That is the title of an opinion piece on the back pages of the latest Chronicle of Higher Education (here), except that it is formed as a declarative sentence and not a question. The reason why it will make the world a better place, the author insists, is that we Americans know almost nothing about the Middle East, which is an area we bomb, invade, and occupy. The unstated implication of learning Arabic is that if we were to learn Arabic, then we wouldn’t be doing these awful things.
This argument, if generalized, is breathtakingly bad. Does anyone who knows the least little bit about World War II think that Americans of that era who learned German or Japanese were going to come away from the experience thinking that our fight against those two nations was wrong? Of course not. Any American back then learning either of these languages likely learned them in order to better help fight our enemies and was unlikely to have decided that, gosh, the Nazis had some legitimate grievances against the British and the French, so we’d better not fight them, or that Mr. Roosevelt had been mean to the Japanese by depriving them of oil, so we’d better not fight them, either. Sheer nonsense.
Anyway, as someone who has actually taught Arabic (if only as a substitute), I have to say that I never thought I was making the world a better place. I never subjected the class to my opinions about events in the Middle East or why I had learned Arabic (which was to help fight the Islamofascists) because I was pretty sure they would not have been well-received. I was just teaching a language. And most of the students probably came to the language already knowing something about the Middle East, or else they were just taking something exotic for their language requirement and would drop it once that had been fulfilled.
If you really want to make the world a better place, what you want to do is to encourage all the different groups of the Middle East to respect each other. (Then there would be no need for Americans to bomb it, etc.) Encourage mutual tolerance. Alas, while this is something that might have been done rather easily when I was young, it would be much harder today. The reason is that the left encouraged certain groups to hold grievances and to hate other groups, creating an atmosphere of mistrust and viciousness that makes the emergence of groups like ISIS all too explicable.
Too bad. There was a window of opportunity there, and the left wasted it.
Incidentally, the author of the piece, Brian T. Edwards, cannot help but mention that “hate crimes against Muslims continue” with no mention of awful things that Muslims do to each other and to non-Muslims. Maybe if he were to learn about those awful things, he would gain a better understanding of the Middle East himself.