Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Social Impact of the Military Buildup

Editorial: The social impact of the build-up
The Marianas Variety
Guam Editorials
Wednesday January 30, 2008

First off, we believe that the U.S. military is a good organization as a whole and that it has, in general, acted properly in carrying out its duties overseas.

That being said, we should take note of the incidents related by the visiting activists during this week's UOG forum on women and human rights.

The activists came from Okinawa, the place where thousands of U.S. Marines and their dependents will be relocated to Guam.

Comparisons between Guam and Okinawa can be made because both are relatively small island communities that host a large number of U.S. military personnel.

Okinawa, which has been called an island of deep-seated resentment, accounts for only 0.6 percent of Japan's land area. Yet 75 percent of U.S. military installations in Japan are concentrated in the prefecture.

On Guam, the population will increase by almost 50,000 by the time the military's expansion is completed.

Suzuyo Takazato, co-founder and director for the Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, warned during the forum that there would likely be an increase in violence against local women when the Marines from Okinawa move to the island.

While activist rhetoric can sometimes lead to generalizations and oversimplification, the incidents related by Takazato were true. There were indeed crimes committed by the military during its stay in Okinawa and other places.

Thus, our leaders should take the revelations made during the forum as a cue that more needs to be done on the social aspects of the military's expansion on Guam.

The economic and infrastructure issues that will be affected by the coming of the Marines' have already gained the attention of GovGuam. And rightly so, because these are important and will have a big impact on the lives of the residents here.

However, the social impact is important too and should not be overlooked in the general excitement over the economic impact that the military build-up would have.

This early, Gov Guam and the private sector, especially the non-government organizations, should already be gearing up for the societal problems that the coming of the Marines will cause and take a pro-active approach.

For there will be problems, make no mistake. The military, just like any organization in the world, is comprised of human beings. And where there are humans, there will always be human foibles and shortcomings.

The military, too, should do its part. Over the years, military training has been improving to the point that atrocities common during the Vietnam era have more or less been already curtailed.

It is now up to the current military leadership to ensure that the military doesn't repeat the mistakes it made in Okinawa when it relocates the Marines to Guam.

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