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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Losing Wars

They say that only six people at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq speak Arabic. Page 60 of the Iraq Study Group report says:

All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans' lack of language and cultural understanding. Our embassy of 1000 has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are at the level of fluency.

The report was 84 pages long. If the Cargo Cult Scientist could add one more recommendation it would be that the staff who wrote this report write another 20 pages on the work being done at the embassy. Who were these arabic speakers? Did they also speak English? Did they work as janitors or translators? Does the work being done at the embassy require a lot of Arabic language interpretation?

This would be a "wax on wax off" type of endeavor. When pursuing something that may seem trivial, you might just stumble upon a big problem. Perhaps the embassador doesn't do anything besides hold dinners and talk about how everyone in the room is going to get rich off of this scuffle. Perhaps we change the embassy mission to have them help us learn more from people in Iraq. How do they feel about the ideas being tossed around in this 84 page solution.

Old men start wars and young men die in them. The old men in this case cannot put an end to this struggle. The enemy is not known. When they get close to a real issue such as the lack of language and cultural understanding, they follow it up with a recommendation that we train people in the language. Languages are not learned that easily, especially when mixing with the locals is a life and death situation.

The war in Iraq suffers from too many old men who do not know their enemy. Too many people on the American side are making decisions for the young people who have to fight an enemy willing to die for their cause. Our leaders are only willing to sacrifice the lives of our young, not their own lives. They don't even take the time to learn from the young men who are dying.

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