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This House would remove United States military bases from Japan
This House would remove United States military bases from Japan
Since the end of World War II and Japan's surrender to the Allies, the United States has retained a considerable military presence on the island nation. US forces are distributed across the major islands, but concentrated mostly on the small island of Okinawa. Initially used as an occupation force to ensure the post-war peace, the bases soon took on the role of strategic positions during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Japan was a necessary forward base for fighting the Korean and Vietnam wars. However even when the Soviet Union collapsed the bases remained. Now, more than sixty years since the end of World War II, the United States continues to maintain its bases and resist urges to leave. The Japanese public has for several years clamored for their removal, citing numerous crimes committed by American soldiers against Japanese civilians over the years. The United States, on the other hand, has persisted in its insistence that the bases are vital for maintaining security in East Asia and for protecting Japan, which has no standing military capable of offensive combat. Proponents of removing the bases, cite the lack of need and mandate from the Japanese people, and the strategic and diplomatic benefits they perceive as stemming from withdrawal. Opponents contend that the bases are a strategic necessity for protecting Japan and for maintaining stability in East Asia. Debates thus focus on the issues of whether the bases are necessary for the security of Japan and East Asia, and whether or not the United States military is a force for good in Japan.
|Points For||Points Against|
|Japan, as an independent nation-state, should have the ability to shape its own military policy.||The United States' military presence in Japan serves to provide regional stability and security.|
|The Japanese people do not want the bases on their soil.||The American bases serve as a necessary defense for Japan, which does not have a standing army and is dedicated to a policy of neutrality.|
|The United States has no legitimate cause for a military presence in Japan.||The problems the Japanese people have with American military bases on their soil is not that the bases are present, but with the lack of discipline on the bases.|
|The withdrawal of American soldiers and bases will cause Japan to be perceived as a more legitimate and believable exponent of liberal democratic values in East Asia.||The American troops and equipment can be very useful in times of Japanese domestic crises.|
|The removal of American bases from Japan will improve perceptions of the United States by countries around the world.|
|The removal of ground forces from Japan can serve to begin a general shift in the United States' military policy from emphasis on ground troops to more useful and effective tools of military power.|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Japan, as an independent nation-state, should have the ability to shape its own military policy.
Every state has a right to shape its own destiny and that of its people. It must therefore have control over its defense policy, which necessarily shape its interactions with other states. The Japanese constitution contains a clause, forced into it by the American occupiers, denying Japan the power to develop a military of its own. The ironic thing is that the United States military now claims to be doing Japan a favor by retaining its bases, claiming that because they have no military they cannot defend themselves. With the United States military gone, Japan will be able to begin reconsidering its defense policy and to shape it in the image it sees as befitting itself, not how the United States envisions it1. The presence of American troops in lieu of a Japanese military hampers Japan's ability to shape a defense policy on its own terms, instead having to defer to the United States, whose interest might or might not coincide with Japan's. In any event, the Japan Self-Defense Forces are well suited to the task of defending Japan, as it is the sixth largest defense organization by expenditure in the world1. It is not in any real danger of being overwhelmed by aggressors in the absence of American protection. In order to fully take its place on the world stage and to become a full member of the community of free nations, Japan must be able to direct its own defense and foreign policies. This can only truly happen once the United States withdraws its forces from Japan.Improve this
Japan does not need to shape its own military policy, nor does it seem to want to do so. The government could remove the clause in the constitution against building a military, but it has never chosen to do so. The Japanese appear happy enough to let the United States handle its defense, even if they grumble a bit about a few crimes being committed by American soldiers. The Japanese are better off with the United States providing it protection anyway, since it ensures they are safe from harm from other regional players.Improve this
The Japanese people do not want the bases on their soil.
The presence of American military personnel is particularly onerous in light of the multitude of crimes committed by soldiers over the years; since the 1950s, more than 200,000 accidents and crimes have been committed, and more than 1000 Japanese civilians have been killed, and a number of others have been the victims of assault and rape1. Most of the soldiers who commit these crimes never see justice since American soldiers stationed in Japan enjoy partial extraterritorial status, granting them a degree of immunity from prosecution by Japanese authorities2. For all of these reasons, the Japanese people have resoundingly stated their desire for the United States to withdraw its forces and close its bases on their soil. This is demonstrated in every opinion poll and is reflected in the fact that current ruling party in the Japanese parliament, the Democratic Party of Japan was elected partly on the basis of its promise to remove the bases. Without reason to be there, and unwanted by the people, the United States should remove its forces from Japan.
1 Foreign Affairs Committee. 2005. "House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Minutes July 1, 2005". House of Representatives of Japan. Available:
2 Time. 1957. "National Affairs: Justice and Law In Status-of-Forces Agreements". Time. Available:
Whether or not the Japanese people want them there or not, it is perfectly legitimate for the United States to maintain military bases in Japan. Simply because they commit some crimes does not mean the American soldiers in Japan are doing more harm than good. In fact, the security they provide Japan, which does not have a full military, is vital in light of potential threats from other East Asian powers, such as North Korea or China1.Improve this
The United States has no legitimate cause for a military presence in Japan.
The United States may once have had a legitimate reason to maintain a military presence in Japan; it had a genuine interest in instituting a democratic regime and enforcing a peace after the violence of World War II. Yet now, more than fifty years on, Japan is a thriving, robust democracy that has proven it to be a responsible and markedly conservative actor in international relations. The presence of the United States, originally meant to enforce peace, no longer has any place in Japan. Yet it persists, and not only does it keep its bases and soldiers on bases, it also expects the Japanese government to contribute to their upkeep through a special "sympathy budget" levied from the Japanese exchequer each year, which has cost the Japanese taxpayers more than $100 billion since 19871. Clearly, the treatment of the United States of Japan through its maintenance of its forces is illegitimate.Improve this
The United States has the legal legitimacy of the post-war treaty signed by the Japanese government, and ratified when the first independent parliament took power after the military governorship ended. By all legal accounts, the United States has every right to maintain its forces in Japan.Improve this
The withdrawal of American soldiers and bases will cause Japan to be perceived as a more legitimate and believable exponent of liberal democratic values in East Asia.
Japan is a nation with a now-ingrained democratic tradition and a strong liberal economic system, which makes it the perfect actor to engage politically with states in East Asia on behalf of the international community, as well as to serve as an example of the benefits of liberal democratic values to a society. Japan can serve as an exemplar to its neighbors still laboring under tyrannical regimes, such as North Korea and Burma (Myanmar) and to help promote an organic progression to democracy in the region. All of these activities are hampered, however, by the presence of American military bases in Japan. When Japan seeks to engage with despotic states and to reach out to their people, tyrants can point to the bases as exemplifying Japan's position as a puppet of the United States and not truly an independent nation at all1. So long as its strings appear to be being pulled by the United States, Japan will unable to effectively promote democracy and liberalism amongst its neighbors. By withdrawing its troops, the United States gains an influential ally in the promotion of views in keeping with its own.
1McCormack, Gavan. 2007. Client State: Japan in the American Embrace. New York: Verso Press.Improve this
The removal of American military bases from Japan will not improve perceptions of Japan by its neighbors. This is due to the fact that it is not the presence of the United States in Japan that makes many East Asian states wary of it, but rather Japan's imperial history. China and Korea remember vividly the Japanese invasion of their territory and have in many ways not forgiven them for the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers during that time. Japan will always be a tainted actor in the region, whether the United States has bases within its borders or not.Improve this
The removal of American bases from Japan will improve perceptions of the United States by countries around the world.
The removal of American soldiers from Japan will greatly benefit the United States' efforts in other regions of the world. At present groups opposed to the United States, such as al-Qaeda, use Japan as an example of American imperialism; they point out that when the United States build a military base, they rarely vacate it1. This has led to reticence on the part of countries such as Pakistan to ask for American aid in fighting terrorists within its borders and to terrorist organizations being able to recruit soldiers fearing subjection to an American empire. Closing its bases in Japan will serve to soften the United States' appearance of empire. It will demonstrate that if a base is placed in a country it will be removed when it is no longer needed or wanted. This makes calling upon the United States for aid appear less costly to a state's sovereignty and makes the presence of American bases elsewhere in the world seem less permanent and odious. All of these perceptual changes will help to further American foreign policy, as it will be met by more compliant, less oppositional states.
1Perkins, John. 2004. Confessions of an Economic Hitman. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.Improve this
Removing its bases from Japan will do little to improve international perceptions of the United States. The fact that is willing to remove its forces from a state more than fifty years after it has become a stable democracy and only then due to extreme local opposition to their presence is not much of an example to give to the rest of the world. The removal of its bases would be seen as nothing more than a token gesture, and would certainly not be accepted as indicative of a willingness to leave states when they ask it to do so.Improve this
The removal of ground forces from Japan can serve to begin a general shift in the United States' military policy from emphasis on ground troops to more useful and effective tools of military power.
The days of large standing armies doing battle with one another are over. Power is not measured by the number of foot soldiers a state has, but by its arsenal of fighters, bombers, drones, and aircraft carriers. The United States has accepted this fact belatedly, choosing to maintain a large standing army while also developing more formidable and useful methods of warfare and projecting power1. However, escalating costs are starting to make this effort to eat its cake and have it too financially impossible. In order to remain the dominant military power in the 21st century, the United States must accept that its military investments must be made more intelligently, and focus on developing smarter weapons, such as unmanned drones, as well as platforms for conducting war in the modern world, such as aircraft carriers. Removing its bases from Japan would be a first step toward reorganizing the military along these more rational lines. The effort to scale back on ground forces must start somewhere, and Japan is as good as any, considering its lack of need for such forces.Improve this
A shift away from conventional ground forces is not a wise strategic move for the United States. Its experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan serve as striking examples of the value of having "boots on the ground"1. Without a conventional ground force, bombers and drones can do little. Rolling back its overall complement of such forces is thus strategically ill advised.
1Clark, Wesley. 2003. Winning Modern Wars: Iraq, Terrorism, and the American Empire. New York: PublicAffairs.Improve this
The United States' military presence in Japan serves to provide regional stability and security.
East Asia, in which Japan is located, is a potentially very volatile region so a US presence is needed to provide stability. A number of states the United States considers 'rogue' occupy the region, such as the military junta in Myanmar and the dangerous and mercurial regime of Kim Jong Il's North Korea. As much of a challenge is the rising power of China. China is already flexing its political muscles in the region, challenging the United States' control of the local sea lanes and even butting heads with Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces over disputed waters and territory in the East China Sea1. It is the presence of American military forces in East Asia that provides stability and prevents regional tensions from escalating into open hostility and conflict. The bases in Japan are an essential part of that military presence. They help serve as a provider of stability, preventing such possible outcomes as a Chinese attack on Taiwan, or a North Korean attack on South Korea, or on Japan. The unprecedented prosperity and development witnessed in East Asia in recent years has been built upon a general peace, a peace that has largely been the product of the United States providing a strong military presence to discourage violence between rival rising powers in the region2. This growth and development would be fundamentally undermined by the fears and instability that would be brought on by so profound a change in the status quo as the absence of the United States as a major player and stabilizer in the region. Should the United States close its bases on Japan, even if it does not follow suit with its other bases, such as those in South Korea, it would still be perceived as sign of weakness and decline in the United States' power and influence in the region. Such perception would be very dangerous for the region, potentially galvanizing North Korea or China to act aggressively upon their long-held ambitions heretofore held in check by fears of the United States' military might. At the same time the United States' ability to respond to such aggressive activities would be diminished without its extensive bases in Japan, which would be a strategically vital staging post in the event of the outbreak of conflict. Clearly, for the sake of regional security, the United States must retain its force dispositions in Japan and East Asia.Improve this
The United States does not provide any degree of regional stability in East Asia due to its military presence in Japan. In fact, the ability of the United States to project power and to enforce its interests is not based in its ground forces or land bases. Rather, it is in its aircraft carrier groups, which are the real platforms for staging conflicts. So long as the United States retains its military capacities in Taiwan and South Korea, North Korea, China, or any other regional player will not tamper with US vital interests in those states.Improve this
The American bases serve as a necessary defense for Japan, which does not have a standing army and is dedicated to a policy of neutrality.
Japan does not have a full-scale military, only its Self-Defense Forces, which have little to no offensive capability. The prohibition on Japanese military adventurism and on raising anything other than defensive forces is a constitutional constraint originally imposed by the victorious Allies after World War II. While their neutrality was initially imposed upon them, the Japanese have actually acclaimed neutrality as their desired military stance. There is a popular will against any military buildup and against Japanese involvement in foreign military operations. Japan is able to retain this spirit of neutrality and lack of interest in developing its own military largely because of the strong American presence there. Should the United States close its bases, however, Japan might not long feel able to remain neutral and non-militaristic, since other regional players may well capitalize on its relative weakness, and even taking by force the disputed areas and waters it cannot adequately defend from aggression. For example, Japan's claims to disputed waters in the East China Sea and the Senkaku islands located therein would likely be ignored by China the other claimant to the waterway and territory1. Without American troops to support its claims and to ensure that peace reins in the region, Japan will likely feel forced to build up its military capacity. However, the buildup would likely be too late for Japan to successfully defend any disputed territories. Furthermore, an insecure-feeling Japan with a growing military would certainly be perceived by the former victims of its imperialism as threatening, leading to potentially even broader and more severe conflicts2. Such conflicts could be further exacerbated should Japan choose to develop nuclear weapons in order to defend its interests, something it has the technological capacity to do, and which it might feel pressed to do in the event of foreign aggression3. Thus, whether Japan builds up its military or not in the wake of United States withdrawal, its safety is jeopardized and its relations with its neighbors made more volatile. The American bases offer protection and allow Japan to remain neutral, and not have to develop a military of its own. The protection offered by the bases, furthermore, far exceeds the fighting capacity of the soldiers on the bases, since states tend to fear the ire of the United States and rarely consider attacking installations it controls. Clearly, Japan is safest with an American military presence.
1 Nye, Joseph. 1995. "East Asian Security: The Case for Deep Engagement". Foreign Affairs. Available:
2 Gordon, William. 2000. "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere". Japan-Related Papers and Essays. Available:
3 Brumfiel, Geoff. 2004. Nuclear Proliferation Special: We Have the Technology". Nature. Available:
Japan does not need an American military presence within its borders to protect its interests. Its Self-Defense Forces are adequate for defending its borders and vital interests, barring full-scale war, which is no more likely in the absence of American soldiers in Japan as with them, which is to say highly unlikely. Furthermore, any territorial disputes likely to escalate could still be dealt with by the extensive American military presence in East Asian waters and in Taiwan and South Korea.Improve this
The problems the Japanese people have with American military bases on their soil is not that the bases are present, but with the lack of discipline on the bases.
The presence of American troops is not itself seen as a problem by the Japanese people. Rather, the reasons cited by Japanese citizens when they call for the closing of the United States' bases on their soil are always the crimes being committed by American soldiers, not with the idea of American forces being in the country per se. Crime is a very serious problem among soldiers stationed in Japan, certainly, a problem largely arising from the Status of Forces Agreement, which gives limited extraterritorial status to American soldiers serving in Japan. While the Japanese government did sign the agreement, it was largely forced upon it by the United States. The Agreement essentially grants a degree of immunity to soldiers, making it very difficult for Japanese officials to arrest or prosecute them1. This is a very serious problem that must be acknowledged, but it should not be considered enough to sacrifice the boons provided to Japan and East Asia from the presence of American forces. The answer is rather to create a more fair agreement between the two states and to end the immunity American soldiers currently abuse2. Steps are already being taken in Japan, where American base commanders have ordered courts martial for several offenders, even in some cases when the Japanese authorities dropped charges. These are clear signs of improvement and they must be expanded upon to ensure that strict discipline is maintained on all bases (Associated Press, 2008). These are relatively recent developments, and have thus not disseminated into the popular understanding as of yet. It is quite likely that soon the Japanese people will not consider the situation nearly so onerous, so long as they begin to see justice consistently being done.
1 Time. 1957. "National Affairs: Justice and Law In Status-of-Forces Agreements". Time. Available:
2Johnson, Chalmers. 2004. "Three Rapes: The Status of Forces Agreement an Okinawa". JPRI Working Paper 97.
3 Associated Press. 2008. "US Imposes Curfew On Okinawa Forces". The Japan Times. Available:
Discipline alone is not enough to make the Japanese accept the presence of American military bases on their land. Punishing soldiers for future crimes does not change the fact that the United States military has abused its extraterritoriality for decades, leaving thousands of Japanese citizens injured or dead. Strict discipline has been imposed for nearly three years and public opinion is largely unchanged. The only thing that will satisfy them is the removal of the bases; the Japanese public will accept nothing else.Improve this
The American troops and equipment can be very useful in times of Japanese domestic crises.
The American forces stationed in Japan are well versed and equipped for dealing with civilian crises. The 9.0-level earthquake that struck Japan left the country reeling. American soldiers and base personnel around Japan leant support and equipment to the effort rescuing and rebuilding1. When Japan's domestic infrastructure was partially overwhelmed by the unprecedented disaster, the close proximity of a trained and well-equipped force capable of acting under its own command structure rather than burdening the already overwrought Japanese administration proved a major boon to the victims of the earthquake. The earthquake effectively demonstrated the value of having American military personnel near at hand, an advantage Japan should not have to lose due to base closures.Improve this
While American troops might have been useful during a particularly serious disaster, it is far from reason enough to maintain them permanently in Japan, especially in light of the crimes they are wont to commit. The benefits are clearly rare and illusory. It would be far better to allow the Japanese people to choose their own path, rather than forcing them to keep troops "for their own good", especially when they themselves define that good as requiring the removal of the troops.Improve this
Clark, Wesley. 2003. Winning Modern Wars: Iraq, Terrorism, and the American Empire. New York: PublicAffairs.
Johnson, Chalmers. 2004. "Three Rapes: The Status of Forces Agreement an Okinawa". JPRI Working Paper 97.
McCormack, Gavan. 2007. Client State: Japan in the American Embrace. New York: Verso Press.
Perkins, John. 2004. Confessions of an Economic Hitman. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
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