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Archive for Wednesday, May 21, 2003

International insights

May 21, 2003

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An international education program proposed by a Kansas University professor would provide important insight for the United States.

Earlier this month, members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence voted unanimously to approve a new program designed to encourage and develop a small cadre of college students who would become well informed about the history, culture, religion, language, politics and other facets of countries around the world.

After graduation, these individuals would live abroad and become valuable analysts who would understand developments in these countries and help keep Uncle Sam from being blindsided or unprepared for potentially dangerous situations.

It is clear the United States has not done a good job of interpreting what is going on in various foreign nations and, consequently, we seem to be caught off guard on too many occasions. A lack of information and knowledge too often has been costly to his country.

KU faculty member Felix Moos has been concerned for a number of years about this shortcoming and the failure of many college students to be knowledgeable about world affairs.

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has visited with Moos on several occasions, as have other committee staffers. Moos told Roberts of his ideas and concerns and suggested that one or two students be placed in a special program at each U.S. college and university that offers a full complement of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine ROTC programs.

Those students would specialize in languages, history, government, religion and other aspects of specific foreign countries. They would commit to a certain number of years in service, just as ROTC cadets do, and they would be assigned to various parts of the world.

This country needs men and women on the ground in these countries to make sense of many factors that too often are a puzzle to leaders in Washington.

The program is not designed to train spies, as a recent Journal-World headline suggested, but rather to train college students to be more knowledgeable about world affairs and be of service to their country.

There are bound to be some at KU, among the faculty and in the administration, who will be less than enthusiastic about the program Moos suggests, just as they are less than enthusiastic about anything to do with the military or anything resembling a clandestine operation. In their eyes, there is something wrong or dirty about such efforts. They want to believe they are above such tactics and want no part of any program that might be training "spies."

It's clear by what has been happening in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and many other parts of the world that Uncle Sam is not prepared to understand why certain nations and their people act in a certain manner or why they react as they do to the U.S.

There's no time to waste.

With Moos and his vast experience and knowledge of international affairs leading the way and with the enthusiastic support of Sen. Roberts, there's a good chance KU could be a leader in establishing an ROTC-type program to encourage college students to pursue careers as intelligence analysts.

Moos and Roberts have long-range vision, and the country is sure to benefit from their concern about the future of this nation. It is unfortunate the Journal-World headline suggested the program is designed to train spies because the truth of the matter is that the program is not to train spies but to educate young men and women about a vast array of subjects and have them use this information to become skilled analysts living abroad.

It is hoped this plan will receive quick and enthusiastic approval from Congress, as well as from those on Mount Oread, and that KU will be one of the first schools to implement this badly needed program.

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