Militarism is the "belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests" [Source: Apple Dictionary, Version 1.0.2]. It has also been defined as "aggressiveness that involves the threat of using military force" Online die.net dictionary, as well as "Glorification of the ideals of a professional military class" and "Predominance of the armed forces in the administration or policy of the state" American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
Under the justification of force, militarism asserts that civilian populations are dependent upon — and thereby subservient to —the needs and goals of its military. Common tenets include advocation of "peace through strength" as the proper method to secure the interests of society — and is expressed as one that overrides all others; including traditional precursory diplomatic relations and issues related to social welfare. Militarism is essentially undemocratic and antidemocratic. Therefore, it is not part of the culture of democratic societies but flourishes in those subjected to totalitarian theories like fascism.Militarism is sometimes contrasted with the concepts of comprehensive national power and soft power and hard power.
This quality may be identified in economic terms by several methods; including the determination of those nations with large modern militaries requiring large or substantially higher budgets than the average among nations to maintain large military forces (as of 2005 viz United States, the People's Republic of China, Russia) or to expand such forces (as of 2005 viz Israel, Kuwait, Singapore), or to nation-states devoting substantial portions of their GDPs per capita to develop such forces (as of 2005 viz. North Korea, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia).
Militarism, in practice, is a preference toward goals, concepts, doctrines, and policies that will be carried out by the threat or actuality of military force. Militarism does not require that the direction come from members of the military, as there may be militarist policies in society that has civilian control of the military. There are intermediate cases where former active military officers have taken control of civilian posts and hold both military and civilian titles. In nonmilitaristic societies such as the United States or the United Kingdom, freedom of speech and association, and the right to petition government provides for the formation of groups formed by civilians, former military members and veterans and their families to promote, represent or lobby for the different military services goals, concepts, policies and doctrines.
In a democratic republic, a central component of the state constitution is the body of rules concerning how military rule (martial law, and executive powers) may be implemented, and how such powers are to be returned to the elected government.
Historic and modern manifestations of militarism
Militarism tends to be considered as a direct opposition to self described peace movements in modern times. Today characteristics of militarism are observed by critics in several nations and groups of nations; viz. the loosely allied Anglo-Saxon powers (led by the United States), the People's Republic of China, France, Israel, Syria, and Russia.
Militarism is most clearly observable in the history of nation-states and empires when they engaged in imperialism or expansionism; viz. British Empire, Empire of Japan, Nazi Germany, New Roman Empire of Mussolini, the expansion of the Russian SFSR into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and later reign of Joseph Stalin, Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein, and the United States during the period of Manifest Destiny and army reform. An example of militarism in ancient history would be the Greek city state of Sparta.
The fact that a nation, through universal conscription, maintains a large standing army in times of peace does not necessarily make it a militarist state; prior to the First World War most European nations (except Great Britain) maintained such an army, yet not all had a government which could be defined as militaristic. Prior to the First World War in Germany, however, the armed forces were the strongest influence in government, and at times used their influence to override the civil power. Additionally, most Chancellors and some leading German political figures in this period were serving or retired officers in the armed forces. There was a strong culture of nationalism and deference towards the Kaiser. The Captain of Köpenick incident in 1906 is considered in Germany as an iconic example of that era's attitudes
The roots of German militarism can be found in the history of Prussia during the nineteenth century, and the subsequent unification of Germany under Prussian leadership. After Napoleon conquered Prussia, early in the nineteenth century, one of the conditions of peace was that Prussia should reduce her army to not more than forty-two thousand men. In order that the country should not again be so easily conquered, the king of Prussia enrolled the permitted number of men for one year, then dismissed that group, and enrolled another of the same size, and so on. Thus, in the course of ten years, it would be possible for him to gather an army of four hundred thousand men who had had at least one year of military training. The officers of the army were drawn almost entirely from among the land-owning nobility. The result was that there was gradually built up a large class of professional officers on the one hand, and, on the other, a much larger class, the rank and file of the army. These men had become used, in the army, to obeying implicitly all the commands of the officers, creating a class-based culture of deference.
This led to several results. Since the officer class furnished also most of the officials for the civil administration of the country, the interests of the army came to be considered the same as the interests of the country as a whole. A second result was that the governing class desired to continue a system which gave them so much power over the common people, contributing to the continuing influence of the Junker noble classes.
Militarism in Germany continued after the First World War and the fall of the German monarchy. During the period of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), the Kapp Putsch, an attempted coup against the republican government, was launched by disaffected members of the armed forces. After this, some of the more radical militarists and nationalists were subsumed into the Nazi Party, while more moderate elements of militarism declined. Nazi Germany was a strongly militarist state; after its fall in 1945, militarism in German culture was dramatically reduced, as a backlash against the Nazi period.Japanese militarism
In parallel with 20th century Germany's militarism, Japanese militarism began with a series of events by which the military gained prominence in dictating Japan's affairs. This was evident in 15th century Japan's Sengoku Period or Age of Warring States where powerful samurai warlords or shogun played a significant role in Japanese politics. Japan's militarism is deeply rooted in the ancient samurai tradition, centuries before Japan's modernization.
Even though a militarist philosophy was intrinsic to the shogunates, a nationalist style of militarism came in under the Meiji Restoration. It is exemplified by the 1882 Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors. Still, there was a distinct change, roughly in the 1920s, from two main factors. One was the Cabinet Law that required the Army and Navy to name serving officers as Army and Navy Minister before a cabinet could be formed, essentially giving the military a veto over any cabinet in the ostensibly parliamentary country. Another factor was gekokujo, or institutionalized disobedience by junior officers . It was not uncommon for radical junior officers to press for their goals, to the extent of assassinating seniors.
Centuries of civil wars have brought about rigid military rule and secured a place for the military in government affairs only to last until Japan's unconditional surrender in World War II after the United States brought about democracy to the once militaristic state. With this dictatorial power, Japan invaded the Republic of China in 1931 and overtook half of Chinese land within 11 years, and finally spread the Second World War to the Pacific by the Pearl Harbor Attack.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries political and military leaders reformed the US federal government to establish a stronger central government than had ever previously existed for the purpose of enabling the nation to pursue an imperial policy in the Pacific and in the Caribbean and economic militarism to support the development of the new industrial economy. This reform was the result of a conflict between Neo-Hamiltonian Republicans and Jeffersonian-Jacksonian advocates over the proper administration of the state and direction of its foreign policy--between proponents of professionalism based on business management organizations and fuller local control by available figures-including amateurs.
After the end of the American Civil War the national army fell into disrepair. Reforms based on various European states including Imperial Britain, Imperial Germany, and Switzerland were made so that it would become responsive to control from the central government, prepared for future conflicts, and develop refined command and support structures; it led to the development of professional military thinkers and cadre.
During this time the intellectual ideas of Social Darwinism propelled the development of an American Empire in the Pacific and Caribbean. This required modifications for a more efficient central government due to the added administration requirements.
The enlargement of the US army for the Spanish-American War was considered essential to the occupation and control of the new territories acquired from Spain in its defeat (Guam, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba). The previous limit by legislation of 24 000 men was expanded to 60 000 regulars in the new army bill on 2 February 1901, with allowance at that time for expansion to 80 000 regulars by presidential discretion at times of national emergency.
Again, US forces needed massive enlargement for the First World War. Officers such as George S. Patton were permanent captains at the start of the war but received temporary promotions to colonel, but reverted to low rank after the military cutbacks. There was no real concept of a standing large military until the very late thirties, with the draft instituted with the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940.
Between the first and second world wars, the US Marine Corps, while reduced, did engage in questionable activities in the Banana Wars in Latin America. Retired Major General Smedley Butler, at the time of his death the most decorated Marine, with two Medals of Honor, spoke strongly against a trend to what he considered trends toward fascism and militarism. The Latin American expeditions ended with Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy of 1934.
He briefed Congress on what he described as a business plot for a military coup, for which he had been suggested as leader; the matter was partially corroborated, but the real threat has been controversial. There is little evidence that any serious military coups were planned in the US. Even during the American Civil War, officers sympathetic to the Confederacy resigned their commissions rather than mutinied. Robert E. Lee, suggested as the overall Union commander, felt that his greater loyalty was to his home state, and regretfully resigned from the US Army.
Even after the Second World War, there were major cutbacks, such that units responding early in the Korean War, under United Nations authority (e.g., Task Force Smith) were understrength, underequipped, and undertrained, resulting in catastrophic performance. It should be noted that when Harry S. Truman, the ultimate civilian authority, fired Douglas MacArthur, the tradition of civilian control held and MacArthur left without any hint of military coup. While he received a hero's welcome on his return, and there were even trial balloons of running for the presidency, in his own words, in a farewell address to Congress, "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away." "And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away — an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Good-bye."
Serious permanent buildups were a result of the Cold War. Dwight D. Eisenhower, a retired top military commander elected as a civilian President, warned of the development of a military-industrial complex, more complex than many traditional ideas of militarism. In the Cold War, there emerged many civilian academics and industrial researchers, such as Henry Kissinger and Herman Kahn, that had significant input into the use of military force.
It has been argued that the United States has, since the end of the Vietnam War, shifted to a state of neomilitarism, which is a form of militarism adapted to the constraints of an advanced market society. It is distinguished by the reliance on a relatively small number of volunteer fighters; heavy reliance on complex technologies; and the rationalization and expansion of government advertising and recruitment programs designed to promote military service.
Israel's many security difficulties since the establishment of the State have led to a prominence of security in politics and civil society, resulting in many of Israel's top politicians being former high ranking military officials (partial list: Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Ezer Weizman, Ehud Barak, Shaul Mofaz, Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Mordechai, Amram Mitzna). On the other hand, the military culture of the Israel Defence Forces has been affected greatly by the civilian culture. Israeli culture is much less formal and regimented than
Israel's many security difficulties since the establishment of the State have led to a prominence of security in politics and civil society, resulting in many of Israel's top politicians being former high ranking military officials (partial list: Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Ezer Weizman, Ehud Barak, Shaul Mofaz, Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Mordechai, Amram Mitzna). On the other hand, the military culture of the Israel Defence Forces has been affected greatly by the civilian culture. Israeli culture is much less formal and regimented than most and this has spilled over into the military, especially since the vast majority of the officers and soldiers are reservists who bring their civilian background and behavioural norms into the army when they are mobilized (an example is the minimum of formality between separate ranks - commanders often being called by name rather than by rank by their subordinates, very little saluting except in ceremonies and such-like). Also the army has been entrusted with many civilian missions (social work, providing teachers in areas where they are lacking and so on), and this too has had its effect on the way army career personnel view the role of the army and their commitment to civilian society and norms (see ).
Gender and U.S. Bases in Asia-Pacific
Ellen-Rae Cachola, Lizelle Festejo, Annie Fukushima, Gwyn Kirk, and Sabina Perez | March 14, 2008
Editor: John Feffer
The power dynamics of militarism in the Asia-Pacific region rely on dominance and subordination. These hierarchical relationships, shaped by gender, can be seen in U.S. military exploitation of host communities, its abuse and contamination of land and water, and the exploitation of women and children through the sex industry, sexual violence, and rape. Women’s bodies, the land, and indigenous communities are all feminized, treated as dispensable and temporary. What is constructed as "civilized, white, male, western, and rational" is held superior to what is defined as "primitive, non-white, female, non-western, and irrational." Nations and U.S. territories within the Asia-Pacific region are treated as inferiors with limited sovereignty or agency in relation to U.S. foreign policy interests that go hand-in-hand with this racist/sexist ideology.
The imbalance of power in gender relations in and around bases is mirrored at the alliance level as well. The United States controls Hawai’i through statehood; Guam is a colonial territory; and the United States is the dominant partner in alliances with Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. The expansion and restructuring of U.S. bases and military operations in the region depend on these imbalances of power, which are rooted in histories of annexation, colonization, exploitation, and war.
The Asia-Pacific region is a major part of the worldwide network of U.S. bases and facilities that support the global war on terror and enables the United States to extend its reach far beyond its own shores. The war on terror is only the latest justification for U.S. military presence in communities that have little say over the activities of armed outsiders. This network in turn depends on a set of interrelated phenomena – violence against women and girls, violation of local people’s self-determination, and abuse and contamination of the environment – that reinforce gender stereotypes.
Military Violence against Women
Violence against women is pervasive at U.S. bases in the region and in prevailing military culture and training. The case of Okinawa is especially shocking. In the past 62 years, there have been 400 reported cases of women who have been attacked, kidnapped, abused, gang-raped, or murdered by U.S. troops. Victims have included a nine-month old baby and girls between six and 15 years old. Most recently, in February 2008, Staff Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott, aged 38, of Camp Courtney in Okinawa, was arrested and charged with raping a 14-year-old girl.
In November 2005, several Marines stood trial for raping a Philippine woman, "Nicole" (a pseudonym) near Olongapo (Philippines). One man, Daniel Smith, a U.S. marine, was convicted of this crime and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment in the Philippines. However, he was transferred to U.S. custody immediately after conviction. Philippine and U.S. organizations contend that this case illuminates the negative impacts of the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which undermines Philippines national sovereignty.
Violence against women recurs around U.S. bases in Asia. A particularly brutal rape and murder of a Korean woman in 1992 led to street demonstrations in Seoul and the formation of a new organization, the National Campaign for the Eradication of Crime by U.S. Troops in Korea, to document crimes and help victims claim redress. Activists in Guam are justifiably concerned that such violence will rise in their communities with the proposed increase in U.S. Marines stationed there.
Military personnel are trained to dehumanize "others" as part of their preparation for war. Their aggressiveness, frustration, and fear spill over into local communities, for example in acts of violence against girls and women. Although most U.S. troops do not commit such violations, these incidents happen far too often to be accepted as aberrations. Racist and sexist stereotypes about Asian women – as exotic, accommodating, and sexually compliant – are an integral part of such violence. These crimes inflame local hostility and resistance to U.S. military bases and operations, and have long-lasting effects on victims/survivors. Cases are seriously underreported due to women’s shame and fear or their belief that perpetrators will not be apprehended.
This pattern of sexual violence reveals structural inequalities between Asian communities and the U.S. military, encoded in Status of Forces Agreements and Visiting Forces Agreements. The military sees each crime as an isolated act committed by individual soldiers. Local communities that protest these crimes see gendered violence as a structural issue that is perpetuated by legal, political, economic, and social structures.
Military prostitution continues despite the military’s declared "zero tolerance" policy, affirmed in Department of Defense memoranda and Executive Order 13387 that President George W. Bush signed in October 2005. These days, most women working in clubs near U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan/Okinawa are from the Philippines due to low wages, high unemployment, and the absence of sustainable economic development at home. These governments admit Philippine women on short-term entertainer visas.
Servicemen are still protected from prosecution for many infringements of local laws and customs. The sexual activity of foreign-based troops, including (but not exclusively) through prostitution, has had serious effects on women’s health, boosting rates of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, drug and alcohol dependency, and mental illness. U.S. Navy ships visit the Philippines for R & R and make stops at Pattaya (Thailand) where the sex-tourism industry flourished during the Vietnam War.
Violation of Local People’s Self-Determination
The expansion of U.S. military bases and operations has had a huge adverse impact on local communities at social, economic, political, and environmental levels. Host governments and local business elites are complicit in this. They equate progress and economic development with U.S. corporate and military interests instead of addressing the effects of U.S. militarism on local communities. The United States uses political and economic control to exert military force in the Pacific region. Allied nations trade sovereignty for militarized "security." Japan and South Korea both pay for upkeep of U.S. troops and the restructuring or expansion of U.S. bases in their countries.
Guam has yet to attain full self-government through a UN-mandated political process that requires the full cooperation of the United States. The exploitation of Guam’s colonial status has allowed massive military expansion, slated to cost $10 billion, and without consent of the indigenous people. The expansion will transform the island into a forward base with the establishment of a Global Strike Force and ballistic missile defense system. It will also significantly alter the population. The expected transfer of military personnel from Okinawa and other parts of Asia will boost the population by 21%. Although the local business elite welcomes this expansion, many people oppose it. They are also against the resulting economic dependency that is designed and imposed by U.S. foreign policy.
Okinawa is only 0.6% of the land area of Japan, yet houses 75% of U.S. military facilities in that country. There are 37 U.S. bases and installations in Okinawa, with an estimated 23,842 troops and 21,512 family members. The U.S. military proposes to build a heliport in the ocean at Henoko, (northern Okinawa), despite a 10-year campaign against it by Okinawan people and international environmental groups.
Similarly, Korean activists opposed major base expansion at Pyoungtaek, south of Seoul. However, U.S. military officials convinced the Korean government to invest millions of dollars to pay for this expansion as well as a new bombing training site.
Hawai’i is a major tourist destination, but the U.S. military installations occupying 25% of the land area continue to be invisible to most visitors and even to local people. Current examples of the military camouflaging itself in the everyday are the Superferry and the University Affiliated Research Center, both "joint-use" operations for the military and civilians. Rendering the military a normal part of daily life serves U.S. dominance and superiority as truths that cannot be challenged. In tourist brochures Hawai’i is personified as an exotic woman, nearly naked, clad in a hula skirt and lei. Such images make women seem available for exploitation, much as the military treats the land as available for misuse.
Another example of the extension of U.S. military domination is the greater involvement of local armies, such as joint exercises with the armed forces of the Philippines, the New Mexico Guard, and the Guam Army National Guard, as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program. This allows state National Guards to partner with foreign countries and is expected to expand in the coming years within the Pacific Rim and Southeast Asian countries.
The Asia-Pacific region is part of the worldwide network of U.S. bases, facilities, refueling and R & R stops, and reserves of potential recruits that all support the global war on terror. Bases in Hawai’i, Guam, the Philippines, South Korea, and Japan/Okinawa serve as key training grounds for the Iraq War. Moreover, Guam, Diego Garcia, South Korea, and Okinawa are among the transit points for troops and military supplies for the war.
Abuse and Contamination of Environment
The military misuse of the land is part of its dominance over local communities. In many places, military training has caused fires, left the land littered with unexploded bullets and bombs, and pulverized bombing training targets.
In Hawai’i, Guam, the Philippines, South Korea, and Japan, the U.S. military has taken no responsibility for cleaning up contamination caused by its operations. This includes heavy metals (mercury and lead), pesticides (dieldrin and malathion), solvents (including benzene and tuolene), PCBs, pesticides, and JP–4 jet fuel. The resulting toxic health effects on local communities are compounded as the years go on without remediation of contaminated land and water.
In Korea, environmentalists are urging National Assembly members to secure U.S. commitment to clean up the pollution on the many bases slated for closure there, or this will be an expense borne by Korean taxpayers. The proposed heliport at Henoko (Okinawa), meanwhile, threatens the dugong, an endangered manatee, as well as the surrounding coral reefs. Kadena Air Base in Okinawa is a hub of U.S. airpower in the Pacific, with Air Force planes training overhead a daily reality. A 1996 Okinawa Prefecture report on babies born to women living near Kadena Air Force Base showed significantly lower birth weights than those born in any other part of Japan, due to severe noise generated by the base.
Militarism is a system of institutions, investments, and values, which is much wider and more deeply entrenched than any specific war. To create alternate definitions of genuine peace and security, it is important to understand institutionalized gendered relations and other unequal power dynamics including those based on class, colonialism, and racism inherent in U.S. military policy and practice.
Demilitarization requires a de-linking of masculinity and militarism, stopping the glorification of war and warriors, and defining adventure and heroism in nonmilitary terms. It also requires genuinely democratic processes and structures for political and economic decision-making at community, national and transnational levels. In addition, the United States must take responsibility for cleaning up all military contamination in the Asia-Pacific region.
Instead of undermining indigenous control of lands and resources in Guam, for example, the United States and local government agencies should support the self-determination of the Chamorro people. The proposed Marines base for Henoko (Okinawa) should be scrapped and the Japanese government should redirect funds earmarked for it to economic development to benefit Okinawan people.
Since military expansion is a partner in corporate capitalist expansion, economic, political, and social development based on self-sufficiency, self-determination, and ecological restoration of local resources must be encouraged. Communities adjoining U.S. bases in all parts of the region suffer from grossly distorted economies that are overly reliant on the services (legal and illegal) that U.S. soldiers support. This economic dependency affects local men as well as women. Locally directed projects, led by those who understand community concerns, should be supported, together with government reforms to redistribute resources for such initiatives.
In addition, the United States and Asian governments need to revise their legal agreements to protect local communities. Local people need transparency in the implementation of these policies, in interagency involvement (Pentagon, State Department, Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency) and in executive orders that affect U.S. military operations in the region. Such revisions should include the ability for host governments to prosecute perpetrators of military violence so that the U.S. military can be held accountable for the human consequences of its policies.
U.S. military expansion and restructuring in the Asia-Pacific region serve patriarchal U.S. goals of "full spectrum dominance." Allied governments are bribed, flattered, threatened, or coerced into participating in this project. Even the apparently willing governments are junior partners who must, in an unequal relationship, shoulder the costs of U.S. military policies.
For the U.S. military, land and bodies are so much raw material to use and discard without responsibility or serious consequences to those in power. Regardless of gender, soldiers are trained to dehumanize others so that, if ordered, they can kill them. Sexual abuse and torture committed by U.S. military personnel and contractors against Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison illustrate a grim new twist on militarized violence, where race and nation "trumped" gender. White U.S. women were among the perpetrators, thereby appropriating the masculinized role. The violated Iraqi men, meanwhile, were forced into the feminized role.
Gendered inequalities, which are fundamental to U.S. military operations in the Asia-Pacific region, affect men as well as women. Young men who live near U.S. bases see masculinity defined in military terms. They may work as cooks or bartenders who provide rest and relaxation to visiting servicemen. They may be forced to migrate for work to larger cities or overseas, seeking to fulfill their dreams of giving their families a better future.
U.S. peace movements should not only address U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, but also in other parts of the world. Communities in the Asia-Pacific region have a long history of contesting U.S. militarism and offer eloquent testimonies to the negative impact of U.S. military operations there. These stories provide insights into the gendered dynamics of U.S. foreign and military policy, and the complicity of allied nations in this effort. Many individuals and organizations are crying out for justice, united by threads of hope and visions for a different future. Our job is to listen to them and to act accordingly.
Ellen-Rae Cachola, Lizelle Festejo, Annie Fukushima, Gwyn Kirk, and Sabina Perez are contributors to Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org) and work with Women for Genuine Security, a Bay Area group that is part of the International Women's Network Against Militarism.
Women and the U.S. Military in East Asia
Volume 4, Number 9
March 1999 - revised July 2000
Written by Gwyn Kirk, Rachel Cornwell, and Margo Okazawa-Rey
Editors: Tom Barry (IRC) and Martha Honey (IPS)
Negative effects of U.S. militarism on women and children in East Asia include sexual exploitation, physical and sexual violence, and the dire situation of many Amerasian children.
Instead of seeing U.S. troops sent home and military bases closed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, East Asians have seen signs that the U.S. military is digging in deeper.
The concept of security is too militarized and does not include the human rights of women and children and the protection of the physical environment.
Despite reconciliation talks between North and South Korea, the U.S. has declared that it will maintain 100,000 troops in East Asia for the next 20 years even if the Koreas are reunited. Joint Vision 2020, a Pentagon planning document, concluded that Asia will replace Europe as the key focus of U.S. military strategy in the early 21st century and pointed to China as a potential adversary. Instead of seeing U.S. troops sent home and military bases closed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, East Asians have seen signs that the U.S. military is digging in deeper and that the cold war in the region continues, despite the lack of credible threats to the United States.
The popular resentment—and especially the anger of many Asian women—at the U.S. military presence in East Asia was highlighted in a series of meetings and protests that occurred around the G8 Summit in Okinawa. Contributing to the focus of the U.S. military’s impact on women was another incident in Okinawa of sexual harassment a couple of weeks before the July 2000 Summit—this case involving a drunken Marine accused of molesting a 14-year-old schoolgirl while she slept in her home.
Currently there are 37,000 U.S. military personnel in Korea and some 63,000 in Japan, including 13,000 on ships home-ported there. The islands of Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan, house 39 bases and installations (75% of all U.S. bases in Japan) although Okinawa is only 0.6% of the country’s land area. Stationed in Okinawa are 30,000 troops and another 22,500 family members.
There were extensive U.S. bases in the Philippines until 1992. In 1991, the Philippine Senate voted against renewal of their leases. The U.S. subsequently proposed a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to cover situations when U.S. troops are in the Philippines for joint exercises or shore leave. The VFA gives access to Philippine ports and airports on all the main islands for refueling, supplies, repairs, and rest & recreation (R & R)—potentially far greater access than before, but under the guise of commercial arrangements and without the expense of maintaining permanent workforces and facilities. The VFA was ratified by the Philippine Senate in May 1999.
Research conducted by a group called Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence shows that U.S. troops in Okinawa have committed more than 4,700 reported crimes since 1972, when Okinawa reverted to Japanese administration. Many of these were crimes of violence against women. In Korea, too, the number of crimes is high. A particularly brutal rape and murder of a barwoman, Yoon Kum Ee, in 1992 galvanized human rights advocates to establish the National Campaign for the Eradication of Crime by U.S. Troops in Korea in order to document these crimes and help victims claim redress.
Violence against women is seriously underreported, due to the victims’ shame and fear or their belief that perpetrators will not be apprehended. Women who work in the bars, massage parlors, and brothels near U.S. bases are particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual violence. The sexual activity of foreign-based U.S. military personnel, including (but not exclusively) through prostitution, has had very serious effects on women’s health, precipitating HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions, drug and alcohol dependency, and mental illness.
In Korea, Japan, and the Phillipines, Amerasian children born to women impregnated by U.S. troops are a particularly stigmatized group. They are often abandoned by their military fathers and raised by single Asian mothers. They live with severe prejudice and suffer discrimination in education and employment due to their physical appearance and their mothers’ low status. Those with African-American fathers face even worse treatment than those having white fathers.
Health effects linked to environmental contamination caused by military operations also need detailed investigation. In Okinawa, a 1996 report on babies born to women living near Kadena Air Force Base showed significantly lower birth weights than those born in any other part of Japan, attributable to severe noise generated by the base. At White Beach, a docking area for nuclear submarines, regional health statistics show comparatively high rates of leukemia in children and cancers in adults. In 1998, for example, two women from White Beach who were in the habit of gathering local shellfish and seaweed died of liver cancer.
The drinking water from wells in the area of former Clark Air Force Base (Philippines) is contaminated with oil and grease. At 21 of the 24 locations where groundwater samples were taken, pollutants that exceeded drinking water standards were found, including mercury, nitrate, coliform bacteria, dieldrin, lead, and solvents. These contaminants persist in the environment for a long time and bioaccumulate as they move up the food chain.
Problems with Current U.S. Policy
Military personnel are trained to dehumanize "others" as part of their training for war. Their pent-up frustration, aggression, and fear are absorbed by East Asian communities, especially women and children, through reckless driving, assaults, and military prostitution.
The Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) between the U.S. and host governments ensure legal protection for U.S. bases and military personnel but do not adequately protect local communities from crime by U.S. troops. The U.S. accepts no legal responsibility for environmental cleanup of bases.
In the eyes of host communities, U.S. troops stationed overseas often seem arrogant and insensitive. They usually know little about the country’s history and culture. They speak only English, pay their way with dollars, and live in spacious, fenced-off enclaves at higher standards than most local citizens.
Military personnel are trained to dehumanize "others" as part of their preparation for war. This process, and the experience of combat, can make them edgy, fearful, frustrated, alienated, or aggressive—negative feelings that are often vented on host communities, especially women.
Sexism is central to a militarized masculinity, which involves physical strength, emotional detachment, the capacity for violence and killing, and an appearance of invulnerability. Male sexuality is assumed to be uncontrollable and in need of regular release, so prostitution is built into military operations, directly or indirectly, with the agreement of host governments. Suzuyo Takazato of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, told the San Jose Mercury News, "These young troops go out into the field all day and are trained to be aggressive and to kill.... They may change out of uniform and into a T-shirt and jeans, but their attitude does not change."
Although the military has a policy of "zero tolerance" for sexual violence and harassment, and most military personnel do not violate women, this is an officially recognized problem in U.S. military families, for women in the military, and in communities near bases in this country and overseas. Military leaders often attribute it to a few "bad apples," but these incidents happen far too often to be accepted as aberrations. Women organizers see them as systemic—an integral part of a system of military violence.
Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) vary depending on host country laws and each government’s power and willingness to negotiate terms. For example, the SOFA between the U.S. and Germany includes more detailed procedures for jurisdiction over personnel who commit crimes than do SOFAs with Japan or Korea. It also commits the U.S. military to cooperating in finding fathers and advising them to pay child support to German women who have children by U.S. troops, a provision completely absent from the SOFAs with Japan or Korea, and from the VFA with the Philippiness. Host governments are in different power positions in relation to the U.S., though none of them come to SOFA negotiations as equal partners with the United States.
SOFAs are based upon dysfunctional assumptions about national security. They ensure legal protection for U.S. bases and military personnel but do not provide genuine security for local communities, nor do they assure the security of the American people.
Although U.S. officials claim to have implemented adequate procedures for dealing with crimes against people in host communities, U.S. troops are not always tried by local courts, even when cases involve serious injury or death. It took enormous public outcry before those responsible for abducting and raping a 12-year-old Okinawan girl in September 1995 were handed over to Japanese authorities, stood trial in a Japanese court, and began serving seven-year sentences in Japan. In other cases where local people know of punishment, it is often trivial. Sometimes perpetrators are moved beyond reach to another posting, perhaps back to the United States.
SOFAs (including the VFA) make no reference to Amerasian children, who are often abandoned by their fathers. No government takes responsibility for the dire situation of these children, who have no legal standing in the United States. The 1982 Amerasian Immigration Act, which sought to address the situation of Vietnamese Amerasian children, does not cover people born in Japan or the Philippines. To qualify under this act, one must be born between 1951 and 1982. One must also have documentation that the father is a U.S. citizen, formal admission of paternity, and a financial sponsor in the United States.
Environmental contamination affects whole communities but is most significant for women and children, because they tend to show signs of disease earlier than men. Militaries cause more pollution than any other institutions. Bases store fuel, oil, solvents, and other chemicals as well as weapons, including defoliants like Agent Orange, depleted uranium-tipped bullets, and nuclear weapons. The SOFAs with Japan and Korea do not hold the U.S. responsible for the cleanup of contamination.
In the Philippines, records of environmental contamination were incomplete and unavailable to concerned nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) for several years. Studies—both by the People’s Task Force for Bases Cleanup and by environmental consultants—show that the U.S. military did not follow its own guidelines on cleanup. In Okinawa, community leaders are trying to get information about contamination and assurances that the U.S. will take responsibility for cleanup, even though the SOFA with Japan explicitly excludes this. In both the Philippines and Okinawa, women are gathering information from local people who have worked on the bases or who live nearby.
Host governments have downplayed contamination or denied its existence for fear of fueling antibase sentiment (Korea) or deterring prospective investors (Philippines). Environmentally induced illnesses may not be apparent for many years, and it is difficult to establish a clear cause-and-effect relationship. Determined efforts by NGOs, researchers, and some elected Philippine officials, as well as deaths of children born in contaminated areas have at last resulted in official recognition of the existence of military contamination in the Philippines.
Toward a New Foreign Policy
SOFAs should be revised to protect East Asian women from violence by U.S. troops and to safeguard the environment from military toxics.
Congress should pass the Violence Against Women Act II, which includes provisions concerning U.S. military violence internationally (Title V). U.S. immigration law and policy should be revised to recognize U.S. responsibility to Amerasian children.
The U.S. military presence in East Asia should be reduced, contamination caused by military operations should be cleaned up at U.S. expense, and bases should be redeveloped to benefit local communities.
Grassroots movements for national sovereignty and self-determination in East Asian countries have gained momentum in recent years. Women’s organizations play a key role in these movements and bring a gender perspective to protests against U.S. bases. Organizations in East Asia and the United States as well as international networks are developing alternatives to militarized security that address the security of women, children, and the physical environment. These advocates recommend a series of policy changes:
The U.S. military should adopt international standards regarding women’s human rights and must take responsibility for violations committed by U.S. troops in East Asia. Military training should include substantial prestationing and early stationing education to sensitize all personnel to local customs and laws, gender issues, and violence prevention. Specific personnel in each unit should be responsible for monitoring the situation, maintaining accountability, and counseling. Severe sanctions must be imposed for human rights violations, and legal investigations should be conducted by the victim’s lawyers, by independent investigative and prosecuting bodies, or by both.
All military personnel must be required to pass rigorous local driving tests and provide adequate insurance coverage for full compensation of damages done to local people in East Asia. Until this requirement can be implemented, the U.S. government must fully compensate local victims when accidents occur.
SOFAs should be revised to protect host communities against crimes committed by U.S. troops and against environmental contamination from U.S. military operations. This includes the Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines, which should be revised to protect the human rights of women and children.
Congress should pass the Violence Against Women Act II (HR 357/S 51). Title V has provisions that address U.S. military violence overseas.
The U.S. military should support the research, counseling, and rehabilitation work of NGOs dealing with the negative effects of U.S. military operations. It should also encourage efforts to create employment opportunities for women besides military prostitution.
The U.S. should take responsibility for Amerasian children. Congress should pass the American Asian Justice Act (HR 1128), an amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act (HR 1128) to facilitate the immigration of Amerasians born in the Philippines, or Japan who were fathered by U.S. citizens. Immigration procedures will need flexibility in documentation requirements.
The U.S. military should investigate contamination of land and water and should undertake cleanup to acceptable standards. It should conduct research into the health effects of military toxics and should publicize its findings widely in accessible languages.
Policy debates should broadly consider the question: What is genuine security for women and children living near U.S. bases? The notion of security needs to be demilitarized. Women’s voices and a gender perspective should be included in U.S. foreign and security policy discussions as a matter of routine.
The U.S. should work toward the progressive reduction and eventual elimination of the U.S. military presence in East Asia by seeking alternatives to an exclusive military approach to national, regional, and global security.
Gwyn Kirk and Margo Okazawa-Rey are founder-members of the East Asia-U.S. Women’s Network Against Militarism. Rachel Cornwell is a graduate student at Emory University, formerly Program Assistant for the Demilitarization and Alternative Security Program of the Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace.reference: http://www.fpif.org/briefs/vol4/v4n09wom.html
Lanka Most Militarized in South Asia: Study
- By B. Muralidhar Reddy
A study details the effects on Sri Lanka of the 23-year-old ethnic conflict.
A STUDY by a Mumbai based think-tank, Strategic Foresight Group (SFG), has confirmed what many long feared: Sri Lanka has emerged as the most militarised society in South Asia. More worrying is the conclusion that it could get worse unless urgent action is initiated towards ending the 23-year-old conflict.
The study, "Cost of conflict in Sri Lanka," says the island nation has 8,000 military personnel per one million population. Even Pakistan — of which it is said that while every country has an army the Pakistan army has a country — has only half that number, 4,000 military personnel per one million population. The figures for other South Asian countries are: Nepal 2,700; India 1,300; and Bangladesh 1,000.
In terms of military expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), too, Sri Lanka spent the most — 4.1 per cent. In the case of Pakistan it is 3.5 per cent; 2.5 per cent in the case of India and Nepal; and 1.5 per cent in the case of Bangladesh. The figure cannot be expected to be an accurate representation of the actualities as there is very little information and knowledge about the military expenditure by the LTTE.
"Sri Lanka's defence expenditure as a percentage of its GDP is the largest not only in South Asia but is also higher than other conflict-ridden countries such as Colombia, Myanmar, Sierra Leone, Sudan, the Philippines, and Uganda to name a few," the researchers of the study, Semu Bhatt and Devika Mistry, note. In other words, even among the conflict-afflicted countries there could be very few that have witnessed the level of militarisation seen in Sri Lanka, variously described as "paradise on earth" and "pearl of the Indian Ocean."
The study has established a direct linkage between the ongoing ethnic conflict and the steep rise in defence spending. "Sri Lanka witnessed one of the most dramatic increase in military expenditure from an allocation of 0.5 per cent of the GDP in the 1970s to as high as 6.3 per cent in 2000," the study said. It is supposed to have declined to 4 per cent of the GDP after the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) brokered by Norway.
The figures cited in the study pertain to the 2004-05 period. The CFA, which began to come under strain in mid-2003, has now been almost reduced to a piece of paper; the Sri Lankan forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been engaged in an intense "undeclared war" in the latest phase for over four months now. It is unlikely that the defence expenditure as a percentage of the GDP for 2005-06 can be contained at the level seen in the period after the CFA.
The strength of the Sri Lankan Army, 15,000 in the early 1970s, is now 1.5 lakh. Its arsenal includes multi-barrel rocket launchers, long range artillery, mortars, battle tanks, and armoured personnel carriers. The Navy is much smaller; it has 20,000 personnel and uses fast attack craft with 23 mm guns, inshore and offshore patrol vessels, landing craft, etc. The Air Force uses Kfir supersonic fighter-bombers, MiG-23s, and choppers, including MI-24s.
The LTTE's estimated strength is 10,000 but this does not reflect its actual capability given its use of suicide bombers and guerrilla tactics. Its navy has about 2,000 personnel. The LTTE has no functioning air force and no anti-aircraft defences but it is said to have acquired two to five small aircraft, and built one or two airfields. The study puts the LTTE's annual expenditure on its cadres and military-oriented networks, both in the island and abroad, in the range of $8 million.
The SFG study says that for the LTTE, which is essentially a military outfit, expenditure on weapons and the maintenance of a war economy gets top priority. "It does precious little for the economic well being of the people under its control, despite running a few social and economic organisations." But given that the outfit's annual income is anywhere between $175 million and $385 million, the expenditure on cadres and the informer networks is "insignificant," the study says.
"The LTTE spends a minimum on its cadres and the maximum on sustaining a war economy and its support base internationally." Of the total income, $100 million to $250 million is believed to come from drug trafficking, although there is yet no direct evidence of the outfit's involvement in this trade. Local taxation and extortion are said to contribute about $30 million; human smuggling and funds siphoned off from NGOs gives $3-5 million; contributions from the Tamil expatriate community fetch $40-50 million; and profits from businesses $35-50 million.
The conflict and the consequent militarisation have meant enormous human suffering in social, economic, and political terms. By 2005-end, 65,000 persons had died. Latest estimates show at least a million have been displaced, 2.25 lakh in the current phase of hostilities since April. Life is subject to never ending checkpoints and security drills. Current inflation hovers around 15 per cent and the struggle goes on.
In the words of SFG researchers, "The possibility of it [Sri Lanka] becoming less militarised nation lies only after 2011, conditional on the resolution of internal conflict before 2006-07." Is anyone out there listening?
Pentagon shuns Asia for Canberra's embrace
By Alan Boyd
SYDNEY - The Pentagon has skirted Asian ambivalence over its forward defense strategy by bypassing the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries in favor of three new bases in northern Australian that will pack the same regional punch but which are unlikely to lower the diplomatic heat.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Australian counterpart, Senator Robert Hill, said two training centers and a bombing range in Queensland and the Northern Territory would be adapted for joint use by "tens of thousands" of troops from both countries.
US equipment and munitions will probably be stored permanently at the camps for use in regional conflicts, while Canberra also agreed to deploy several other facilities as part of the so-called Son of Star Wars missile defense shield program.
However, Hill said the US would not be stationing troops in Australia, ending speculation that the camps might accommodate units that are being withdrawn from Japan and South Korea as part of a global realignment of US forces.
"There's no benefit to the United States in [having] permanent bases in Australia. What they are looking for in our region are further training opportunities and ... training facilities that are up to the world's best standards," Hill said.
Nonetheless, much of Asia will view the maneuverings as confirmation that an increasingly hawkish Pentagon intends to play a more proactive role in regional security, and especially in counter-terrorism, even if this means having to operate in Australia's shadow.
Canberra has been anxious to play down suggestions that it will be acting as the US "deputy sheriff". Government officials said privately that Australian bases were chosen because Southeast Asian countries were either unwilling to act as hosts or lacked the necessary infrastructure.
Undoubtedly the Pentagon would have preferred a more central location that could perform some of the same logistical and resupply functions as the former US naval facilities in the Philippines.
The search for a forward positioning base began in earnest after the 1991 Gulf War, which exposed the long US supply lines and raised the specter - realized in later Middle East campaigns - that US offensive capability would become overstretched. Resources have been spread even thinner since the September 11, 2001, attacks brought greater emphasis to anti-terrorism. One outcome was a global realignment that will mean fewer static troop concentrations and more reliance on fast-response units.
South Korea has already lost the bulk of its permanent US garrison, and as many as 15,000 of the 20,000 marines based on the Japanese island of Okinawa are likely to be redeployed by 2015, when the prefectural government has said it wants all bases vacated.
Okinawa's main appeal is its geographical location: only two hours of flying time from Korea, the most unstable security hotspot. By contrast, the peninsula is five hours from Guam, the other key US marshaling area, 11 hours from Hawaii and 16 hours from the continental US. For these reasons it is highly unlikely the Marines will be sent to Australia or Southeast Asia, which would offer few strategic benefits. The most likely solution is that they will simply be relocated to the Japanese mainland, where they can draw on existing infrastructure.
According to diplomats, another option is to funnel some ground units out to bases in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, while naval forces might be spread between Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam and possibly Sattahip in eastern Thailand. But the post-Iraq political reality is that few countries are prepared to be seen as pro-American, even while they discreetly build strong anti-terrorism networks with Washington and freely exercise with US troops.
Thailand has agreed to accept an equipment stockpile, but no troops or permanent naval presence. The Philippines will take more troops because it needs all the help it can get in counter-terrorism. But Chinese sensitivities may frustrate the Vietnamese negotiations.
Singapore, already an emerging refueling and maintenance center for US vessels, was willing to take on a bigger role, but lacks facilities capable of handling large numbers of ground troops. It is already training many of its own troops and pilots in Australia.
"Australia offers a level of technological and operations convergence that is not available anywhere else in the region outside Japan and Korea. They operate the same equipment, have some of the same communication systems, and they are used to working together," said a defense attache. "If you are talking primarily about training, these are aspects that will have influenced defense planners, plus the availability of underutilized facilities that can be used as a springboard for fast deployment of munitions or vehicles anywhere in the region."
Shoalwater Bay, a base in the northeastern state of Queensland that is already used as a storage facility for Singaporean equipment, would be the most logical forward-deployment facility for US forces, as it offers relatively easy access to both the Pacific and Indian oceans.
Rumsfeld said in Washington that the three bases would be directly linked through advanced communications systems to the US Pacific War Fighting Center in Hawaii, which would enable strategists to coordinate a quick response to perceived security threats.
Canberra has gained access to this technology, as well as preferential equipment transfers. The bases announcement was accompanied by a separate deal for the purchase of Abrams tanks and Hercules Armored Recovery vehicles that will be used in the joint training exercises.
An even bigger commitment is Australia's decision to sign up for the George W Bush administration's much-derided "Son of Star Wars" missile defense shield, probably by utilizing satellite and communications facilities that are jointly operated with various US agencies. China and North Korea, widely seen as the two main targets of the US$50 billion shield, are unlikely to be amused by the 25-year agreement, which will firmly position Canberra with 10 other nations in the US alliance, including South Korea and Japan.
The deal could be canceled if the opposition Labor Party wins a pending general election. Labor leader Mark Latham said this week that the shield was a waste of resources and would "increase missile proliferation and insecurity in our region".
Beijing, a close trading partner of both Australia and the United States, has already spoken its mind on the revamped US defense strategy and the deals with Australia, which it charges are a reward for Canberra's support of US policies in Iraq. A commentary by the state-owned China Daily claimed that Washington "had become accustomed to orienting its relations with allies based on whether or not those countries provide military assistance or bases".
"To further expand its military presence in Asia, the United States has greatly increased military aid to several countries in the region, including Pakistan, the Philippines, Nepal, India, Thailand, and Mongolia.
"Obviously, current US diplomacy is mainly focused on how to ensure and expand America's global military presence and how to gain promises of military aid from other countries. This has unavoidably led to militarization of US foreign policies," the newspaper said.
by Prof. Pao-yu Ching
Who is going to dominate Asia? In the long term the answer is certain and clear – the people of Asia will dominate Asia. However, in the short term, before that truth becomes a reality, we need to carefully examine and analyze the current economic, political, and military situation in Asia in order to plan our strategy. To clearly understand the current situation, we first need to dispel some myths; that will be the first part of my talk today. The second part of my talk covers US imperialist interests in Asia and its strategy to maintain economic, political, and military hegemony in the region. The concluding part of my talk evaluates the real threat of American militarism and why we, the people, must and will prevail in the end.
I. Refuting the Myths
Myth One: China is becoming an economic super power that will soon surpass the United States and China has the military potential to challenge the US's domination over Asia.
In the last few years the United States has projected the image of China as a growing economic power that possess the military capability to threaten the US’ long-term domination over Asia. This claim is used to justify the recent military buildup by the United States, and its efforts to firm up its military cooperation with its allies and other friendly regimes in this region as a strategy to contain China.
Despite the fact that the United States is losing its war in Iraq, Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, has been traveling extensively lecturing and keeping other countries in line to show that the US is maintaining its worldwide hegemony. A 2005 Singapore Business Times article entitled "Condi Talks Down to Europe, Asia" states:
Ms. Rice disparaged the Europeans for considering the lifting of an arms embargo on China – a move, she explained, that could threaten the delicate military balance in East Asia, as the US regards itself as the peacekeeper in the area and would look harshly on any European interference. "It is the United States, not Europe, that has defended the Pacific," she said. She then lectured the Chinese on the need to pressure the North Koreans, and told reporters that China could be "a positive influence in the region," adding, however, that it could just as easily become the region's biggest problem. (Antiwar.com, March 31, 2005, reprinted from Singapore Business Times, 2005)
Rice's statement indicated that the Bush administration intended to refocus its attention on Asia from the quagmire in the Middle East, and to put in place a strategic plan to contain China.
Does China really pose serious threat to the US domination over Asia?
Despite China's fast GDP growth in the past one and half decades, China's GDP is still only about one-tenth of that of the United States. Moreover, China has developed the type of capitalism that has been dependent on foreign investment and foreign markets as its engine of growth. At the end of 2005 Bai Jing-fu, the vice-chair of a Research Center in the State Council , wrote a paper that showed the many problems the Chinese economy was facing. One problem was China's overdependence on the external markets as the source of its GDP growth. According to Bai 5.7% (or 60%) of the 9.7% GDP growth rate in 2004 was due to increased demand in the external market . Not only that has the growth of the Chinese economy been so closely related to the growth of its exports, but also as much as 60% of those exports came from the direct investment of foreign multinationals. This shows the dependency of China's development on the international monopoly capital.
Additionally, the United States has been one of China's biggest markets. However, due to the large trade deficits the US has with China and with many other countries, the US has not paid for many of its imports. (Total US imports approximately double its total exports.) Instead, the United States has been handing over US government bonds as IOU’s. More plainly put, it means that China has had to continuously loan the US money in order for the US to buy its products. While the US's debt to the world has lasted more than twenty years, common sense tells us that this cannot go on for too much longer. Moreover, China, which is still a poor country, needs its capital for its own development; using capital export as a way to sustain its GDP growth cannot be a sustainable and viable development strategy. Since China's capitalist reform began and especially since the 1990s global monopoly capital has exploited China's cheap labor, exhausted its natural resources, and polluted its environment. The United States has also siphoned large quantity of capital form China where tens of million Chinese people still do not have their basic needs met. How could anyone expect China to surpass the United States economically when its economy is so tightly controlled by those powerful multinationals - - the majority of them are based in the United Stats?
While it is true that China's military budget has grown by double-digit rates for the past 17 consecutive years, and China has been modernizing its military hardware by buying updated weaponry from Russia, China does not have the capacity to challenge the United States militarily. According to information published by the Power and Interest News Report, the US Department of Defense estimated that while China currently has over 3,000 combat aircraft, only 100 of these are of the modern class bought from Russia recently. The same report said that the United States currently has more than 3,000 aircraft, all of which are modern. Additionally, the US naval fleet comprised of 12 large aircraft carriers, is unprecedented in its power. In addition to its overwhelming superiority in military weapons in every category, the US is also modernizing its military equipment at a faster pace than China or any other country in the world. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that China now spends $40 billion annually on updating its military equipment, but the United States spends ten times that amount - a total of $400 billion. The Power and Interest News Report states, "…such an unbelievably high rate of spending by the United States will guarantee that China will have the utmost difficulty competing for raw military power." It continues to say, "China also lacks the industrial edge to develop new technologies on its own, which explains it has acquired its most modern military equipment from Russia. The United States, on the other hand, is at the forefront of new military technology." (Power and Interest News Report, September 8, 2003)
Above all, after the fall of the former Soviet Union and the deterioration of Russia's nuclear weapons arsenal, the United States now monopolizes the nuclear offensive system. A recent Foreign Affair article, "The Rise of US Nuclear Primacy", states: "The United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike." Nuclear supremacy means, according to the authors, that the United States has a nuclear triad comprising strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles and ballistic-missile-launching submarines, and it has the ability to destroy all of an adversary's nuclear forces with a first strike. The extent of the US’ nuclear triad means that if nothing changes, "… Russia and China- and the rest of the world – will live in the shadow of the US nuclear primacy for many years to come." (Lieber and Press, 43-44)
Therefore, as we shall see below, although China has extended its economic and political influence over Asia as well as beyond Asia and in some ways has begun challenge the economic interests of the United States, there is no way China can surpass the United States economically or pose any challenge to the United States militarily. However, the United States is going to continue to use the "China threat" to justify its military expansion in this region.
Myth Two: China as a super power will serve to counter-balance the United States and defend the interests of the Third World countries and their people.
China has portrayed itself as a benevolent power, asserting that its economic dealings with other Third World countries are based on mutual benefit. What China's current leaders do abroad is very much like what they do at home; they pretend that China is still a socialist country and that its policies are based on socialist principles. In the past China's foreign policy, as a socialist country, was based on the five principles of mutual benefit and mutual respect. China was able to champion these principles, because socialist economic development did not depend on outward expansion. In addition, during the socialist period China denounced its long history of imperial dominance over its neighbors.
However, since China began its capitalist reform twenty some years ago, the economic relationship between China and other countries has changed from one of mutual benefit to one that meets China's needs for increasingly rapid GDP growth. As a large country and fast growing capitalist economy, China has to compete for natural resources, for opportunities to export capital, and for markets to export its products. Since China has adopted an export-led growth strategy for capitalist development, its needs for energy and raw materials have expanded at a very fast pace. In using exports as the source of its economic growth, it also has to compete furiously for markets to sell its products. Since the 1990s, as the rate of export growth has accelerated, China's oil consumption increased 100% from 1990 to 2001 . By 2005 China’s oil consumption had surpassed Japan to become the second largest oil consumer in the world, second only to the United States. As late as 1992 China was still an oil exporting country – but by the mid-1990s, its oil imports accelerated to meet its more than 20% export growth. Oil imports doubled in merely five years, from 1998 to 2003, and increased another 40% in the first half of 2004. (Time Asia, October 18, 2004) In 2005 China consumed 300 million tons of crude oil, 123 million tons of which were imported.
According to some experts, at the current rate of consumption China's proven oil reserves will be depleted in 14 years, prompting China to begin a frantic search for oil all over the world. According to the Time Asia report, China has signed, or intends to sign, oil/gas deals with various countries in order to maintain a stable supply of oil and avoid buying all of its oil at higher prices on the open market. These countries include Indonesia, Uzbekistan and other energy rich states in Central Asia or even geographically distant countries like Sudan, Ecuador and Columbia. In its quest for oil, China inevitably has come into competition with the United States and Japan, and also with South Korea and India, whose economies are also dependent on oil imports. China has also signaled its intentions to invest in exploration and development in other countries that have proven oil reserves. However, in doing so it also may get into territory disputes with other countries. In one recent case the China National Offshore Oil Corporation formed a partnership with the Philippine National Oil Company, for oil exploration near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The sovereignty of Spratly Islands, however, has long been disputed by Vietnam, China, the Philippines, and Malaysia.
China’s actions are like those of any expanding capitalist country in its search for natural resources, investment opportunities and for markets to sell its products. In addition to oil and other sources of energy, China also imports many other natural resources; for example, China is now the largest importer of copper and it also imports large quantities of iron ore and lumber from developing countries – from Asia to Latin America, and to Africa.
China's expansion into Southeast Asia started after the 1997 Asian crisis, and as a latecomer to the region, has been busy signing investment and trade agreements with many of these countries. At the 2004 annual gathering of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Laotian capital, the ten ASEAN members signed a free trade agreement with China signifying a closer trade relationship. Both tariff and non-tariff trade barriers will be cut under this 10 + 1 = 11 free trade pact. It is the world's largest free-trade area covering 1.8 billion people and has provided even more opportunities for China to expand trade and investment ties with the ten ASEAN countries. In addition to the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, China has also been negotiating bilateral trade and economic cooperation with individual Southeast Asian States. By the end of 2006, Southeast Asia’s total trade with China will probably reach $130 billion, which is close to the $150 billion US-ASEAN trade in 2005. (Kurlantzick)
According to a BBC news report, trade between China and African nations increased 39% during the first 10 months of 2005. (BBC News, January 2006) In November 2006, China organized a large scale African forum in Beijing and signed 16 trade and investment deals worth some $1.9 billion . (Reuters Foundation, Alert Net, November 30, 2006) China's strong demand for natural resource imports was due to the tremendous volume of manufacturing products it has exported in more recent years. China is in direct competition with major imperialist powers--the United States, Japan, and EU in acquiring these natural resources.
It is true that China has expanded and will continue to expand its interests and influence in Asia and other parts of the world, causing the raising of alarms and strong reactions from the United States and Japan. However, by the end of 2004 the accumulated investment by Chinese companies in ASEAN was only $1.17 billion , which was way behind the $85.4 billion US investment in this region. According to the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, China is now ASEAN's fourth trading partner after the United States, Japan, and European. However, as much as 60% of China's exports to ASEAN in 2005 were done by the foreign multinationals operating in China and most of the same multinationals also control ASEAN's exports to China. Therefore, in effect, closer trade relations between China and Southeastern Asian countries simply facilitate intra-company trading between global multinationals.
After the capitalist reform began and especially since the 1990s China as country has been exploited by the major imperialist powers. The very powerful few in China have linked their interests to the interests of global monopoly capital and together they have exploited China's workers and peasants and such exploitation has reached the unbearable point today. However, China as a country also behaves very much like other imperialist countries – only it is an imperialist country of a very much lower rank. In its searches for oil and natural resources, for investment opportunities, and for markets, China has signed trade pacts, investment deals, and other kind of economic cooperation -- none of them are or can be based on mutual benefits. We cannot count on China to defend the interests of oppressed countries and their people.
II. US Imperialism and its hegemony over Asia
The United States defeated Japan during World War II and consequently gained domination over Asia. During the Cold War era the United States maintained its domination over Asia through wars of aggression, first in Korea and then in Vietnam. The United States' hegemony in the world is closely connected with its domination over Asia.
In a 1998 Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, then the Commander-in -Chief of the US Pacific Command, spoke to a student audience at Fudan University in Shanghai. The topic was "Asia-Pacific Security and China." Prueher said that the United States has a responsibility to the region extending from the west coast of North America to the east coast of Africa – a region that includes 43 nations. He also said, "As a Pacific nation, our US economic, political and military interests in the Pacific are diverse and lasting. These interests drive our permanent and active involvement in the region…" The admiral asserted that US trade with this region amounted to over $500 billion per year, which was approximately 35% of total US trade and double the US trade with Europe. Moreover, he said that Asia was important to the United States militarily, and five of the seven US mutual defense treaties were with Asia-Pacific countries. The admiral also wanted to assure the audience that "the United States has regarded its dominance over Asia as permanent and would not let it be challenged by anyone."
Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the United States has become the sole superpower, and it has done everything in its power to maintain its hegemony. In 1992, the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) was drafted under the supervision of Paul Wolfowitz, who has recently become the President of the World Bank then served as the deputy secretary of Defense under Dick Cheney. The DPG established the United States' strategy of maintaining it military hegemony in three major areas. First, the US will pursue a policy that will prevent any state from developing military capabilities equal to or greater than its own. Second, the US to will carry out preemptive strikes against states that develop new military capabilities that might eventually endanger the United States and its friends or allies. These preemptive strikes are to be carried out before there is any imminent threat. The last part of the DPG insists that US officials and military personnel are immune to prosecution by any international war crime tribunals. (Excerpts from DPG, New York Times, March 10, 1992; Monthly Review, January 2006) This near final draft of the DPG was leaked to the press and caused strong reactions from U.S allies, because it warned that both Germany and Japan as potential military powers that could one day match the US, and emphasized that they should never be allowed to present that challenge.
The DPG did not get approval as the official US military strategy, but the US continued to find ways to assert its sole super power status in the post Cold War era. During the 2000 campaign Condoleezza Rice, as an advisor to George W. Bush , wrote an article in Foreign Affairs. The summary of the article states:
With no Soviet threat, America has found it exceedingly difficult to define its "national interest." Foreign policy in a Republican administration should refocus the country on key priorities: building a military ready to ensure American power, coping with rogue regimes, and managing Beijing and Moscow. Above all, the next president must be comfortable with America's special role as the world leader.
In this article Rice explained that China could develop to become a potential threat to the US domination in Asia and that the US should put policies in place to contain China. After George W. Bush became the President in 2000 and Rice became his National Security Advisor, she and other cabinet members went to work on "building a military ready to ensure American power" including a strategy of containing China. Then, the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States in 2001 diverted the attention of the Bush administration, and subsequently it declared a universal, unilateral, and protracted global war on terrorism. (Some claim that since Rice's attention had been so focused on Asia, she missed the many obvious signs of the impending attack.) When Bush announced its war on terrorism, he named Iraq, Iran, North Korea, as countries, which composed an “Axis of Evil”. The so called “Axis of Evil” countries were in fact what Rice called “rogue regimes”. Beginning with invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the US has been able to use the September 11th attacks and its war on terror to justify the expansion of US militarism worldwide and mark whichever sovereign states they choose as targets of anti-terrorism.
After the 2000 elections the White house was occupied by key figures that helped drafted the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance; the terrorist attack in 2001 provided the opportunity to carry out the major provisions in the DPG. The US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 followed closely the strategy spelled out in the 1992 DPG, including the "preemptive" strikes on sovereign nations. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq had any military capability to challenge the United States military superiority, nor did any possibility exist for them to threaten the security of the United States. However, the US was able to use its hegemony to perpetuate the “weapons of mass destruction” myth as a successful justification. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, however, set an important precedent that the US will not hesitate to act unilaterally with its superior military power on any country, if it perceives its interests are being or might be threatened in any way.
In order to achieve what the Pentagon called “Shock and Awe”, the US carried out the invasion of Iraq by first bombing the country and its infrastructure to smithereens to show the overwhelming power of US military might. During the first two weeks of the US invasion, it was not a war fought by two sides; Iraq was defenseless against the weapons of mass destruction that the US unleashed. Now more than three years later, and after the deaths of tens of thousands Iraqi civilians, even Tony Blair has had to admit recently that the invasion of Iraq has been a total failure.
The Iraqi War put the Bush administration on the defensive; it has no way out without admitting defeat. As mentioned earlier Rice has been traveling all over the world to prove that the empire is not in any way vulnerable. She has also succeeded in getting the Bush administration to refocus its attention on Asia and reaffirm the US’ strategy to engage in a coordinated, systematic effort to contain China from expanding its power and influence. In February 2006 the US Defense Department issued its Quadrennial Defense Review. This review named China among the emerging and major powers as having the greatest potential to compete with the United States militarily. Following this review, in early March, Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Command, Admiral William Fallon testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and said that the QDR has set the defense strategy and its military posture for the next 20 years: to have a "greater" military presence in the Pacific Ocean. Also, the US is planning to boost military integration with allies in that region in order to deter emerging and major powers. (TMC Net News, March 7, 2006) This shows that the US intends to target China as a military threat in order to carry out its military expansion in Asia, even though China has no military capability to become a threat.
The same TMC Net news report also reported that the United States plans to expand its bilateral military cooperation with Japan and also to expand that bilateral military cooperation into a trilateral agreement to include South Korea. Japan, of course, has been the most trusted ally of the United States since the end of World War II; Japan has relied on the United States to guarantee its security, because the Japanese Constitution, established during the US occupation, forbids Japan from setting up its own military outside of a small force for national defense. However, the conditions surrounding those restrictions have been changing rapidly. The function of Japan's Self Defense Force (SDF) has been redefined in the past few years under Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. In his testimony, Fallon said that Koizumi has demonstrated "exceptional leadership" and has guided the SDF through "significant change." The changes included sending ground troops to Iraq and helping the US war in Afghanistan by refueling vessels to the Indian Ocean. Admiral Fallon further testified that Japan and the United States agreed in October 2005 to step up integrated and joint operations between Japanese Self-Defense Forces and US military forces. This integration includes "intelligence sensors, communications networks, information systems, missile defenses, undersea warfare and counter-mine warfare capabilities." Fallon further said, "These actions clearly show the willingness and capability of the government of Japan to deploy the SDF regionally and globally in support of security and humanitarian operations," (TMC Net News, March 7, 2006)
In the meantime South Korea and the United States already agreed in early 2006 on the so-called “strategic flexibility” in military cooperation. The next step is for the United States to expand its bilateral military integration with Japan to include the South Korea into a trilateral cooperation, so that the US armed forces in South Korea can engage in missions outside the Korean Peninsula. (TMC Net News, March 7, 2006)
In addition to the expansion of US presence in Asia, the US's strategy to contain China also includes forming alliances with countries in South Asia in general and with India in particular. In a testimony before the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific in June, 2005, Dana Robert Dillon, a senior policy analyst at the Asian Studies Center of the Heritage Foundation said, "Among the most appealing changes brought by the end of the Cold War is the flourishing American relationship with the billion and half people of South Asia." According to Dillon, India is the "greatest under-exploited opportunity for American foreign policy." He further added that United States and India share two common concerns: terrorism and China's emergence as a world power. Dillon thus suggested to the Subcommittee that as part of its global strategy of countering the growing influence of China, the United States should help India develop its economic competitiveness and its military capability.
Dillon added that the renewed US-India defense cooperation has been the most positive development . Now the United States has restored all conventional "nil-to-nil" cooperation with India. The US also began cooperation with India on the civilian use of nuclear power under the auspices of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) program. Dillon also added that the United States should continue to help India become a friendly strategic partner and to help " India to possess a deterrent that would inhibit Chinese adventurism in the region."
US imperialism regards its domination over Asia as its right and it allows no other nation to challenge it. In the name of freedom and democracy, the US protects its economic interests by its military might. The US regards Asia as an important integral part of its vast empire and its domination over Asia is closely linked to its global hegemony. Let's not have any illusion that the US imperialism can be somehow reformed or modified. It will always behave in the most savage and barbaric way.
III. The Real Threat of American Militarism
At the end of World War II the United States came to dominate Asia and launched two major aggressive wars in our region. Both the Korean War and the Vietnam War were part of its overall strategy of containing communism. In the name of fighting communism, the US used brutal force in the two aggressive wars and caused the deaths of millions of people and tremendous destruction to Asia. The heroic people of Korea and Vietnam fought back the aggression and won. In solidarity China helped both countries to win their wars of liberation.
People in Asia have suffered wars of aggression, not just in the past several decades during the domination of the United States, but actually for the past several centuries. As far back as the colonial days, the Western powers competed for a piece of Asia – England, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, the United States and other minor powers from the West all engaged in carving up parts of Asia for colonization, followed by Japan’s efforts to make all of Asia its empire. Japan invaded China and other Asian countries years before it provoked the United States into war. But ordinary people in Asia, Japanese people included, are just like people everywhere in the world. They want to live in peace, and they are tired of all the wars imposed on them.
We are now at the beginning of the 21st Century. On the one hand as the capitalist economic crisis has deepened, the imperialist powers will be competing with one another more fiercely for resources, for investment opportunities, and for markets. On the other hand, the US has further expanded its military forces in Asia targeting China as its potential threat. The possibility of another war in Asia is again real. We, of course, are all too familiar with the real destructive power of the US military machine to kill people and in destroying countries. No one can underestimate the real power of weapons of mass destruction that the US possesses, and the willingness of the US to use them on innocent people. We, the people, have to do everything to prevent the war from happening. International solidarity among peace loving people is the only way to defeat imperialist war and plunder. However, we also know that even though the United State may still launch another war against the will of people, it can never conquer a country by deploying its weapons of mass destruction. The US could not conquer the people of Korea, nor the people of Vietnam, just as it cannot conquer the people of Iraq. Military power, no matter how strong, can never conquer the people's desire to be free and their love for peace. The US military power, although a real and dangerous tiger, is also a paper tiger, and it will have no other way out but to surrender before the real power of people.
Paper presented to the Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) International Conference on US Militarism & " War on Terror" in the Asia Pacific Region, Cebu, Philippines, December 2006