In response to the lack of progress in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American Army has recently sketched out a new plan of “counter-insurgency”. They’re calling it “armed social work” - new specialist units sent to help organize civil reconstruction of communities among other traditional tactics such as training and improving the performance of local allies. (good article from The Economist and the 282-page most-recent American political treatise, Counterinsurgency)
It sounds like the 21st century soldier will consist of Marines who go through three months of language and development training and/or Peace Corps Volunteers who go through boot camp and are given a gun.
Why has the idea of development work not been at the top of the agenda since we pulled Saddam from that hole in the ground? Through the military’s attempting to decrease the threat of violence to the United States and help create sustenance in that country (which are kind of the same thing), the American government has sacrificed what every other battle has sought to defend – our freedom to live without fear.
Nonetheless, we have stayed and we have fought. Reports show the Government has spent X trillion dollars since the Iraq war began in 2003. Not to mention the body counts.
In 2008, the US Government spent another $600M+ (exact quote) to recruit and advertise for the Army (www.thebudgetgraph.com), an organization for average citizens that is evolving into armed development work, as mentioned.
In 2008, the US Government will also spend $331M to fund the Peace Corps, a development organization for average citizens.
To compare these two statistics, the government is spending about twice as much money convincing people to join an organization shifting towards development work, than an entire organization that already does.
Since 1961, the Peace Corps has focused on developing communities and establishing relationships with other countries. On a razor thin budget, it has not only strengthened communities in poor countries, it has exposed thousands of Americans to the world outside its borders.
With the Army now adapting the 47-year-old Peace Corps strategy and at a time when it is imperative Americans strengthen their reputation abroad the government needs to seriously rethink the budget distribution.
Monday, February 04, 2008