who holds to MPP or CPP theories, both will identify the constitution as their primary source of legitimacy and see the guidelines of the literature to be providing their theoretical left and right limits. One could reasonably conclude that officers of the Civil War era were likely of the CPP camp. They did not take an active role in the events leading to the Civil War and indeed only chose sides in the final moments and at that, within their beliefs as to whom they were most sworn to be loyal. Once they chose sides, they executed the strategies they were given and in the case of the Union, President Lincoln heavily micro-managed operations. However – an advocate of MPP theory would likely have done the same thing, reasoning that while the direction of the war was up to the military leadership now that it had broken out, the decision to go to war – to secede – was a political one that should be made with the understanding that there will be a war, but little else from the military.

Generally – military organizations will react to threats, real or perceived, to the source of their legitimacy. In most cases, the threat to the regime is also a threat to legitimacy, however  if the military feels that regime change will not affect its legitimacy, it will be unlikely to use force to prevent regime change from occurring; at least against domestic threats to the regime. This also explains why militaries react to remove regimes who themselves threaten the legitimacy of the military. This effect is less pronounced in cases where the military has not become institutionalized as an independent, standing and professional entity. That is, a military that consistently brings in new officers and non-commission officers (NCO’s) who are not the children of current persons will feel its legitimacy is from the people since it is consistently presented with new members who are, after all, of the people. However, if a professional and standing military raises its own, is socially and economically isolated, and perceives itself to be threatened, it may react in a way consistent with its own ideology and self-perception, but contrary to the will of the people.

In the case of the Civil War, when faced with the choice of which side to fight for, several American officers chose to “defend” their home state and its population. For these officers, they determined that their obligation, their honor was upheld best by fighting against the Union. The question then is why? What is the reason why these officers abandoned their oaths and waged war against their brothers in arms, against their country? When the regime was threatened by dissolution of the Union, these officers chose to pursue a path that could hasten that outcome. Yet for these officers, they believed that they upheld their oaths and moral obligations; they believed that they were doing the right thing – the moral thing. The commission they held, it came from the people through the Constitution and the Office of the President, but it came from the people first; their people – the subjects of their state. These officers fought to defend their legitimacy as officers and as guardians of that population.

In the case of the German Weimar Republic, the Reichswehr appears to have been at best tacit in the approval of the rise of the Nazi Party, and at worst outright complicit. However, these decisions too can be traces to issues of legitimacy. The Reichswehr was conditioned to by loyal to the President, their Command in Chief and many of their leadership, as annotated above, felt that the Weimar Republic was worth working with so long as it benefitted the aims of the Reichswehr; that is, so long as it allowed and facilitated rearmament. The actions of an Officer Class devoted to rebuilding the military and to re-establishing Germany’s position in Europe demonstrate that they drew their purpose, their reason for existence, their legitimacy from a need to defend Germany or to at least make it too strong to attack. Bringing a more authoritarian form of government into being suited that purpose. When Hitler, upon the death of Hindenburg, “legally” became President it logically followed that since Hitler would both provide the means for the Reichswehr to fulfill its purpose (as seen by the German Officer) and would be the President (to whom they were loyal), that they would join with him.

In the case of the Civil War and in the case of the collapse of Weimar Germany, we can see, before the decisions were made, what the military leaders were going to do. This is where it becomes critical to treat a Military Class as a culture group and not a professional group. It is certain that to replace a regime, one must control the military in one way or another. You can accomplish that through a purge, propaganda, gradual replacement of leaders, co-opting of leadership or any of a hundred different ways, however, if you do not control the “guns” victory will be all but impossible. In Germany, Hitler worked aggressively to legitimize his rise with the military, and was successful both due to his own actions, but also due to preconceived notions among the Reichswehr as to their purpose[79]. In the United States, the Confederacy was able to build an army suitable to take the field precisely because its arguments for legitimacy synced with cultural set of values ascribed to by approximately a third of the United States Military Officer Corps; a set of values which provided a reason for those men to wear the uniform and bear arms. While the Civil War may have occurred for a variety of reasons, it seems clear that it could not have been more than a rebellion, similar to the Whiskey or Shays’ Rebellions, without the support of a trained officer corps. Similarly, the rise of the Nazi Party and by extension Hitler, likely would not have been possible had the Reichswehr not at least tacitly approved of its rise and derived its legitimacy from a purpose that the Nazis could help them to fulfill. 

Today in the United States, a variety of lobby groups exist to advance the military agenda and defend its benefits and budget. These groups generally have the support of the military and there is not widespread opposition to vocal activity by retired officers to defend the military’s interests[80]. Some of these groups operate at the behest of the defense industry, others for the various causes and purposes of active, retired, and former soldiers and officers. In addition, the American soldier lives in separate communities, is largely educated by military schools, and sees his or her children often choose to join the military as well. These factors all contribute towards the rise of a Warrior Class, some culturally, others professionally. However, if we accept the rise of a separate class charged with the defense of the Constitution and truly separated ideologically from the population, it is not a stretch to conclude that a military in this position would defend its own view of the Constitution and its own people as a matter of honor.

As Americans we must therefore exercise prudence in the next several decades both as budgetary considerations determine what sort of military we maintain and as we consider the means with which we will man our force. It is in the interests of the entire nation to fill the military with as broad a selection of youth as possible. Current trends indicate our young are choosing professions other than the military and in fact overwhelmingly say they would “not consider” military service[81]. Given the role of the parent in the way a child develops their initial ideological outlook[82] and value ordering system[83], the role of the parent (as well as counselors, teachers, and other ‘socializers’) in helping a child choose a career path[84], and the general preference to avoid the unknown, when combined with non-veteran perceptions of what it means to be in the military the nation runs the real risk of drawing most of its new recruits from the children and grandchildren of the veteran population. Indeed, research indicates the role of the parent in the decision making involving any career choice, especially the military, is quite pronounced.[85] This is intuitively logical as veterans tend to be proud of their service and this pride will likely cast service in a positive light for their children whereas non-veteran family members may consider the military as something less than ideal.

This will eventually have the effect of creating a group of citizens who will begin to believe alike and see their interests as distinct from the nation writ large. It will further generate a tiny portion of the population solely responsible for the “hard” part of defending a nation, the part that involves killing and dying. When combined with the trend towards treating veterans as a separate class legally and socially through various veterans’ programs and even retail discounts for veterans, the nation runs the risk of ideologically confirming the belief that these persons are both special and unique as well as worthy of special treatment. It is logical then to conclude that a group who thinks uniformly, suffers uniformly, as treated uniformly, and lives and draws its members from within itself will eventually diverge in beliefs and values from the nation it is charged to defend.

While further research is most certainly necessary to confirm that legitimacy is the way in which militaries derive their answer to regime change, current evidence suggests that this is in fact the case. If as a nation, the United States is unwilling to directly oppose the rise of a Warrior Class, action should be taken to ensure it consistently derives its legitimacy from the population and never comes to adhere to an ideology inconsistent with broader American values. This can be accomplished through increased civil schooling opportunities, a broadened focus on community involvement[86], and through programs that increase opportunities for college students and trade workers to learn together with military members. Programs such as ACS[87] should be expanded to include variations which send NCO’s to school for their Bachelor’s Degrees and that bring college students into military schools for a year to share ideas. The military should actively and aggressively recruit the best and brightest professors in academia for teaching positions with the military, even if this means increased cost. Additionally, military officers possessing PhD’s should be accepted into temporary teaching positions at our nation’s finest universities. Only through a consistent and aggressive campaign designed to keep the process of learning and developing future generations together can we ensure we avoid ideological divergence between a potential Warrior Class and the population itself.



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Byron, Hollingshead. I Wish I'd Been There: Twenty Historians Bring to Life Dramatic Events that Changed America. New York: Doubleday, 2006.

Carafano, James J. "The Army Reserve and the Abrams Doctrine: Unfullfilled Promise, Uncertain Future." Heritage Lectures, no. 869 (April 2005).

Center for Military History. n.d. (accessed May 5, 2011).

Coffman, E.M. The Old Army : A Portrait of the American Army in Peacetime, 1784-1898. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Cohen, Eliot. Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesman, and Leadership in Wartime. New York: Free Press, 2002.

Dempsey, J. K. Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Dick, Thomas P., and Sharon F. Rallis. "Factors and Influences on High School Students' Career Choices." Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, July 1991: 281-292.

Elster, Jon. Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Feaver, Peter. Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, and Civil-Military Relations. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Feaver, Peter D. "The Right to be Right." Internation Security 35, no. 4 (2011): 87-125.

Feaver, Peter, and Christopher Gelpi. Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the use of Force. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Gallup. Gallup. June 23, 2011. (accessed November 14, 2011).

Gibson, Jennifer Lee, Brian K. Griepentrog, and Sean M. Marsh. "Parental Influence on Youth Propensity to Join the Military." Journal of Vocational Behavior 70 (2007): 525-541.

Hancock, Almira Russell. Reminiscences of Winfield Scott Hancock. New York: Charles L. Webster and Company, 1887.

[1] Gallup. Gallup. June 23, 2011. (accessed November 14, 2011).

[2] In truth, for most of the U.S. Military’s history it has been a volunteer force. However, in periods between the various drafts it was neither large nor at war. With the ending of Conscription, the era beginning in 1973 marked the first time that the United States would have a large, standing, professional, and all-volunteer force. The pursuit of a Global War on Terror – would mark the first time the United States attempted to fight a sustained and major conflict without conscription as well.

[3] An excellent read on this topic and the debate surrounding the development of a standing federally controlled military can be found in Richard H. Kohn’s article: “The Constitution and National Security: The Intent of the Framers.”

[4] Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution

[5] Carafano, James J. "The Army Reserve and the Abrams Doctrine: Unfullfilled Promise, Uncertain Future." Heritage Lectures, no. 869 (April 2005)

[6] McMaster, H.R. Dereliction of Duty. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1998.

[7] Yingling, Paul. "A Failure in Generalship." Armed Forces Journal. May 1, 2007. (accessed May 8, 2011)

[8] Feaver, Peter D. “The Right to be Right” International Security 35, no. 4 (2011): 87-125. What I term as MPP Dr. Feaver terms as Military Supremacists – likewise CPP would be what Dr. Feaver calls Civilian Supremacists. While the terms are mine – the definitions are Dr. Feaver’s.

[9] Numerous articles and books have been written on the topic of a Warrior Class – some could say the inquiry into what might cause such a class, if it exists or not, and what it might look like has been well covered. However there has been very little said about what such a class means for Democracy.

[10] Also – Snider, Don M., Priest, Robert F., Lewis, Felisa. “The Civilian Military Gap and Professional Military Education at the Precommissioning Level” Armed Forces and Society 27, no. 2 (2001): 249-272

[11] Urben, Heidi. "Civil-Military Relations in a Time of War." Ph.D. dissertation. Georgetown University, 2010, p. 140


[12] Plato. The Republic. n.d.

[13] Byron, Hollingshead. I Wish I'd Been There: Twenty Historieans Bring to Life Dramatic Events that Changed America. New York: Doubleday, 2006.

[14] Skocpol, T. Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: the Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.

[15] Coffman, E.M. The Old Army : A Portrait of the American Army in Peacetime, 1784-1898. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

[16] Huntington, Samuel P. The Soldier and the State. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957.

[17] Huntington, Samuel P. The Soldier and the State. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957.

[18] Feaver, Peter. Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, and Civil-Military Relations. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.

[19] Schiff, Rebecca L. The Military and Domestic Politics: A Concordance Theory of Civil-Military Relations. New York: Routledge, 2008.

[20] Cohen, Eliot. Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesman, and Leadership in Wartime. New York: Free Press, 2002.

[21] Janowitz, Morris. The Professional Soldier: a Social and Political Portrait. Glencoe: Free Press, 1960

[22] Janowitz, Morris, and Charles C. Moskos. "Five Years of the All-Volunteer Force: 1973-1978." Armed Forces and Society 5, no. 2 (1979): 171-218.

[23] Feaver, Peter, and Christopher Gelpi. Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the use of Force. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004

[24] Dempsey, J. K. Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010

[25] Snider, Don M., Robert F. Priest, and Felisa Lewis. "The Civilian-Military Gap and Progessional Military Education at the Precommissioning Level." Armed Forces and Society 27, no. 2 (2001): 249-272

[26] Urben, Heidi. "Civil-Military Relations in a Time of War." Ph.D. dissertation. Georgetown University, 2010.

[27] Urben, Heidi. "Civil-Military Relations in a Time of War." Ph.D. dissertation. Georgetown University, 2010. p. 140

[28] Urben, Heidi. "Civil-Military Relations in a Time of War." Ph.D. dissertation. Georgetown University, 2010. P. 140

[29] Hertling, Mark P. “Whence Values Come” Armed Forces Journal 67, no. 12 (1987): 16-23.

[30] As an MA Thesis – the size and scope of the document prohibited the addition of cases which would demonstrate the variable works in non-democratic instances as well.

[31] Elster, Jon. Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989 pp 30-41

[32] It is important to note here that since the drafting and eventual ratification of the Constitution, the country had been deeply involved in a national debate over this very issue and that divisions were not unique to the military.

[33] While these officers chose “Virginia”, the larger point is that they chose something other than the Union – other officers would choose “Georgia” or “Louisiana” or “Mississippi” or from wherever they heralded for the exact same reasons.

[34] Moore, Barrington Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Boston:Beacon Press, 1966 pp 123-124

[35] This is also important because it demonstrates that the existence of a Warrior Class isn’t a necessary precondition for a military to act in opposition to the will of the population. I will argue however that the existence of such a class can serve as an accelerant for these sorts of decisions and, more importantly, that it can serve as a vehicle within which to condition a military against taking these sorts of actions.

[36] Whether the Civil War Era military could be described as a “Warrior Class” in the strictest sense is debatable – however the important point is that in choosing sides, the military “allowed” a war to occur whereas had they all remained with the Union it is probable that the Civil War would have looked much more like a significant rebellion – but certainly not a war. This case demonstrates the important of syncing military ideology with that of the public.

[38] Center for Military History. n.d. (accessed May 5, 2011).

[39] Hancock, Almira Russell. Reminiscences of Winfield Scott Hancock. New York: Charles L. Webster and Company, 1887; pp 66-67

[40] Hancock, Almira Russell. Reminiscences of Winfield Scott Hancock. New York: Charles L. Webster and Company, 1887, p 66

[41] Schofield, John M. Forty-Six Years in the Army. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998, pp 30-31

[42] Sheridan, Philip Henry. Personal Memoirs of P.H. Sheridan. U.K.: Dodo Press, n.d., p. 68

[43] Sheridan, Philip Henry. Personal Memoirs of P.H. Sheridan. U.K.: Dodo Press, n.d., p. 67. This Captain later resigned his commission and joined with the Confederacy.

[44] Roland, Charles Pierce. Reflections on Lee: A Historian's Assessment. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003 p 20.

[45] Hattaway, Herman and Jones, Archer. How the North Won. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1991. p 9

[46] Center for Military History. n.d. (accessed May 5, 2011).

[47] Center for Military History. n.d. (accessed May 5, 2011). The oath was updated once more in 1959 – it now opens with I (name) having been appointed a (rank) in the United States (branch of service), do solemnly…. The remainder of the oath is the same as the 1884 version.

[48] This is an approximate translation - actual German wording: Ich schwöre Treue der Reichsverfassung und gelobe, daß ich als tapferer Soldat, das Deutsche Reich und seine gesetzmäßigen Einrichtungen jederzeit schützen, dem Reichspräsidenten und meinen Vorgesetzten Gehorsam leisten will.

[49] The German Army in World War One was composed of the military forces of its various constituent states – there was not, in the sense that we understand it, a “German” Army.

[50] More accurately – it disintegrated as the effects of the Treaty of Versailles took hold and the forces were returned to their constituent states.

[51] The Reichswehr can be arguably considered a Cadre Army. The men kept in uniform were largely the best of those who fought in World War I – this is why it was able to so quickly become the core of the Wehrmacht.

[52] The Reichswehr was reorganized and renamed the Wehrmacht in 1935.

[53] Herring, George C. From Colony to Superpower, U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. P 436

[54] Snyder, Jack. Myths of Empire. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991 p 66

[55] Nicholls, A.J. Weimar and the Rise of Hitler, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000 pp. 163-164.

[56] Kolb, Eberhard. The Weimar Republic. London: Routledge, 2005 page 172

[57] The Reserve Force cannot be thought of in the same context as the American Military’s reserves. Rather, Germany considered anyone who had been trained to fight as a “reservist” and subject to call-up for duty. In many ways they were similar to America’s Inactive Ready Reserve force.

[58] Nicholls, A.J. Weimar and the Rise of Hitler, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000 pp. 163-164

[59] Kolb, Eberhard. The Weimar Republic. London: Routledge, 2005 pp. 126-127

[60] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 p 166

[61] Kershaw, Ian, Hitler: A Biography, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2008, p. 126 and Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 pp. 171-175.

[62] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 p. 169

[63] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 pp. 216-219

[64] Nicholls, A.J. Weimar and the Rise of Hitler, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000 pp. 163-164

[65] Hart, B.H. Liddell. The German Generals Talk. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1948

[66] Bartov, Omar. Hitler’s Army. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992

[67] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 p. 198

[68] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 p. 197

[69] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 pp. 182-183

[70] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 pp. 199-200

[71] Constitution of the Weimer Republic

[72] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 p. 200

[73] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 p. 200

[74] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 p. 200

[75] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 p. 211

[76] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 . 213

[77] Nicholls, A.J. Weimar and the Rise of Hitler, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000 pp. 164-165

[78] Wheeler-Bennett, John The Nemesis of Power, London: Macmillan, 1967 p. 305

[79] It is important to note that currently there exists no credible fascist movement in the United States and even if there were, I am not implying in any way that the U.S. Military would view it favorably – in fact my argument shows precisely the opposite.

[80] Urben, Heidi. "Civil-Military Relations in a Time of War." Ph.D. dissertation. Georgetown University, 2010. p. 114

[81] Survey Research Center, Monitoring the Future: A continuing Study of American Youth (Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 2000)

[82] Dean R. Hoge, Gregory H. Petrillo, and Ella I. Smith, “Transmission of Religious and Social Values from Parents to Teenage Children”, Journal of Marriage and Family. Vol. 44, No 3 (August, 1982).

[83] Richard G. Neimi and M. Kent Jennings, “Issues and Inheritance in the Formation of Party Identification”, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 35, No 4 (November, 1991)

[84] Thomas P. Dick and Sharon F. Rallis, “Factors and Influences on High School Students’ Career Choices”, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, Vol. 22, No 4 (July, 1991)

[85] Jennifer Lee Gibson, Brian K. Griepentrog, and Sean M. Marsh, “Parental Influence on Youth Propensity to Join the Military”, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Vol. 70 (2007)

[86] The annual 4thof July celebration at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is an excellent example. Busses pick up civilians from the community and transport them onto the base for a day of celebration, a carnival, and fireworks. These sorts of events serve to sustain the connection between the serving and the served.

[87] ACS – Advanced Civil Schooling: A program where the United States Army sends select Regular Army Officers to graduate school in order to provide the Army with well-educated officers to meet Army requirements and to increase the availability of skillsets which the military might require.


About the Author(s)

Damon Tor Armeni is a United States Army Captain completing his Masters in Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia.  He served three tours to Iraq in various command and staff positions.



Thu, 01/05/2012 - 8:00pm

In reply to by DVC

I would be ok (and probably happy) with the ground force you describe - I still support a large navy though.

I do agree with your assessment - mostly. Take a look at boys' heroes today; they aren't exactly John Wayne - they're either rich, thugs, or both. The focus is on getting as many girls as you can, making as much money as you can, and doing it by accruing as little responsibility as possible. Many of the role-models for girls aren't much better. That said - my wife and I have noticed a definite shift in the way kids are being educated and exposed to culture - it's almost like we've realized we swung too far in one direction and are traying to come back to center. This doesn't deal with the whole personal accountability issue - but we're getting there it seems.

In response to your last question - I don't know. If we are air-gapped, so we increase the risk of building a warrior culture that we don't want? What about the idea that the military might find the citizenry not worth defending? These are HUGE issues - and I think I know a possible answer, but I'm still working out how to articulate it. The bottom line is that we can't decouple the morals of the nation from the morals of the defenders, but in order to make that credible to the defenders, we must somehow spread costs and burdens to the nation - that is, there must be a sense that we are all in this together.

How we do that without a draft I don't know... I oppose a draft on principle and my answer rests with taxes and a much larger reserve and guard force - I just need to work out how that should look before I go and make an argument for it.

Any thoughts? If you PM me on the SmallWarsCouncil (I have the same handle there) I'll shoot you my private email addy - or if you have AKO you can get me there.


Tue, 01/03/2012 - 2:03pm

In reply to by StrykerCavScout

StrykerCavScout. I think your assessment about elected officials keying in on force size and gadgets, particularly those made in their districts, is spot on. I think many Americans think all you need to do to be trained for ground combat is watch a couple of war movies.

Looking to the future and the budget realities, I think the U.S. Army ought to look hard at the 1930s and what it takes to rapidly and effectively expand a small force into a large one. This, in combination with a relatively small, highly trained, well equipped and well supported expeditionary corps (mixed light and heavy forces; would be the "No More Task Force Smiths" force) is probably the best approach IMHO given the spectrum of threats and fiscal realities.

Back to the main subject of your piece, I think it it may be a values issue and Huntington might have been prescient. We didn't need to have separate Army values until the last 20 years or so. Until a few decades ago, every "real" American man was supposed to possess a certain level of martial virtues and well as basic virtues like duty, honor, country, courage, commitment. Those who were the heros in the culture either possesssed, or were portrayed to possess, these virtues and these virtues were extolled in the media. A good snap shot of this, minus the racist slurs, is the Clint Eastwood character in the movie "Gran Torino" - every average Joe was expected to "man-up" and be ready to finish a fight for what is right if need be. Today those virtues are castigated by many of the makers of public opinion and the public schools' driving passion seems to be turning little boys into little girls. We truly have become, as well as much of the West, "wuss nation"

If you agree with this assessment, is there any way the military can be effective unless significantly "air gapped" in culture from the larger society?


Sun, 01/01/2012 - 1:43pm

In reply to by DVC

I think you are spot on. I worry often about how our military will perform if it ever faces a larger force of the sort you described. I can't even begin to discuss my frustration with the way we spend money in the military. Some of that is our fault and some is the fault of elected officials working to keep as many jobs as possible in their districts - but it all needs fixing. I think the problem is that anyone who suggests fixing it runs the risk of being run out of power - so even those who recognize the problem prefer instead to either ignore it or try and manage it... neither are acceptable solutions.

Right now I've been advocating for a small, well trained and well equipped force. Not because I prefer that to a large, well trained and well equipped force but because I prefer it to a large, poorly trained and equipped one. I feel that with the current budget cuts coming, that politics will trump reason. We will maintain a large force because it plays well to voters and we'll buy new toys because that plays well too. Savings will come from training and maintenance budgets as well as from pay and benefits - we'll end up with a large army equipped with the latest in gadgetry that it cannot train on and therefore cannot use, and filled with mediocre leaders who stayed when they saw the talent leave.

So given that - I think the smaller, well trained and well equipped force is the better choice and also the one most likely to further complicate the civil-military relationship problem and a civilian leadership even further removed from the day to day business of the military. But it remains the best way to defend our country and so it's the way we must go.


Wed, 12/28/2011 - 11:44am

In reply to by StrykerCavScout


Thanks for your reply and points of clarification. In a way I think we have something of what you are talking about in effect already, Not a refusal to carry out orders or a consideration of all prom offers before deciding whether or not to accept. Rather a focus on institutional protection - budgets, dubious acquistion projects, manpower, infrastructure, senior leader perks - that forces us into a very inefficient "rich man's" way of war that leads us as a nation to spend more on our defense needs than necessary.

Part of the blame for this though rests on our societal culture. Most Americans seem to want us to be a superpower or a least acquiesce to it but seem not to want to personnally serve - especially the political class.

This leads to a situation where the civilian leadership is so completely ignorant of military affairs and devoid of military service experience they are reluctant to call out the generals in any substantive way when they start to stray, especially on force structure and acquisitions. I think Rumsfeld and Gates tried but in a way that seemed a little too managerial and not sufficiently aware of military history (small forces with high technology tend to eventually face large force with equal or near equal technology and subsequently lose). Eisenhower vs Ridgeway and Taylor seems to continue to be popular as remakes....except Eisenhower had the street credit on issues of force structure, unlike many civilian leaders today.


Sat, 12/24/2011 - 12:51am

In reply to by DVC

Interesting points - thank you for your comments.

I'm less concerned about the idea that our military would take over than I am that they would tell the government "No" when they are ordered to do something - or worse - we end up in a situation where the military is "asked" and not "ordered" to do something. I also don't think the Warrior Class itself would be a source of legitimacy, at least not here, but what it could do is narrow access to other ideas and opinions and promote a singular way of thinking and then over time, the Warrior Class and the civilian classes diverge in their interpretation of the Constitution and their respective roles in it.

I think a little historical perspective might be useful for the article and discussion.

The All Volunteer Force (AVF) as envisioned in 1973 was not meant to fight significant, long term conflict by itself.

The view was that if the USSR attacked into West Germany, forward deployed all volunteer active duty forces would defend in place alone for the two weeks or so that it would take REFORGER elements to deploy to Europe. REFORGER units were to hold the 30-45 days it would take to mobilize and flow the Guard and Reserve to Europe and these forces together would hold for the 6 months or so it would take to fire-up selective service and send over what looked like a WWII army with 1980s weapons. May have been fantasy, given nukes, but that was the framework. The AVF would also be able to handle, solo, short term coup de main ops (visualize Grenada and Panama) and SOF handle long term low level participation in COIN scenarios (picture El Salvador)

The idea that the AVF, even including the AVF Guard and Reserve, would fight a 10 year long, large scale irregular war by itself with no conscription and tepid public support wasn't much discussed because after Vietnam, we just weren't going to do 10 year troop intensive irregular wars anymore. This line of thinking was captured in the Weinberger/Powell doctrine.

This approach started to fray after Desert Storm with our involvements in Somalia and the Balkans. The wider American public's view toward these conflicts seems to have been, "Ok, as long as my kid doesn't have to go."

9/11 Bush Administration reaction solidified the approach of elective (non-national survival), long haul irregular wars in which the wider American public was basically assured that the war effort would not require them to have "skin in the game" unless they so chose.

With this background, I think Damon Armeni's article asks some interesting questions. I think we have a situation now which may be relatively new in the American experience - a situation in which the U.S.'s approach to relatively large and long conflicts is to fight them with a relatively large professional and standing army without much public participation and little, to no, participation by the children of civilian policy makers and civilian shapers of opinion. This approach historically seems more characteristic of the British approach to war (WWI and WWII being exceptions)and seems to be somewhat similar, in a 21st century way, to the vision of a standing army that so frightened the founders.

The AVF or Warrior Class as a threat to our Constitutional Republic? I'm skeptical.

We still have many structures that mitigate against that. The Warrior Classes' source of legitimacy as the key factor? I don't see the U.S. Army lining up to take personal loyalty oaths any time soon. Many European armies have (or had) the tradition of a loyalty oath to the monarch. But not us Yanks. Makes me glad to be an American where at least I know I'm free, to paraphrase. OTOH, I am frequently disconcerted by the ignorance of the Constitution and American history of even college educated Americans. Is there no high school government/civics requirement anymore?

An issue or issues that would cause a civil war, including a split of the military? Again I don't see it on the current horizon unless it is something arising from some sort of Zombie Apocalypse fallout of an economic collapse.

AVF/Warrior Class inadvertently contributing to economic collapse? There's a subject worth discussion. Civilian leaders too easily entering into hugely expensive, long duration elective military endeavors that have little to no flesh and blood personal investment from either the politicians or 95% of the electorate?

I'd be interested in some informed opinions.


Sat, 12/24/2011 - 12:44am

In reply to by Ken White

I like a lot of those ideas - it frustrates me when I see senior NCO lists and see names I know shouldn't be there.

I never thought you were deterring me - I assumed you were addressing weaknesses you felt existed in my argument. I never object to that. I may not agree with you, but that's the point of getting my material out there - to be forced to defend it or to hear reasons why I am right or wrong and then to re-evaluate my position. By and large I remain convinced of the role of legitimacy as I described it. However - I see your point about terminology.

Back to your comments - I've thought alot about how we can attract more talent to the generating force... my guess is we need to figure out a way to equalize the "value" of assignments; that is - a guy who does 2 tours on the line and one in the generating force should be just as competitive as a guy who does 3 tours on the line (assuming their OER's are equal).

Last thing - guys tagged for Drill Sergeant duty usually went reluctantly if not kicking and screaming, not always, but usually.

Thanks again for the comments - I appreciate them.

Ken White

Fri, 12/23/2011 - 10:25pm

In reply to by StrykerCavScout

Good capable NCOs do not object being Drill Sergeants for a couple of years, nor do they object to being Recruiters for a couple of years. Your comments on the desirability of that are correct IMO and that they are not used a a 'selling point' to the NCOs is a small part of the problem. Telling most that you're 'managing their career' is a poor approach. Three years is also a bit long for both high pressure jobs even if the Commands did it right. The Navy sends Petty Officers to both sorts of duty from the fleet for two years and they know they're going right back to that same job in the fleet so the impetus to watch how you go, you may have to live with it, works for them. The Army tends to send people from the 82d to Drill / Recruiting / Reserve Component Advisory duty and then after three long years to Fort Drum instead of back from whence they came; the idea loses some cachet that way. It does not help that often at the end of that unwelcome duty, the NCO gets promoted and thus goes to a new job that many are not ready for and that in a new command with no friends or support structure to help...

The bigger problem though is that both USAREC and TRADOC are bastions of bureaucracy and mediocrity. Quite simply, good NCOs hate having to put up with the BS and stupidity of both commands. In both cases, the issue is not having good NCOs to do a competent job, it is having compliant people willing to check boxes, stay out of trouble and keep their mouths shut. The showboats will do it and they will revel in it. The good guys will also do it -- but they will <i>hate</i> it for what it is...

A big part of the problem is that in the 70s the Army adopted a lot of psycho babble and managerial speak; the Task, Condition and Standard foolishness of BTMS was and is an unmitigated disaster. Moving people for career management purpose served mostly to justify a massive expansion of then MilPerCen, todays HRC -- under any name, it is in the Hoffman Building and operating an anachronistic mobilization based personnel system designed to make it easy to manage, not necessarily to support the Army.

In fairness to the Army, much of this was foisted on it by an ignorant if well intentioned Congress. DOPMA / OPM and the Congroids diktat to be 'fair' and 'objective' in the selection of personnel was read as a requirement to expose everyone to the same duties or as close to it as could be obtained. I don't think that's necessarily what most of Congress meant -- though I acknowledge it is precisely what some wanted -- but either way the Army did not implement it all well; both the personnel and the training systems were made easy to manage, not to provide best value to the force that the systems were to support.

In the 70s, the Army had discovered that their 'new' methods of managing officers (make Round Pegs fit in Square holes, never mind that you can do that but the peg is too small to optimally fill that hole...) could be transferred to NCOs. The downside was that one had to takes specialists with in depth knowledge of their field and turn them into generalists but the Hoffman Building wasn't going to war so why not. We have done the same thing to many Warrant specialties. We thus have an Army with people at many level having skills and knowledges that are a mile wide and less than an inch deep; we have almost no truly knowledgeable spscialists left.

Prior to all that, before Viet Nam, some NCOs would stay as Drills, Recruiters or 'RC Advisers' for years. They were broadly worthless for much else but they did an acceptable job in their homesteading assignments. They liked what they were doing enough that they did not need to be bribed into sullen compliance with Proficiency and other Special Pays.

I used to tell every Officer I met that when they became the Chief of Staff, they'd need to change AR 600-200, specifically, the paragraph that says an NCO will be selected by the centralized board and he or she will then be promoted unless their commander writes a letter to pull them for cause. Wrong approach. Commanders don't have time to waste writing letters to pull marginal people, so a lot of slugs get promoted. Change it to read that he or she will only be promoted when the Commander writes a letter recommending they promote. Commanders will take time for their good folks...

Fix the personnel system and improve initial entry training, Officer and Enlisted. Those are the biggest detriments to a truly professional Army. We are better than the ways we operate today in many spheres...

Nothing I've written was meant to deter you from taking an in depth look at the military/warrior/soldier class and its relationship with those it ostensibly defends. That relationship needs constant watching and it needs an informed, not purely academic look.


Fri, 12/23/2011 - 8:00pm

In reply to by Ken White

I am aware of what NCO's, especially the combat arms NCO's, think about recruiting and Drill Sergeant duty. While this doesn't directly relate to the topic I do enjoy discussing the problem. I'm not sure I know an answer to it - we need good, capable, and experienced NCO's as Drill Sergeants, so what do we do to ensure we get the right sort of folks in the generating force? If my son enlisted (or went into ROTC/USMA), I would want him trained by the very best NCO's the Army has to offer. Wouldn't you? So how do we get these guys to do some time in the generating force? If they have a negative view of the duty (which they almost all do), then they need to consider who they want training their kids one day... or at the very least, need to quit complaining about the quality of private they get. I used to tell my NCO's who made such complaints that they should go and fix the system - I didn't hear too many volunteer, but they all quit complaining (at least within earshot).

I am not convinced sending an NCO to college makes him or her more likely to leave the force - but I'll concede I haven't looked into that. I will though. Regardless, it does not change the effect it would have on the military/warrior/soldier class and it's relationship with those it ostensibly defends.

I will evaluate my use of the term "warrior class" as opposed to "military class".

Thank you for the well wishes... I don't know if the Army will send me back - I hope they do.

Ken White

Fri, 12/23/2011 - 7:21pm

In reply to by StrykerCavScout

StrykerCavScout:<blockquote>"'Warrior Class' is a broadly accepted in an academic context(which this paper was written for) and is a term familiar to most civil-military thinkers..."</blockquote>I'm aware of that and also aware that words are important; their misuse can have unintended consequences. It has also been my observation that most "civil-military thinkers" tend to have pet rocks.<blockquote>"If it helps, replace the word "Warrior" with "Soldier" when you read the paper."</blockquote>How would that help? You cannot replace a Soldier with a Warrior, period -- and doing the reverse would make little sense. Tantamount to using a Stryker when a Gator is adequate...<blockquote>"I get what you are saying and broadly accept your point, but I can't see how it is relevant in this context."</blockquote>Umm, because as an academic paper it perpetuates a mistaken word substitution that has already done some damage and thus gives it an aura of authority. Even the Wiki knows better than that: "<i>The military caste in a feudal society is evolved from, but not identical with the warrior class in a tribal society."</i><blockquote>"I've worked with many NCO's with college degrees - never had one tell me a task he faced was beneath him because of it."</blockquote>I'm sure you haven't. Wonder if his or her fellow NCOs heard something along that line. I too worked with many such and only rarely heard that or a similar complaint. Did see a number of them silently migrate out of the Infantry, though. ;)<blockquote> By and large, the NCO's I've worked with understand their role in the military (probably better than many officers do) and acknowledge that they've chosen that role. I also don't agree with you about what we are doing to the NCO corps. I'm living it, I see it, I lead these men, and I've never seen the problems you suggest exist."</blockquote>That's not surprising. While my experience is dated, I'm fortunate in having a serving son who's a senior NCO and he and his friends contend that something you (and many others, some rather senior...) do not see is an all encompassing and distressing fact. Ask any good combat Arms NCO what he REALLY thinks about Drill Sergeant, Recruiting or Staff duty. I would say restrict that questioning to wearers of Green Tabs because they are the NCOs of concern but I understand all NCOs today in leadership positions regardless of branch can wear those Tabs. Interesting commentary on your premise, that.<blockquote>While you are certainly correct as to the professional and volunteer history of the Army (I actually cite that in my paper) the Army has never (prior to 1973) been large, professional, and volunteer - which is of course the reason why I focus on it the way I do. At least in this regard, there is no flawed premise as I neither presume nor suggest otherwise."</blockquote>We can differ on most of those points. While I'll give you the "large," the never been professional or volunteer is wildly incorrect. If as you say I am correct on the professional and volunteer history of the Army it is indeed a flawed premise.

Having served for five years after the cessation of the draft and then worked as A DAC for another 18 years plus having the aforementioned son and peers, we differ on whether the Army is 'professional' today. Sadly, my sensing is that it is less so than it was in 1973 or even in 1953.

Thanks for the responses and good luck with your dissertation.


Fri, 12/23/2011 - 10:57am

In reply to by Ken White

I think the your objection to the word "warrior" as opposed to "soldier" in my paper is one of semantics - the term "Warrior Class" is a broadly accepted in an academic context(which this paper was written for) and is a term familiar to most civil-military thinkers. If it helps, replace the word "Warrior" with "Soldier" when you read the paper. I get what you are saying and broadly accept your point, but I can't see how it is relevant in this context.

As to the existence of such a class, not needing one doesn't mean we don't have one, or won't have one. That said, most good studies indicate that you are generally correct in that we don't have one - yet - as they also indicate that we are in fact trending towards one. My intent is to discuss the implications, not argue its existence. Indeed - when I turn this into my dissertation someday, it will be far clearer that the existence of a Warrior Class is not in itself sufficient to cause the problem I write about but it is a propelling factor.

I actually agree with you on force construct - as long as we adjust our strategic goals and overseas commitments to match.

We do have an excessive number of degreed persons in our country - not disputing that. But this has no bearing on the fact that decision makers at all levels and in all categories almost universally have degrees. Even if we reduced the number of people who obtained a college degree, we would only be drawing our decision makers from a smaller pool - perhaps not a bad thing, but true nonetheless.

I've worked with many NCO's with college degrees - never had one tell me a task he faced was beneath him because of it. By and large, the NCO's I've worked with understand their role in the military (probably better than many officers do) and acknowledge that they've chosen that role. I also don't agree with you about what we are doing to the NCO corps. I'm living it, I see it, I lead these men, and I've never seen the problems you suggest exist.

While you are certainly correct as to the professional and volunteer history of the Army (I actually cite that in my paper) the Army has never (prior to 1973) been large, professional, and volunteer - which is of course the reason why I focus on it the way I do. At least in this regard, there is no flawed premise as I neither presume nor suggest otherwise.

Ken White

Thu, 12/22/2011 - 5:13pm

In reply to by StrykerCavScout

Stryker Cav Scout:

<blockquote>"The most significant and powerful driver is the Warrior Class, hence the focus on it in my paper."</blockquote>If there is a "Warrior Class," which I strongly question, it should not exist in the US, we have no need for such a class. We do have a need for Soldiers and we have some. The difference between a warrior and a soldier lies in two factors; training (ours is mediocre at best, it should be improved but that is another topic) and discipline. Ours is fairly benign but it is adequate to task. I've never been a warrior, I've fought a few to their chagrin and I think one thing that might be done is discard the use of that hackneyed word in the US Army. Soldiers are not warriors, they are far more dangerous and exhibit far more self control...

The above quote is from the final paragraph of your 0832 22 Dec Post as is this:<Blockquote>"So going forward, we need to come up with a way that lets us man our force in sufficient numbers (whatever those are) to meet our strategic goals while also mitigating the effects of the various drivers which cause these divergent views."</blockquote>The simplest and best way to do that is to decrease the size of the Active Component and increase the size of the Reserve Components. A small more professional Army will pose no danger, a larger citizen fed part time force offers many advantages including lower cost, more latent capability, more citizen and community involvement and several other advantages that easily offset the disadvantages

Percentage of population is a poor indicator of professionalism; it is a reasonable measure of size.<blockquote>"Fact is - the people making decisions in this country, at all levels, corporate, economic, military, and governmental, almost uniformly have college degrees...</blockquote>True. Note also that we have an excessive number of degreed persons with few real skills...<blockquote>"...many of them are advanced. Worst case scenario is you create an educated elite class - but that's far more benign than a military one."</blockquote>I'm far from convinced that is true. :(

Let's send NCOs to get degrees -- in what disciplines? What disciplines are appropriate to journeymen level technical specialists that are responsible for direct leadership of apprentice tradesmen who are or should be mostly dedicated to killing people and destroying things? Because that's who and what we are discussing. You can change that focus but such change carries a tremendous price.

The US Army has been on a kick for over 20 years to slowly remove NCO specialization (and competence) and replace it with the same 'generalist' foolishness that affects the Officer Corps. It is a mistake and that will likely not be learned by the institution until we have an existential war. Good luck. The NCOs that leave are not a problem -- costly but non problematic -- those that stay OTOH can be (and were...) frequently problems; "You want me to go live in the mud for two weeks? I'm sorry, I have a degree, I do not live like that..." That is of course hyperbole but the basic reaction occurred and likely will again.

The flawed premise was that discussed in the first seven lines of my 2228 21 Dec post. The US Army has been professional and volunteer for far more time than it has been partly conscripted and a citizen Army. The post 1973 Army is a return to roots sort of thing but that particular move towards 'professionalism' was with mobilization derived personnel and training policies which have had a deleterious effect on the service and its professional abilities. I could even make the case that Army is excessively 'civilianized.' ;)


Thu, 12/22/2011 - 9:32am

@ COL Jones, I think you are right Sir - the military will ultimately unite to defend the Constitution, but that is exactly my problem. While I do, to some extent, worry about the prospect of an individual leader rising attempting to usurp the Constitution, that's not the real threat as I see it. What I worry about is that the military will interpret the document altogether differently than the population - that there will be divergent views of its intent - that eventually the civilian and military views will be so divergent that there are questions about how and who the military reports to. Today there are debates over what extent the President should exercise, for lack of a better term, command authority, over the military and how much input Congress should have.

But let's use a more recent example - the President ordering the killing of an American citizen at the hand of the American Military. Was it right? Maybe, but we can't know because we don't understand fully the process used to decide to kill an American Citizen without trial. It bothered me honestly, not that we did it, but that the process isn't transparent enough to make sure such awesome power can be controlled properly. I'm forced to assume that the elected leadership would never abuse their authority and so such a system must exist - but I wonder how dangerous those sorts of assumptions are given the general trajectory of history. I can see how different interpretations of the Constitution could lead to conflicts over thing such as this and what happens when the military refuses because of such a conflict? Do we set a precedent? Does it matter? I think it does.

@Mr. White:

Sir - We can debate the existence of a Warrior Class, and what it means to have a Professional Army and a large one. Personally, I think percentage of the population is a poor measure, but ok.

The point to ACS and the Academic Community. You are probably right about the academic community's isolation - but I'm unclear on how it doesn't serve to expand the range of ideas available to both parties by increasing attendance? Fact is - the people making decisions in this country, at all levels, corporate, economic, military, and governmental, almost uniformly have college degrees; many of them are advanced. Worst case scenario is you create an educated elite class - but that's far more benign than a military one.

I still support sending NCO's to school - and I don't care if they leave as a result. The right mix of retention incentives will hopefully let us keep the best among them, but even if it doesn't, we still send someone from the military community back into the civilian workforce - and probably at a better position than he or she would've had otherwise. There is net gain to the military as other bright and talented youth join it in order to attain an education.

It also is exactly my point that we adhere to our oaths - my concern is when we differ over what the basis of that oath means. The military split during the Civil War in part, because they didn't agree on exactly what the Constitution meant; or at least their role in it. Had the military decided uniformly to be on one side or another, the Civil War likely would've gone much differently (although it's tough to know for sure). Did that internal debate over the meaning of the Constitution make the war longer and more violent? I think so.

Lastly - I'm not certain what you mean by flawed premise - I think you are implying the "Warrior Class" premise, and if you are, ok. Even if such a class does not currently exist, that doesn't mean it won't and my argument doesn't rely on its existence. I argue that military's ultimately seek to defend their source of legitimacy and that a warrior class all can cause a situation where the military and the population will have divergent views of that legitimacy and that we should take this into account as we decide out to man our force.

@Both – I personally believe we are seeing the first order effects of a warrior class in the United States and I don’t think we can find an “American” way to prevent this effect – that is, we shouldn’t reinstate conscription and we shouldn’t force people to join in any other way. So going forward, we need to come up with a way that lets us man our force in sufficient numbers (whatever those are) to meet our strategic goals while also mitigating the effects of the various drivers which cause these divergent views. The most significant and powerful driver is the Warrior Class, hence the focus on it in my paper.

I appreciate you both taking the time to comment – I hope to turn this into something more one day, maybe even a PhD dissertation if the Army will send me, and making sure I understand the weaknesses in the argument will only help me later.

Ken White

Wed, 12/21/2011 - 11:28pm

Starting from a flawed premise can lead to a flawed conclusion...<blockquote>"In the United States, it was not until after the Second World War that a large standing army was formed and only in the last 40 years has that Army been a professional and volunteer force."</blockquote>Actually, the US Army was a far more professional force for all the years from 1789 until 1940 with the very brief exceptions of the Civil War and World War I. That's about 145 years of a more professional Army than has existed since 1973. Note also that latter Army has strong vestiges of the conscription fed policies of World Wars I and II. Those policies make this volunteer force less professional but more attuned to national mores than the pre 1940 variant. Those vestiges also provide counters to some aspects of professionalism and mandate a higher personnel turnover than is desirable from a strictly professional viewpoint. That is not necessarily bad but it does mean that concerns of a 'Warrior class' are vastly overstated.

As an aside, the "large standing army" comment is also suspect. The size of the Army has fluctuated in the last two Centuries but for the most part it has been about the same rough percentage of the total population. The biggest difference is that prior to WW II, the Militia and / or National Guard (the two are not synonymous regardless of the Dick Act and the statutory usurpation / conflation of the terms) was generally the larger force in strength. Since Viet Nam the Active Army has fought tenaciously to insure that it is the larger element and that is budget driven, not militarily necessary or even desirable...

The author concludes:<blockquote>"Programs such as ACS should be expanded to include variations which send NCO’s to school for their Bachelor’s Degrees and that bring college students into military schools for a year to share ideas. The military should actively and aggressively recruit the best and brightest professors in academia for teaching positions with the military, even if this means increased cost. Additionally, military officers possessing PhD’s should be accepted into temporary teaching positions at our nation’s finest universities. Only through a consistent and aggressive campaign designed to keep the process of learning and developing future generations together can we ensure we avoid ideological divergence between a potential Warrior Class and the population itself."</blockquote>If there is any 'class' that is more removed from the population than the volunteer forces, it's the Academic 'class.' Somehow, I find it difficult to bleieve that a closer marriage between two communities that are not a part of the mainstream will result in either of them becoming closer to that mainstream.

On the subject of tertiary education for Noncommissioned Officers, we did that. We discovered that such education tended to make those who partook decide to find other, less stressful employment...

I firmly believe that Robert C. Jones has it right: "<i>ulitimately (sic)the strength of the military, if placed in such a horrible quandry, will support the Constitution, and not those enemies of the Constitution who would seek to destroy it. Foreign or Domestic, Governmental or Civilian.</i>" That is true because partly due to that mandated personnel turnover, Officer and Enlisted, which insures that the population itself is well represented. It is true mostly because the majority of people adhere to their Oaths...

The volunteer force may not be as professional as its precursor but it is just as loyal if not more so. Anyone who wishes to 'fix' the civil - military divide should simply modernize our archaic personnel and retirement systems and allow, even encourage, more lateral movement and promotion from within.

Robert C. Jones

Sat, 12/17/2011 - 4:38am

If history and human nature are any guide, there will be those senior officers so vested in the system that they will rationalize the acts of some straying government as "legitimate" when such acts are merely official and continue their support no matter how far that government drifts from its duties to the Constitution and the people. But ulitimately the strength of the military, if placed in such a horrible quandry, will support the Constitution, and not those enemies of the Constitution who would seek to destroy it. Foreign or Domestic, Governmental or Civilian.

As to the American Civil War, most on both sides felt strongly they were defending the Constitution. It was a fairly new holding under President Jackson of the Constitution not allowing states to withdraw from the Union as they saw fit. Perhaps this could have been resolved in court, but some issues inevitably will fall to "the final argument of kings," and there will be war. Not to prove who was right, but only who was strong enough to enforce their position.

"Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable - a most sacred right - a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world." Abraham Lincoln