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Anti-Communism and Idealism : the Peace Corps and U.S. Foreign Policy in the Third World, 1960-1966

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Koerten, Jared
Oberly, James Warren, 1954-
Jul 15, 2009
Peace Corps (U.S.)--History; Peace Corps (U.S.)--Political aspects; Anti-communist movements--United States--History; Idealism, American--History--20th century; United States--Foreign relations--1963-1969; Cold War--Social aspects
This paper seeks to uncover the political motivations behind the creation of the Peace Corps in the United States. While many writers attribute both anti-Communism and idealism as impetuses behind the founding of the Peace Corps, an important trend in the relative importance of each of these factors over time remains unexplored. This thesis uses primary source documents to show how the United States perceived the importance of the Peace Corps in containing communism during the organization's formative years (1959-62). American volunteers would abate the root causes of Communist revolution like illiteracy and underdevelopment in the Third World. After its establishment, however, a sense of idealism became synonymous with the Peace Corps. During this period (post-1962), a romantic notion of the Peace Corps served to foster support for the organization both at home and abroad. Discussions of the organization's strategic importance in the Cold War disappeared. For the Peace Corps to remain effective in achieving the foreign policy goals of the United States, it had to appear apolitical. In examining actual program implementation, however, the rhetorical shift towards idealism appears to be only a facade, as programs remained committed to U.S. foreign policy in the Cold War.
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