There were no issues of any real substance debated by Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the presidential campaign leading up to the recent election. With foreign wars raging, the USA PATRIOT Act and the NDAA threatening Americans’ civil liberties, the police state and surveillance state increasing, drone attacks killing foreign civilians, the drug war destroying Americans’ freedoms, the TSA out of control, and the imperial presidency in full force, it’s not like there was nothing serious to talk about.
Instead we had to endure endless back-and-forth over how many billions of dollars Obamacare cuts or doesn’t cut from Medicare and how much more each candidate wants to “invest” in the space program.
The reason there was no real debate is that Romney and Obama are much more alike than they are different: foreign aid, foreign wars, drone strikes, targeted killings, bailouts, stimulus programs, the drug war, the police state, the welfare state, the warfare state, the national-security state, and varying degrees of socialism, corporatism, and fascism. Someone even put together a list of “100 Ways Mitt Romney Is Just Like Barack Obama.”
But not only did Romney and Obama not debate any issues of substance, they each focused on an issue that was no issue at all: the Iran problem. In his 2012 State of the Union address, Obama stated, “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.” Romney said that if you elect him, “Iran will not have a nuclear weapon” because “a nuclear-armed Iran is not only a threat to Israel, it is a threat to the entire world.” And should sanctions fail to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, “there’s nothing else we could do besides take military action.”
All the bluster about Iran is nonsense, of course, considering that Iran (which, unlike Israel, is a signer of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) is not developing a nuclear weapon and is no threat to the United States or Israel. Even the Supreme Leader of Iran (who is not President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who leaves office next year) has said that the possession of nuclear weapons is “pointless, dangerous, and is a great sin from an intellectual and a religious point of view.”
A real problem with a country that neither Romney nor Obama ever mentioned is a serious issue that has been boiling for years: the Japan problem.
Thousands of Japanese recently protested the deployment of American Osprey military aircraft on a southern Japanese island. Citing safety concerns and recent crimes committed by U.S. military personnel, protesters chanted “Ospreys out! Marine Corps out!” as they called for the removal of 12 MV-22 Osprey hybrid aircraft from Okinawa, where more than half of the troops in Japan are stationed. The protest came just days after an alleged assault by a U.S. airman on a teenage boy and just two weeks after a curfew was imposed on U.S. troops in Japan after the arrest of two Navy sailors in the alleged rape of a local woman. Even before these latest alleged crimes, all active-duty U.S. sailors in Japan were, and are, barred from drinking in public from midnight to 6 a.m. between Monday and Friday and between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.
These embarrassing episodes for the U.S. military in Japan are not isolated incidents by a few bad apples. Crimes against Japanese by American soldiers have been taking place for years (see the works of Chalmers Johnson).
But there is an even bigger crime against the Japanese people: the continued U.S. occupation of Japan. The U.S. government has maintained bases and stationed thousands of troops in Japan since it defeated the Japanese in World War II.
According to the Department of Defense’s “Base Structure Report” for fiscal year 2012, the U.S. military has 109 military “sites” in Japan with 9,436 buildings totaling 33,736,309 sq. ft. on 126,450 acres. And according to the latest edition of the DoD’s “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country,” the United States has 36,708 military personnel stationed in Japan.
And then there are the two other major countries that the United States defeated in World War II: Germany and Italy. The same DoD “Personnel Strengths” report lists 53,526 U.S. military personnel in Germany and 10,817 in Italy.
Does anyone really think it is necessary to keep so many American troops in Japan, Germany, and Italy so that they don’t try to wage war against the United States again?
The “Japan problem” is not limited to Japan or other Axis powers in World War II. There are still 9,317 U.S. troops in Great Britain — one of the Allied powers in the war.
But World War II was not the beginning. Since the Spanish-American War of 1898, the foreign policy of the United States has been one of interventionism. Even before World War I, U.S. troops were sent to Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, China, and Mexico. Between the two world wars, U.S. troops were sent to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Russia, Panama, Honduras, Yugoslavia, Guatemala, Turkey, and China.
The United States currently has troops in about 160 countries and territories — about 75 percent of the world. It doesn’t matter which party controls the Congress or the presidency; both parties are firmly committed to a foreign policy of interventionism. When “incidents” in foreign countries with U.S. military personnel occur, both parties always miss the real issue.
The commander and top officers of a San Diego-based Navy frigate were recently relieved of duty after a rowdy, booze-fueled three-day port visit to Vladivostok, Russia. Their actions will result in reprimands, reassignments, investigations, and the issuance of guidelines to make sure things like that don’t happen again, or rather, don’t get made public again. The real issue, of course, is, what is the U.S. Navy doing in Vladivostok in the first place?
As part of his Amendment for Peace, U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler (1881–1940), the author of War Is a Racket, proposed the following:
- The removal of members of the land armed forces from within the continental limits of the United States and the Panama Canal Zone for any cause whatsoever is hereby prohibited.
- The vessels of the United States Navy, or of the other branches of the armed service, are hereby prohibited from steaming, for any reason whatsoever except on an errand of mercy, more than 500 miles from the U.S. coast.
- Aircraft of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps are hereby prohibited from flying, for any reason whatsoever, more than 750 miles beyond the coast of the United States.
That rules out military advisors, foreign bases, entangling alliances, nation-building, regime changes, spreading democracy, enforcing UN resolutions, drones, policing the world, invasions, occupations, bombing, maiming, killing — and stationing Marines in Japan or sending the Navy to Vladivostok.
Even though Romney lost the election, Republicans will continue to push for, and pressure Obama to push for, solutions to a nonexistent Iran problem while ignoring real difficulties such as the Japan problem. And they will do so to our peril.