The Military and Its Academics

DND/CFB Kingston photo

The Mackenzie Building, Royal Military College of Canada.

Scholars and Soldiers: Some Reflections on Military Academe

by Jim Barrett

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Dr. Jim Barrett spent most of his working life in military academe. He is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, and King’s College, University of London, and he holds an honorary doctorate from the Royal Military College of Canada. He has served as a navigator with 405 Squadron of the RCAF, as a Dean and Vice-Principal of the Royal Military College, and as Director of Learning Innovation at the Canadian Defence Academy. He is also a Professor Emeritus of the Royal Military College.

“To understand the world and to change it have traditionally been thought different endeavors. Who contemplates does not act, and he who acts must abandon contemplation.”

~ Kenneth R. Minogue


Military culture and academic culture are worlds apart- the university’s ivied towers are a long way from Iraq’s dusty battlefields. Nonetheless, a useful working partnership has persisted for centuries at least,1 and there is a well-established and enduring common ground. Significant military-academic interaction takes place primarily in military academe, by which we mean the military college,2 the staff college, the national defence college, and, in what might be termed military science. Although close interaction with scholars is but a small fraction of military life, and the classroom is hardly symbolic of martial spirit, military academe is a vital piece of the military enterprise. Time and again, when events move too fast, when the news “gets inside the institutional OODA loop,”3 the military turns to the academe for understanding.4 For this reason alone it is interesting to ask: What is the military-academic common ground, and what, if any, are its universal and abiding features? What resists cultural collaboration, and, above all, what sustains it?

Idealized scholars and idealized soldiers stand at opposite ends of the contemplation-action spectrum. They have different ingrained responses- where the soldier feels the need to act, the scholar feels the need to reflect. When faced with a question without a clear answer, a problem without a clear solution, the soldier’s reflex is to find, or if need be, to contrive an answer, devise a solution, and then act on it. The scholar’s reflex is to keep looking. Between these two extremes are those—military and academic—who must together govern military academe. It is here, in the provision of military education, that the deep and muscular roots of the cultures grate against each other. The relationship between the military and academic elements is necessarily a restless one, with periods of relative harmony alternating with times of fractious discord. That friction and tension are important – they give military academe its vitality, and thereby give soldiers the capacity to respond to events as yet unimagined. To govern a military academic institution is to see the potential in this fractious partnership, and to realize that potential.

This article has four sections, sandwiched between this Introduction and a Conclusion. The first of these sections explores the cultural roots of scholars’ and soldiers’ attitudes towards each other. The second one looks at the different rhythms that govern the daily work of scholars and soldiers. The next two sections highlight some features of leadership and governance that are unique to military academe, and some of the practical consequences. The Conclusion sums up, and argues the importance of looking beyond our own borders to see the potential embodied in global networks of military academe.

Cultural Imperatives

In war, many scholars have made fine soldiers.5 Military academe, however, employs scholars, not as warriors, but for scholarly attributes very different from conventional military strengths. The motivation for engaging with scholars might be found in this quote from the gifted British historian and military theorist Sir Basil Liddell-Hart:

[Clausewitz’s] theory of war was expounded in a way too abstract and involved for ordinary soldier-minds, essentially concrete, to follow the course of his argument …”6

Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo/BMY08D

Sir Basil Liddell-Hart.

One might wonder, though, on reading the following description of one scholar, furnished by the distinguished French-American historian and philosopher of education Jacques Barzun,7 as to why an academic disposition is the remedy for “concrete minds:”

“He hates clearness- clear formulas, clear statements, clear understandings … He shrinks with an instinctive terror from any explanation that is definitive and irrevocable, and hence comes to say and do things that leave an avenue to retreat- at bottom it is connected with timidity in him- as a dreamer he is bold; when it comes to acting, he-wills-and wills-not … He has too complicated a mind!”

The scholar’s presence may not be welcomed by the soldier, as the political scientist and advisor to John F. Kennedy on Vietnam, Dr. Roger Hilsman, writes:

[The man whose main work is conducting operations] “…looks on intellectual brilliance, which questions assumptions that are felt to be beyond question, with a doubt that is probably tinged with fear.”8

Military academe, then, would seem to be asking scholars with too-complicated minds who are afraid to make decisions, and soldiers with concrete minds who fear intellectual brilliance to make common cause- harmonious relations that would not seem to be automatic. These are caricatures, of course, but ones that find too easy resonance, in large measure because both the military and academic communities view the other as a flawed echo of its own culture. Misunderstanding begins with an assumption that the other culture shares one’s ideals and standards, and with a failure to grasp where and by how much those ideals and standards differ.9 To understand how the core beliefs that motivate the two cultures diverge, it is helpful to imagine idealized military and academic models. Where the ideal military enterprise employs authority and deadlines to achieve quick and decisive action, the ideal academic enterprise is structured to seek the best answer the evidence will permit, unhampered by authority or deadlines. An academic “finding” is never a finished product. Unlike a commander’s directive, it is ever open to questioning, refinement, and eventual replacement by a better result. Where military thinking is in the expectation of “action,” academic thinking is in pursuit of “truth.” Military goals are achievable, at least in principle; an academic goal is never more than a way station en route to a new understanding. Scholarly activity, at least in this ideal world, does not seek utility. If research leads to a practical result, then that is a collateral benefit. In contrast, if military activity is not in pursuit of an achievable, practical result, it is seen as pointless.

In the real world, these idealized descriptions are frequently compromised: scholars are often practical, and soldiers can be reflective. All universities, especially since the Second World War, are engaged in a struggle between the traditional view of “academic” and increasing pressures to emphasize the “practical.”10 Engineering and other professional faculties actively seek practical results, a professional focus that can lead to tension with the sciences and the humanities. Successful universities find a workable balance but it is in the military university where the battle lines are most sharply drawn, not least because the scholarly and military constituencies compete for the attention of the same student body. In the military university, the struggle between practical and scholarly is played out as a constant undertone of military-academic tension. That military-academic tension is ground truth at any military education institution worthy of the name.

Those distinctly different ideals, and their associated goals and standards, are clearly not easy companions: if a decision is needed now, then the time for questioning is done, but if the assumptions are flawed, the decision clearly does not meet an academic standard. The academic quest for truth thus stands in stark contrast to the military push for action. The lines are not always so sharply drawn, but from these cultural roots have grown two distinct governance structures, both of which are visible in military academe. The structured hierarchy of military command and control is vastly different from the system of collegial influence that governs the academy. Both systems have proven their value over years of long practice, but neither one, on its own, is adequate for the governance of military academe. Of necessity, then, military academe is a collaborative enterprise. This appears to be an almost universal principle. What does vary, from institute to institute, is the degree to which one constituency is subordinate to the other. The spectrum, which ranges from “military-dominant” to “academic-dominant,” is thoroughly discussed by RMC’s Professor David Last, a conflict management specialist.11


Royal Military College Saint-Jean.

Cycles and Rhythms

Cadet academies, staff colleges, and war colleges typically have a working faculty of permanent academics that includes civilian professors and transient soldier-instructors, many with recent operational experience. In this working world, the military-academic divide is generally narrower than at the cultural extremes, but those cultural extremes are deeply rooted and so, when disputes arise, polarization tends to set in quickly and the cultural friction can become extreme.12 If, as can happen, the leadership cadre lacks academic administrative experience, or, which can also occur, it lacks sympathy with either military or academic objectives, the outcome can be significant institutional damage.

Daily life in military academe is peppered with small skirmishes- some of them justified- over priorities for students’ time, or perhaps between military superficiality and academic pedantry.13 Epic battles can arise over such minor events, if one side sees the other violating one of its sacred principles. Real trouble can erupt if one constituency attempts to establish its cultural imperatives as institutional doctrine. Then, each side boldly hoists its cultural banners: military requirements and command ethos on the one hand, and academic freedom and intellectual rigour on the other. These large struggles may be in defence of the highest professional values, but are seldom concerned with the practicalities of either military efficiency or academic integrity. There is considerable irony here, as all parties can, in principle, subscribe to all these values. They are not necessarily incompatible. But, as explained by the American journalist, author, and sociological activist Jane Jacobs, the underlying systems of values, or ‘moral syndromes,’14 are not compatible. Jacobs describes different value systems, each of which exhibits internal consistency and integrity, but which conflicts with the other. When forced to make a difficult choice between “loyalty” and “truth,” for example, a soldier might find reasons to choose “loyalty.” The scholar’s ethos would suggest “truth” over “loyalty.” These conflicts play out for lesser issues as well. A soldier would be expected to sacrifice academic rigour for timeliness, while no scholar could easily sacrifice intellectual rigour for the sake of a deadline. Maintaining good military-academic relations can be a serious challenge in military academe.

Surprisingly, there is common structural ground to be found in the cyclical processes that govern the working lives of both communities. For a scientist, that operative cycle consists of observation, hypothesis, and test. Experimental observations must be explained, and the explanation tested in a new experiment. It is much the same in all academic disciplines. Academic work can be described as a slowly repeating cycle of questions and answers in which new questions are generated by the shortcomings of the previous answers. New understandings derived from new observations are tested by critical debate and peer assessment. On a larger, slower scale, we find the cycles defined by the American historian, physicist, and philosopher of science Dr. Thomas Kuhn.15 Scholars and others interpret their observations in the light of an accepted paradigm, until such time as the prevailing theories and understandings fail to describe reality. The resulting paradigm shift marks the beginning of a new Kuhn cycle.

The soldier might recognize in these academic cycles the familiar footprint of the OODA Loop: Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action. Military strategist and USAF fighter pilot Colonel John Boyd, the author and apostle of the OODA Loop,16 himself realized clearly that these military and academic cycles have the same underlying structure. The apparently simple structure of the OODA Loop embodies principles of great generality, and with remarkable economy. What differentiates the military and academic variants are the expected outcome, and the pace. For the soldier, the cycle is applied to achieve an expected end-state, but for the scholar, the cycle is never ending. Every theory or understanding can and will be challenged, refined, and eventually supplanted by a better theory or understanding. Academic work is open-ended, and there is no end state. Military activity, from combat to routine management, is framed in the language of action: a campaign, an operation, a mission, to achieve a defined goal. The OODA loop, originally conceived for fighter pilots, is to be executed with the greatest pace possible, to “…get inside the opponent’s decision cycle.” Certainty and rigour are often sacrificed to maintain that pace, for survival itself can depend upon it. The academic cycles, on the other hand, owe no allegiance to the clock or the calendar. What is sacrificed in this cycle is time. Academic time and military time are therefore very different- to a soldier, the academic is sluggish, even moribund, while to an academic, the soldier is hurried, superficial, and often careless. These assessments are both wrong, and they arise because it is near-impossible for the one culture to “see” at the accustomed rhythm of the other.

In military academe, soldiers and scholars make common cause, in spite of sometimes irreconcilable value systems. It is, at its base, a pragmatic arrangement that persists because of a shared commitment to education in matters of security and defence. It is, however, a metastable collaboration, subject to disruption from a misstep in the military-academic cultural minefield.

Classroom instruction.

DND/CFB Kingston photo

Leading Military Academe

During the late-1940s and the 1950s, there was little military-academic friction at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC). The College had just re-opened after the War, and was building anew with a new faculty and military staff.17 Many of the civilian professors had seen active service, and there was an easy camaraderie between the members of the Academic and the Military Wings. There was a shared vision of the new military university that ‘old RMC’ would become. “Those were,” said one professor, “large days, large days.” But civilian faculty and military staff do not age at the same rate; professors grow old in place, while young officers are continually refreshed. Through the years of the Cold War, the two communities drifted, ever so slowly, apart. Older civilian faculty slowly came to dominate teaching and research, while mixed recreational sports increasingly became the domain of the younger officers and NCOs. Corporate memory rests with old professors, and the eagerness for change with young officers. Almost seventy years after the College reopened, maintaining a common vision has become hard work.

It is not just a matter of balancing internal military and academic pressures. There are always the external pressures, real and imagined, arising from perceived military and academic norms. Comments from the old guard that the military training is not sufficiently vigorous worries the military leadership, while intimations that the academic focus is not sufficiently rigorous will touch academic sensitivities. The curative for such insecurities is a distinct institutional culture that exhibits strong resonances with both military culture and academic culture, and also stands in opposition to both. It stands in opposition to scholarly aversion to the practical, and in opposition to military disinclination for intellectual reflection. Sustaining this unique culture is the first duty of the two individuals who lead the military-academic partnership. Sustaining institutional culture means being alert to subtle changes in internal dynamics, but also demands an ear tuned outward to the national temper, since the balance between military and academic will, over time, respond to national attitudes about the military.18

Success, as a military training institution and as a respected university, depends critically upon the Commandant-Principal alliance.19 The relationship is a complex one. The Commandant is the appointed head of the institution. The Principal has a clear responsibility to the Commandant, and an equally clear responsibility to preserve the academic integrity and academic excellence of the institution; judgement on these matters is not given by the military chain of command. The Commandant and Principal are two individuals of roughly equivalent stature, each a respected leader in his own domain. Their alliance is, of necessity, more of a negotiated partnership than is a typical command-control relationship, one that offers an extraordinary opportunity for learning and cross-fertilization. Few general or flag officers are given the opportunity to observe the inner workings of a university, and to appreciate the fundamental values of the academic culture. Similarly, the Principal can glimpse, through the agency of the Commandant, the machinery of defence management, and see first-hand how the academic community can best meet the needs of the military enterprise, and of the country.

DND/CFC Toronto photo

Officer’s Mess, Canadian Forces College, Toronto.

The result of an effective military-academic partnership is inevitably a distinct institutional culture that is both military and academic, inevitably a culture that will be seen by some outsiders as less-than-military and less-than-academic. A very real challenge for leadership is to maintain an active and visible connection to national military and academic communities. It is all part of maintaining a delicate balance between the military and academic pressures through external links to key authorities and bodies. On the military side, this means engagement with the chain of command. This takes some work, as the higher headquarters will have little time or energy to expend on academic issues, but can, sporadically, become seized of an educational issue or propose radical change. On the academic side, the institution needs to maintain good standing with the national academic councils of the civilian universities. Failing to attend to either of these duties will inevitably lead to diminishing one or the other culture of the institution, and will diminish the institution itself.

These thoughts can be distilled into a few suggestions for collaborative oversight:

  1. Learn the business of military education, locally but also more broadly. Military academe is more complex- and interesting- than most soldiers and scholars imagine it to be. Over time, it is more influential in shaping and managing the military institution than is generally understood.20
  2. Respect the chain of command, but recognize its subtleties. No one doubts that the captain of a ship is in command, but the captain does not invade the domain of the chief engineer. The relationship between the commandant and the principal/dean is perhaps even more nuanced.
  3. Study the culture, the modes, and the rhythms of the both the military and academic communities. Learn what makes them tick, and how fast they tick- the slow moving wheels are as important to a clock as the fast-spinning ones. Take pains to explain how the cultures, modes, and rhythms are alloyed into a unique institutional culture that unifies the ideologies of the disparate communities, and, most important, helps resolve the apparent dichotomy they present to students.
  4. Insist on mutual respect between military and academic communities.
  5. Recognize that “everything the institution does is military,” and that some activities will look less military than others. While military training in its broadest sense is what sustains the warrior ethos of military academe, the military relevance of much of the academic curriculum may not be immediately apparent. All of it is important.
  6. Ensure that routine administration is in the hands of competent authorities for both military and academic affairs, and that these authorities collaboratively manage the daily business. Effective collaboration at this level is the best mechanism to resolve most academic-military problems.
  7. Exploit the experience and insights of those with roots in both communities: soldier scholars and civilian professors with military service are a living cultural bridge. Draw deeply from the wisdom and experience of retired commandants and principals. These individuals have had the opportunity to observe the institution for an extended period, with privileged insight that comes from a unique experience. Many have reflected deeply about that experience, and they are a rich source of advice.
  8. Maintain strong formal and informal ties with national military authorities and national education authorities.

These suggestions are neither a recipe for success nor a cure for institutional ailments. They might, perhaps, be of help in creating and maintaining a respectful, collaborative, and productive environment.

Cadet and professor in consultation.


Governing Military Academe

There are books about university governance and there are doctrines for military training. Neither says anything about the peculiarities of a military university. Spared some of the trials of a conventional university,21 military academe is challenged from within by the way soldiers and scholars see each other, and from without by the opinions and prejudices of higher command. Texas A & M University’s Dr. Brian McAllister Linn, in his instructive book Echoes of Battle, identifies three cultures within the US Army: the “Warriors” (which he calls the “Heroes”), the “Engineers,” and the “Managers.”22 The distinctions may not be so clear in smaller nations, but these strains, representing the three fundamental elements of military activity, can be found in any modern military, and their influence has long been evident to military educators. Military academe daily faces pressures from all these three constituencies, never able to satisfy them all: every model of military education is bound to leave someone unhappy.

The critical test is meeting the needs of the “Warriors,” the constituency that best embodies traditional military ethos and the source of most “not military enough” concerns. Some years ago, at the annual meeting of the NATO/Partnership for Peace (PfP) Conference of Commandants23 in Rome, the new Commander of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom made the interesting comment that the Conference paid insufficient attention to killing. If Lieutenant General Kiszely’s comment was meant as a reminder not to become so absorbed with the business of military education as to forget the hard business of military combat, the point was well-taken. Whatever his intent, the general’s remarks serve to highlight one of military academe’s persistent challenges. It is undeniable that to most soldiers, an institution of military education does not “feel” very military. It is almost a ritual for a new college commandant to pronounce that “there is a real need to put the ‘military’ back into this college.”24 Sometimes this represents a genuine desire to restore balance, but such sentiments can also be pushed by admirals and generals who would rather spend the money on ships and tanks.25 The new commandant often finds himself or herself caught in a no man’s land, questioning institutional ethos, while at the same time, defending it to higher authority. Some have argued that academic achievement has little or no impact on success at the tactical or operational levels of warfare,26 arguments that can be difficult to dispute.

Reuters/Reuters Photographer/RTRF9GT

Then-Major General John Kiszely (Right) poses in front of a newly-developed main battle tank, the Vickers Challenger 2, marking its arrival with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in Germany.

When serious criticisms are leveled at the military education institution, they are often distilled into the accusation that general officers ‘lack context.’27 The challenge for military academe is to prepare officers for their more complex, strategic, futures at a time when they do not see that education as especially relevant. The root fact is that the military institution is, for the most part, a closed system.28 Leaders and managers are developed “in house.” Military academe is a system that takes callow youths- cocky, aggressive privates and arrogant lieutenants-and from this raw material develops mature leadership cadres. And while the immediate aim must always be to give soldiers the skills, knowledge, and attributes to carry out the next mission, the development of long-term institutional leadership must begin from the day of recruitment.29 In this sense, then, the training and education objectives demand parallel, co-cooperating and often competing structures. Much of the business of military academe consists of designing and managing those structures, their mandates and protocols, and, not least, their curricula.

Military academe can only be justified if it bridges the military-academic cultural divide. Perhaps the most troublesome gap to be bridged is that between training and education.30 Training is fundamental for the military community, but the academic community has little respect for “mere training.” There have been many fruitless arguments about the distinction. It is important for civilian academics to understand that the military training at their military university is not just an incidental supplement, but provides the bedrock of the institutional ethos. It is not simply parade ground drills, or learning to re-assemble a machine gun in the dark. It is rather the deep embedding of core reflexes and instincts that will kick in when the pressure increases, and when reason is overwhelmed by stress and fear. Those reflexes and instincts are the deep and abiding center of a soldier’s identity, including that of the “Engineers” and “Managers.” Training is not a trivial thing. But it is not the only thing. Training vs education arguments are fruitless because it is not one or the other. Both are essential for the development of the complete soldier,31 and the emphasis shifts as the career progresses and rank increases.


Figure 1 – Variation in Importance of Qualities with Rank.

Click to enlarge image

The changing nature of the soldier’s learning path was captured long ago in the 1969 Rowley Report32 (see Figure 1). As leadership and diversity expert Dr. Alan Okros of the Canadian Forces College points out, this is unlike the learning path of any other profession, in that advancing in the profession implies not just an increase in specialization and sophistication but an effective change in academic discipline. The equivalent of two master’s degrees better describes a fully educated soldier than a Ph.D.33 Military academe might do well to structure its programs so that, in terms of substance and depth, this dual masters approach could have the academic prestige of a doctorate. This is advanced education with an emphasis on breadth, rather than depth.

Cadets and professor in classroom.

DND/CFB Kingston photo

Conclusion – Looking Outward

This article has examined the ‘oil and water’ mix of cultures that underpin the strongly developing field of military academe.34 At its centre, military-academic tension is a reflection of the tension between “academic” and “practical” that perplexes any modern university. Military academe undeniably functions primarily in response to practical military demands, but preserves within itself a house of military intellect,35 a space for careful analysis and thoughtful consideration that is not predominant in military culture. Despite fundamental differences that resist absorption or domination of one culture by the other, it is possible to build a productive collaboration that offers both practical utility and a capacity for detached reflection. Indeed, military academe is virtually the only available space for such strategic contemplation of the profession. The article has examined some features of leadership and governance of the military strain of academia, and touched upon military academe’s need to create a distinct, blended culture. There are many other features of military academe that deserve greater attention, for instance, institutional prestige and reputation, research, standards processes, and so on. This article has barely scratched the surface, but should be seen as an attempt to stimulate, in both scholars and soldiers, an interest in the broader culture of their institutions,36 and to highlight the need for military academe itself to be aware of the substantial and critical part it plays in the military enterprise.

The narrow view of military academe is that it exists to teach soldiers what they need to know, ‘full stop.’ Military academe is, of course, much more than that, but makes little effort to explain itself, or to make plain the deep value it provides for the security and defence enterprise, and most especially, for the military. In consequence, there exists a persistent bias that to maintain a four-year university to produce a few officers is hugely expensive, that scholarly research brings little of value to national defence, that academics constitute a pampered and inefficient work force, and other similar claims. This is short term and shallow thinking, but it must be admitted that the academic culture does little to counter such claims. It falls therefore to the leadership- military and academic- of military academe to explain its function, to justify its program, and to defend its existence. If they are to do that well, they need to look beyond the relatively narrow confines of national military practice. The world is rapidly developing new characteristics with impacts as yet not well understood. A wise military will invest in its capabilities for observing and assessing developments in the wide world, and for developing policy recommendations informed by rich understanding of the military world and recognized scholarly expertise. Military academe is among the most potent of those capabilities. Matters that touch on military affairs extend well beyond the reach of any single academic community, but such reach as exists is embodied in the global network of scholars, including military scholars. Access to that enormous brain trust is gained through the respected and recognized scholars in our own community. Scholars speak to scholars, often in arcane and obscure language. Military academe serves as one of the best universal translators for meaningful conversations with outside experts in the vast global network of colleges, universities, and institutes of advanced study. Within the network, discourse is easy; for an outsider, it is awkward at best. An important and underrated subset of that global network is the collection of military institutions of advanced learning and advanced study. Participation in this military academic network has many benefits, not least recognition, the benchmarking of standards, and access to new approaches. Beyond knowledge of narrow interest to military academe itself, the military academic network establishes personal and institutional links that extend throughout the global military enterprise.

The author thanks Dr. David Last for a critical reading of this manuscript, and also for scholarly insights and practical suggestions.


  1. In 1616, Count John of Nassau opened the Schola Militaris, the first true military academy in Europe, at his capital of Siegen in Germany. See Geoffrey Parker, “Dynastic War 1494-1660,” in The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare, edited by Geoffrey Parker (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 155. See also R.G. Haycock, “Prince Maurice and the Dutch Contribution to the Art of War,” in Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies XIV, I Spring 1993.
  2. These three are the institutional pillars of military academe, preparing junior officers, senior officers, and general/flag officers respectively. Other countries use different labels.
  3. Observation, Orientation, Decision and Action.
  4. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the technological Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) launched an international wave of enthusiasm for military education, as well as numerous scholarly papers.
  5. T.E. Lawrence is one prominent, if unconventional example, drawn from a very long list.
  6. B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy, Second Revised Edition (New York: Meridian, 1991), pp. 339-340.
  7. Jacques Barzun, The American University: How It Runs, Where It Is Going (New York: Harper and Row, 1968), p. 129.
  8. Roger Hilsman, “Research in Military Affairs,” in World Politics, Vol. 7, 1955, pp. 490-503. Quoted in Morris Janowitz, The Professional Soldier (New York: The Free Press, 1971), p. 135.
  9. To get a sense of how ideals, values, and standards differ, see Joan Johnson-Freese, Educating America’s Military, (New York, Routledge, 2013), Kobo ePub, accessed from; Bruce Fleming, Annapolis Autumn: Life, Death and Literature at the U.S. Naval Academy (New York: The New Press, 2005), Kobo ePub, accessed from; Howard J. Wiarda, Military Brass vs Civilian Academics at the National War College: a Clash of Cultures, (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011) Kobo ePub, accessed from
  10. See for instance, Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1959, Midway Reprint 1975), Clark Kerr, The Uses of the University, Fifth edition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), and Kenneth R Minogue, The Concept of a University (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1973), especially Chap 4: “The Academic and the Practical Worlds.”
  11. David Last, “SSR 2.0 Brief: Picking Leaders for Professional Military Education”, Issue 6, October 2016, and “Irritants to Pearls: Military Education, Epistemic Communities, Communities of Practice and Networks of Learning”, in Walter Feichtinger and Benedikt Hensellek, (Eds.), Armed Forces for 2020 and Beyond: Roles, tasks, Expectations (Vienna: Schriftenreihe der Landesverteidigungsakaemie, 2015), pp. 231-254.
  12. Joan Johnson-Freese, Educating America’s Military; Bruce Fleming, Annapolis Autumn: Life, Death and Literature at the U.S. Naval Academy; Howard J. Wiarda, Military Brass vs Civilian Academics at the National War College: a Clash of Cultures. At RMC, the command and control structure has, for the most part, been more elastic and respectful, and, for most of its long history, RMC has avoided the “war” described by Wiarda or the degree of tension described by Fleming.
  13. Adam Chapnick and Barbara Falk, “Academics 101: An Introduction for the Military Community,” in Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 10, No. 4, Autumn 2010. See also David Last, “SSR 2.0 Brief: Picking Leaders for Professional Military Education.”
  14. Jane Jacobs, Systems of Survival (New York: Random House, 1992). This short book gives an interesting view of incompatible moral syndromes, an analysis that may usefully be applied to the military and academic communities. We can think of ‘moral syndrome’ as ethos- the collection of prioritized principles upon which a group bases its actions.
  15. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions, 50th Anniversary Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).
  16. Daniel Ford, A Vision So Noble: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and America’s War on Terror (Durham, NH: Warbird Books, 2016), Kindle edition, accessed from Ford’s book provides a quick, accessible, and current overview. For a more scholarly treatment, see Grant Hammond, The Mind of War: John Boyd and American Security (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2001).
  17. That story is told in Richard A. Preston, To Serve Canada: A History of the Royal Military College since the Second World War (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1991), Chapter 1.
  18. The United States Military Academy at West Point and the Canadian military college at RMC Kingston display many similarities, but there are significant differences that can readily be seen as echoes of national differences.
  19. This is not to assume a Canadian model. The presumption is that the institution has both a military and an academic community. “Commandant” and “Principal” should be understood as representative of the individuals who lead those military and academic communities, irrespective of governance structure or reporting relationship.
  20. It would be most interesting to assess the impact of RMC’s War Studies program on the quality of Canadian Forces leadership during the operations of the last quarter-century. It would be equally interesting to assess the influence of Canadian military education on the professional development systems of other nations, particularly the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
  21. Notably fundraising.
  22. Brian McAllister Linn, The Echo of Battle: The Army’s Way of War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007). In this context, “Engineer” and “Manager” have somewhat different definitions than those used in common speech. Morris Janowitz applies the same broad categories in The Professional Soldier.
  23. For information about the Conference of Commandants, its history and objectives, see:, accessed 7 March 2017.
  24. See David Lipsky: 2003, Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point, (New York, Random House, Vintage edition 2004), p. 251. At the Royal Military College, the phrase “It’s time to put the ‘M’ back in RMC,” has become a timeworn commonplace. One Principal, himself a retired senior officer, felt obliged to make the pointed rejoinder, “Everything we do here is military.”
  25. In Canada, this debate has resulted in more than a dozen studies of military education: each and every one has been driven, in part, by the sentiment, “we don’t really need this education nonsense.” All, repeat, all these studies have endorsed education and recommended improvements, but reform had to await the traumatic experiences in Rwanda and Somalia. See Bernd Horn and Bill Bentley, Forced to Change: Crisis and Reform in the Canadian Armed Forces (Toronto: Dundurn, 2015), Kobo ePub, accessed from
  26. Morris Janowitz, The Professional Soldier, p. 134.
  27. Joan Johnson-Freese, Educating America’s Military, Chapter 1. In the United States, this perceived deficiency of very senior officers provided much of the justification for the Goldwater-Nicholls reforms. See also Morris Janowitz, The Professional Soldier, p. 13. For Canada, the most substantial case for reform can be found in the four appendices to Minister of National Defence Doug Young’s 1997 Report to the Prime Minister.
  28. This is the case for most Western professional militaries.
  29. Leadership in the Canadian Forces - Leading the Institution This manual and other Canadian Forces Leadership Manuals can be obtained by applying to:
  30. David Last argues persuasively that the fundamental triad is education, training and socialization. “SSR 2.0 Brief: Picking Leaders for Professional Military Education,” Issue 6, October 2016.
  31. R.G. Haycock’s definition provides a useful distinction: training aims to develop a predictable response to a predictable situation- the right reflexes under fire; education seeks to develop a reasoned response to an unpredictable situation- critical thinking in the face of the unknown.
  32. The Report of the Officer Development Board: Maj-Gen Roger Rowley and the Education of the Canadian Forces. Randall Wakelam and Howard Coombs, (Eds.) (Waterloo, ON: LCMSDS Press of Waterloo University, 2010), pp. 44-45.
  33. Alan Okros, personal communication.
  34. See, for example, David Last, “SSR 2.0 Brief: Picking Leaders for Professional Military Education;” “Irritants to Pearls: Military Education, Epistemic Communities, Communities of Practice and Networks of Learning.”
  35. Recalling Jacques Barzun’s celebrated polemic on the university: The House of Intellect.
  36. Useful insights on the differences in military and academic thinking can be found in Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1957), as well as Morris Janowitz, The Professional Soldier, Joan Johnson-Freese, Educating America’s Military, Bruce Fleming, Annapolis Autumn: Life, Death and Literature at the U.S. Naval Academy, and Howard J. Wiarda, Military Brass vs Civilian Academics at the National War College: a Clash of Cultures. These are all American examples, but many of the insights have wider application. Not surprising perhaps, it is much more difficult to find thoughtful soldierly impressions of academics. One example is David H. Petraeus, “Beyond the Cloister,” and the rebuttal by Ralph Peters: “Learning to Lose,” both in The American Interest, July-August 2007, pp. 20-28.