An article in USA Today reports on the military's Muslim recruitment emphasis. Besides the usual multicultural rhetoric, some of the justifications given are to "add troops who speak Arabic and understand Middle Eastern culture...â€? [Fort Hood Ups Challenge to Recruit Muslim, Arab Troops,Â by Kathleen Gray and Donna Leinwand, December 10, 2009]
The article says the Army actually has two programs which recruit Middle Easterners, including many Muslims. One is the recruitment of native speakers of Arabic, Pashto, Dari and Farsi, so they can be interpreters. Another program actually "targets non-citizens who have been in the U.S. at least two years and have special language and cultural skills from the Middle East, China and Korea..." That particular program is set to expire at the end of this month, but what do you want to bet it gets renewed?
As far as the languages go, if we need more interpreters, why can't the military just train more at its already existing Defense Language Institute? When I was deployed to Iraq I was able to use the rudimentary level of Arabic I had acquired, and I wasn't even officially trained in the language by the military. Actually no human language is inscrutable and they all can be acquired with work (and in the military with extra bonus money).
In fact, a good case can be made for our public school students to study a wider variety of languages, not just Spanish, which is now the #1 foreign language being taught in our schools. American students ought to be exposed to a variety of foreign languages; they all shouldn't be required to learn Spanish. And I say that despite the fact that as a new Spanish teacher myself, high demand for Spanish is great job security for me!