Arabic could be the language of peace.
If Americans were able to speak Arabic, we just might be able to bridge the gaping cultural abyss that currently divides us.
If Americans could speak Arabic, we would be able to converse with friends and reason with enemies in real time and with real emotion.
In both Jordan and Syria I, at times, agreed with and, at other times, argued with storeowners, taxi drivers, university students, university professors, policemen, soldiers and many government officials in their own language. It was quite a “trip” for them to hear someone defending (and sometimes criticizing) America. Many have never heard any human being speak such sentiments in their own language. We often disagreed radically on many issues and sometimes the debates were quite heated. At the end of these arguments, however, we usually became friends and respected one another much more than could have ever happened via an interpreter or any other means of communication or interaction.
If Americans could speak Arabic, we could more easily influence Arab media. There are some Americans who appear on Aljazeera, but it is a rare occurrence - especially Americans who learned Arabic in school and not at home as children of native speakers.
What happens when Americans can really speak Arabic? Here is a name for you to research: Hume Horan. He recently passed away. He was a career diplomat and Arabic speaker in the United States government. He learned Arabic in Lebanon and Tunisia (I believe). His Arabic was so good that it scared Arab government officials. The Saudis did not want an American who could speak Arabic so well (and understand the culture) on their streets mixing with the locals! Ha! They were afraid that he might give them a second opinion and cause them to really consider other viewpoints.
If Americans could speak Arabic, so much would be different. But let’s not focus on the woulds and coulds. We need Arabic learning and teaching in the United Sates and the world from a young age.
If we must talk about the war on terrorism, let’s consider that it is also a war against cultural misunderstandings and lack of communication in real time with real people. There is so much good to be exchanged between all cultures. Understanding one another might just prevent future wars.