Thai Military Power: A Culture of Strategic Accommodation.

AuthorChambers, Paul
PositionBook review

Thai Military Power: A Culture of Strategic Accommodation. By Gregory Vincent Raymond. Copenhagen, Denmark: NIAS Press, 2018. Softcover: 293pp.

How have patterns of "strategic culture" influenced the behaviour of Thai security elites and military officials? This stimulating book by Gregory Raymond, an academic who used to work for the Australian Department of Defence, addresses this question. In the Introduction, Raymond argues that strategic culture is the "sum of national strategic culture and military organizational strategic culture" (p. 19). The former involves "public symbols and narratives" related to military force under the shadow of past external vulnerabilities, while the latter comprises "beliefs, habits and assumptions" that the military uses to adapt to its environment (p. 20). The interaction between these two "cultures" has influenced Thai strategic decision-makers, who have navigated Thailand through geographic accommodation as a weak "subaltern" state to ensure the Kingdom's survival (p. 30).

Chapter Two elaborates upon national strategic culture by explaining the influence of two narratives, which Raymond calls the "Fall of Ayutthaya" and the "Deeds of Chulalongkorn" on Thai strategic behaviour. The former narrative entrenches the need for unity because of the memory of Myanmar's 1767 sacking of the former Thai capital since many Thais believe that the absence of unity among Thai leaders allowed for the sacking to take place (p. 32). The second solidifies King Chulalongkorn's preferences for building alliances and military force. Each narrative undergirds "royalist-nationalist ideology which itself shapes the thinking of Thai strategic decision-makers" (pp. 58-61).

Chapter Three expounds upon military organizational culture, which was heavily influenced by royalism, the army's dominance over the other services, military factionalism and the long-standing relationship between the Thai and US militaries. This variant of organizational culture contributed to the perseverance of Thailand's monarchy-centric regime and reinforced military subservience under Thailand's national strategic culture.

Chapter Four examines how Thailand's military has been a useful tool of its diplomacy. For example, Siam sent an expeditionary force to participate on the side of the Allies during the First World War. Though Siamese troops never saw action, their participation gained Siam accolades and a seat at the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference. At...

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