Compilation of role models, highlighting the unicorn-level excellence (that's like, the highest level) of women in uniform. Military culture, wars, and culture wars. Have fun!
The Wall Street Journal reported today that the commander of U.S. forces in Japan implemented a curfew for all military personnel in response to the alleged rape of an Okinawan woman by two U.S. sailors. Responses to this decision and the alleged rape have covered a wide range, initiating conversations on everything from sexual assault in the military to arguments for and against our continued presence in Japan.
Because I’ve already discussed sexual harassment in the Marine Corps and general women’s issues relating to the two female infantry drops this week, I’d like to turn my attention instead to an underlying cause of some of the reactions to this alleged crime: racial intolerance.
I was actually stationed in Japan from 2004 through 2007. In fact, I have friends stationed there now. As frustrating as I know this curfew is for them, and as resentful as they might feel toward any policy change that taints American service members as associates of rapists and criminals, I see prudence behind the order. I’d like to have a conversation about racial intolerance, because unacknowledged misgivings can have such profound bearing on the way members of the military interact with locals while overseas.
For a little background information, the United States and Japan first joined forces after WWII. In the aftermath, “Japan renounced war, the possession of war potential, the right of belligerency, and the possession of nuclear weaponry, and held the view that it should possess only the minimum defense necessary to face external threats.” Japan does not maintain the kind of military force that could secure their borders against China or North Korea. We signed the Japan-America Security Alliance 1951, followed by the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan in 1960. Our military doesn’t remain on Japanese soil as the bullying remnants of a 70-year-old war, but as allies. I would never speak for the Japanese men and women protesting our bases, but I do want that clear, we’re not exactly an uninvited party guest overstaying our welcome, sulking in a corner after everyone’s gone home. Some of the Japanese have good reasons to want us there, just as some of them have good reasons to want us gone.
That said, there have always been issues with young people acting up. During my years in Japan, liberty (free time during which you may leave the base) terminated at midnight if a Marine carried a regular red liberty card. Of the Marines who lived in the barracks, senior Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) usually carried a gold card, as did a few junior personnel who’d achieved something noteworthy, which extended liberty to all off-duty hours (otherwise known as “regular life”). Every single week, several red card-holding Marines were caught off-base after hours. Every single week, Marines were caught drinking underage, lying about their location in the duty logbook, throwing punches, and dancing around in off-limits clubs that were usually banned due to criminal activity. Two Corporals got into a hit-and-run in Hiroshima while driving drunk; they left their local girlfriends in the car, so they did not get away with it. If the Japanese see us in a less-than-upstanding light, then we have no one to blame but
ourselves those idiots.
When it comes to drinking, fighting, and visiting red light districts, pro-military assessments often begin and end with, “If they’re old enough to serve our country…” as if an eighteenth birthday bestows on us all of the wisdom and direction we need to navigate a completely unfamiliar culture, and to do it under a title like “U.S. Marine” which heaves the reputation of our entire country onto our shoulders. We’re not that dependable, not one hundred percent of us. I see no problem with turning a critical eye on our servicemen and -women’s conduct.
Before we dismiss the anger of the Japanese because we can find articles on similar Japanese crimes that don’t get the same backlash and write-ups of discomfiting sexual proclivities; in other word, before we dismiss the anger of the Japanese just because we can, I’d like to point out that we all look askance at differences. If you clicked that “yobai” link and immediately felt like calling a female friend to tell her you respect her as a person, we’ve reestablished in the last five seconds that we, as human beings, dislike and fear the unfamiliar. We, as human beings, sometimes conduct ourselves in an intolerant manner. I would link to an article on American intolerance specifically, but there are only so many words in this post, and I could never pick just 800 of my favorite examples.
If some of the Japanese hate and fear our troops in the wake of an accusation of rape, well, we know that we’re not so enlightened that we would respond any differently. We wouldn’t take the time to learn about and appreciate each individual member of the foreign military force parked on our soil — we would respond the same way.
Temporarily restricting liberty will give the Japanese police time to sort out the allegation, and keep our legitimately overwrought service members off of the streets and away from the also-legitimately overwrought Japanese nationals.
This curfew is a good thing.