POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 3, 2011
In a secret session of the U.S. Senate in January of 1887, the famous Reciprocity Treaty between the Kingdom of Hawaii and the U.S. was amended.
"His Majesty the King of the Hawaiian Islands, grants to the Government of the U.S. the exclusive right to enter the harbor of Pearl River … and maintain there a coaling and repair station for the use of the vessels of the U.S.," the amendment read.
You know the story: First it was sugar plantations, then it was pineapple plantations and then came the hotels. Outlasting sugar and pine and even timeshares as the Hawaii constant is Pearl Harbor and the U.S. military.
For a century, Hawaii has been one of the nation's most important geopolitical markers. Just this week a new study reports military spending amounts to 18 percent of Hawaii's economy.
Last month Hawaii's senior Sen. Daniel K. Inouye told graduates of the U.S. Naval War College program how he was sent a clipping from the 1938 Los Angeles Examiner noting "Hawaii — Our Greatest Defense Outpost."
Inouye, who is exercising his considerable authority as a military watchdog, protector and advocate, gave a sober warning of the dangers America faces and Hawaii's century-long role as "the hub of American military strength that keeps the peace and deters aggression to the farthest reaches of our region."
Inouye is a strong supporter of a strong U.S. military presence in Asia, noting how in 1992 he toured the region "from Sydney to Beijing, meeting with the highest ranking officials from presidents, prime ministers and dictators."
"Without hesitation, they asked that the U.S. not leave the area," Inouye said.
He added that he made a swing through the Philippines and Vietnam during the just-ended congressional Easter recess and concluded ,"Our security interests are interwoven with economic prosperity in the Pacific."
This comes at a time when already there is a backlash forming in Congress, led by Inouye's perpetual nemesis, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who along with two other senators say the Defense Department should review its plans for South Korea, Guam and Okinawa.
Inouye rejected the idea, saying instead that the U.S. should get ready for a continual struggle with China. Two War College professors, James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara, in a commentary on Inouye's speech, sense the tension, saying the Chinese see Hawaii as "evolving from an advance U.S. base into the United States' last line of defense in the Pacific Ocean."
Inouye said: "I believe that China's most recent actions reflect a period of testing and probing the strength of the U.S.-Japanese security relationship, our commitment to the Republic of Korea and the bilateral relations we have with a number of our partners like Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia."
Then Inouye, the old warrior and Congressional Medal of Honor awardee, served up an unequivocal warning: "We are confronting a most challenging and potentially dangerous period in a very complicated world. As one who has lived through several wars, I hate to anticipate another. … Unfortunately, I have concluded over my many years of service that war is nearly unavoidable."
That is the sort of stark candor that puts the fall meeting in Honolulu of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries into sharp focus.
Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.