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RE: [ujeni] NYT op-ed on Peace Corps

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  • sgeibel@netscape.net
    To me, embedding PCVs in the military isn t so scary as it is fundamentally absurd--to say that embedding greedy glory-hound reporters would be equivalent to
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 23, 2003
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      To me, embedding PCVs in the military isn't so scary as it is fundamentally absurd--to say that embedding greedy glory-hound reporters would be equivalent to embedding altruistic PCVs is terrific nonsense. There's a reason why MSF, IRC, and other similar emergency aid volunteers from good agencies rarely get killed, and that's because they steer well clear of any political/military involvement. PC may be government, but every villager knows that PC sure ain't the military's clean-up and goodwill unit-- it should stay that way. Let USAID do that job if it must, but I don't even care for that.

      And let's be honest here, how many of us would rush to "volunteer" to put our lives on the line to assist paid military and professional aid workers in *immediate* postwar recovery? I'm sorry, but show me the job and show me the money....

      Scott


      "varsha ghosh" <varshaghosh@...> wrote:

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      >From today's NYT-- I find this a scary concept--anybody else?
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      >OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
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      >Send in the Peace Corps
      >By AVI M. SPIEGEL
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      >efense 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.
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      >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.
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      >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.
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      >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.
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      >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.
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      >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.
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      >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?
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      >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.
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      >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.
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      >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.
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      >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.
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      >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.
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      >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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      >Anyone can slay a dragon, he told me, but try waking up every morning amp; loving the world all over again. That's what takes a real hero.
      >– Story people
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