Jim Bullington - Return of the aged warrior?

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Special Reports: November 26 - Proposal for Senior Volunteer Corps: Jim Bullington - Return of the aged warrior?

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, November 26, 2001 - 6:36 pm: Edit Post

Read another idea that Jim Bullington submitted for a Peace Corps program in Vietnam at:

Return of the aged warrior?

Return of the aged warrior?

Hereís another idea I submitted to Lloyd:

Summary The Administration should begin discussions with the Government of Vietnam on opening a Peace Corps program in that country. This would be an important further step in normalizing relations and putting the war behind us, and it would serve the interests of both countries. It would also enhance the image of Peace Corps and have positive domestic political implications.

It would be symbolically important. The juxtaposition of "Peace Corps" and "Vietnam War" is symbolically powerful. A Peace Corps program in Vietnam would be seen as marking the end of an era of U. S.-Vietnamese warfare and confrontation and the opening of a new era of peace and cooperation. It would draw favorable American and global press coverage and would strike the imagination of pundits worldwide. It would be viewed as a positive step in US foreign policy.

It would serve US interests. Vietnam is a politically important country in Southeast Asia, with great economic potential. We need to build constructive ties with it. A Peace Corps program would represent an important new linkage in the short term, and over the longer term it would gradually build US influence and create a more favorable image of the United States. Since the Volunteers, at least initially, would probably be primarily English teachers, they would have a direct impact on the new generation of Vietnamese, now a majority of the population, that has had little exposure to Americans. A Peace Corps presence would indirectly encourage commercial and other relationships and help focus private sector attention on opportunities in Vietnam.

It would serve Vietnamese interests. Peace Corps is not "foreign aid," and it could not be claimed as some sort of war reparations. Yet, a Peace Corps program in Vietnam would represent another milestone in the normalization of Vietnamese-American relations, and it would demonstrate that we are willing to treat Vietnam like the 70 other developing countries where Peace Corps is active, notably including China. Volunteers would enhance American understanding of current Vietnamese realities, and over time Volunteer "veterans" would facilitate the growth of American trade, investment and educational and cultural exchanges. The Volunteers would also bring immediate practical benefits in improving English language capabilities and skills in other areas on which the program might focus.

It would enhance Peace Corpsí image. The opening of a Peace Corps program in Vietnam would be a high profile event that would draw favorable attention to Peace Corps and its role in Americaís international relations, demonstrating the organizationís dynamism and contemporary relevance. It would also attract a new pool of potential recruits from among the Vietnamese-American community and the children of Vietnam War veterans.

It would have positive political implications. The press and the overwhelming majority of the American public would hail the opening of a Peace Corps program in Vietnam as a positive, even historic, development. Achieving significant economic, social and humanitarian impact at very low cost, it could be presented as an important example of compassionate conservatism applied to international relations. It would be especially meaningful for the Vietnamese-American community. Since this community has its largest concentration in Orange County, the new Director should have a special interest in opening a Vietnam program and would be able to claim political credit for doing so.

I also told Lloyd that I know the ideal candidate for the position of the first Peace Corps Director in Vietnam. He served in Hué, Saigon and Quang Tri as well as in Vietnam-related jobs at the NSC and State Department, and his wife is Vietnamese. He is a former career diplomat and ambassador, and is currently serving as a Peace Corps country director in Africa. While the odds against this happening are long, particularly since the Vietnamese havenít requested a Peace Corps program, itís at least a pleasant dream for Tuy-Cam and me. [Editorís note: Somehow Jim Bullingtonís description of the ideal first Peace Corps director in Vietnam perfectly fits his own background and circumstances.]

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