History professor Ralph Young decided to take a detour from the norm by focusing on a global subject unknown to those present at the semester’s third weekly teach-in. Last Friday thirty students and professors gathered to discuss the topic of the United States’s military presence in Okinawa, Japan.
Noako Koda, who is originally from mainland Japan, led the discussion by informing the group of the history of military force in Okinawa. This allowed the forum to informally discuss and explore previously unknown facts.
Okinawa is the southern most island of Japan that has been under some form of United States control since 1972 when it was still considered to be a United States territory despite the recently gained sovereignty of Japan. Under this accommodation Japan was protected by the United States and was to devote more money toward their economy while the United States was guaranteed a military base in Okinawa from which they could fight the Cold War, watch over China, and prevent Japan from becoming communist.
By 1972 the protests in opposition to America’s presence in Okinawa were becoming louder, forcing Americans to relinquish control to the Japanese. However, the U.S. still retains military bases in Okinawa that are seven times the size of New York Central Park and roughly twenty percent of Okinawa’s land mass.
These bases governed strictly by American authority prevent the Japanese from investigating helicopter crashes as well as cases of rape that directly affect Okinawa’s inhabitants.
Discussion was then initiated when Young asked the forum, “What’s the purpose of having these military bases and what would the effect of pulling out be?” This lead both students and professors to issue their opinions on America’s need for dominance around the world.
“I think that it’s being used as a deterrent since it’s not enough anymore to simply go over and drop a bomb,” said Susan Jacobsen, a broadcast, telecommunications and mass media professor.
Young agreed with Jacobsen, stating, “We have bases in other countries because we are protecting our interests, whether it’s political or economic.”
The students addressed a different argument, stating that Japan wanted a United States military base in Okinawa because if there was ever a threat of attack the United States would be drawn into the battle.
As for the effects of pulling out, Julia Foley, a student at Temple, stated, “In the short term it would hurt the economy but in the long term it would be beneficial since they would be able to use their land for agricultural purposes as well as being able to focus on other activities.”
Next Friday’s teach-in discussion will once again turn toward the American home front with Professor Herbert Ershkowitz discussing the election of 2004 in a historical perspective.
Erin Schlesing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.