Unicorn in Uniform

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!

Why the curfew for U.S. military personnel in Japan is the right idea

Via Marines.mil

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.

Via the Wall Street Journal

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.

9 comments on “Why the curfew for U.S. military personnel in Japan is the right idea

  1. Nunya Bizness
    October 21, 2012

    Skipping all the other stuff to the bottom: “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.”

    Response: Really? This is what you believe to be the case? I have to disagree.

    For the Japanese police, their work is/was done, before the curfew went into place. They’ve got their men, so the confessions tell us, and there’s nothing left for them to do. Certainly not field work – this is a country where criminals work freely, and nearly openly. (Not just the yakuza, but the pachinko parlors, for another example. Hell, for that matter, there are off-limits establishments here in the Yokota area, where the stated reasons for making them off-limits is for drug sales. If we, the non-locals and non-speakers-of-the-language, have that figured out, do we REALLY think the JPA doesn’t know?)

    As to the overwroughtness of everyone: I would submit to you the reason most US personnel are ‘overwrought,’ is because we’re all being punished for the sins of two reservist idiots WHO WEREN’T EVEN STATIONED IN JAPAN. Not to mention this curfew simply tells the local populace that US personnel assigned here can’t be trusted – even more so than the few crimes that are committed.

    For the JNs, and their upset levels: I’ve read a number of people claim this is ‘for our protection,’ as if there are marauders out to pick off local US personnel. What bullshit. Those that are upset are Okinawans that are either looking for payouts for the ‘pain and suffering’ of living in an occupied prefecture and/or the usual suspects that are working to reduce the US presence. Most mainland Japanese folks probably couldn’t care less, given mainly that it’s happening down in Okinawa. Besides, anyone upset enough to actually go after a random American in the 2300-0500 range would be upset enough to do it in the other 18 hours of the day, FFS, so what does that do? In fact, Bar Row type places notwithstanding, the other 18 hours of the day would offer more Americans to assault – as if that would actually happen, in the country that’s probably the safest place ever.

    Those are the reasons I have to disagree with your assessment that the curfew is a good thing. It is not, because of the disingenuousness of the reasons, and the sweeping knee-jerkiness of the response.

    Note: my disdain for the curfew does not imply I believe the young men in question shouldn’t be held responsible; they should be. They should get a trial – fair or otherwise (don’t know about the Japanese legal system enough to know) – and then, if guilty, go to prison.

    • unicorninuniform
      October 21, 2012

      I appreciate the well thought out comment, and I completely understand your dissatisfaction. At the very end of my time in Japan, we had five minor alcohol incidents in five days, which led our new CO to establish a rule that we would hold a public NJP (Nonjudicial Punishment) outdoors at the PT field (November — chilly) every Friday at 2100 until we let a week go by without an incident of any kind. I left after seven weeks and we were still meeting every Friday. Remember that my opinions reflect the outlook of one of the biggest homebodies in the Marine Corps. I err on the side of positive international relations because clubbing is not a priority for me anyway. Even though you and I can tell permanent personnel apart from a pair of reservists out there on deployment, the Japanese can’t, nor should we expect them to. All we need is for a group of otherwise goodhearted service members to get drunk and go too far in Okinawa right now. I described the interdependent U.S.-Japan military and commercial relationship because the importance of reducing strain eclipses how babied we feel when we’re under liberty restrictions.

      • Nunya Bizness
        October 22, 2012

        “All we need is for a group of otherwise goodhearted service members to get drunk and go too far in Okinawa right now.”

        Indeed. However, this punishment extends from there, all the way to Misawa.

        Look, full disclosure – well, as full as I’m gonna get – I’m a SOFA civilian, so this punishment doesn’t affect me as of yet. Unless I voluntarily agree to abide by it. Which I don’t. On the other hand, I sort of do agree, but only because I’m old and boring, and am rarely out of my house, never mind the base, in the 2300-0500 time frame.

        So why am I fussing? Because it’s just dumber than shit, and I hate dumb. I also hate blanket punishments. Which makes it interesting, as the spouse of a retiree, since I’ve seen this sort of thing before.

        As far as the US-Japan relationship? It survives. It pretty much always will. When we’re wiling and able to station so many of our troop in this country, it releases them from having to provide a working military. (Fun fact: I didn’t know until this tour – Japanese military members are actually considered civil servants, but wear uniforms. Strange.) It also gives them a buffer from other countries that are still pretty pissed off about WWII. Memories run deep in this part of the world.

        • unicorninuniform
          October 22, 2012

          Ah, that makes sense. Universal restrictions don’t get under my skin like they do my non-military friends and relatives. I was broken in a long time ago, “one team one fight” since basic training, so I don’t mind a lock-down because it causes me no stress and I can’t help but see the purpose. For a SOFA civilian or dependent, a mandatory curfew would cause an unacceptable level of stress, and I’d fight against any erosion of your rights.

  2. Nunya Bizness
    October 21, 2012

    … where I used “JPA” for the Japanese police: I realized (too late) that it’s JNP. And I don’t think I can edit a post. So there you go.

  3. Rocky Mountain Quartermaster
    October 22, 2012

    Cinderella liberty and curfews are NEVER an appropriate response. That’s a one-size-fits-all “solution” to a non-problem. It fails to address any problem whatsoever, and merely provides leadership cover for having “:addressed” the issue.
    Having been stationed in Yokosuka for four years, I know how these things happen. I was on the Blue Ridge when 3 of our sailors assaulted a cabbie in Cebu.
    My solution: Don’t treat us like children, then wonder why we stopped acting like adults. Leave our liberty alone, except for those individuals who create an incident.
    Instead, in any case of theft over 5000 yen, any case of violence, and other felonies, IMMEDIATELY turn the offender over to the JNP. Do NOT hold him/her to protect them from the GOJ. Do NOT wait for GOJ to ask the State Dept to ask the military to hand them over.
    Next, the off-going duty section at the offender’s command (and for major cases, those of other commands as well) will attend the trial that day in their dress uniform. Make a show of it. Bus them in, fall in to ranks, and march in. The next day, that day’s off-going section attends.
    Once the offender is convicted, stop paying GOJ to feed them, and have duty section send a junior servicemember with a meal each mealtime, and a senior NCO / junior officer once a day to visit them. Let other servicemembers see the consequences, but keep it to working hours. If the trial runs late, we can sacrifice an occasional hour at the start of liberty to get off late, but there’s no legitimate reason to punish us by giving us a curfew. Going to your argument about racial intolerance, that sort of blind abdication of leadership BUILDS it. Young servicemembers start to blame the host nationals for the unreasonable restrictions placed on them, instead of their nominal leaders. I don’t care a fig for the racial intolerance argument, because, in my experience, it goes away if you stop feeding the fire, but if you keep picking at it, you CREATE more of it.
    As for the drinking at 18 argument: As long as they can enlist at that age, they OUGHT to be allowed to drink. Drinking ages do NOT work, and have NEVER been a good idea. It creates the forbidden fruit situation, DRIVING underage binge drinking. It comes from the temperance workers and the addictive, projective mindset of our Purian forebears, whom the Indians unfortunately did NOT massacre that first Thanksgiving. They have poisoned public thought in America ever since.
    But with the current ‘peace dividend’ and co-incident reduction in forces, we can fix that problem a different way: Just up enlistment age to 21, since most Americans are too blind and stupid to think outside the box and realize the drinking age laws were just as immoral, ignorant, and misguided as the old Blue Laws.

    • unicorninuniform
      October 22, 2012

      Where did all of these articulate service members come from, where were you guys when half of the work center supervisors in my squadron were doubling my workload begging help for award citations? I think you make several good points. My only problem with your solution is that it’s not scalable. Local effectiveness, sure, but you can’t make a Pacific theater-wide example of this alleged rapist. He’ll have his privacy, more or less, for months while his investigation continues. I know it’s not fair, but when something receives this level of attention, the ladies and gentlemen in charge have to take direct action that lays claim to just as much attention — international-level coverage, like the controversy in the first place. Otherwise the response to the lack of visible “taking things in hand” will dwarf the trouble caused by the initial incident. From our perspective, absolutely, there’s no need to treat us like kids. From a policy standpoint, they had no other choice.

      • Rocky Mountain Quartermaster
        October 23, 2012

        I disagree about scalability. An incident like that has to be reported clear up to the Pentagon. There’s no reason we can’t cc all theater commands in that message, including the fact that SNM Schmuccatelli was turnedover to host nation police. We can protect his privacy by not naming him and asking the media to do likewise until/unless convicted (which ought to be SOP, IMO, in ALL cases. An aquitted person can be innocent, yet convicted in the media, so the press should be gagged on the issue of naming the accused unless killed in the act or convicted at their trial, but that exceeds this topic). A press conference can be held, telling the host nation and at-home media “7th Fleet turned over the unnamed servicemembers accused in the alleged rape in Okinawa to Japanese authorities today. In accordance with the SOFA, we could have withheld them pending adjudication of a request through the State Dept, but we value justice and our allies interests, and so we turned them over for a local fair trial in the jurisdiction in which the crime occurred. Since they have not yet been proven guilty of the crime, we ask that no media outlet release their names until such time as their conviction, if they are, in fact, proven guilty. We thank you for your forebearance on this issue. The US Military (fill in branch) takes crime very seriously and does not tolerate felons among us. If the accused servicemembers are proven to have committed this serious crime, the commander, 7th Fleet, extends the apologies of the US DOD to the victim(s) and the host nation”. Follow with personal expressions of apology from 7th Fleet and the accused’s CO, as required by the local culture.
        That addresses everything, including their false need to be seen “taking the lead” on this issue. Policy once was to make boys into men, keep them in line, but expect them behave like men, and to not wash our dirty linen in public. The public trusted that when something like this happened, the service would take care of it. But as political correctness, bureaucratic turf-fighting, and the CYA mentality took over the Pentagon, that trust eroded. There is no legitimate need for them to be seen scapegoating ALL servicemembers in theater, other than their own perceived need to “address” it. Just restore the trust that it WILL be punished. At first, that will require publicly being seen turning them over, but eventually, we will be able to just point to our record and say “we don’t tolerate that behavior, and you know we don’t. If one of ours did it, YOUR justice system will deal with them”.
        However, in Japan, at least, except for the anti-nuke protests and some of the Okinawa anti-base protests, only the folks with the megaphones take the protest seriously. Everyone else is there for the 5000 yen, beer and bento, and free beer company t-shirt (I’m still surprised we haven’t seen that in America yet). I’m not terribly worried about the ‘international incident’ aspect, and decline to engage in apologetics for senior leadership scuttling to deflect blame.
        Remember, I was on a ship involved in such an incident, and we managed the Filipinos’ anger over the beating, even though we failed to follow through. When they agreed to let us try the 3 sailors, they understood that to mean we’d try them in a court of law or in courts-martial. They got mast (office hours to you) where they got 45/45, 1/2 for 2, and the 3rd class got reduction in rate (1 paygrade). Since they were looking at 7 years in a 3rd world pesthole prison, and being moved to genral population after the trial, they got off WAY too easy. 7th Fleet massaged the Filipinos’ justified anger, and smoothed things over. If they can do that in a case where we lied to them and didn’t hold our own accountable, how much better can we do when we actually tell the truth and show that we allow justice to be served? In the Cebu case, I can see us insisting that the local sentence be served in Leavenworth, rather than the host nation’s prison system, otherwise, I’d still say turn them over.
        Oh, and we had to send a daily oprep-3 pinnacle from the night of their arrest until they day they were masted. Easy enough to leverage that into service-wide dissemination of the desired narrative…

        • Erin Donaldson
          October 29, 2012

          I Am looking for some insight from U.S. personnel stationed or living out in Japan. My brother recently passed away over there, active duty, but some the information I am being given does not make sense. I am looking for some advice, but because of the sensitivity of the situation I am requesting you respond to my email. If you feel you can provide me insight please email me at erinmdonaldson@yahoo.com. Thank You

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This entry was posted on October 20, 2012 by in Orders & Policies and tagged , , , , , .

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