As reported in the Washington Post, the Obama administration announced that the U.S. will move 9000 Marines off Okinawa to other locations in the Pacific. While this may have sidestepped a politically volatile issue in its relations with Japan, the problem of the Futenma Base still remains, and the expansi0n of troops and bases in other locations in the Pacific may be spreading the seeds of opposition:
The U.S. and Japanese governments said Thursday that they will move about 9,000 Marines off Okinawa to other bases in the Western Pacific, in a bid to remove a persistent irritant in the relationship between the two allies.
The Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa has been seen by both sides as essential to deterring Chinese military aggression in the region. But the noisy air base’s location in a crowded urban area has long angered Okinawa residents, and some viewed the Marines as rowdy and potentially violent.
This plan will relocate 2700 Marines from Japan to Hawaiʻi. The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported “Hawaii must prepare for move of up to 2,700 Marines, Inouye says”:
The U.S. will move as many as 2,700 Marines from Japan to Hawaii as the Pentagon scales back a $21.1 billion blueprint for Guam, U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye confirmed today.
“This troop movement will occur after extensive discussions with the leaders of Japan and it highlights Hawaii’s importance as the focus of our national defense shifts to the Asia-Pacific region,” Inouye said.
The Pentagon is expected to announce as soon as tomorrow that it intends to send about 4,700 U.S. Marines now stationed in Japan to Guam, as previously reported, as well as the contingent going to Hawaii, according to two people familiar with the plan, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan hasn’t been made public.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done (in Hawaii) to prepare for their arrival,” Inouye said. “We must build more housing, secure more training areas and improve and expand infrastructure while working with the counties and the state to make certain the Marines transition easily into their new duty station in Hawaii.”
This decision is being leaked in advance of a formal announcement. However, no environmental/social/cultural impact analysis has been done to address securing “more training areas” and develoment to “improve and expand infrastructure”. This is typical of the military decisions in Hawaiʻi: plans are made, studies (when they are done) are written to order to justify the decision, and political bosses make pronouncements as if they were commandments from God. And, just in case anyone had objections or doubts about these plans, Senator Inouye made clear how the people of Hawaiʻi are supposed to respond:
The one thing I am confident of, is that the people of Hawaii will welcome these brave men and women and their families with Aloha,” said Inouye.
In other words, the profoundly sacred Kanaka Maoli concept of “aloha” has been hijacked and turned into a kitsch tourist slogan, whose flip-side is a weapon to silence dissent and suppress political protest.
Jon Letman’s latest article, “Without question: US military expansion in the Asia-Pacific” discussed the U.S. military’s Pacific ‘pivot’:
As Noam Chomsky wrote in this two-part essay, America’s “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific region is in response to what it calls “classic security dilemmas” posed by the rising influence of China and Russia. Reacting with military programmes and strategies it says are “defensive”, this US “pivot” is perceived as bullying, threats and intrusion – in other words more of the same – by those most impacted by America’s foreign military presence.
The “classic security dilemma makes sense”, Chomsky argues, if one operates under the assumption that the US has “the right to control most of the world, and that US security requires something approaching absolute global control”.
As Letman noted:
Hawaii’s role in all this is enormous. Hawaii represents a fraction of one per cent of the United States’ land area and has just 1.37 million people, but is home to 119 total military sites, making Hawaii effectively a giant floating military garrison from which troops and military hardware are dispatched around the world.
Not a dozen miles from tourist-packed Waikiki Beach is Camp HM Smith, headquarters of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) which oversees military operations in roughly half the world from the Bering Sea to the Antarctic and across the entirety of the Pacific Ocean as far west as Central Asia, Pakistan and the southern Indian Ocean. Over half the world lives within USPACOM’s “area of responsibility” including China, India, Indonesia, Japan and 32 other countries.
The military bases in Hawaiʻi and the bloated U.S. defense budget has been justified as a jobs creation program: military Keynesianism. But it is a myth that military spending is the best way to create jobs. Letman explored this contradiction:
Rather than question an economy based on weapons, violence and control, the American public largely forfeits any protest in favour of the holy four-lettered word, JOBS. But the argument that the military and defence industry is an indispensable source of jobs is deflated when one reads a study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst which finds that $1 billion spent on military production creates 8,600 direct and indirect jobs. But that same amount of money invested in clean energy, health care or education could produce between 12,000 and 19,000 jobs.
This, however, is not a debate that is being waged by the wider American public. In fact, like the subjects of our foreign bases, drone warfare and the US military’s impact on people in the Asia-Pacific, it’s largely overlooked. In general, Americans spend little or no time considering the plight of people in other nations – especially small islands – whose land, sea, ports and resources are used to test, train and store US military hardware and personnel. Whatever the costs may be to local populations in terms of environmental damage, social disruption, economic coercion and an increased danger simply by hosting US bases goes undiscussed.
Curiously, despite the fact that in 2011 the US defence budget was well over $700 billion – far exceeding the combined defence budgets for China, Russia, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, the UK and Japan – a recent Rasmussen telephone survey reveals one in four Americans believe the US is still not spending enough of its military.
But as the Asia-Pacific “pivot” brings more testing, training and deployments to accommodate weapons and warriors fanning out across half the world, Americans would do well to pay closer attention to the vast human and financial resources its government demands. The time is long overdue to consider that what we call “defensive” is to so many around the world seen as offensive.
As Bruce Gagnon said just prior to going to Jeju island, “This has nothing to do with defending the United States or its people against attack. It has everything to do with corporate profits and power.”
Relocating U.S. bases and troops is like BP spraying chemical dispersants on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: it only makes the problem sink, spread out and persist. As peoples movements of Ka Moana Nui (the Vast Ocean) have demanded, we demand a reduction of U.S. military foces, the removal of bases and the restoration of people to military-occupied lands.