entry in the how-in-the-hell-can-we-shore-up-recruitment-numbers sweepstakes:
The U.S. military, struggling to fill its voluntary ranks, is offering to allow recruits to meet part of their military obligations by serving in the Peace Corps, which has resisted any ties to the Defense Department or U.S. intelligence agencies since its founding in 1961.
This melding of the Peace Corps and the military has quite naturally raised concerns:
"Does this raise red flags for the Peace Corps community? I'd say yes -- emphatically so," said Kevin Quigley, president of the National Peace Corps Association, an organization of returned volunteers, staff and supporters. "We think a real or perceived linkage between the Peace Corps and military service could damage the Peace Corps and potentially put the safety of Peace Corps volunteers at risk."
Unfortunately we already know that putting lives at risk isn't really a concern for this administration...
This program was authorized by Congress three years ago but is only recently drawing attention because the Pentagon has begun to actively promote it. The legislation was sponsored by John McCain and Evan Bayh, with the laudable intention "to provide Americans with more opportunities to serve their country" but at a time of rising anti-American sentiments, particularly against our military, this is being met with grave concern:
"Democratic and Republican administrations alike have kept a bright line separating the Peace Corps from short-term foreign and security policies," Schneider said. "Blurring that sharp line is a bad idea, particularly now, given the unfortunate rise in anti-American sentiment following the Iraq war."
And indeed the sentiments being expressed by current voluteers clearly show why this policy is wrong:
"We are already accused on a daily basis of being CIA agents so I don't see how this [link to the U.S. military] could help," a volunteer in Burkina Faso said by e-mail.
"It is hard enough trying to integrate yourself into a completely different culture, convincing people that . . . Americans are not these gun-toting sex maniacs . . . without having a connection to the U.S. military," another volunteer in Africa wrote.
How the program works is a recruit, beyond being eligible for various cash and educational incentives, can fulfill nearly five years of his/her eight year committment in the Peace Corps or Americorps. The Peace Corps insists that their admission standards will not be changed, that no one is guaranteed a spot in the Peace Corps, and that they will maintain their independence within the executive branch.
But that isn't the issue...the issue is maintaining the clear separation of the Peace Corps from the U.S. military in the interest of the thousands of Peace Corps volunteer's safety. Of course, the safety of U.S. soldiers wasn't a concern when accepting torture as policy, so I suppose this argument won't hold much water either.