Okinawa Marines’ Raison d’etre lost in a changing world
Masaaki Gabe Prof. of University of Ryukyus
In times of the Cold war, the United States tried to keep military bases close to the USSR and China, in its effort for military dominance over them. It was a strategy for forward deployment and also for an engagement to defense of the alliance of the western countries. One of the posts is Okinawa. The U. S. bases on Okinawa are said to have played a role to contain China, North Korea, and the USSR, and protect the U.S. allied Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Philippines.
The U.S. military strategy during the Cold War had two striking points. The enemies are military powers of hostile countries. They were a regular army with uniform of the USSR or China. And, readiness of U.S. forces was said to be vital in order to respond to enemy’s action. It was necessary for a swift reaction to deploy forces from the forward bases such as Okinawa.
After the collapse of the walls of Berlin, and the 9.11 terrorism, the enemies of the U.S. forces are no more regular uniforms. There are no military powers that challenge to the U.S. forces which have matchless destructive power. Enemies of them are individuals or groups of terrorism with weapons who try to challenge the U.S.. Chechens to Russia, Tibetans to China, Palestinians to Israel, even if they are defined as terrorists, are not enemies that the U.S. will attack. A war on terrorism starts when the U.S. forces are ready, and America determined to do.
During past 20 years, basic strategy of the U.S. military had changed. But, still, some experts insist the U. S needs to maintain readiness to contingencies in Korean peninsula or Formosa Strait, where influence of the Cold War remains.
Nevertheless, as time changes, ways of waging a war also change. In East-Asia, a possibility that the U.S. engages in a war with its ground forces is very much low. For that reason, sea and air powers have been given much priority. Today, air to air fight even becomes hard to expect, and a sea power solely in the open sea is becoming to be enough power for the regional stability. In these changes, the U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit, with 3,000 Marines, structured as Marine Air-Ground Task Force would fight against enemies, become to have less and less chances for deployment.
It is the United States of America to determine who is enemy and when to pull the trigger of a war. The plan to relocate the 8,000 U.S. Marines, from Okinawa to Guam shows that a legitimate reason of that the large scale ground troops are deploying in Okinawa is disappearing.