Asymmetrical Warfare, Transformation, and Foreign Language Capability
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLL FORT LEAVENWORTH KS COMBAT STUDIES INST
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For the Department of Defense DOD to transform itself for modern asymmetrical warfare, foreign language capability must be understood as an integral component. There is no doubt that the current global war on terrorism is an asymmetrical war against an unpredictable enemy rather than the predictable or symmetrical threats against self-important dictators or the Soviet Union. Understanding how our enemies think and act specifically, what motivates their murderous ideology will be the key to combating terrorism and identifying centers of gravity and critical vulnerabilities from the strategic to the tactical level of war. Truly knowing our enemy requires understanding the culture, politics, and religion of the terrorists, which in turn requires experts in their language. Two early lessons learned from Afghanistan are that foreign language skills were absolutely critical for overthrowing the Taliban regime so quickly and that the military does not have enough foreign language capability. Without improved foreign language capability, intelligence gathering, special operations, and our general capability to fight asymmetrical, unconventional warfare will continue to be restricted. Furthermore, foreign language capability is not only important for intelligence gathering and special operations, it is essential for understanding how the enemy thinks from the strategic to the tactical level of war. Similar to developing special operations capabilities, there are no shortcuts to improving foreign language capability. It takes considerable time to develop language skills to the level of complexity necessary for intelligence and special operations. Fortunately, improvement is possible if it is joint and uses military educated linguists assisted and supplemented by computer technology, contract linguists, and U.S. military personnel with heritage language skills.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
- Military Intelligence