The scathing report produced by the Strategic Task Force on Education Abroad questions US citizen’s ability to fully grasp the meaning of events abroad.
The task force is headed by former education secretary Richard Riley and former US senator Paul Simon.
“We strongly believe that the events of 11 September 2001 constituted a wake-up call – a warning that America’s ignorance of the world is now a national liability,” they said in a joint statement.
11 September evidence
The report points out that the gap separating Americans from the rest of the world became particularly evident on the day of the attacks.
Most Americans were forced to ask themselves some soul-searching questions: “Where did this come from?” and “Why us?”
Task force members insist the answer is that Americans are largely ignorant about the Middle East and suffer from “a pervasive lack of knowledge” about the world at large.
America’s Achilles heel
They decried the fact that some US citizens had made speaking only English “a point of national pride instead of disgrace.”
“We are unnecessarily putting ourselves at risk because of our stubborn monolingualism and ignorance of the world,” the task force went on to say.
“As strong as our country and our economy are, we cannot remain prosperous and secure if we do not understand the words and actions of our international neighbours.”
According to the panel, the United States needs military personnel, diplomats and business executives who speak Arabic, French, Spanish, Chinese, Swahili, Russian, Korean, Farsi, Hindi and dozens of other languages.
“To successfully navigate the new millennium, we will need leaders who are able to understand global crises not only from an American vantage point, but also from those of our allies and our adversaries,” the report said.
It does not mention by name either US President George Bush or other current leaders from any of the political parties.