Friday, May 08, 2009

Too many generals

Years ago, when I was still a junior assistant working at a local trading company, my job required me to process incoming mails. It was not surprised to find that a great number of senders of business letters from our clients from Thailand bearing the titles of 'Lt. Gen.' or 'Rear Adm.' which meant that they were generals or admirals of Royal Thai Army, Air Force, or Navy. To clarify my puzzlement about how big Thai armed forces were that so many general officers were needed, my manager told me that, except those who had royal family linkage were privileged to own military titles, ordinary businessmen might be able to obtain them at certain price.

Anyone whe has ever served in the military understands perfectly that military rank is the cornerstone for the chain of command, the total essence of how an army is run. Without ranks and strict military law, orders are issued, obeyed and executed. During the execution of orders, men may die but the missions are accomplished. That's why ranks are respected because those who have higher ranks may command. In order to command, you have to earn your rank the hard way, one bar or one star at a time.

How many generals and admirals on active service does our military have? The answer is 430. For the total strength of 200,000 men and women of our armed forces, there would be 1.94 generals or admirals commanding per 1000 men and women. In contrast, the general/enlisted ranks ratios of People's Liberation Army, South Korean Army and the US Army are 0.9, 0.7 and 0.6 respectively.

Though there are not studies regarding the relevance between the fighting strength of an army and its general/enlisted rank ratio available, I believe that the ability to lead and the capability to fight should be issues that need more of our concerns over the generals and admirals. Nothing would be achieved if there are too many shouting the orders and too few to carry them out.

No comments: