Anyone working on a college campus will tell you that there is a graduate student divide. This is particularly striking in fields with a technical component. That used to mean just engineering and science, but increasingly it means the social sciences as well. I recently proposed we recruit only Indian students to TA our English classes since they seem to be able to write so much better than students educated in the US.
I’ve gotten off track. What I meant to say is that there is a problem. Foreign students are much more likely to be both technologically and mathematically literate, and bilingual. It used to be a Ph.D. in the social sciences required fluency in two languages in addition to English. Recently, language requirements at the graduate level and at the undergraduate level have disappeared or been ignored, at just the moment the ability to communicate globally is more important.
Luckily, the federal government has a plan: draft those students who can speak a second language or work with a computer. What!? I guess market-based solutions are great when they work, but otherwise, we’ll force those who are more able to serve to give up private sector marketing of their skills and show their patriotism by translating the marching orders of foreign armies. Now, I guess in some ways this is better than the drafted troops of the Vietnam era that over-represented the under-educated.
But how about other solutions? First, be more accepting of gays, especially in intelligence. One of the reasons for the shortage of Arabic speakers is waves of purges of gay soldiers and civilian workers. We could extend this to hyperbole by saying that intolerance of gays in the US led to 9/11.
This is really only a corner of the issue, though. The better way to go would be (gasp!) to pay for linguists and computer-savvy folks to join the military. The culture of the military often makes it less attractive to those who are used to free-thinking environs, so they would need also to establish free-thinking enclaves. This sounds bizarre, but military-funded labs often provide spaces for creative thought–it seems like a similar model could be followed in intelligence.
Of course, most of what they are looking for here are not those who will live within the sheltered existence of a lab, but who can settle disputes “on the ground” among those who do not speak English, and who can do tech support when a network crash means that important information isn’t being communicated. Again, I don’t see why a market-oriented approach isn’t made here. If you pay them, they will come. If you offer the average soldier increased pay and free training, the need for a draft diminishes.
Of course, one of the best ways of attracting such recruits would be to reduce the danger of being shot in a foreign land while increasing pay. Is that such a strange idea?