29 January 2011

On Promotions

T.E. Lawrence, known to the world as "Lawrence of Arabia", entered the British Army in October 1914, and reached the rank of lieutenant colonel by the War's end.  Similarly, Dwight D. Eisenhower, despite holding the rank of major for sixteen years, enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks, donning five stars by the end of 1944.  Indeed, countless successful military officers have seen dramatic changes in fortune during times of war:  witness John J. Pershing's move captain to brigadier general, or Napoleon Bonaparte, who quickly advanced from a mere artillery captain to the commander of the Grande Armee.

Yet today, many complain that the US military, after nearly a decade of war, has still maintained its hierarchical peacetime personnel policies.  Unlike the private sector, or even the US State Department, which recently promoted 1998 Yale Alumnus Jake Sullivan the Director of Policy Planning, young outstanding performers cannot be promoted a la Lawrence or Napoleon.  According to one source, the US military is the only institution--outside of the Catholic Church--which still insists on such a rigid, hierarchical rise through the ranks.

Why?  Well, I'll try to examine it--at least in part--at The Best Defense next week.  That's right, commenting on the exploits of Thomas E. Lawrence at Thomas E. Ricks' blog.  I plan my puns well in advance, just so you know.


Joseph Sucher, MD FACS said...

One issue that is likely to be a factor in this: We don't fight "wars" anymore. I don't think I need to elaborate.

Starbuck said...

Exactly. It was easy to promote, say, Lawrence when the British lost over half a million in one battle.

Not that I want those days back.

Herschel Smith said...

You're under the impression that someone in the so-called "private sector" can enjoy promotion commensurate with his performance? Who told you this? Where did you learn that?