More Language and Culture, Fewer Guns
“If the experience of the last seventeen years tells us anything, it is that we are likely to continue to find our armed forces deployed… in operations among the indigenous populations, rather than around them,” he argues. “This in turn suggests that the military must be prepared to operate ‘among the people’ much more than in the past. Language training and cultural awareness will therefore be critical enabling capabilities.” In a stand-off war, you might be able to afford to understanding the enemy you’re bombing from on high. But when that enemy is mixed in with the people you’re trying to secure, you can’t afford to be monolingual and culturally deaf.
Therefore, Krepinvech suggests, we should reduce “the military’s continuing relatively high emphasis on conventional operations… in order to support language and cultural training, as well as other ‘soft’ skills that are particularly useful in irregular warfare.”
I’m a much less renowned military analyst than Krepinevich and I’ve been saying this since 1992.
UPDATE: Bernard Finel counters that maybe we’d be better off not engaging in the kind of conflicts that need these skill sets to begin with:
What we forgot since the Vietnam War was not so much how to wage counter-insurgency, but rather the tremendous costs and small benefits that accrue from engaging in these sorts of conflicts at all.
I fully agree. The problem, though, which I reconciled myself to in the 1990s, was that we’re going to do it anyway. Because we define our interests globally, we seemingly can’t not intervene in crises that either have a plausible security domino effect (Republicans, mostly) or offend our humanitarian sensibilities (Democrats, especially, but also neocons and “national greatness” Republicans).