6th Generation Immigrant : Well articulated Deputy Defence Minister, however, based very much on your readings - not entirely applicable in Malaysia's context all the way though. You have forgotten to include in your assessments one of the most important constant in your write up - how officers are actually selected, trained, ingrained, promoted and retired.
Do we truly produce officers that we should, are they truly the best of the best, across racial and religious differences, in the name of truly defending the nation? Is it "only the best shall serve" today?Since 1970 most promotions in the officer corps are politically enacted and influenced, apart from religion and race as unwritten prerequisites.
The gradual adulteration, lack of professionalism, commitment and failure of the Armed Forces is today very clear. The slow strangling dying feel of the Armed Forces Council since the 1980's has today cascaded right down to the entire corps of enlisted men - one can assume why you wrote this article in the first place. Many good men have left the services.
The true defence of the country knows no bounds (race and religion specifically), this is where meritocracy must never be disregarded at all. When the Armed Forces fails, the nation fails along. Arrest this failure, secularise the Armed Forces, afterall we are not biased towards God but killing whenever necessary. Malaysiakini : COMMENT | The role of a professional officer corps gives greater impetus to democracy. As described by Samuel Huntington in his book The Soldier and the State,
in a functioning democracy, the professional officer corps is the only
body standing between good and bad military decisions by a civilian
They do this by instilling two salient characteristics
into every officer inducted into their fraternity: a neutral stance on
domestic politics, and a keen awareness of the costs of waging war.
the chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces, General Zulkifli Zainal Abdin,
has previously emphasised, the military must be non-partisan. This is
especially true for the officer corps, who bear the responsibility of
leading the military in conflict. Professional officers set the
standards for the enlisted men to follow; if they are compromised by
partisan interests, they risk compromising combat effectiveness.
has shown repeatedly that such dynamics are not conducive to both
stable and legitimate governance, as well to as effective military
planning and execution. Consequently, a non-partisan and thus,
well-trained officer corps knows better than anyone else, the costs of
war. Huntington describes this specific skill set as “the management of
Managing violence is not only about training and
equipping a force, nor is it merely the planning of combat activities,
but it is also the directing of such forces into and out of combat. In
essence, it is equally important to win in war and in peace. This
brings us to the most puzzling but important paradox of your profession –
you are well-trained and experienced in the precise applications of
violence, but also understand the need to avoid its uncontrolled use.
great power comes great responsibility. Truly professional officers
understand this paradox and must do all they can to guide their civilian
governments from total calamity. They must deter their governments from
making rash, aggressive decisions by making their civilian
counterparts, such as myself, understand the weight of such decisions. As
Herbert Hoover once said, old men declare war, but it is the youth that
must fight and die. We must not unnecessarily invent wars for our
people to fight.
Ability to de-conflict
is best evidenced by the stark contrast between former chairperson of
the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General (and later secretary of state)
Colin Powell, and his civilian contemporaries in the second Bush
administration, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
Cheney both were major proponents of the Iraq War; Powell was far more
measured in response. He said: “War should be the politics of last
resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people
understand and support”.
This institution of a professional staff
officer college is also an excellent avenue for fostering closer defence
ties. Of the 164 course participants today, 46 are from 27 countries.
This brings together diverse perspectives, cultures, and historical
understandings of the conduct of war.
Different countries face
very different, yet equally difficult technical military problems. This
platform serves as an important tool in facilitating this aggregation of
thoughts into practical solutions. In the same vein,
understanding these basic principles and problems from other countries
also allows us to understand the defence needs and prerogatives of each
other much more closely.
This, in turn, facilitates our ability to
de-conflict a tense situation which, hopefully, should not arise so
often. Additionally, it will help lay the basis of greater interoperability between our forces. Furthermore, it serves as a
way to reinforce again the need for and the appreciation of a strong
philosophical drive for a professional, independent military officer
corps. In this way, it forges a stronger, soldierly and brotherly bond
that no other vocation offers. Such a bond instils a sense of pride in
the profession that is not often found in any other job.
conclude, a professional officer corps is an important military
institution for guiding legitimate democratic governments and ensuring
that they make balanced decisions. Professional officers are competent
and efficient at military management. They also have a deep-rooted
philosophical understanding of the atrocities of war and the need for
caution in its execution.
also serves as an important component of defence diplomacy by allowing
officers from our countries to forge strong professional bonds through
understanding and interoperability. In this way, your importance to the
functioning of your countries cannot be overstated.
CHIN TONG is deputy minister for defence. The above is adapted from a
speech he gave to Malaysian Command and Staff Course participants