July 27, 2003 - Honolulu Advertiser: Peace Corps good for America

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: July 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: July 27, 2003 - Honolulu Advertiser: Peace Corps good for America

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, August 10, 2003 - 9:56 am: Edit Post

Peace Corps good for America





Read and comment on this op-ed from the Honolulu Advertiser by John Griffin who says that some will charge that the Peace Corps and its volunteers are window dressing for a militant megapower. And, in any event, the usually quiet work of the volunteers stands in contrast to the trials and dangers faced by those other patriotic volunteers in our military:
"But, as one who has served in both the military and Peace Corps, I see both as essential and valuable if not misused or confused. In that regard, one of the worst ideas I have seen was an article in the New York Times last week by a former volunteer suggesting that Peace Corps volunteers take their humanitarian roles into military hot spots such as Iraq, Afghanistan or Liberia to supplement or replace our troops. Some suggested that during the Vietnam War, but thankfully wiser heads prevailed."
Read the op-ed at:

Peace Corps good for America*

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



Peace Corps good for America

By John Griffin

The Peace Corps is even more important in times of war, as I was reminded on a recent evening here in Hawai'i. But it should not get mixed up in our shooting wars.

The Peace Corps was launched by President John F. Kennedy in early 1961 near the peak of the Cold War. During the Vietnam War, from the mid-1960s to 1975, it continued to send volunteers to other countries around the world.

Now we are in several real and potential wars the shadowy one against terrorism at home and abroad, the guerrilla conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tensions with North Korea. All that plus the struggle for public opinion in a world that often sees and fears a growing American neo-empire combining military might, global capitalism and culture, and missionary zeal for our brand of democracy.

Yes, I know some will charge that the Peace Corps and its volunteers are window dressing for a militant megapower. And, in any event, the usually quiet work of the volunteers stands in contrast to the trials and dangers faced by those other patriotic volunteers in our military.

But, as one who has served in both the military and Peace Corps, I see both as essential and valuable if not misused or confused.

In that regard, one of the worst ideas I have seen was an article in the New York Times last week by a former volunteer suggesting that Peace Corps volunteers take their humanitarian roles into military hot spots such as Iraq, Afghanistan or Liberia to supplement or replace our troops. Some suggested that during the Vietnam War, but thankfully wiser heads prevailed.

In its quieter way, the Peace Corps, with 6,678 volunteers (teachers, health workers, environmentalists, business consultants, etc.) in dozens of poorer countries, shows a real and important side of America our better nature, some might say.

Yet there are other aspects to consider. For the Peace Corps was founded and continues with three purposes to help other countries develop, to promote better understanding of the United States, and to help Americans understand the rest of the world.

While the Peace Corps has helped in the first two ways, I am in a majority who feels its greatest contribution has been to our own society. The point was well made recently by author-columnist Richard Reeves who observed that when Kennedy asked former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru what the latter thought of the Peace Corps, Nehru suggested it was a means through which privileged young Americans could learn a lot from the poor villagers of South Asia.

"Kennedy was not amused," Reeves wrote. "But Nehru, a prickly sort, turned out to be right. The greatest impact of the Peace Corps over the past 40 years has not been to bring sanitation or other modern wonders to the 'primitive' of the Earth, but rather to create a core group of tens of thousands of Americans who came home with some sympathetic knowledge or knowledgeable empathy for the way much of the world actually lives. Peace Corps alumni have enriched the United States beyond all hopes in politics and government, education and business."

So far the Peace Corps has brought home some 170,000 volunteers after two-year tours in 136 countries that have ranged from tiny island states to giants such as India, China and Russia.

Since 1961, Hawai'i has sent off some 1,200 volunteers, with perhaps 30 serving at any one time.

These alumni include members of Congress, ambassadors, and leaders in just about every profession and many businesses.

The Peace Corps volunteer "market" is currently up because of the 9-11 surge of patriotism, support from President Bush for doubling the number of volunteers, and the lack of jobs in our slow economy. Now it's up to a Congress struggling with budget pressures and some members who are against increases and want to cut Americorps, the Peace Corps' domestic counterpart.

I was thinking of this as I prepared to talk to a group of former volunteers here called Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Hawai'i, one of 140 such organizations around the country and part of a national network. Appropriately, in the modest Peace Corps manner, we met in a decorated Kapahulu carport near the more elaborate one of entertainer Sam Kapu.

I was not a Peace Corps volunteer, the group I most admire. Rather, back in 1963-64, I was in the more ominous (for volunteers) position of paid Washington staff member. My job was to fly off and evaluate Peace Corps programs in Asia and Africa, and training sites around the United States, including ones we had in Hawai'i, which was a conflict of interest I declared.

The Hawai'i group, with some 147 listed members, is just gearing up again after a lull. Among its activities is a TV program on 'Olelo Channel 52 at 9:30 Monday nights, "Bringing the World Back Home." It features interviews with returned volunteers. The group's Web site is www.rpcvhi.org.

This is a lively and interesting collection of younger returned volunteers and some staffers who have served in many countries, including, of course, those in Africa and Latin America. Without saying it, I got the feeling that most share my basic feeling that our years in the Peace Corps were some of the better ones in our lives to date and for many there is something to that slogan, "The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love."

Moreover, this is a group with potential for greater numbers and East-West activities. Some estimate there may be over 1,000 former volunteers living in Hawai'i, as well as many returned volunteers from Hawai'i now living on the Mainland or abroad.

It is, then, already a quietly impressive asset for Hawai'i, and one that should continue to grow. Let's hope Washington doesn't screw it up.



July 23, 2003 - Send in the Peace Corps?





Read and comment on the op-ed piece referred to in the previous piece from the New York Times on July 23, 2003 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.


\ch{line}
Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

7/23/03
Sign Up for News

News Sections
PCOL Magazine
Breaking News
One World
Peace Corps Library


What's New?

Sign Up for Directory

Directory Sections
RPCVs by COS
RPCVs by State
RPCVs by Interest


Contact PCOL

PCOL Library
Advocacy
Appropriations
Awards
Bulletin Board
Cartoons
Congress
Critics
Directors
Downloads
Headlines
History
Humor
Laws
Legislation
Letters
Local RPCV Groups
Lost RPCVs
Master Index
NPCA
Obituaries
PCVs
Photography
RPCVs
Recruitment
Return to COS
Safety of PCVs
Service
Speaking Out
States
Stories
The Third Goal
Training
US Peace Corps
USA Freedom Corps
Writing
Call Congress Now

Disaster ahead for Bush's PC Expansion Budget

President Bush has asked for $359M for FY 2004 to support his plan for Peace Corps expansion. Congress is getting ready to cut up to $45M from his request. Here's what you can do.
Top Stories and Breaking News
Send in the Peace Corps 23 July
Investigation on death of PCV 23 July
Peace Corps to Reopen in Jordan 22 July
Peace Corps Writers announce awards 22 July
Call Now - Disaster ahead for PC Budget 21 July
PC to get $49M less than requested 17 July
House passes Peace Corps Charter Bill 16 July
House Set to Vote on new PC Bill 16 July
Sen. Coleman's Speech at PC HQ 15 July
Peace Corps mum on PCV death 15 July
Sen. Coleman to push for PC accountability 15 July
Call Congress - PC Funding in Trouble 15 July
Kevin Quigley Named new NPCA President 14 July
RPCV says US will find WMD in Iraq 13 July
President Bush meets PCVs in Botswana 12 July
House to consider Peace Corps Bill 11 July
Kennedy and the Third Goal 11 July
FDA orders Lariam warning 10 July
RPCV Artist exhibits at Corcoran in DC 10 July
Volunteer Zack Merrill dies in Mali 8 July
Friends of Liberia issue call to action 8 July
PCV says Bush to visit Goree Island 4 July
RPCV gives the Indian River a voice 2 July
PCOL Magazine: July Issue
A Volunteer's Courage: Health Care for RPCVs
Issues with the Peace Corps Bill in Congress
Americorps' Failure: Lessons for the Peace Corps
RPCVs dump ton of coal at US Capital
German Peace Corps celebrates 40 years
Bill Moyers talks about America's Future

More Feature Stories
Protest at the Peace Corps
Returned Volunteers honor Jack Vaughn
Alcohol Abuse a big issue for PCVs in Central Asia
Peace Corps to add 1,000 AIDS/HIV volunteers
Op-ed: The Future of the Peace Corps
Marine Sergeant says PC is "truly hardcore"
RPCV is wheelchair basketball champion
Watch Director Vasquez on web tv
Malian President Touré Speaks at PC HQ
The Shrivers: A Special Legacy

Previous Issues and Special Reports
Exclusive: How RPCVs organized anti-war Ad
Improvements needed in Volunteer Support
From Russia with Love
Health Concerns: The Controversy over Lariam
GAO Reports on PCV Safety and Security
The Digital Freedom Initiative
PC/Washington: Senior Staff Appointments at PC HQ
PC Expansion: The Numbers Game?
Op-ed: Why Peace Corps needs Shriver's 4th Goal
When should PC return to Afghanistan?
RPCV Spy dies in Moscow
Op-ed: The Case for Peace Corps Independence
Preservation of an Independent Peace Corps
For the Peace Corps Fallen



Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Speaking Out

PCOL6983
79

.


Add a Message


This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.
Username:  
Password:
E-mail: