Monday, November 30, 2015         


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Military presence in Hawaii helps preserve regional peace and stability

By Charlie Ota


We should not let James Abts' recent commentary go unanswered, wherein he alleges that the Middle East "has been our major strategic concern since the end of the Cold War and will likely remain so for the indefinite future" ("Deficit crisis Is chance to cut military bloat," Star-Advertiser, Oct 9).

He further stated that "Hawaii's strategic significance may rest more with nostalgia than reality, and the military presence here will continue to be largely about jobs and the politics of military spending."

Those statements are simply not in tune with a recent strategic policy dissertation by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stating in part, "The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action."

Clinton acknowledged that the time has come for the U.S. to assume leadership in the Asia-Pacific, stating, "Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap the vast and growing consumer base of Asia. Strategically, maintaining peace and security across the Asia-Pacific is increasingly crucial to global progress, whether through defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, countering proliferation efforts of North Korea, or ensuring transparency in the military activities of the region's key players."

Clinton also stressed: "Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade and access to cutting-edge technology."

One of the six key lines of actions addressed by Clinton is the "forging of a broad-based military presence" in the Pacific to preserve regional peace and stability and promote growth of a thriving global economy.

We should be concerned that outcomes from the ongoing deliberations of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction could jeopardize continuing with the highly effective U.S. strategy of forward-basing our military forces to meet our security and economic goals.

The current U.S. military force structure in the Pacific, coupled with the forces of our allies, has met with unprecedented successes in deterring wars, enabling the flow of commerce and trade, and providing aid to Asia-Pacific economies recovering from disasters such as the tsunami that crushed towns, people and economies in parts of northeastern Honshu, Japan.

Rather, the joint committee must avoid causing draconian cuts that would force the U.S., inter alia, to compromise regional security. It is a risk with enormous economic consequences that could cause incalculable damage to the already struggling economies of the U.S. and our Asia-Pacific partners.

The threats of armed conflicts in the Asia-Pacific are real. North Korea continues to engage in nuclear proliferation. China is rapidly elevating its military capabilities to a global level, continues to claim ownership of international waters in the South China Sea, and has its ground-based missiles aimed at Taiwan. Taiwan struggles to counter by bolstering its military forces, albeit with U.S. aid. Terrorist cells continue to operate in parts of Southeast Asia.

These threats, if left unchecked by an ever-present and capable deterrent military force, could undermine U.S. goals in the Asia-Pacific and result in the loss of the many benefits that Americans take for granted.

Deterring armed conflict is crucial. It is the key factor in keeping the international waters of the South China Sea free and open for commerce and trade. It saves billions — trillions? — of dollars in war funding, avoids the needless killing of thousands of military personnel and innocent civilians, and helps to preserve the Earth's fragile environment and historic cultural sites. The costs of deterrence are miniscule compared to the costs of war and recovery, and the fruits that it bears with thriving global economies bring great joy to all — priceless.

It is hoped that the U.S. Departments of State and Defense and Hawaii's congressional delegation will prevail in convincing the joint committee to hold the line on making any cuts that will force the military to do less with even less, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

Such actions would not only threaten regional security, but progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Pacific-wide free trade agreements aimed at bringing together the economies of the Asia-Pacific, getting them back on the track to recovery, and putting millions of people back to work.

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