Saturday, August 6, 2005
Regarding Alan Cooperman's Aug. 2 Federal Page article, "Peace Corps Option for Military Recruits Sparks Concern":
The Peace Corps is on a collision course with American foreign policy. As a parent of a Peace Corps volunteer who is leaving on assignment shortly, I believe this merging of the Peace Corps and military recruitment may have the effect of placing Peace Corps volunteers in harm's way, especially in Islamic nations.
I have administered Peace Corps training contracts, supervised volunteer recruitment efforts and served with volunteers on overseas programs. Because of my esteem for the Peace Corps, my wife and I encouraged our son to join.
Unfortunately, since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Peace Corps has increased dramatically its involvement in areas of American "strategic" concern. For example, Romania, one of the "coalition of the willing," is a central site for our military. Romania also uses Peace Corps volunteers in teaching, health and community-development missions. In Uzbekistan, the Peace Corps has been recruiting volunteers even though our military has been ordered out. The Peace Corps is sending volunteers to Jordan, even though some of the insurgent leadership in Iraq includes Palestinian terrorists from that country.
President Bush should rescind this recruitment policy. It is difficult to believe that many military recruits will be motivated to join up because of this option, and American youth's general lack of interest in military service won't be changed by recruitment
The Peace Corps has more qualified applicants than its limited budget can support. Congress needs to increase funding to expand the Peace Corps. However, if potential or serving volunteers believe that they may be perceived as spies or as an extension of the Pentagon, one of the few American institutions that has helped to build a positive image abroad will be destroyed.