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Arthur Frommer: Rejecting an Army Made Life in Costa Rica Better | Frommer's  

Arthur Frommer: Rejecting an Army Made Life in Costa Rica Better

Of all the documentary films recently shown in America, one has a special relevance to the world of travel. It is called A Bold Peace, and it deals with the Central American nation of Costa Rica.  

To the extent that it showcases that country’s superb beaches, its forested mountains, and its beautiful cities, it is a superb travelogue, encouraging Americans to vacation there. (You can purchase our newly researched and just-published guide book to Costa Rica by visiting this link.)

But A Bold Peace goes much further by devoting most of its footage to the political and social viewpoints of the Costa Rica population, and especially to their decision in 1948 to eliminate their army.

Against the advice of so-called realists, the Costa Ricans deliberately left themselves defenseless by relying on a small civilian police force that has no access to cannons, missiles, tanks, or other military armaments.

That risk has apparently worked, and Costa Rica has been left alone by its impetuous Central American neighbors. When one of them recently encroached on Costa Rican territory, that little nation went to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, won its case, and recovered the land without the loss of life or money.

With the amount saved through the elimination of a military force, Costa Rica has been able to provide its citizens with free medical care (doctors actually make home calls), free college tuition, and other valuable social benefits.

The availability of these benefits has caused a great many elderly Americans to retire to Costa Rica, adding another layer of people to that country’s thriving tourism industry.

And several of Costa Rica’s presidents have been awarded Nobel Prizes or other honors, based on their shared decision to pass up an Army.

A visit there, and interaction with its residents, will supply food for thought.