Robert L. Strauss writes: The Peace Corps Is Not a Potent Diplomatic Weapon

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: 2008.04.01: April 1, 2008: Headlines: COS - Cameroon: Country Directors - Cameroon: Criticism: Foreign Policy: Robert L. Strauss writes: The Peace Corps has never lived up to its purpose or principles : Robert L. Strauss writes: The Peace Corps Is Not a Potent Diplomatic Weapon

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-135-9-78.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 70.135.9.78) on Sunday, April 27, 2008 - 4:56 pm: Edit Post

Robert L. Strauss writes: The Peace Corps Is Not a Potent Diplomatic Weapon

Robert L. Strauss writes: The Peace Corps Is Not a Potent Diplomatic Weapon

Robert L. Strauss has been a Peace Corps Country Director, recruiter, consultant, and Volunteer. Earlier this year Strauss wrote an op-ed for the New York Times asserting that "Too often young volunteers lack the maturity and professional experience to be effective development workers in the 21st century." Now Strauss has a longer piece in "Foreign Affairs" that says that the Peace Corps has "never lived up to its purpose or principles." Read and comment on the seven myths about the Peace Corps that Strauss refutes.

"With diplomats stuck inside barricaded compounds or loath to venture from expatriate residential ghettos, a Peace Corps volunteer is likely to be the only representative of the U.S. government that poor, rural populations ever see. As the State Department cuts back on its public diplomacy and cultural exchange programs, the Peace Corpsí predominantly young volunteers wind up carrying more and more of the responsibility for demonstrating that the United States still has good intentions abroad. That puts the Peace Corps and its volunteers in an awkward position. The Peace Corps was created as a separate, independent agency so that it would not be subject to short-term foreign-policy objectives. Volunteers arenít trained or expected to represent the U.S. government, its positions, or its interests. When the Peace Corps is characterized as an effective diplomatic weapon, it is thanks to the goodwill that volunteers generate toward the American people, not toward official U.S. policy."

Readers can respond directly to "Foreign Policy" by sending and email to Moisés Naím, editor in chief mnaim@CarnegieEndowment.org


Robert L. Strauss writes: The Peace Corps Is Not a Potent Diplomatic Weapon

Think Again: The Peace Corps

By Robert L. Strauss

Posted April 2008

In the eyes of Americans, no government agency better exemplifies the optimism, can-do spirit, and selfless nature of the United States than the Peace Corps. Unfortunately, itís never lived up to its purpose or principles.

Myth: ďThe Peace Corps Is a Potent Diplomatic WeaponĒ

No. With diplomats stuck inside barricaded compounds or loath to venture from expatriate residential ghettos, a Peace Corps volunteer is likely to be the only representative of the U.S. government that poor, rural populations ever see. As the State Department cuts back on its public diplomacy and cultural exchange programs, the Peace Corpsí predominantly young volunteers wind up carrying more and more of the responsibility for demonstrating that the United States still has good intentions abroad.

That puts the Peace Corps and its volunteers in an awkward position. The Peace Corps was created as a separate, independent agency so that it would not be subject to short-term foreign-policy objectives. Volunteers arenít trained or expected to represent the U.S. government, its positions, or its interests. When the Peace Corps is characterized as an effective diplomatic weapon, it is thanks to the goodwill that volunteers generate toward the American people, not toward official U.S. policy.

Unfortunately, of the tens of millions of people with whom Peace Corps volunteers have interacted during the last 47 years, many have no idea what the Peace Corps is. Few have any idea that the Peace Corps is a U.S. government agency funded 100 percent by American taxpayers. On the plus side, over my five years as a country director in Cameroon, hundreds of villagers and officials told me how happy they were simply to have volunteers in their communities. Less encouraging is that just as often, I was told how fondly they remembered the Peace Corps volunteer from Rome, Paris, or Tokyo. Itís tough to be an effective diplomatic weapon and build goodwill among nations if people donít understand what nation you came from in the first place.

Robert L. Strauss has been a Peace Corps country director, recruiter, consultant, and volunteer. He is a recipient of the State Departmentís Meritorious Honor Award and lives in Madagascar, where he runs a management consulting company. He can be reached at RobertLStrauss@hotmail.com.




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: April, 2008; Peace Corps Cameroon; Directory of Cameroon RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Cameroon RPCVs; Country Directors - Cameroon; Criticism; Diplomacy





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Story Source: Foreign Policy

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Cameroon; Country Directors - Cameroon; Criticism; Diplomacy

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