Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's not about numbers

Edward Chmura at Japundit points to a Mainichi article that lists incidents since 1955 involving US forces in Okinawa that have resulted in fatalities.

He concludes, "While admitting that even one such act is horrible, and taking into account the fact that some such acts may not have been reported during the early years of The Occupation, this is still not such a bad record, everything considered."

This issue — and the outrage of Japanese citizens in Okinawa and elsewhere — is not about the number or even the intensity of the incidents. Looking at the numbers suggests that citizens are approaching the issue rationally. They're not. Nor, it could be argued, should they.

The occupation ended with the signing of the San Francisco treaty in 1951 and Okinawa reverted to Japanese control in 1972, but the enduring presence of US forces in Japan have served as a constant reminder of the psychic whiplash inflicted by the rapid shift from total war to atomic bombing to occupation to alliance. They are a constant reminder of the shame of losing the war and being occupied.

US forces in Japan are the symbol of Japan's compromised independence, a belief that unites Japanese across the political spectrum. After all, when the LDP formed in 1955, four years after the treaty that restored Japan's independence, the party still insisted that one of its main purposes was the restoration of Japan's full independence. To this day, conservatives chafe at the vestige of occupation that is the USFJ, even at the same time that they recognize the value of the alliance and demand measures to strengthen it and prolong the US forward presence.

Rapes, plane crashes and other incidents simply exacerbate tension that exists even at the best of times.

How much longer can this schizophrenia endure?

During the cold war, the alliance's existence depended on the stationing of US forces in Japan to bolster the US commitment to defend Japan. In the twenty-first century, the alliance's existence may depend on the removal of US forces, enabling Japan to take responsibility for its own defense.


James said...

I'm guessing that most Japanese aren't going to be won over by the "but the number of rapes our troops commit in your country is actually pretty low" argument.

Anonymous said...

The U.S. presence is a small price to pay for Japanese security... and for the magnanimity the U.S. has shown Japan historically. Japanese nationals and Okinawans too should be thankful for the U.S. presence. Of course this does not downplay the significance of badly behaving soldiers (by the way, whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?)
U.S. should be entitled to bases in Japan for another century.

Anonymous said...

It's still a very tough road ahead.
It's a shame that this sort of thing happens, but it happens everywhere - there are always bad seeds in the group. That's just life, and we can only do better to contain it and control it better.

Anonymous said...

but the number of rapes the troops committed is actually not low at all - compared to the number of rapes committed by US army personnel, both at home as well as in other places abroad, in Japan it is relatively high. even more so since a lot of crimes remain unreported.

what kind of price for what kind of security - there hasn't been an immediate threat to Japan's safety for at least the last 15 years - go home, unnecessary americans!

Bryce said...

"The U.S. presence is a small price to pay for Japanese security... and for the magnanimity the U.S. has shown Japan historically."


The defence of Japan is a small price to pay for the U.S. to safeguard its interests in Asia... And for the magnanimity that Japan, as an independent state since 1952, has shown the U.S. in offering those bases despite the fact that 50,000 young, mostly male, soldiers in close proximity to each other will cause obvious social problems.

Both of these views have merit, but I don't think it's particularly appropriate to talk about "magnanimity" at a time like this, especially when such "magnanimity" can be seen as merely a product of converging national interests.

Bryce said...

"compared to the number of rapes committed by US army personnel, both at home as well as in other places abroad, in Japan it is relatively high. "

Interesting. Have there been comparative studies to show that this is the case? Where would one find such data?

Anonymous said...

"Magnanimity" is the only word that can be used to describe the United States treatment of Japan since 1945. I am tempted to use more controversial words like "generosity" and "selflessness." We might be reminded of the northern territories issue...where the Soviets and now Russians refuse to budge on territorial issues (in 2008!) Okinawan sovereignty was returned in 1971. If the U.S. was so "self-interested" about hegemony in Asia, perhaps it would have held on to Okinawa rather than returning it.

I do not mean to downplay the seriousness of rape, but one writer spoke of the fact that rapes and sexual assaults are under-reported in Japan. This is an important point... sexual assaults by Japanese nationals ARE under-reported and under-investigated...

this is not the case for US servicemen. These extraordinarily rare events are immediately turned into a political circus... with partisans lining up to make the Americans look like the bad guy... The Marines and other US servicemen in Japan have the most thankless job in the world... protecting a prosperous people from attack and getting nothing in return but wretched complaints from Okinawans and morally pathetic opportunism from politicians in Nagatacho (the same politicians who refuse to admit guilt by Japanese military in Okinawa during the war...)
What hypocrisy... the selfishness of Okinawans and the central government make the US forces look like the angels in this fight.

Japan Observer said...


The US was not acting out of "Magnanimity."

US officials reasoned that the US could not afford "losing" Japan to the Soviets, so it did what was necessary to repel a Soviet invasion — a defense arrangement that guaranteed US involvement. If Japan was free or cheap riding, it was a price the US was willing to pay to secure its interests. To some extent, it is a price the US is still willing to pay, but for strategic reasons, not because the US is being charitable to poor, defenseless Japan.

US officials were magnanimous in the same way that Japanese officials were pacifistic.

I view the return of Okinawa in a similar light. Every concession the US has made to Japan, perhaps starting with the revised treaty of 1960, has been designed to assuage Japanese concerns in order to preserve an arrangement that US officials served US interests. The US didn't return Okinawa out of the goodness of its heart: it did so because to not return would undermine the relationship as a whole.(US concessions also reflect changes in Japan — a lot harder to treat Japan like a colony as it became a global economic power.)

Remember that the US itself has admitted that the Okinawa arrangement is unsustainable. And, as usual, the US made an agreement in 2006 that made a concession to Japan on the nuts and bolts of the alliance — the number and location of US forward deployments — to preserve the larger strategic relationship.