Come to think of it, though, I have no idea whatsoever what could have possibly happened in the ranks of the retarded rebellion to have the likes of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian promoted to generals. Not lieutenants, mind you, not majors. Freaking Generals. What in the universe could have happened between ESB and RoTJ to have Han Solo promoted from captain to general?
I've tried to justify that in my head, and it's very difficult. Best I can come up with is Lando bought his commission. He probably still had pull in the tibanna gas trade after losing Cloud City, and the EU says spin-sealed tibanna gas is a vital component of blaster technology. A few million liters of that stuff, and you get nominal command in an attack -- of course, they put you in a broken-down hot-rodded freighter with a copilot who doesn't even speak English
I'm still trying to figure out Han's commission. I think he was addressed as "Captain Solo" in ESB because he was skipper of the Millennium Falcon; he seems to report directly to General Rieekan, which supports the idea that he's a highly-stationed civilian contractor and not a military captain. How'd he become a general? Probably Leia has some sort of commissioning authority from Alderaan, and she made him a general in the Alderaanian Armed Forces to shut him up about what went down in the south passage. The Alliance forces used that as a courtesy title, but continued treating him like the civilian ship-driver he was. (In any case, he and Chewie needed some kind of rank for the Endor mission, or they could've been shot as spies. Instead of Rebels.)
(Solo was commissioned for h)elping to destroy one of the galaxy's most notorious gangsters.
Elliot Ness took down Al Capone, but they didn't pin stars on his shoulders. A single operation, no matter how elegantly planned, doesn't demonstrate one has the managerial and operational skills necessary to be a successful general officer. (And Solo was frozen in carbonite when that operation was planned.)
Military rank isn't handed out as a reward for instances of merit; rank comes with responsibility and authority, and one must demonstrate that they can fulfill their responsibilities before assuming a rank. We never saw anyone do anything that would merit a promotion to general; probably because generalship doesn't make for good action-adventure movies.
Rebellions are not always about combat. For it to be successful, a rebellion needs allies. Some allies are easy to come by, others are not. She was known as an excellent diplomat.
If she was a diplomat, how come she was billeted with the combat forces at Echo Base*? She should've been on the Mon Calamari fleet with Mon Mothma, planning strategic alliances, visiting potential allies, and showing them the strong face of the Rebellion. Lurking in an ice cavern, feeding tauntauns, that doesn't get diplomacy done.
My guess for Solo is that he was given the rank of General for the operation of destroying the shield generator. He was the most qualified for the operation, so he was made general.
Was Solo in command of that operation? I thought he was in command of the shuttle, and General Madine led the actual operators on the ground. I don't know what possessed the shuttle command crew to leave their craft behind and go sneaking through the woods like they did. I can see Luke wanting to go because he's a Jedi with a destiny, and Chewie would want to go to protect Luke and because he likes trees. Of course Han would have to go with Chewie, and Leia would want to go with Han because she loves him. Artoo would follow Luke, and Threepio still belongs to either Luke or Leia, which means ... I guess I answered my own question. In any case, you don't need a general to fly a shuttle, even if it's on an important mission and carrying another general.
As for Leia, her father was one of the founders of the rebellion. She has been involved in it since she was a child, more than likely, and has done many things, not just a courier. So she is a very high ranking offical in the rebellion, and has done many things for them before ANH.
Yes, she has done many important things for the Alliance in the past. Then her homeworld when kablooie, her father became atoms, and she got downsized out of her job on Coruscant. That makes her quite unlikely to do important things for the Alliance in the future. That is unromantic and realpolitik, but, well, the first syllable in realpolitik is real. The scions of monarchs of disestablished realms rarely have much political or social power. Do you see King Constantine of the Hellenes rallying many Greeks to his cause? What about the heirs of the Romanovs? The son of the Shah? As right as these people may be on whatever moral issues they may favor, as much authority as they may have had in the past or today if things had gone differently ... they are quite politically impotent, now. As was Leia was once everything she stood for and the bases of all her power went away.
To be fair, Luke was no longer officially affiliated with the Rebellion. But why didn't Leia get a promotion? In fact, why was she not ranked at all? Was it her diplomatic status? Does the EU address the non-military nature of her rebel participation?