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August 03, 2005

The Peace Army

Shakespeare's Sister has a good post on the McCain-Bayh bill that'd allow military recruits to fulfill part of their service obligations in the Peace Corps.  Apparently, the program was popped into the Defense Bill from a couple years ago and, well, funny thing, no one ever informed the Peace Corps.

Whoops.

I'm a little conflicted on the program, to tell you the truth.  On the one hand, it seems like a good idea to give recruits exhausted from the army a chance to wipe the blood from their hands and do some humanitarian work.  Nevertheless, I've got to come down against it for three reasons.

1) As Shakes said, it'll break down the traditional barrier between Peace Corps and military, potentially making Peace Corps volunteers targets overseas.  That's got to be avoided at all costs.

2) I fear it'll become nothing more than a way to trick uncertain kids into signing up for the army.  Even now, they're told that it'll be a breeze, they'll be out in a couple years with thousands of dollars for college, they'll just be doing a desk job.  Then they're sent to Iraq.  Add in this option that they could spend most of their time in Costa Rica building huts on the beach and, well, I've got a feeling desperate recruiters will leverage it both mercilessly and unethically.  I was talking to a recruiter the other day, in fact, and he said meeting quotas was impossible.  If it kept up like this, he thought they'd need a draft.

3) In addition to getting tricked into signing up, if you use the Peace Corps as a sweetener, folks might think they're joining for shorter tours.  Not necessarily.  In this age of stop-loss policies and constant rotations, you may not only never get to your Peace Corps portion, the short tour which you thought would be halved by humanitarian work can now stretch out years, and youll be called up in every future battle fought. 

Si I come down against.  I would love more funds, energy, and cash pushed towards national service in this country, but it's got to be done separately from the military.  All ways of serving the country should be honored, but that doesn't mean they should be mixed.  The Peace Corps should not be a sweetener to become a soldier.  It's not an incentive program, it's a powerful, free-standing portion of America's foreign relations strategy.  That we've neglected it in the past few uears is shameful.  We shouldn't compound the sin by perverting it into an arm of the military.

August 3, 2005 in Military | Permalink

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Comments

Also, there's no guarantee that the peace corps will let you in. You don't get a veteran's preference or anything. So if you're interested in the peace corps, which does offer some loan forgiveness, i.e. an education benefit, then you might as well just join the peace corps.

Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Aug 3, 2005 6:53:52 PM

My friend's girlfriend was in the Peace Corps and, from her description, some of the rotations sound more dangerous than Iraq. I guess I always imagined Peace Corps as a slightly-more-intense Habitat for Humanity. Her story was nothing like I pictured -- she was dropped off by herself in a remote village with the closest other Peace Corps volunteer miles away and no way to communicate with them if she got into trouble. She lived in a hut by herself with no windows or locks on the door and slept with a machete to protect herself from men that would roam around at night and break into different huts. Her only form of transportation was hitchhiking with (often questionable) strangers. The only protection she really had against being raped or murdered was her blue passport and the guts to use that machete if it came down to it. Oh, and she caught some horrible tropical disease that landed her in the hospital for 6 months.

So, Peace Corps may be preferable for the mission, but if you're choosing based on self-preservation, you might be better off in Fallujah.

Posted by: Becks | Aug 3, 2005 8:54:41 PM

perhaps more money for the ummm... video game industry instead then?

http://operationyellowelephant.blogspot.com/2005/08/but-its-only-game-blurring-lines-of.html

Posted by: d | Aug 3, 2005 9:14:02 PM

"On the one hand, it seems like a good idea to give recruits exhausted from the army a chance to wipe the blood from their hands and do some humanitarian work."

As someone who honorably served my country....Fuck you.

m

Posted by: m | Aug 3, 2005 9:31:44 PM

m - I suspect he meant it in a "take a break from our Eastern Front" way. Don't take it too literally.

Posted by: d | Aug 3, 2005 10:27:23 PM

I was talking to a recruiter the other day

Ezra, don't go! ;-)

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Aug 3, 2005 11:25:36 PM

The idea of Ezra "going quietly" is a little hard for me to get my head around. We should be ready for a rerun of "Good Morning Vietnam" if he was to enlist.

Posted by: opit | Aug 4, 2005 12:56:42 AM

I'm not aware of how much the Peace Corp has changed since the Kennedy administration, but I'd guess a lot.

The description of the service in Beck's comment suggests it has changed substantially - particularly in regards to spending (no communications!).

Anyway, sending military folks into the Peace Corps sounds guaranteed to undercut the message they proclaim.

We don't need a Peace Corp that sounds a lot like a Rovian twist on the War Corp.

We seem to be in a race between having a broken Army and Marine Corps worn down by inadequate recuiting and over-frequent tours in Iraq, versus Bush/Rumsfeld's obvious push to draw down the forces in Iraq after there is stability.

Only a fairly quick drawn-down in Iraq will likely save our military from the kind of decade-long readiness disaster that followed the end of the Vietnam conflict.

What happens if there is no stability in 2006?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 4, 2005 12:57:26 AM

Do you really care about the military readiness? The answer is conscription. This is the only war that I can think of in the last couple of hundred years in which we did not have conscription.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 4, 2005 5:40:37 AM

Blah, blah, blah, most people talking about conscription will never have to face it. No. It's silly.

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