Holbrooke as a Country Director in the Peace Corps

 

 

George Packer

Reading though George Packer’s (Togo 1982-83) 590 page book: Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and The End of the American Century I came across two paragraphs on Holbrooke’s brief career working for the Peace Corps.

On page 144 of his book, Packer writes how Holbrooke left his position with Kissinger and the State Department and decides to leave the country. George writes, “After working on staffs for five years, he [Holbrooke] also wanted to be in charge of something. That was impossible for an FSO-4, which he had just become, on the normal unimaginative embassy career path. So he looked into the Peace Corps, asked for a country program to run, and studied Arabic at the Foreign Service Institute….”

He was given Morocco by Joe Blatchford, the Peace Corps Director, and he lasted one year (1970-71) on the job.

Packer writes:

There isn’t much to tell you about the Peace Corps years. Holbrooke had 176 people and a half-million-dollar budget to supervise. He traveled around the country and was popular with the volunteers. “I wish I had half a dozen Holbrookes working for me,” the rating officer wrote in his evaluation. Holbrooke would call it the best job he ever had. But Morocco never go under his skin. He was waiting out the Nixon administration.

 

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  • I was a TEFL Volunteer in Morocco when Holbrooke was briefly the country director. He visited me in my site and observed me teaching and, most important, took me out to dinner and paid for it.

    There’s a funny story about our pre-swearing-in party. This young guy (he wasn’t 30 yet I don’t think) shows up at the event and none of us know who he is/had ever seen him before. Some of the female PCVs were dancing with him, not knowing who he was, and telling him some of the inevitable Volunteer gossip. Later the next day this guy shows up and swears us in!!

    Craig Storti

  • What I remember from the earliest days is that with the creation of the PC Agency, suddenly a bunch of FS (Foreign Service)-rated positions became available, on all levels, and a corresponding bunch of State Dept people treading water, looking for the next rating promotion, jumped at them. Because of the then-policy if PC independence from the foreign policy “establishment”, this must have been a challenge for Dir Shriver.

    I remember speaking to one of the State Dept-to-PC hires about the then-popular idea for internationalizing the PC, and joining hands with VSO, CUSO, and the other organizations with similar mission. I remember the State Dept man saying that the US Gov’t would never agree to that — because it wanted to get maximum credit for what it was doing (i.e. the PC). It sounded to a new volunteer totally contrary to what the PC effort was supposed to be about.

    Today, as far as I can tell, today’s PC is essentially run as an adjunct to the State Dept program and purposes, and there is none of the original “independence” as originally envisioned. And every now and then some congressman will propose that PCVs be recruited and assigned as agents and apologists for existing US Gov’t policy — whatever it might be at the moment. A lot has changed since 1961 !

    John Turnbull Ghana-3 Geology and Nysasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment, 1963, -64, -65.

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