A reader writes:
I'm not sure what the point of your post quoting Tom Ricks was. His arguments that literacy is not a necessary skill for soldiers are ludicrous. He says "the average soldier in Afghanistan does not need to be literate" citing as authority Spartan soldiers at Thermopalye, who were apparently illiterate. However, I doubt that the Spartan soldiers had to operate and repair trucks, tanks, canons and other mechanized equipment, or do any of the myriad tasks a modern functioning army is supposed to do.
I suppose Ricks believes the Afghan army could do away with intelligence reports, uniform written protocol and procedures, or anything else of the sort. Hell, get rid of maps, since the soldiers don't need to be able read them. It's just ridiculous. I can't tell what basis he has for disputing the Maj. Gen.'s assessment that the literacy rate is an impediment to training the Afghan army other than some romanticized notion of the Spartan soldier, who needed nothing more than a stout heart and a sharp sword to defeat his enemy.
I'm also not sure what Ricks is suggesting with respect to the "diversity training," but if that is his euphamism for training that is supposed to instil a respect for the rights of other ethnic groups and tribes, I don't think it should be dismissed as casually as Ricks does.