It is generally NOT all about following orders. No more than anyone else in society has to follow orders. The nature of my "orders" in many cases are very, very broad such as "go forth and secure the area" and then I must do whatever I do within the context of the law to make things happen. It is not so much about micromanagement or mindless compliance. I have always tried to instill in my subordinates the ability to make decisions and choices within very broad guidance.
It really works much like successful businesses or companies. You empower your subordinates to make decisions and take action that they determine is correct. Of course you have constraints of laws, rules, treaties, money, diplomacy that must be understood.
Following orders...well certainly privates that have a few months in the military don't make many big decisions and do alot of following orders, but still make decisions that are appropriate for their pay grade.
Seems reasonable the way you put it. Maybe your used to a good unit or maybe that's more widespread than I realize. But the structure is one of command and thus orders. What happens if someone disobeys a direct order?
There are many examples of what I talk about here form the first world war and the trenches, wow, what a mess. To what I view on the news in the middle east, soldiers firing on civilians and many who don't want to but are under orders.
In the police force for example a good friend of mine was sent years ago because of his size and capability up north to help deal with the minors strike in the Thatcher years. The things they were ordered to do took him a little while to recover from.
The fact is that when someone in charge isn't so wise then the subordinates generally have to follow the orders for that is all part and parcel of command structure, without which it breaks down. Ther'es not many who would stand up to and go against bad orders.
Once again it comes down to those in charge in such structures. Wiser people in charge then things pan out as you describe. Arrogant control freaks in charge, mmm, trouble and sheep.