Cross-posted slightly differently at Charging RINO.
I wanted to just chime in quickly today and recommend an op/ed from Tom Brokaw in Sunday's Washington Post. Drawing on his experiences reporting with American military personnel in Afghanistan, Brokaw suggests the creation of a 'Diplomatic Special Forces' corps, which he envisions as a kind of "Peace Corps plus."
The foreign service should "recruit young men and women who want an adventurous life ... and [p]ut them through crash courses in local dialects and skills relevant to the areas where they will be assigned. Place them in military outposts in remote areas, an arrangement that would have the added benefit of forging bonds between the military and the diplomatic corps. Give them extra pay and set the bar high so they have the same elite status as the Pentagon's Special Forces," Brokaw writes.
Besides providing a "different American face" to local civilians, these special forces would be able to take responsibility for some of the "nation-building" duties now handled by military personnel, assisting with the creation and re-creation of infrastructure - from schools to hospitals, etc. in various areas of the world.
While obviously there might be some logistical problems with Brokaw's approach, I think he's got an interesting concept. It is this kind of "outside the box" thinking that's got to be done at the very highest levels of government to devise new ways for Americans to see and be seen around the world (the latter being more important). Slickly-produced television ad campaigns might reach more people, but I'd be willing to bet that face-to-face contact would be far more impactful.
If nothing else, Brokaw has started a healthy discussion. I'd like to see it continued.
In a comment to this post at Charging RINO, Wilderwood noted that "crash courses" in preparing young Americans to deal with other cultures will not lead to real understanding of other cultures. I agree that crash courses alone are insufficient ... but combined with a period of exposure to different peoples and ways of life, this would certainly be better than nothing. And obviously this plan is nothing formal, but a springboard for further thoughts and debate. A debate the country could certainly stand to have.