Army

Nuclear Constraints and Concepts of Future Warfare

Nuclear Constraints and Concepts of Future Warfare

Since the United States’ near-peer adversaries possess nuclear weapons, the U.S. Army needs to prepare for small, politically constrained, ambiguous, limited conflict. Without a reorientation on the future, the U.S. Army doctrine and concepts are not useful and potentially limit policymakers’ options, or worse, risk accidental nuclear escalation.

People, Posture, and Processes: U.S. Army Sustainment Options for the Joint Force in the Pacific

People, Posture, and Processes:  U.S. Army Sustainment Options for the Joint Force in the Pacific

In the midst of unassuming jobs where sustainers pack the next container full of munitions, distribute fuel, police the streets, feed the force and perform an immeasurable amount of other invaluable support tasks—the importance of their craft often gets lost in the fog of plans and policy at the national level.

What Would Clausewitz Do?

What Would Clausewitz Do?

Several years ago, during a visit to the U.S. Army War College, I was invited to have lunch with some of its instructors. The school teaches Army officers about strategy and its course offerings (“Civil-Military Relations,” “Peace and Stability Operations,” “Irregular Warfare”) reflect that mandate. So, naturally, the lunch discussion focused on strategy, and how to teach it. While I don’t now recall the exact details of that conversation, a statement by one of the war college’s professors has stayed with me. It brought immediate laughter — and unanimous assent. “Just remember,” he said, “that no matter what the question, the answer is always Clausewitz.”

The Distraction of Service Biases

The Distraction of Service Biases

The inter-service biases we all hold have a tendency to distract us from seeing the forest for the trees. Carl Forsling’s analysis of the Army Vision reflects his biases in favor of the U.S. Marine Corps. A clear-eyed assessment of both the Army Vision Force 2025 and the Marine’s Expeditionary Force 21 makes it clear that both services’ vision of themselves and the future are actually complementary.

Leadership Lessons from Gettysburg

Leadership Lessons from Gettysburg

Military leadership comes in all different forms. It can be embodied in the leadership of troops on a battlefield, or it can occur behind the scenes in moments no less important. The Army defines leadership as influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to improve the organization and accomplish the mission. These bland, doctrinal terms are best brought to life in the form of historical vignettes, a valuable tool for teaching the process of leadership.

Bring Back BRAC — Permanently

Bring Back BRAC — Permanently

In 1977, Congress effectively took responsibility for the base closure process. Today, it shirks that responsibility — threatening national security and the Pentagon’s fiscal position — by ignoring pleas for a new BRAC round. Not only should Congress approve a new BRAC round, it should authorize the BRAC process to occur at regular intervals in accordance with recommendations from the 2005 Commission. Threats to the United States will continue to change and the country’s defense posture should be free to change as well.

Same Wars, Different Fights: The Army and Air Force Visions

Same Wars, Different Fights: The Army and Air Force Visions

These two visions are a result of the last 15 years of fighting experience that the Army and Air Force have built. They are both highly divergent, and also complementary. The Army has taken the brunt of the changes that have occurred in the global civilization since the fall of the Soviet Union and is now learning to operate against connected and individually powerful enemies who operate in complex social and urban terrains. The Air Force has been finding its connection to its joint family, overcoming the hubris of early airpower advocates and finding a voice in the joint fight. The two services probably fight better together now than at any other time in the past. But can that hard won cooperation be sustained with such radically different visions of their futures?

Innovation & the Army Vision: Responding to the Soufflé Conundrum

Innovation & the Army Vision: Responding to the Soufflé Conundrum

In the course of thirteen pages, the Army lays out how the world’s most powerful land force must look one decade from now. This already difficult task is complicated by the fact that those ambitious (or crazy) enough to take on a document of this scope find themselves in an international environment where threats span the gamut of non-state actors to world superpowers, with a healthy dose of the latest Department of Defense buzzword, “hybrid,” thrown into the mix. To respond to these oftentimes still nebulous threats, the Army advocates for eight characteristics of a force for the future.Innovation is the most alluring of these characteristics to policymakers and the public alike. However, it could also prove to be the vision’s undoing should the conditions on the ground change.

The Army Looks to the Future

The Army Looks to the Future

The Chief of Staff of the Army released the results of a study which was designed to determine how the Army can best achieve “success in battle” in the future. I was able to obtain a copy of this report and want to share it here. The Chief convened a group of the best military brains available because he understands that “wars are still fought on little bits of bloody earth, and they are ended when the enemy’s will to resist is broken, and armed men stand victorious on his home soil.”

All Hell Broke Loose: The U.S. Army and OPERATION TOENAILS

All Hell Broke Loose: The U.S. Army and OPERATION TOENAILS

Few people, save avid students of the U.S. war in the Pacific, have ever heard of the small island group called New Georgia. Yet, in the summer of 1943, the island was the scene of some of the most brutal fighting of the entire war. It was on New Georgia where the 43rd Infantry Division experienced the highest number of cases of neuropsychiatric casualties (variably known as combat fatigue, shell shock, war neurosis, or post-traumatic stress disorder) casualties in any division during one operation in the entire war. For two of the three Army divisions on New Georgia, it was their baptism of fire, and one that they would never forget. While the capture of New Georgia was vital to the strategic and operational success of the Solomon Islands Campaign, the battle itself is a supremely interesting study in small-unit tactics, joint Army-Navy operations, logistics operations, and the trials of a joint command.

Army-Air Force Talks

Army-Air Force Talks

 Dan and Dave, no relation to the famous Olympic decathletes, began a dialogue following a workshop on the development of an Air Force Operating Concept. At the conclusion of day 1 of the workshop, Dan and Dave had a discussion on the future of the military; to include the direction our respective services are headed. The idea popped up that these deep discussions should be published, for others to read and debate. The richness and value of discussions on the future of warfare is worthless if left between two people.

Mea Culpa or "The law is easy"*

*Conditions Apply

Will Beasley provided a different perspective on the #Professionalism debate in his piece on The Rise and Fall of US Naval #Professionalism. What I found most interesting was his discussion of ‘The Golden Age of Professionalization’ and Wilensky’s five-steps involved in an occupational group attaining the status of ‘profession.’ Beasley’s article was intended to provide a response and another perspective on my previous post ‘The Military #Profession — Lawyers, Ethics and the Profession of Arms’.

I noticed that exception was taken to my comment: ‘The law is easy — ethics is hard.’ I thought I’d clarify my comment to remove any misunderstanding. My comment was meant to be read in its entirety and to convey the point that, at times, the answer to the legal problem is easier when compared to the ethical quandries that accompany it. As Winston Churchill once remarked, and I paraphrase, foreign policy choices (which include decisions about how international law is applied) are often between the dreadful and the truly awful. This is the context I had in mind when I made my comment.

…at times, the answer to the legal problem is easier when compared to the ethical quandries that accompany it.

‘The law is easy-ethics is hard’ refers specifically to the application of the laws relating to the use of force (jus ad bellum), the laws of war (jus in bellum); and national policy in operational contexts. In many respects, the application of the laws of war are guided by national policy, and as a result the ‘answer’ to a particular legal question is given to us by the national command authority or coalition headquarters through rules of engagement or other operational orders that impact on how an operation is to be conducted. The difficulty is where the law or the policy is clear but its application may create a complex ethical dilemma. This is why the law is *relatively* easy and ethics is comparatively harder.

One example that comes to mind is the situation during the Bosnian conflict, involving the Dutch Battalion — Dutchbat — who were ostensibly guarding the enclave of Srebrenica, a United Nations ‘Safe Area’. The Dutchbat was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Thom Karremans, who decided to act in accordance within the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) mandate and orders from UNHQ. The Dutchbat was in an invidious position of having to morally protect the enclave while lacking the military capability to do so. The chain of events leading to the fall of Srebrenica and ethical dilemmas are discussed in more detail elsewhere [1]. In summary, Karremans made the decision to act in accordance with his legal obligation (comply with superior orders and policy) but resulting in the ethical dilemma of being unable to protect those in the enclave from being rounded up and, as the world later learned, falling victim to genocide. In this case, the law was easy — a clear legal answer was available, but was unhelpful in resolving the complex ethical dilemma that unfolded before Dutchbat and Karremans [3].

I extend my apology for any misunderstanding. I don’t mean to offend my learned friends out there. In a domestic context, the law is definitely hard. But in the international system, which is largely one of nations regulating themselves, law is more about politics than jurisprudence [2] and can sometimes be ‘easier’ when juxtaposed against the ethical dilemmas created in the wake of their application.


The Proprietor of ‘Carl’s Cantina’ is an Australian military officer who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Proprietor is an Associate Member of the Military Writers Guild and is currently writing a thesis on Australian civil-military relations. The opinions expressed are hers alone and do not reflect those of the Australian Defence Force.


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Notes:

[1] See paper by LTCOL P.J. deVin, ‘Srebrenica, the impossible choices of a commander’.

[2] The law as a continuation of politics by other means is a whole topic on its own and frequently discussed over at the Lawfare blog.

[3] If you want to follow the subsequent legal action against the State of the Netherlands brought by Mothers of Srebrenica, a good starting point is here.

A Modern Mobilization Army: A Hypothetical Exercise

Over on twitter, Nathan Finney, aka The Barefoot Strategist, posed this question:

An interesting one. How would you go about doing so?

For the purposes of this little exercise, let’s posit that this is over and above an activated and federalized Guard and Reserve component. Wikipedia tells us there’s just over half a million active duty Soldiers right now, with another slightly more than half a million Guard and Reserve troops, yielding a total force of about 1.1 million. Given that the US Army fielded roughly 8 million soldiers in World War II with only half the national population, finding another million or two warm bodies would seem to be rather easy.

But would it be?

Many who went on to perform distinguished service in World War II would today be laughed out of the recruiter’s office.

The current military aged male population (for my purposes here I’ve rather arbitrarily selected 18–30 years) is very roughly around 30 million. Approximately 75% of that population is disqualified under current enlistment standards, either due to weight or other health issues, criminal history, or lack of education. That gives us a current population of qualified males of about 7.5 million to recruit from. Given the struggle to recruit 80,000–100,000 of this population annually, I do not think it realistic to achieve the additional numbers purely through voluntary recruitment. That leaves either conscription, or a gross lowering of the standards for enlistment. It should be noted that the standards for selective service in World War II, particularly in the last 18 months of the war, were far, far lower than today’s standards for enlistment. Many who went on to perform distinguished service in World War II would today be laughed out of the recruiter’s office.

There exists today virtually no real political support for conscription. Of course, there is no political support for such a massive expansion of the Army, either, so for the purposes of our exercise, I posit that the political support for enlarging the Army can also be seen as supporting a draft.

Another obvious pool of manpower reserves is the Individual Ready Reserves- those service members who have completed their initial obligation for active duty, or regular drills with a reserve component, but have not yet been completely discharged form the service. Every initial enlistment in the Army is for a term of eight years, with the first three or four typically served on active duty, and the remaining four or five in the IRR. Persons in the IRR don’t perform military duties, nor do they receive pay and allowances, but they are by law subject to recall.

While some IRR troops were subjected to recall for Desert Storm, and a handful for Operation Iraqi Freedom, the last major recall of IRR troops was in the early stages of the 1950–1953 Korean War. I’ve mentioned that the Army recruits roughly 80,000–100,000 people a year. That means roughly the same number leave it annually. The greatest number of these are soldiers whose initial obligation is complete, and decline to reenlist. Of this cohort, some will not be suitable for recall. So let’s just go with a working WAG* of 50,000 over the last 5 years available for recall. That gives us a bump of a quarter million, easing the needed numbers via draft or recruiting. Theoretically, these troops have already been trained, but in reality, even after a very short break in service, the training required to again make them effective soldiers is little different than that needed to train a new recruit.

…the existing Army training pipeline would likely prove incapable of surging production throughput to anywhere near the numbers needed.

Speaking of training the troops, the existing Army training pipeline would likely prove incapable of surging production throughput to anywhere near the numbers needed. The initial training of Army troops is generally grouped by functional areas. Infantry and Armor go through training at Ft. Benning, Artillery at Ft. Sill, and support and service support soldiers go to basic training at Ft. Jackson or Ft. Leonard Wood, and then on to their specialized training at the branch school responsible for their career field, such as the Transportation Corps school at Ft. Eustis, Virginia. Further, one of the advantages of having high quality recruits with fairly long terms of enlistment (which means a fairly long term of training results in a decent return on investment) is that you need fewer military occupational specialties. You can spend the time and money to train a fire control repair technician to fix the electronics on both an Abrams, and a Bradley. But if you desperately need to raise an Army quickly, you are almost forced to limit the breadth of any one job’s training. You’d likely have to split that fire control technician into two specialties, one for Abrams, and one for Bradleys. That means the tooth to tail ratio of our expanded army will suffer somewhat. Still, speed is of the essence, and the old rule of fast/good/cheap applies. Pick any two. In this case, it would be fast/good.

Still, the institutional schoolhouses of the Army simply cannot absorb that large an influx of new soldiers. Some skills simply must be taught at the schoolhouse (say, much of the aviation maintenance field) but a greater portion could be taught in other ways.

In World War II, much of the occupational skill training for soldiers was done in units mobilized for the war. And here our current Army has an advantage over our forebears of 1940–1943. The Army of 1940 faced an expansion of eventually some 2400%. There simply wasn’t a large enough trained cadre of people. Finney’s proposed expansion, however, is significantly more modest. The obvious way to leverage the existing troop formations is to use them as the cadre, the nucleus of new units. For instance, each current Brigade Combat Team might be tasked to form an entire division, with each subordinate battalion transforming itself into a BCT (or rather, forming an additional two battalions to flesh out other BCTs activated). Essentially, everybody gets bumped a paygrade. This would likely result in some decline in the quality of leadership capability, but that would be almost inevitable in any expansion on the scale proposed.

Another challenge for our notional expansion is simply equipping the force. As a practical matter, some things cannot be expanded in such a short time. Two years is simply not long enough to ramp up production of things like helicopters, let alone train the aircrew for them. Other major weapon systems would also face shortages. The Army has a goodly number of M1 Abrams and M2/M3 Bradleys in reserve, but not as many as might be needed. Trucks of all types would be in critical supply. That could be augmented with some civilian procurement for many roles, but the authorized equipment for many units would likely have to be changed.

The minutia of equipage, uniforms, boots, packs, and such, should not be an overwhelming obstacle, but ramping up production and maintaining quality would likely be a challenge. Producing enough rifles might be a challenge, at least in the short term. Equipping the force with modern radios would similarly be a challenge in at least the short term.

Finally, merely finding the space to house and train this notional expanded force would be a great challenge. The US has shed much of the vast amounts of training space it acquired in World War II. Reacquiring it would be next to impossible. For one thing, many of those spaces have become developed. Ironically, even though the proposed expansion is a good deal smaller than the size of the Army in World War II, the battlespace a reasonably equipped force today needs to train is vastly greater. More space is required to effectively train a mechanized battalion today than might be needed for an entire World War II division’s maneuver elements.

…could the US vastly expand from it’s current Army of half a million soldiers to two million soldiers in the space of two years? Probably. But it would yield a force of greatly diminished quality.

So, could the US vastly expand from it’s current active Army of half a million soldiers to one million soldiers in the space of two years? Probably. But it would yield a force of greatly diminished quality.[2] Further, absent an existential, immediate threat to the country, there is simply no political support for such an expansion.


Arthur Barie is a former US Army Infantry NCO and Bradley Commander. This post was originally posted at his blog, “Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid.” The opinions expressed are his alone, and do not reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


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Notes:

[1] Wild Assed Guess

[2] Though quantity has a quality all its own.

Navigating by Terrain Features

How the Army Sees Itself in History


In land navigation, there are several different ways to negotiate map reading and get from point A to point B. You can use a magnetic azimuth to go from point to point, but that often means that you have to stay on one path the entire time regardless of how difficult the terrain is. It is a very rigid and time consuming approach. Another approach is called navigation by terrain features. The navigator uses their knowledge of map-reading to pick out significant terrain features on their way to and at their destination. Then they follow those terrain features, such as hills, valleys, roads, or buildings, to their destination. This method of navigating can be less stressful and occasionally less accurate but quite often the most successful.

When the Army, and by definition those in it, looks at its history, it tends to reflect on its own significant terrain features, i.e., wars. Even the way that colleges teach U.S. history is done via the idea of wars as a benchmark. To be sure, for a military, war is our Super Bowl. It’s where we try out our doctrine and strategy, refine our procedures, and, hopefully, come out with a win. It is only natural to use war as a significant terrain feature.

It is only natural to use war as a significant terrain feature.

The problem, though, is that history does not stop between wars. Indeed, sometimes what wins wars are the reforms that take place in inter-war periods. While it is sometimes tempting to skip over the boring periods, those often contain gems that can help us relate to our own time. For example, I recently wrote a white paper on the history of my National Guard’s force structure that demonstrated that the most radical changes to force structure happened during periods of peace, not war. These decisions reflected changing threats, technology, and doctrine and shaped the force that we have today.

While doing research, I came across an edition of the now-defunct “Coast Artillery Journal,” of the even more defunct Coast Artillery Corps. This Corps was in existence for barely fifty years from the beginning of the 20th century. The edition of the journal I was reading was from 1922 and was an incredible snapshot of both the Corps and the Army at the time. The post-World War I Army was experiencing both growing and shrinking pains. Growing, from the vast experience the Army had gained from the war, and shrinking, from force structure cuts.

From new technology to book reviews to leadership studies, the journal embraced their cause as a profession and encouraged their officers to write about it. To me, this echoed the present movement to engage military officers to begin writing about their experiences, thoughts, and solutions.

“Of the two hundred and five documents on the official list of War Department publications, not one touches on leadership.”

Of note was an article on leadership, where the author, a lieutenant colonel, notes that “of the two hundred and five documents on the official list of War Department publications, not one touches on leadership.” That is a damning indictment of an organization that calls itself a profession since 1880. We now have enough manuals and publications on leadership to build a small mountain (although we continue to face many of the same perennial challenges in leadership) so it is clear that we are making strides.

Budgets, the ever-present monster to the Department of Defense, were an issue at the time, as the journal included a very innovative piece on how to use a M1903 Springfield rifle on a to-scale terrain model as a miniature direct fire range. It even included such details as a raised platform simulating an aerial observer. This is the kind of adaption that sharing ideas and promoting an innovative culture can bring about.

The journal also ran an editorial on the recent force structure reductions that the Army was facing. In a statement that could have been easily run in “Stars and Stripes” today, the editor writes,

“For my part I think it would be a wise thing if the army went quietly about its business for the next few years, sought every proper means of showing its own inherent worth, both to government and the people, cleaned its house wherever necessary, both in personnel and in customs, and then found itself ready to take advantage of the turn of the tide. And the tide will surely turn.”

The Army of 1922 was not part of a cultural terrain feature yet it warrants studying. If we are going to “turn the tide” of our own political and economic storm, we should not attempt to re-invent the wheel. It might behoove leaders and historians alike to look away from the dramatic terrain features of history and instead examine some of the paths less trodden. As Robert Frost says, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”


Angry Staff Officer is a first lieutenant in the Army National Guard. He commissioned as an engineer officer after spending time as an enlisted infantryman. He has done one tour in Afghanistan as part of U.S. and Coalition retrograde operations. With a BA and an MA in history, he currently serves as a full-time Army Historian. The opinions expressed are his alone, and do not reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


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#Profession and 'New Model Army'

In an attempt to procrastinate from writing my thesis, I recently read Adam Roberts’ New Model ArmyIt is a sci-fi story centred on the narrative of an unnamed protagonist who deserted from the British Army but is now a member of a ‘New Model Army’ (NMA) called ‘Pantegral.’ The Pantegral NMA is an amorphous group organised around democratic ideals (for example, its members vote for courses of tactical action during a battle) and use a wiki for communication and coordination. In a sense it is a ‘crowd sourced’ army based on the equality of its members; all of whom have a vote about how the NMA is run and how battles are fought. The story is set in a dystopian future where secessionist Scotland is at war with the rest of Britain and hires the NMA as its armed force. Here’s an extract from the book that gives a flavour for what NMA is all about:

Lets say our eight thousand men, coordinating themselves via their wikis, voting on a dozen on-the-hoof strategic propositions, utliizing their collective cleverness and experience (instead of suppressing it under the lid of feudal command) — that our eight thousand, because they had drawn on all eight thousand as a tactical resource as well as a fighting force — had thoroughly defeated an army three times our size. Let’s say they had a dozen armoured- and tank-cars; and air support; and bigger guns, and better and more weapons. But let’s say that they were all trained only to do what they were told, and their whole system depending upon the military feudalism of a traditional army, made them markedly less flexible; and that each soldier could only do one thing where we could do many things. Anyway, we beat them.

The underlying assumption in the novel was that the NMA consisted of anyone that wanted to fight and that the wiki was practically a ‘deus ex machina’ that suddenly made the amorphous mass an ‘army’ that had the skills and knowledge to take it to the British and win. On the other hand, the British Army was considered ‘feudal’ and inflexible by comparison; and that these very characteristics were what made it less effective on the battlefield than the NMA.

The book painted an interesting backdrop against which all the articles within the #Profession series can be examined, and enables the extrapolation of the fundamental prerequisites to becoming a ‘profession’. There were three key themes about professionalism that leaped out at me while I was reading the book:

  1. ‘Fighter’ versus ‘Professional.’
  2. Professionalism and accountability.
  3. Pendulum of professionalism.

‘Fighter’ versus ‘Professional’

 Mike Denny’s article discusses the issue of when a ‘fighter’ becomes a ‘professional.’ He argues that a soldier’s ability to make autonomous decisions, based on extensive knowledge and experience, is what separates the ‘mere fighter’ from the ‘professional.’ A fighter requires some validation or direction from others to proceed with a course of action, while the professional has the confidence to make a decision on their own that is relevant to their assessment of the situation. Based on this assessment, the NMA does not have any professionals because decisions are made by the ‘hive mind’ in the context where quantity (number of votes) trumps quality of decision. The NMA soldier cannot act alone, despite being able to ‘do many things.’

Dedication to learning the art (and craft?) of war is imperative.

Our Pantegral protagonist also criticises the British Army for being feudal and inflexible. However this ignores the concept of ‘mission command’ that is central to the command and control paradigm of many modern military forces. Originally conceived as an enabler for seizing the intiative versus set piece battles, ‘mission command’ (auftrakstaktik for the purists) relies on professionalism and trust — junior leaders must understand commander’s intent and have the expertise and experience to know when to seize the initiative rather than wait to receive an order to take action[1]. Sometimes, as Denny argued, it might just require breaking some rules! As many of the authors in the #Profession Series pointed out, merely joining the military does not make one a ‘professional;’ in the same way that being able to fix some dodgy plumbing based only on YouTube DIY videos does not entitle you to call yourself a ‘plumber.’ Dedication to learning the art (and craft?) of war is imperative. I doubt that such an ethos exists within a Wikipedia/Google-powered NMA.

In order to have accountability, there must be an identifiable entity that has made a decision and, if necessary, against whom some remedial or punitive action can be taken…

Professionalism and Accountability

Many contributors to the #Professional discussion also highlighted the ethical aspects of professionalism. Dr. Rebecca Johnson discussed the obligation to serve someone other than the people who purport to be part of the profession (no self-licking ice cream cones here) and the need to maintain the trust of ‘the people;’ which implies some measure of accountability to ‘the people.’ In order to have accountability, there must be an identifiable entity that has made a decision and, if necessary, against whom some remedial or punitive action can be taken in relation to the decision made.

The NMA narrator derides the ‘feudal’ nature of the British forces. This attitude seems founded on the hierarchical, rank based and seemingly inflexible command and control structure in conventional military forces. This is subsequently compared with the flat organisational structure of the NMA, where all members are regarded as ‘equals.’ This may be good for fostering a sense of belonging and unity, but does little to enhance professionalism. The flat organisational model of the NMA, coupled with the ‘everyone is equal’ culture results in the diffusion of responsibility for the course of action selected. When the primary criteria for a decision is majority rule, holding the decision-makers to account becomes difficult.

As my drill sergeant was fond of reminding my course during our initial training course, ‘you may be defending democracy, but this [the military] is not a bloody democracy!’ The reason is clear — professional organisations require a hierarchical structure through which values and standards are enforced; ‘the knowledge’ passed on; and direction given. Accountability for decisions is relatively clear in the profession of arms — the commander may bask in the glory; but must also bear the burden of any criticism.

Pendulum of Professionalism

Various arguments were made throughout the #Profession series about the relative nature of professionalism. Roster#299 argued that ‘[t]he military is a profession that adjusts its level of professionalism according to how much it is being used;’ with military forces generally being more like a profession in times of relative peace and less like a profession in times of war. This is consistent with the view proposed by Dr. Don Snider (via Nathan Finney) that professions can ‘die;’ and that merely ‘[w]earing a uniform or getting paid to perform a role does not make someone a professional.’ Angry Staff Officer goes further by saying that ‘just giving a man a gun and pointing him towards the enemy does not make him a soldier’. Based on these criteria, members of the NMA are not professionals — they wear a uniform, get paid, and fight some battles. You might as well hire some Halo cosplayers [2]! You won’t get much warfighting professionalism for your buck.

An individual is inducted into a profession after an assessment of skills and knowledge that are central to the profession (call it basic training). This is just the beginning of a long professional journey along a road that never ends — unless you chose to stop (ie retire or are dismissed). The professional may ‘die’ along the way if they do not make the effort to invest in maintaining and improving the skills and knowledge fundamental to the profession of arms. Dr Simon Anglim emphasises the importance of continuing education in maintaining standards within a profession.

…small bands of fighters have, at times, overcome larger and better equipped forces.

Going back to the scenario at the start of this post, our Pantegral protagonist emphasised that a small NMA force defeated a much larger (three times bigger), and better equipped element of the British Army. This scenario is reminiscent of some real world experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan — small bands of fighters have, at times, overcome larger and better equipped forces. Any attempt to identify one causal factor leading to the defeat of the larger force is difficult, but I might humbly posit a possible consideration: the larger, better equipped force is in professional decline. Perhaps the force is no longer dedicated to understanding and studying warfare (its width, depth and context: Michael Howard).

Perhaps the key to avoiding such defeat in the future is to invest in those leaders who have dedicated themselves to understanding the profession of arms (strategy / military history), and who are unrelenting in their pursuit of self-improvement. These individuals will be the touchstones for maintaining the professionalism of military forces, as they lead soldiers/sailors/airmen who many not be as dedicated to the profession, into an unforgiving and binary environment characterised by life or death; victory or defeat.


The Proprietor of ‘Carl’s Cantina’ is an Australian military officer who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Proprietor is an Associate Member of the Military Writers Guild and is currently writing a thesis on Australian civil-military relations. The opinions expressed are hers alone and do not reflect those of the Australian Defence Force.


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Notes:

[1] I thought I’d throw in the German term for the purist strategist, just as I’d throw in a Latin term for the purist lawyers! For a discussion on auftragstaktikand its modern utility, see John T. Nelsen II, ‘Auftragstaktik: A Case for Decentralised Battle’ Parameters, September 1987.

[2] As the proud owner of a partially constructed (and therefore not yet vetted by the 501st Legion) Stormtrooper outfit, I just want to make it clear that I have nothing against cosplayers!