Posts Tagged ‘language training’
Please listen to the five segments of “Diplomacy Under Fire”.
“When I worked in the state department, we made the decision to put diplomats into the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s an entirely different proposition than serving in Rome.”
– Former Ambassador Nicholas Burns
The cocktail parties and communiqués of traditional diplomacy are giving way to counterinsurgency and crisis management missions in places like Iraq and Colombia. American diplomats are now required to serve in both embassies and embeds. But the Foreign Service is short on folks with the language and technical skills to fill these modern posts. Add to that a bureaucratic State Department short on funds and slow to adapt and you end up with the 82nd Airborne as the face of American foreign policy to the world.
Big names, big issues!
Language proficiency. From the article: “There is no substitute,” said the multilingual Negroponte, “for recruiting, training, deploying, retaining and retraining,” officers in languages and geography so they “develop the contacts, the knowledge, the insight, the local and area expertise” needed to help develop America’s foreign policy.
Nearly HALF of diplomats in Iraq and THREE QUARTERS of diplomats in Afghanistan couldn’t follow Kurt Ahmed’s advice even if they wanted to!!! “In Iraq, 57 percent of Foreign Service officers lack sufficient language skills. Afghanistan trails far behind, with 73 percent unable to directly communicate with the country’s people.”
“State’s diplomatic readiness remains at risk.”
People, especially diplomats, respond to incentives and if we’re “in it to win it” in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, we need to develop a cadre of specialized linguists much in the same way as we did in Russian and Eastern European languages during the Cold War. We’re in the “Long War” now and we need to start adopting a strategy that is long-term (think multiple decades) rather than focusing on the year to year band aid remedies. Diplomats, civilians, and soldiers need to speak the language(s) of the countries we are trying to win the population in. Intensive language study for multiple years should be a part of career pre-deployment training. Once deployed, we need them committed to these countries for multiple years, preferably decades.
OR, if local populations were willing, “It seems that flooding Afghanistan with English learning materials would be in everyone’s best interest.” English is the lingua franca of business, mathematics, and science…
Many years ago, when the Hybrid Diplomat was living abroad, he’d just say what he wanted in English. If they didn’t understand, he’d just say it louder in English. Just kidding, the Hybrid Diplomat speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom, he blends in, disappears, you might never see him again. (Hat tip: Indiana Jones)
Marcus Brody: Uhhh, does anyone here speak English?