utahbob wrote:> John, just anecdotal, but there is one segment of young people who
> do know geography: the less than 1% who are in the military. Many
> serve all over the planet. My troops when at the tactical level
> could list all the major geographical, cultural and political
> features of all the countries from Morocco to China. Planners of
> all ranks can recite explain cultural and historical profiles of
> all countries in their Area of Responsibility. We used to pass
> various publications to read while killing time on drop or pick
> zones, such as The Economist, WSJ, Foreign Policy with Maxim and
> FMH (the UK version). I remember one of my corporals who worked
> with me at a combat command with a southern drawl comment about a
> State Department political appointee about her lack of knowledge
> of history and world affairs even though she went to an ivy league
I'm going to partially disagree with you. You're certainly right that
people in the military know a great deal about culture and current
events in many countries, and history to some extent, but based on
what I've seen from military analysts and former generals on tv, that
knowledge is very shallow. It's certainly true, as you say, that
military people know a lot more about the world than the snowflakes in
the State Dept., but there are levels of knowledge. People in the
military are a step up from the "experts" in Washington, but it's
a very specific kind of knowledge attuned more to the culture
What you've written implies this. You say that they spend their time
reading magazines like The Economist and WSJ, but the reporters in
these magazines are far more ignorant about the world than the
soldiers themselves. If that's where they get their information, then
it's truly the blind leading the blind.
In 2011, when I gave the talk on Generational Dynamics that you
sponsored at Fort Devens, I was really surprised by questions,
especially by the apparent unawareness of the threat from China.
A more recent and continuing example is the war in Afghanistan.
Everything happening in Afghanistan today is overwhelmingly a result
of the civil war from 1991 to 1996. And yet, this civil war is never
mentioned in the media, or by military analysts. Everybody knows how
much American foreign policy has been influenced by WW II, and the
Vietnam and Iraq wars, but it never seems to occur to anyone to think
about the question of how the 1991-96 civil war is controlling Afghan
policies today. I've heard military analysts say something about the
Russian invasion in the 1980s, which is mostly irrelevant to what's
going on today, but then never mention the civil war of the 1990s, or
just mention that there was "some fighting."
A person may be an expert about something locally, but that doesn't
mean that he knows what's going on globally. For example, a farmer
wouldn't have any reason to know about global agricultural policy.
So maybe the military does know what's going on in the world, but
quite honestly I haven't seen any evidence of it.