Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Need for Cultural Understanding

Moving away from what the Founding Fathers wanted or intended (not because I think it is irrelevant or uninteresting but perhaps straying from the class content). I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts about the Quadrennial Defense Report (QDR) 2006, especially regarding the need for better language skills and cultural understanding.
Page 14 (among others) says "Recent operations have reinforced the need for US forces to have greater language skills and cultural awareness. It is advantageous for the US forces to speak the languages of the regions where the enemy will operate." I completely agree with the statement, but feel it does raise some interesting questions.
Firstly, will the Armed Forces train new recruits to speak languages and create cultural awareness or will there be more recruiting for those that already possess those skills? Secondly, perhaps the need for cultural awareness is indicative of a greater problem in the US, where foreign languages are considered unimportant since "everyone speaks English" and we are the dominant culture worldwide? Perhaps, a greater emphasis should be placed on these subjects/skills from early childhood so everyone can learn them to make for a more educated and informed America overall.
Also, does this need to create an Armed Force that is well-versed in language and cultural studies underline the type of wars we are expecting to fight in the future? That small groups of Armed Forces will be conducting counterinsurgency warfare a la Krepinevich for some time to come? If this is the case will the American public be able to come to terms with wars fought this way or will they resist and hope for a by-gone era in which the biggest and shiniest toys won wars..not language skills, understanding and getting your hands dirty on the ground?
Will the addition of Robert Gates help in the creation of an Armed Forces like this or will DoD continue on as before?
Although this may be a small detail in the grand scheme of wars, diplomacy and international politics, the need for cultural understanding and language skills touches on all of these issues. Perhaps the Armed Forces is onto something that would not only benefit DoD, but all Americans in every walk of life?


Faisons6 said...

Three cheers for your position, but intent and results are two seperate things. I think it will be hard for any leader at DOD to carry out the dream of a bi-lingual culturally enhanced military. Change in a beauracracy, particularly our military, requires two catalysts: leadership with mandate for change (QDR) and resources (money). We have the former, but the later looks lacking....

atom said...

It is interesting that as a "melting pot", which means there are different cultures in the US territory, the US also needs cultural understanding. On the other hand, some scholars claim that cultures in the US is more like "mosaic". There is no interaction between cultures. Thus, I agree with you that increasing the interaction between cultures is a way to solve the problem.

Secondly, I don't think the acceptability of such kind of operation will be a problem, because what public cares is the result. Without victory, people will also lose confidence on fire power.