To win peace, restore [Peace] Corps

To win peace, restore [Peace] Corps

The following op-ed article in the Baltimore Sun is co-authored by Arthur Obermayer, a prominent founding member of the board of Meretz USA.

The United States can win any war on the battlefield, but we have not learned how to win the peace. We are losing the fight to win over the people we are trying to help. But there is a way to right our course for the future – by looking to our past ….

The one government entity with a positive record in this area is the Peace Corps. But despite the Peace Corps’ success since its inception in 1961, its budget has remained small.

President John F. Kennedy wanted 100,000 volunteers overseas within 10 years. Today – although 20 additional nations are seeking Peace Corps help and three times as many volunteers apply as can be accommodated – budgetary limitations have kept the number of volunteers down to 8,000. However, there are 190,000 alumni, represented by the National Peace Corps Association. They yearn for continuing involvement in a mission that has transformed not only their lives and those of people they have helped but also their perspectives on the world.

Among the alumni is Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, who served as a volunteer in the Dominican Republic. Based on that experience, he is sponsoring a bill to double the size of the Peace Corps. In the months after 9/11, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and President Bush both advocated major growth of the Peace Corps. Unfortunately, there was little follow-up. Click here for this entire article, published in the Baltimore Sun, Nov. 27.

By | 2007-12-03T05:16:00-05:00 December 3rd, 2007|Blog|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Anonymous December 3, 2007 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Hi Ralph,

    This is a nice concept, but it is misplaced. I appreciate and support the Peace Corps, but the authors seem not to know much about what it actually does.

    As an international development professional who has seen the Peace Corps function in a number of countries and worked with many volunters, I suggest that if you talk with most thoughtful Peace Corps volunteers they will tell you Peace Corps is a cross-cultural experience, and not largely about doing effective development work. And Peace Corps is most valuable for its impact on the US volunteers, in broadening their perspective on the world, and has less impact on the host communities themselves, though there are communites do also learn about the US.

    The actual development impacts of the work of Peace Corps volunteers are very limited because many field placements turn out not to be appropriate, and because generally young US volunteers often lack the skills and resources to do effective development work in a new country where they do not know the culture and language well. Good development work is generally accaomplished by supporting professionals from the same country, not by tens of young foreigners.

    In short, increasing the size of Peace Corps should be proposed first for its impact on broadending of understanding of US volunteers, which is a vlaubale goal, secondarily perhaps for broadening understandings in host communities, and last and least for development impacts.

    Peace Corps will not significantly impact how the US is viewed worldwide, however. Survey after survey has shown, that the negative views of the US are based on our policies, the most prominent examples now, with respect to Israel and Palestine, and Iraq.

    We cannot avoid that it is our fundamental policies that must be changed. Much of the rest is window-dressing, particularly the Peace Corps.


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