Sunday, March 04, 2012

What if we weren't the Tip of the Spear?

Sometimes I wonder when the idea that Guam has strategic value will no longer be news? Every few weeks or month or so, another speech is given, another statement is made in D.C. or at a forum at UOG, another report is released. It always states that Guam is gof gaibali nu i US put i saga'-na gi fi'on Asia. With current US strategy, Guam is gof impottante. 

As a place which is not truly part of the US, but something in truth, owned by the US, this strategic importance is like an oasis of refreshing water for those who burn with a desire to be one with the colonizer. Their desire to be Americans, to be real Americans, to really have that flag represent you and not just be a footnote to it; so many people on Guam feel this burning passion, and although it is never fulfilled in any real way, people search for any possible way to complete this desire.

This military importance is one of the key things nowadays that people use. They use it to express patriotism, by showing support for the buildup, they show support for the US, and meekly hope that their request to be part of the US will be accepted. Since they can't point to anywhere in the US Constitution, or the flag, and sometimes even the American flag to argue that Guam is a true and real part of the US, they point to that importance to say that see, we do matter, we must be a part of them.

There is a fundamental difference to being someone that belongs to something in terms of equality, such as a family or a state of a union, and being something that belongs to someone, which is what Guam is. But, so much on Guam tells us that this difference, this colonial difference doesn't exist, and we do as much as humanly possible to deny things or seek out any pathetic little form of inclusion to argue that things aren't that bad, things are just fine. Being a territorial is just like being a state.

But what kind of existence would we have if we weren't strategically important? So much of the inclusion that Guam has been able to leverage over the years, often resulting because of somewhat effective lobbying at the non-voting delegate level, was predicated on that strategic importance. The Section 30 money that Guam receives each year was thought to be the payment for use of military lands. For the first 10 years of postwar Guam history, so much of the rebuilding and developing of the island was because of its military importance and how the military needed a more functional and more modern Guam to co-exist with. This strategic importance can even extend into helping Guam get things that have nothing to do with military security or defense. Guam would look drastically different today if this importance didn't exist. If Guam was located off the coast of Chile, close to Antarctica, or north of the Galapagos Islands between Mexico and Hawai'i, we might still be somewhat strategically important, but nowhere near as much.

If this was the case, then the great bounty of gifts that makes us want to surgically implant our passports so they become part of our patriotic rib cages, because we are almost too pathetically desperate to be real Americans, would be much more difficult to realize. If we were less important, than it would be far more difficult to get even the basic "American" treatment that we crave all the time. We would get much less respect, much less attention. It would be harder to get any traction for Guam's needs in DC or elsewhere.

The more we sharpen ourselves as the tip of America's spear, the more we should realize that this sort of connection to another, to a colonizer is so tenuous and so fragile. It is not based on a common contract or a union of respect, but rather based on geography, on the accidents of history, and as such, it can flow one way this moment, and against the next. The US can treat us like we are best friends one moment, but then like complete strangers the next. There is no fundamental basis for treatment, and so we are treated nicely so long as we are valuable, but who knows what we would be treated like if we weren't?

If Guam was less strategically important, the discussion of decolonization would be so much easier. The colonial difference would be so much clearer, and we would be far better at perceiving our situation.


Guam vital to military strategy
Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - The commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Robert Willard, appeared before the House Armed Services Committee to discuss the posture of PACOM forces in the Asia Pacific Region. And once again, Guam's strategic importance and its role in protecting America's interest was discussed.

The U.S. Pacific Command's area of responsibility extends from the West Coast of the United States to a dividing line in between India and Pakistan. "It covers half the world and that the Asia Pacific Theater extends entirely across the Pacific Ocean," he said.
The Asia Pacific Region is one of the areas the Department of Defense and the Obama Administration plan to focus on bolstering the nation's defense. But in this age of austerity and criticism from members of the Senate, certain members of the House questioned Willard about some of DOD's strategies they plan on employing such as the 2006 plan to realign forces in Japan, of which some would be relocated to Guam.

Virginia congressman Randy Forbes said, "What would be the impact on your ability to perform the duties you need to perform if we were to bring the Marines back to the continental United States? You know, because we have a lot of voices that say we should no longer have them forward deployed."

Willard said, "Our Marines are part of every contingency plan that we have and when you consider the time distance factors in the Pacific, the largest ocean in the world, it's very important that we maintain the posture and presence forward that we do in fact I was asked have been asked many times what's most important to you and it's the forward presence in the Asia Pacific."

Admiral Willard made it clear during Friday's hearing that Guam remains a critical part of DOD's strategy even if troops are rotational or permanent. According to new numbers out of the 8,000 Marines Guam was originally expected to see relocated here, we are  now only expected to get about 4,700.

Guam delegate Madeleine Bordallo said, "I appreciate DOD's recent efforts to address local concerns about the rotational forces, however I do remain concerned that this decision was primarily driven by concerns raised  in the senate not this committee 5313 as well as budgetary considerations, can you elaborate on the strategic rationale for these proposed changes."

Willard said, "What is most important to me is that the forces that we have present in Guam and elsewhere are maintained at a readiness level where they can be the first responders in the region. So they have to be dwelled their long enough to be trained, exercised and equipped resources and engaging fairly on a continuous basis. So the duration for which they are present in Guam matters to me and the work the ability to lift those marines or other forces where they can do the most good matters to me as well."

The congresswoman meanwhile says she will continue to work with DOD as the negotiations between the U.S. and Japan are finalized to ensure that the revised realignment plan is beneficial to our civilian and military communities.

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