Monday, February 29, 2016

PF Mar 2016 - Military Presence in Okinawa - Pro Position

Resolved: The United States should withdraw its military presence from Okinawa.

This analysis begins here.

Pro Position

The arguments for the Pro position are often rooted in a fierce desire for independence in which many Okinawans desire automony from Japan. U.S. bases, which are supported by Japan, become a pawn in the struggle for throwing-off Japanese influence.  I think the best Pro positions will focus more fully on the U.S. Okinawan relations, and the strategic value of the military presence in Okinawa. There is a view that the U.S. expansion of its hegemony following the Second World War was nothing more than another powerful political entity engaged in good-old fashioned empire-building.

Pajon 2010:
The Japanese Constitution of 1947 prohibited the maintenance of armed forces and the recourse to war. The U.S. bases thus represented a kind of "insurance policy" guaranteeing homeland security. For the Americans, the facilities became part of U.S. military strategy, which relies on an international network of bases described by some analysts as an Empire. The restoration of sovereignty in 1952 did not, however, cover the Ryukyu archipelago, whose strategic importance in the eyes of Americans justified the continuation of a trusteeship. Okinawa was handed back to Japan 20 years later, in 1972.[8]

Clearly Japan has its own reasons for supporting U.S. presence in the region. Japan's minuscule military budget has allowed it to sink billions of Yen into the economic revitalization of the island nation allowing it to attain status as an economic power-house, while ensuring that the imposing bulwark of U.S. military strength was positioned far away in the remote Ryukyu prefecture. 

Bandow 2014:
The bases remain because no one else in Japan wants to host American military forces. Thus, Tokyo politicians have every incentive to keep the U.S. presence (about three-quarters of base area and more than half of 47,000 military personnel) concentrated in the most distant, least influential, and poorest prefecture. After a decade of negotiation Tokyo and Washington agreed in 2006 to move some Marines to Guam and shift Futenma airbase to the less populated Henoko district of Nago city. Few Okinawans were satisfied.
Three years later the Democratic Party of Japan took power and promised to address Okinawans' concerns. The party also advocated a more equal bilateral security partnership. But the Obama administration proved to be as intransigent as its predecessor, thwarting the efforts of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who eventually resigned.

Nevertheless Japan has a formidable defense force in comparison to other regional powers and could easily expand its operational capabilities which brings me to the first contention.

Japan Should Defend Itself

Recalling the horrors of World War II many fear the prospect of a fully-armed Japan. However, there has been a significant shift in the balance of power with China challenging territorial waters and a nuclear armed North Korea, the likelihood of a repeat of Japanese aggressiveness is unlikely.  But, like any modern, legitimate nation, Japan has a duty to defend itself.

Bandow 2010:
Many Japanese citizens are equally opposed to a larger Japanese military and more expansive foreign policy. Their feelings are understandable, given the horrors of World War II. However, the most fundamental duty of any national government is defense. If the Japanese people want a minimal (or no) military, that is their right. But they should not expect other nations to fill the defense gap.
Moreover, with an expected $1.6 trillion deficit this year alone, the United States can no longer afford to protect countries which are able to protect themselves. Washington has more than enough on its military plate elsewhere in the world.

Bandow argues the key to regional defense lies in cooperation between powerful nations like Japan, South Korea and India permitting a reduced U.S. presence in the region. It seems Japan has already made moves to strengthen its defensive position by permitting offensive operations.

White 2015:
Seventy years after the end of World War II, Japan has become a normal military power again.
Last week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe forced through Japan's lower house a law that abandons Japan's self-imposed limits on the use of armed force. It removes the barriers that prevented Japan exercising "collective self-defence" by fighting in support of other countries when Japan is not under direct attack, and from fighting outside the east Asian region.
This "reinterprets" Article 9 of Japan's constitution so radically that it now hardly matters whether the controversial clause is eventually repealed or not. It has become a dead letter.

While the power of Japan's defense force may seem insignificant one should not let appearances influence one's judgment. It is reported the Japanese defense forces intentionally maintain a low public profile. Nevertheless, they are trained by the U.S. military including some of the most highly-trained pilots in the region. They have conducted joint military operations for decades and were to play a strategic role in defending the nation from a potential Communist Russia invasion force which fortunately never came. 

Bandow 2014:
Devoting only one percent of its GDP to defense has allowed Tokyo to create a potent "Self-Defense Force." Spending more would enable Japan to build a military well able to deter Chinese adventurism. South Korea has twice the population and 40 times the GDP of the so-called Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as well as about every technological, financial, and diplomatic advantage imaginable. Seoul does not need America's assistance.
Australia, Vietnam, Singapore, and other countries have been boosting their military outlays in response to increasing Chinese assertiveness. India is expanding its involvement in Southeast Asia, acting as another counter to Beijing. While America should be watchful and wary, nothing on the horizon looks likely to overwhelm Washington's friends and allies.
Nor does America's Okinawa bastion have much military utility. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Ronald Fogelman admitted that the Marines "serve no military function. They don't need to be in Okinawa to meet any time line in any war plan."

Give Okinawa Back

A heavy cost was paid in the Second World War in the Battle of Okinawa.  Tens of thousands of U.S. troops died and hundreds of thousands Japanese and Okinawa citizens perished. Dubbed the "typhoon of steel", it was one of the most horrific campaigns of the U.S. "island-hopping" strategy allowing it to secure a nearby foothold from which to carry-out its offensive campaign against the Japanese nation. In many respect the Okinawans were caught in the middle. Now, more than 60 years later does it make sense for the U.S. to continue to occupy a significant part of the Okinawan homeland?Soviet communism has collapsed, China has most-favored trade status, South Korea is a formidable regional ally, Vietnam has normalized relations, and the entire balance of power has shifted. No longer is it possible for a nation to build an imperialist war-machine while the the rest of the world is unaware. The Okinawan people want more autonomy to decide what is best for their homeland and the U.S. should restore what they have taken.

Mitchell 2015:
According to a November 1949 Time magazine article titled “Okinawa: Forgotten Island,” between March and September 1949, U.S. service members had committed 29 murders, 18 rapes, 16 robberies and 33 assaults against the island’s 600,000 residents. The article described troops’ morale and discipline as worse than that of “any U.S. force in the world.”
Three years later, the plight of Okinawans grew even worse when the Treaty of San Francisco — which ended the U.S. occupation of mainland Japan — placed Okinawa under U.S. control. The island had become the victim of a new Washington mind-set that replaced the fight against Nazism with the Red Scare. Mao Zedong had taken China in 1949 and then the Korean War had broken out in 1950. Situated in the East China Sea, Okinawa was regarded by Washington and Tokyo as a bulwark against the expansion of communism. With this in mind, the U.S. embarked upon its second Battle of Okinawa.
Known locally as the time of “bayonets and bulldozers,” in the early 1950s U.S. troops drove Okinawan farmers from their land to make way for new or expanded military bases. One of the most infamous of these confiscations took place on the island of Iejima in 1955, where American troops first tricked residents into signing voluntary evacuation papers before dragging those who refused from their homes, bulldozing their farms and slaughtering their livestock.

These reports of U.S. strong-arm tactics were widely reported but admittedly there may have been little sympathy at the time as so many people on both sides paid such a high price for peace. Nevertheless, the suffering of Okinawans has continued.

Chanlett-Avery & Rinehart 2016:
The United States paid locals for the acquired land, but in some cases this purchase reportedly involved deception or outright coercion, using bulldozers and bayonets to evict unwilling residents. During the period of American administration, Okinawans had no political authority or legal redress for crimes committed by servicemembers—though the worst crimes were prosecuted through court martial. The Korean War and Vietnam War eras brought an influx of thousands of additional U.S. soldiers and added grievances to local residents, along with a major increase in revenue for businesses catering to GIs.[6]

As you research the Pro side, you will no doubt find many references to crimes and violence perpetrated by U.S. service personnel stationed in Okinawa. These reports in and of themselves may not be enough to convince a judge, however, because, while terrible, Con will present evidence which shows the crime rate at the hands of U.S. personnel is much lower than that perpetrated by Okinawans. Nevertheless, these reports are useful as part of a multi-contention position supporting the resolution, for example, a contention describing the injustice of land seizures, a contention describing crimes against locals, and a contention which describes the ecological and economic impacts of U.S. military activities on the island.

Taylor undated:
It goes without saying that military bases produced environmental degradation of various kinds. In the case of Okinawa, where such large proportion of the surface area of the main island is covered with bases, the bases have had a number of direct environmental impacts. However, they have also indirectly affected Okinawa’s environment through their effects upon its political economy, and thus, political ecology

Taylor describes some of the ecological impacts which have inspired opposition and activism on the part of environmental protectionist groups on the island. The ecological impact including the blocking of access to many off-shore fishing zones has taken a toll on Okinawans.

Despite the presence of large and noisy military facilities on the island, Okinawa is an increasingly popular tourist site for many regional visitors.  The growing Chinese middle class is drawn to Okinawa as a vacation destination because it is near-by and still exhibits some pristine tropical beauty.  This is something the local Okinawan administrators would love to exploit. But the U.S. presence impedes further economic development.

Pajon 2010:
Moreover, as the bases occupy about 20% of the main island of Okinawa, they strongly constrain traffic, which is constantly congested. With the urbanization of the last forty years, the bases have increasingly impinged on local communities (in terms of noise and pollution). They represent a real obstacle to the implementation of an economic development policy or urban planning by some municipalities.[12]

Pro debaters will have little difficulty finding plenty of evidence to support the major contentions I have outlined in this position.  I could go much, much deeper, but at this point in the season even novices should possess basic research skills and understand how to structure a case. Just be wary of highly biased sources.

This is a pretty good topic. Have fun with it.

Here is the Con position


Bandow, D. (2010) Japan Can Defend Itself, This article appeared on The National Interest Online on May 12, 2010, Cato Institute. accessed 2/16/2016 at:

Bandow, D. (2014) U.S. Should Close Bases on Okinawa: Bring Troops Home and Let Japanese Defend Japan, The Huffinton Post, 12/27/2014, Updated Feb 25, 2015 accessed 2/15/2015 at:

Chanlett-Avery, E., Rinehart, IE., The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and the Futenma Base Controversy, Congressional Research Service, January 20, 2016 accessed 2/15/2016 at:

Mitchell, J. (2015) The Battle of Okinawa: America’s good war gone bad, The Japan Times, mar. 30, 2015. Accessed 2/16/2016 at:

Pajon, C, (2010), Understanding the Issue of U.S. Military Bases in Okinawa, IFRI, Center For Asian Studies, June 2010, accessed 2/15/2016 at:

Taylor, J. (undated) Anti-Military and Environmental Movements in Okinawa (draft), accessed online 2/16/2016 at: - Note: this is a draft copy of Dr. Taylor's paper.

White, H (2015), Asia needs strong Japan to check rising China, The Age, July 21, 2015, accessed 2/16/2016 at:

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