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General Zinni comments on AWSC national service

General Anthony Zinni on the American World Service Corps Congressional Proposals

Interviewed by Freedoms Forum’s Bob Aucone.

Portion of the video tape from November 2006 in Washington D. C.

In asking about “national service,” Freedoms Forum asks Four Star General Zinni about the volunteer national service proposal “coming out of the 6th CD,” Peoples Lobby’s citizen-initiated American World Service Corps (AWSC) Congressional Proposals.

Aucone:  “Freedoms Forum is following a citizen-initiated proposal that is coming out of the 6th (Congressional) District in California, which is where we’re from. It is a proposal for voluntary national service that the government would pass legislation to incentiviize people joining, ah, this national service.  Either serving in the Peace Corps or Red Cross or Doctors without Borders, Habitat for Humanity.  All of these organization that you call non-governmental organizations, NGOs.

“Is there a place for that kind of partnership between military and NGOs to provide a stable world out there, where if we have more people that would be encouraged to participate in that kind of service that we would have, perhaps, a more stable world?”

General Zinni:  “Well, I think a national volunteer program would be fantastic.  When I teach my college course, I see so many students that want to put something back, what to do something for the world.  I think a national volunteer program should have everything in it.  It should include the option of military service.  It should include the option of other governmental service, serving internships with our state department or maybe the USA AID, which provides assistance out there, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and with non-governmental organizations, where there can be placement and recognition for time spent there.

To me, all those provide service not only internationally but domestically.  I could see where this sort of volunteerism would have been effective for Hurricane Katrina, or elsewhere.  So we could have international and domestic.  I would like to see our government capture all the options, build the program, “and then put it in out high schools and colleges as an option.  So on career day you can look at these steps and these options and this would be explained as to where you feel you can best serve.

“Some people feel best that they can serve in uniform.  Others in doing some sort of humanitarian work.  Others in maybe working in government to help better create institutions, like rule of law institutions, or working with others in the area of diplomacy, or in other things that can support our effort.

“So I would like to see a broad based program that allows for all this.

“In terms of partnership, when you talk military and NGOs, you have to be a little careful, because many NGOS cannot be seen to be too closely tied to military. They have to maintain their neutrality.  The basis for their support may be faith based, or based on a principle like the Red Cross of neutrality or non-violence, and they could lose their credibility or effectiveness.  So it’s not that they object to the military or what they do in any way, our military particularly.  It’s that they have to retain that.  So you have to build that partnership very carefully.

“When we were in Somalia, we had some organizations that could not be seen as associating directly with us.  They appreciated the fact that we were trying to create a secure environment to allow them to operate.  But if it looked like they were working with the military, they may alienate certain elements of the society they were trying to help or make enemies.  So we had to do the coordination and cooperation on an information-sharing basis but not be seen as essentially cooperation.  That could be managed.  That can be done.  And not be seen as some sort of cooperation.

”When the military gets in the humanitarian business, sometimes it competes with them.  And sometimes we may not be the experts.  They know things about local diet.  They know things about constructing local markets that can stand on their own.  When the military comes in and tries to influence that it may not be the right course.  We’re not expert in that.  So they should have the lead.  The military should stick primarily, other than emergency relief, to providing that secure environment that allows them to work.

“So it has to be structured in a careful way.  The relationships are complicated.  But I would say one thing about going back to the point about national service program offered to our youth.  Don’t exclude anybody.  Don’t say that’s alternate service to the military

Because right away you are creating two sides to this.  It should be all encompassing.  You know when you talk about national service, there should be the option to serve in uniform or to serve in one of the other areas.  I think there are many possibilities here.  I mean, I listed three – military service, or working with governmental organizations non-military, or non-governmental organizations.  And there may be other options to throw into that service.”