Thursday, October 06, 2005

Iraq's education gap 

Major K. writes today about illiteracy and other educational deficits in the ranks of the Iraqi army, and the challenge that imposes in the building of a modern, networked military. After discussing the huge educational gap between Iraqi and American soldiers, the Major reminds us of the differences even between supposedly educated officers:
I spent some time today showing an Iraqi Lieutenant Colonel how to transfer a file from one computer to another using a flash memory stick and then how to send an e-mail. I have been using e-mail for over 10 years. Teaching staff officers how to do elementary computer work is almost a daily occurrence here. All of this being said, Iraq has one of the most educated populations in the region, so you can easily imagine what it is like in other countries in the middle east.

This educational deficit is going to be one of the big hurdles to overcome in rebuilding this benighted nation. This is why we soldiers consider rebuilding of schools and opening of new ones such a big deal. This is truly a war for the next generation being fought by this generation. We work with what we have for now, and we try to progress every day. It will be slow and gradual. Today must not be compared to yesterday, but better the next decade to this one.

In one sense this is obvious -- we knew that Iraq was a "third world" country. In another it is very enlightening -- American soldiers are so networked into the battlefield that they must deploy experiences that they learned as teenagers in a wired world. In this regard, they are more productive than soldiers from the developing world for the same reasons that our workers are more productive than those in the developing world. If we think of our soldiers as workers with a certain productivity, it should be no surprise that few Iraqi formations are entirely "independant" on the battlefield according to the standards of the American army. The quetion, of course, is whether they can learn to be dramatically more productive than their enemy.


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