July 23, 2003 - New York Times: Send in the Peace Corps

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By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 10:44 am: Edit Post

Send in the Peace Corps?





Read and comment on this op-ed piece from the New York Times by Morocco RPCV Avi Spiegel that says that instead of making the military better at humanitarian assignments (in Iraq, Afghanistan and perhaps Liberia), humanitarian groups should strive to become more comfortable in military situations:
"Today the war on terror guides America's foreign policy, and it is all-encompassing. No nation is totally immune from danger. If it only allowed its volunteers in safe, stable countries, the Peace Corps would risk being shut out of too much of the world. The security situations in these countries may not change, but the Peace Corps can.

Unfortunately, the Peace Corps removes its volunteers just when they are needed the most: when anti-Americanism is running unchecked and the need for contact with ordinary American citizens is greatest. Volunteers who have just graduated from college may not be prepared to serve in these challenging settings. But there are surely Americans, given the right amount of training and experience, who would relish the chance."
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers have been discussing when the Peace Corps should return to Afghanistan at:

When should Peace Corps return to Afghanistan? 15 March 2002



The issue of the relationship between the military and humanitarian aid organizations is one that RPCVs like Representative Chris Shays have strong opinions about. Read his point of view at:

RPCV Congressman Chris Shays travels to Iraq - Says Humanitarian Aid Organizations are frustrated 23 April 2003



Read the op-ed then read another op-ed by Spiegel following this one on how the US should enlarge existing programs like the Peace Corps to help meet the growing demand for dialogue with Arab youth at:

Send in the Peace Corps*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



Send in the Peace Corps
By AVI M. SPIEGEL

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's dreams of a leaner and meaner military, a smaller yet more modernized force, are in jeopardy. Faced with continued resistance in Iraq and peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan, Pentagon officials are now considering proposals to expand and restructure American forces amid fears that longer deployments will result in an overextended military.

Their focus may be misplaced. The question of how to reorganize the armed forces should be turned on its head: instead of making the military better at humanitarian assignments (in Iraq, Afghanistan and perhaps Liberia), humanitarian groups should strive to become more comfortable in military situations.

The Peace Corps, America's oldest overseas volunteer program, should equip itself to enter regions it now deems too dangerous. A force of trained and educated volunteers could improve its cooperation with the military and learn how to conduct itself in such settings.

With Congress debating spending on the Peace Corps and Americorps, it is time to update the Peace Corps' mission. Even in the face of mounting budgetary concerns, neither the military nor the Peace Corps is likely to react well to calls for a more active, less gun-shy Peace Corps.

Indeed, most humanitarian organizations cling to their independence and worry that any semblance of cooperation with the military might jeopardize their credibility. In postwar Iraq, on the other hand, the military was slow to allow international humanitarian workers into the country because of concerns over their protection, and volunteer organizations complained about lack of access.

The lessons are telling: there are humanitarian workers who are capable of entering dangerous situations, and better relations with the military just might allow them better access.

Even journalists in Iraq gave up reservations about being "embedded" in the military. No one is suggesting Peace Corps volunteers answer to the military. But isn't providing humanitarian assistance at least as important as reporting the news?

Amid tales of declining troop morale or of soldiers assuming draining humanitarian duties, America's volunteer humanitarian force the Peace Corps has been notably absent in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reluctance to send volunteers into potentially dangerous situations might have been understandable in the past. The agency was formed in 1961, during the cold war, when the battle against Communism shaped United States foreign policy. Peace Corps volunteers were frequently withdrawn from any country in which the political situation became unstable.

Today the war on terror guides America's foreign policy, and it is all-encompassing. No nation is totally immune from danger. If it only allowed its volunteers in safe, stable countries, the Peace Corps would risk being shut out of too much of the world. The security situations in these countries may not change, but the Peace Corps can.

Four years ago I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. Today I simply would not have that option. The Peace Corps withdrew earlier this year from its lone outposts in the Arab world, Morocco and Jordan. (The organization announced yesterday that it would return to Jordan next year.) Meanwhile, the Pentagon is planning to expand its military presence in the region.

Unfortunately, the Peace Corps removes its volunteers just when they are needed the most: when anti-Americanism is running unchecked and the need for contact with ordinary American citizens is greatest. Volunteers who have just graduated from college may not be prepared to serve in these challenging settings. But there are surely Americans, given the right amount of training and experience, who would relish the chance.

From North Africa to the Persian Gulf, the sole face of America is too often the face of a soldier. American citizens deserve the chance to change that image for their own good and for the good of their country.

Avi M. Spiegel, a student at Harvard Divinity School and the New York University School of Law, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco from 1998 to 2000.




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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Morocco; Speaking Out; COS - Afghanistan; Iraq

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By bankass.com on Friday, August 15, 2003 - 10:33 am: Edit Post

If you want to go Avi you go. By the way, your pay will be volunteer pay. Thanks for your article. Daniel

By mike osborn (majoroz) on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 - 3:07 pm: Edit Post

There are probably many areas where Peace Corps could provide a helpful function in Iraq. As retired military and RPCV, I believe I could contribute.
There are, however two severe problems:
1. I can just imagine the typical Politically Correct Yahoo PC chooses for country director trying to function in that atmosphere.
2. I would NEVER move outside my quarters without my constant companion -- calibre 9mm. As such, I would be reluctant to be titled "peace" corps

oz

By Mr. Colin G. Gallagher, RPCV on Sunday, August 31, 2003 - 9:08 pm: Edit Post

8/31/03

My past articles, posts, and radio show shorts on the general topic of threats to Peace Corps Independence have been mildly to moderately critical of our current Administration's policies on the subject, have at times elicited the written wrath of Peace Corps Washington, and have been typically technically focused and sometimes quite long. This post will be mercifully short, sweet, and to the point.

Avi M. Spiegel's article in the New York Times was just plain wrong. It was, quite frankly, exemplary of the ignorance which is more and more pervasive in U.S. culture; not so exemplary of ignorance in general -- but rather, most specifically representative of popular U.S. culture's ignorance of the growth of the worship of commodity. From the decline of journalism via embeddedment, to the failed attempts by our government to create an army of citizen informants through a program known as TIPs, to the recent attempt by Avi Speigel through journalism and the media to promulgate an idea of the mergence of Peace Corps with military efforts, a deference to a form of imperialism driven by an obsession with commodity lies at the root of the journalistic psychology of an increasing number of workers within mass media organizations.

These workers and representatives of mass media have come full circle in terms of the application of their commodity worship; first by being (like all of us) consumers and thus natural participants in a world for which economic stability rests in the protection of resource extraction, second, by wilfully promoting an agenda of a temporary political entity which obdurately pursues a goal of singular mode of resource extraction on the global level, and thirdly and finally by propagating and promulgating a dogma that would have the rest of worldwide society adapt to this goal through increasing conformity to militarism.

If, as Avi Spiegel states, "the sole face of America is too often the face of a soldier," then let us have less of the soldier, and let us never delude ourselves into believing that the goals of the peacemaker can be the same as, or even compatible with, the goals of an imperial dreadnought.

by: Mr. Colin G. Gallagher, RPCV (El Salvador)
Board Representative (MB / SC Contingent)
NorCal Peace Corps Association

cc: Avi M. Spiegel

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) on Thursday, September 04, 2003 - 9:20 am: Edit Post

The goal of military basic training is to condition the soldier to suppress the human inpulse to relate to another human. Instead, the soldier is trained to dehumanize the "enemy" so that, ultimately, the soldier is able to kill on command. That is what soldiers have to do.
The goal of peace corps training is to faciliate the volunteer to cross normal cultural barriers to be able to identify with and to work with those from another culture. That is what Volunteers have to do.
The two goals are mutually exclusive. I can not understand how the new Ready Reserve program will work - six months military training and service and then the rest of the obligation can be fulfilled by serving in other capacities...such as the Peace Corps. I think that is crazy making. I think this "bright idea" comes from those yahoos who run Washington and who, of course, have not served our country in any capacity.
War is the failure of peace making efforts. Peace is hard, hard work. As the daughter of a soldier,
I know, that there are times when those efforts fail and our nation's survival has depended on those brave men and women who have done the awful necessary work of war. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to serve my country without first having to learn how to kill.
I know that there are people, including serving PCVs and RPCVS, who get up every morning and work tirelessly all day, for peace. I salute you.
Now, how can we help Carol Bellemy who is trying to do precisely that work?

By anonymous on Thursday, September 04, 2003 - 11:44 am: Edit Post

Ready reserve is another federal program. Combining that service with Peace Corps service is not a bad idea. My experience was that x military people are not really wanted. Peace Corps volunteers are a representation of America. Military service is a reality for millions of Americans. Those Peace Corps Volunteers are just another aspect of American life.

I am again reminded that Peace Corps was basically set up like the military.

By Anonymous (c-69-139-255-59.hsd1.pa.comcast.net - 69.139.255.59) on Friday, March 07, 2008 - 10:49 pm: Edit Post

Want to help the cause. Who do I need to speak in order to do the visa sign-off and get in country? I don't need a pay check - just want to help. Luckdragone@hotmail.com


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