Why do states professionalize the military? This study uses original data to show that states with greater levels of human capital, urbanization, and economic wealth are more likely to professionalize.
Abstract: Why do states professionalize the military? Professionalizing the military represents a strategic commitment to a particular set of ideas about the role of the military, and the timing and strength of this commitment to military professionalism have varied widely between countries, especially non-European ones. Understanding this process is important in an era of defense austerity, when the choice of how to spend defense resources has deeper political consequences than it used to. Despite the importance of this question, there have been almost no large-n studies of military professionalization. Analyzing new data on more than 150 countries from 1800 to 2005, this study finds that states with greater levels of human capital, urbanization, and economic wealth are more likely to professionalize. What is more, these indicators of economic modernization have a substantially stronger correlation with measures of military professionalism than regime type and international security concerns. These findings should inform security assistance operations by emphasizing the development of human capital in recipient officer corps and drawing links between economic development and security assistance programs.