KUAM: Former senator Jim Webb has strong ties to Guam
im Webb is a former US senator, Navy secretary, and democratic presidential candidate, he also has a long history with Guam, dating back to the 1970's when he wrote a book about the strategic importance of Guam and Micronesia.
"The way that I started this many, many years ago was looking at the tail end of the Vietnam war and where the American bases were out in East Asia, and whether there might be a better way for us to address our national security interests out here by consolidating a lot of the ground units, consolidating our position in Guam and the Northern Marianas with a powerful Navy presence forward, and still being able to communicate the interests around here. So Guam is still really one of the key places, Guam and the Northern Marianas, for us to do that," he said.
As a member of the US Senate Webb took a keen interest in the military buildup in Guam. But key colleagues, John McCain and Armed Services chairman Carl Levin, were among those who expressed concern about the initial size and cost of the buildup. But several years later with a reduced force, Webb says he'd like to see the relocation of marines move more quickly.
"I know that when I was in the senate it was for 8,800 Marines to come in. A lot of it was for headquarters staff, the way they were planning it, and there were issues out here on the environmental protection agency reviews, and that was sort of slowing it down. But I believe that Guam, and also Tinian could house more military people to the benefit of, the overall benefit, of the economy of this area and also to our strategic interests," he said.
Webb says he was among the first to push the importance of confronting Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea, an area he believes the Obama Administration failed. He noted, "I like to point out that I started leading a pivot to Asia two years before Obama was elected. When I got to the Senate I got on the Foreign Relations committee, I got on the East Asia sub-committee, which I became chairman of, and I sat down and said-two years before Obama was elected-we must strengthen our relations in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and change the formula in Burma, and we lead that out of my office.
"I don't think this is an Obama issue, it's an American issue and I would hope that the Trump administration would also support the importance, the vital importance, of this region to global security. I sort of get that feeling from the confirmation hearings of the individual who is going to be Secretary of State."
Webb believes President Donald Trump shares his view that the US needs to take a harder line with Beijing. Webb says he has long said America's greatest long-term strategic challenge will be the relationship with China, as he said, "In the Senate I worked on this very hard, we got some measures passed through the Senate-talking about solving these problems in a multilateral way with more than two parties- in the resolution of military issues. And we got broad support from the ASEAN countries, including Singapore, which didn't have any land claims in the South China Sea, strongly supported what we were saying as did these other areas. So what China has been doing here, all the way down to the Straits of Malacca, should be of very serious concern to the other countries out there."
The 71-year-old political veteran whose government career dates back to the Reagan years says while many discounted the chances of a Trump presidency, he did not. He believes trump tapped into a nerve that he saw too. "I ran for awhile for President as a Democrat and it was very clear early on that the Clinton machine had so much money and so many connections that it wasn't going to happen. But I like to say that Donald Trump understood a lot of the issues that I was trying to address in terms of fairness in the country, and the disaffection of a lot of the working people who were cut out, you know, in flyover land. I like to say that Donald Trump got a lot of the issues, and Hillary Clinton got a lot of the money, so I could kind of see it coming," he said.