Pat Lang points out that it takes years for an American to learn to read and write Arabic and therefore sending soldiers to crash programs in the hopes that it will help is “illusory.” Still, while that explains why most of the troops we send to Iraq can’t speak the language, it doesn’t explain why more don’t.
It’s been obvious to me — and thus presumably to many people who make public policy on such matters — since 1992 or so that the Middle East was going to be the hot zone for American military and diplomatic activity for years, if not decades, to come. Yet we’ve made no appreciable progress in the subsequent fifteen years.
Yes, it’s unrealistic to think we can train and retain a critical mass of infantrymen with Arabic fluency. But, surely, we can do so with special forces and civil affairs. Or, hell, the CIA and FBI, which recruit people with graduate degrees and retain them for much longer than the military.