Army Seeks to Promote Cultural Literacy

10.27.11 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

A new U.S. Army publication (pdf) invites American soldiers to ponder the role of cultural factors in shaping perception and action.

Analyze this statement: ‘The English drive on the wrong side of the road.’

In some Islamic countries women wear burkas.  Who is advantaged and who is disadvantaged by this?

Why do you think major religious traditions tend to have a plain version and a more mystical version?

What do television commercials tell us about American culture?

This is not a purely theoretical exercise, but is intended to support the Army’s counterinsurgency role in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“Soldiers must understand how vital culture is in accomplishing today’s missions,” the new publication says. “Military personnel who have a superficial or even distorted picture of a host culture make enemies for the United States.  Each Soldier must be a culturally literate ambassador, aware and observant of local cultural beliefs, values, behaviors and norms.”  See “Culture Cards: Afghanistan & Islamic Culture,” U.S. Army, September 2011.