Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Governor Ota

Here is a quote from former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota.

If men such as this, who have this type of vision can be elected for office anywhere, then it means there is hope for mankind. His vision of peace is both realistic and ideal. The way that he acknowledges that taking the route of peace may mean less money for Okinawa, but that the life you would lead would be worth the tradeoff is inspiring. He is not someone who dreams of peace to dream because they are dissatisfied with the world around them. He dreams of peace in order to change his society and change the world around him.

What can Okinawa be proud of? If Okinawa can boast of one thing to other prefectures it is our strong desire for peace. In Okinawa there is a saying that we have passed down for generations: You can sleep well if you are hurt by others, but if you hurt someone you cannot sleep. When you have military bases on your land, even if you yourself are not harmed, US soldiers go to other countries from your doorstep and kill innocent civilians. And that has caused heartache for a great number of people here…When I draw up a vision for Okinawa’s future. I want it to be a peaceful society without military bases. Where people are not involved in killing even if people are not so well off financially…Thinking over Okinawa’s future, I believe that the desire for peace is the most important thing in the creation of an ideal Okinawa.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Question of Okinawan Sovereignty

I haven't posted for the past few days because I've been so busy with my trip to Okinawa.

Here is the symposium that I participated in yesterday. I'll be writing much more about it later, but for now I need to pack and head back to Guam.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Three Decolonization Discourses

I just to Okinawa a few hours ago, had dinner and meant to quickly fall asleep in my hotel room, but this has not happened yet. I spent much of the trip today thinking over my various talks that I'll be giving while here this weekend. I was trying to map out my strategy for talking about decolonization in Okinawa. In Guam, I already have several ways of introducing and broaching the topic, as the history of the island has given us a couple of esta listo discourses that you can use.

For example in Guam today I would say there are three basic ways in which decolonization is discussed. You can break them down as follows: Unincorporated Territory, Non-Self-Governing Territory and Nasion Chamoru. Each of them begins from a different point in Guam's colonization and although they may overlap, they often evolve in opposing directions.

Unincorporated Territory: The basis for understanding colonization is the lack of incorporation with the United States. Guam is a possession of the United States, a piece of property, etc. Part of this discourse is also a feeling of not being properly recognized or respected by the United States and generally a desire to become one with it. This is the most commonly used way that people discuss colonization and decolonization today. It is not the most effective or nuanced way, but the most seductive one since it is most closely aligned with the average colonial experience of someone on Guam.

You articulate your injustice or your unjust position in relation to being excluded from a magical fullness. You tend to see things as being better if only you were included. You see your trauma as being tied to your exclusion and your minagof yan minalulok as being tied to your inclusion. As the late Carlos Taitano said during the run up to the Guam Congress Walkout in 1949, "We are outside of the family now, how can we ask for anything when we are outside of the family?" From this perspective the crappiness of colonialism isn't necessarily what it has done to you, but what it has excluded you from. It does not necessarily tamper with colonial desire but can actually enhance and valorize it.

This is a very limiting place to start from in terms of decolonization and that is why although this is the most common it is also very counterproductive. Decolonization is a process which is supposed to emerge from a place of self-determination and self-definition. It is about identifying what the colonizer has tried to engulf and obscure and giving life and power to that spirit, sovereignty, essence, whatever you would like to call it.

Even if you love your colonizer and really want to be with them, decolonization is supposed to be a process whereby colonial desire and logics are challenged and not automatically given into. The colonizer may call you "unincorporated" and establish a teleology that you are "supposed" to feel chained to, but decolonization is supposed to provide a means for breaking out of this mindset. Should your life truly be one of eager and enthusiastic subordination? Is this Americanizing teleology really what we are and what we should be? Is there any real truth to this teleology or is this just another colonial lie?

When you think within this discursive context you keep the United States at the center of the process. Decolonization becomes a conversation about the United States and making it recognize Guam, making it treat Guam properly, finding more ways of fighting colonial ignorance and seeking inclusion. Decolonization from this vantage either becomes about seeking Statehood as Guam's next political status or seeking no real change, but only superficial symbols of inclusion. Integration can be considered a legitimate form of decolonization, but the question from a theoretical perspective is, why are you seeking inclusion? Do you want this because you feel that this is what you are supposed to be? This is all you can be?

Non-Self-Governing Territory: This one is a bit more abstract, but also provides more freedom as a result. When you conceive of yourself through the discourse of being an unincorporated territory your vision is always crowded by the United States and the way that is perceives you. You see the future primarily through what the United States can offer and what you want from it.

When you see Guam as a non-self-governing territory, you see your future as you see the world, full of options and possibilities. You don't see yourself as a disrespected, ignored and forgotten fragment of America, you see yourself as a territory that has been stripped of its ability to self-govern. The naming of your status if much less teleological and much less colonial. You are representing yourself through the United Nations framework, which while acknowledging the sovereignty of over colonial power, also acknowledges the inherent and inalienable rights of those who have been colonized.

Despite the fact that people speak in universals all the time, most see themselves as beings in national frameworks and so the United Nations has great power as a symbol of internationalism, but has little practical value. Nowhere is this more true than for those 16 territories that the UN recognizes as still being colonized and still requiring a process of decolonization for them to join the contemporary world. Most of these non-self-governing territories are entangled in crippling colonial desires and see the UN as being a threat to completing that desire. On Guam your average person can sound like the most ignorant, paranoid Fox News viewer when the topic of the UN in relation to Guam comes up.

Because this discourse isn't as seductive, people don't use it very much and understand it even less. There is a small place for Guam at the UN. It is not a seat in the General Assembly where all nations gather. It is instead a place for the Non-Self-Governing territories, where they can testify on what is happening in their lands and politely request that the United Nations act to assist them.What I find very interesting is the way that many people ascribe the failure of Guam to decolonize already as somehow the United Nation's fault. I regularly hear people tell me that the UN route is not the way to go since they haven't done anything for Guam even though we have been testifying there for more than 30 years. They argue for the supremacy of the Unincorporated Territory discourse, and that Guam should just work directly with the United States and not bother with the corrupt and inept UN.

This might make sense if it had any bearing on reality. It is so intriguing to see the multiple ways in which people see the UN, as both a terrible, gathering threat and a pointless and wasteful bureaucratic hydra. The UN infringes on your sovereignty and tries to legislate how everyone should live their lives. When the US wants to invade or bomb a country if the UN supports this, then it is an important vehicle for international diplomacy and cooperation. If the UN does not support it then it is a dinosaur that serves no purpose and is simply corrupt and trying to hold back the US on behalf of other sometimes dangerous nations.

One chapter of my dissertation was on the United Nations and Guam's minute place there. One of my favorite quotes to help understand the UN was from former US Ambassador to it Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, "This organization is created to prevent you from going to hell. It isn't created to take you to heaven." The UN is can only do as much as the nations that comprise it allow and some nations hold far more sway than others. If Swaziland wants to dominate the UN agenda it might be pretty difficult to accomplish this. But if nations like the US, Russia, China, France or the UK want to, there is a good chance that they can prevent anything substantive from taking place. If the powerful nations don't want anything to happen or change, the majority of the world's countries can do little to stop them.

In terms of Guam's decolonization the problem is not with the UN process or with the UN. Every year the UN makes recommendations about Guam and other non-self-governing territories. The problem is that the US ignores them. The UN process assumes that the colonizing country, or the administering power is willing to work with the colonized territory in order to help them decolonize. The US has shown a very clear unwillingness to support any such change. Every administration whether Democrat or Republican takes the same basic position. Guam's decolonization must follow the Unincorporated territory route, namely it can either stay where it is at, marginally improve or attempt to become integrated. All options leave the US in charge in one way or another and do not allow Guam to choose more autonomy or more independence.

The UN process is not biased towards any particular status, but it does require cooperation and this is why it has not been effective. The United States clear does not want to give up even a shred of its sovereignty to either the UN or Guam.

Nasion Chamoru: The final way decolonization is commonly discussed on Guam is what I would call Nasion Chamoru. There are many names that you could give it, but this is the one that fits best given the way it has emerged in contemporary Guam. The other two discourses focus on Guam's status today, the Nasion Chamoru discourse identifies the need and possibilities for decolonization as lying in the past.

This discourse lay dormant for several hundred years of Guam's colonization. Chamorros rose up to fight Spanish colonialism in the 17th century, but then accepted Catholicism in their lives and adapted accordingly. Chamorros continued to exist and continued to survive, but what they were missing was a politically sovereign component. They had abdicated in most ways the governing of their lives, that abstract layer that gives political meaning to life to the church or to the Spanish. Chamorro kept much of their ancient heritage, even if it was changed and melded with Spanish, Mexican and Filipino influences, but they did not keep a strong political identity that connected them to their ancient past.

This does not mean that Chamorros had no agency or sense of radical identity. In the 19th century while revolutionary movements were popping up in all the other remaining Spanish colonies, the same was true for Guam. Chamorros were slowly developing their own national consciousness which could not be accounted for in their ancient past or in their Spanish colonial present. That is why  if Chamorros were not colonized by the United States in the 20th century, we would have most likely become an independent country. The consciousness had already started by that time, however it was eventually subsumed and diluted by American colonization and World War II.

The Chamorro sense of nationalism was a similar sort of nationalism to that of other former Spanish colonies. It was a mestizo hybrid identity that drew some inspiration from its ancient past but ultimately was contemporary and Hispanic in flavor. If you had asked Chamorro nationalists of the 18th century like Jose Salas or Luis Baza about if they thought that great Maga'lahi like Hurao or Mata'pang were their heroes, they most likely would have stared blankly at you and thought you racist for associating them with their primitive pagan ancient ancestors. Some men such as Luis Torres might have found their ancient past fanciful and interesting, but most Chamorros felt that a massive and obvious gulf existed between them and their ancient past.

As Chamorro nationalism develops again in the late 20th century it does so with an explicit attempt to reach back to the ancient, pre-colonial origins of Chamorros. The group Nasion Chamoru for example make clear that what drove them to form their collective was not recent laws or resolutions, but rather their 4,000 year old heritage. They had been created independent and sovereign and that should be their natural state, not the colonized and subordinated way they exist today.

This is a discourse that more and more people will play around with and use in small ways to give a dash of indigenousness to their lives, but primarily only hardcore Chamorro activists will take as their approach to decolonization. It is one thing to be inspired by the words of Hurao, Agualin and Hula, it is another to use the lives of our ancestors of hundreds of years ago as the basis for a political project today. As a cultural discourse this idea of Nasion Chamoru is very strong, because it allows Chamorros to join their native brethren from around the world. Two generations ago Chamorros looked at Native Americans and Pacific Islanders as being peoples that belonged to categories that Chamorros were clearly not a part of. That has since changed where now most Chamorros will identify that they are indigenous.

While this Nasion Chamoru can be potent in terms of making people imagine themselves different in some ways, it does not do much to inspire people to imagine their future or the future of their political community. To paraphrase Frantz Fanon, the glories of the Aztec past do not fill the bellies of Mexicans today. The glorious claim to an ancient and awesome past can get peoples' attentions but it does not give them much hope for the future. It is ultimately a discourse that roots them, but as a result it makes them feel like what you are offering cannot truly take them anywhere. Indigenous people after all serve two basic functions in the modern world. They exist to remain stuck in place, stagnant and unmoving. They also exist to disappear and to be something to lament as they dissipate as peoples, languages and culture.

The Nasion Chamoru discourse can go far in terms of preparing people for decolonization or making them see that it is not something new. Our people struggled for it long ago and we continue that fight today. To capture the future you need more. You cannot offer only Chelefs, Mata'pangs and Huraos. You have to be able to articulate decolonization in a contemporary context in ways which resonate with the Chamorros of today.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Okinawa Ta'lo

I'm heading to Okinawa today for another conference.

This time I'll be speaking at Okinawa International University and also talking during a town hall meeting in Ginowan City. The topics once again will be decolonization and demilitarization, things that I have researched extensively in the context of Guam, but have been researching in an Okinawan context since last year.

I'm sure I'll be posting while I'm there.

Monday, April 22, 2013


This weekend Peter Onedera’s play “Saina Destiladu” or “Elderly in Exile” is being shown at the John Robert Powers Theater in Maite. This play was originally performed almost 20 years ago, but it is as timely now as it was then. The story revolves around a modern Chamorro family caught between the traditional and contemporary values. The erosion of Chamorro culture, most prominently respect for i manamko, is the main drama of the play as two elderly grandparents are regularly disrespected and abandoned by their children. I watched the play over the weekend and couldn’t help but reflect on the state of our island and our culture today. It is so easy to say that times have changed or that culture just isn’t the same, but such talk is cheap and easy. We make decisions and make priorities and if things such as our language, respect and culture are declining it is because we aren’t choosing to embody them or protect them. Here are my thoughts, first in Chamorro and then translated into English:

Hu egga’ “Saina Destiladu” gi painge. Hu gof agradesi i mafa’nu’i-na. Tahdong i mensahi para i tiempon pa’go. “Tinane’” un palabra ni’ sesso mahungok pa’go, sa’ mantinanane’ hit todudu, ya gi este na play ma na’klaru i atdet na prublema put este na hinasso. Taimanu na mampos tinane’ hao na ti sina un attende i manaina-mu? Taimanu na mampos tinane’ hao na ti sina un tungo’ i lenguahi-mu? Taimanu na mampos tinane’ hao na un yuyute’ i kuttura-mu? I tiempon ti ha ayeyeki hit hafa presisu gi lina’la’-ta, Hita chumo’cho’gue ayu. Pues anggen un yuyute’ i manaina, i lenguahi yan i kuttura, munga masukne i tiempo pat i lina’la’ gi i tano’.

Este na play muna’hasso hit put este na sinangan i manamko’. “Achokka’ pa’go i pa’go-mu, agupa’ ti agupa’-mu.” Gi tiempon pa’go fihu para este na momento ha ta planeneha ya ta hassussuyi. Baba este na hinasso. Ti ma’ok. Ti maolek para i manamko’, ti maolek para i lenguahi, ti maolek para i kuttura.

I watched “Saina Destiladu” last night. I really appreciated it being show. It has a very deep message for today. “Busy” is a word we hear often nowadays, because we are all so busy. In this play they make clear the terrible problem with this. How can it be that you are too busy for your parents or your elders? How can it be that you are too busy to know your language? How can it be that you are so busy that you are throwing away your culture? The “times” aren’t choosing for us, what is important in our lives. We are doing that. So if you are getting rid of your language, culture or elders, don’t blame the times. 

This play reminds us about this piece of wisdom from our elders: Even if today is your day, tomorrow is not your tomorrow. In today’s times we often plan and think only of this present moment. This way of thinking is bad. It isn’t sustainable. It isn’t good for our elders, for our language and for our culture. 

It is interesting how in this time where we emphasize the rights and the happiness of the individual over everything else, we do not also see any real emphasis on individual responsibility or obligation. The illusion of the liberal-democratic capitalist world is that we are all pretty much free to do whatever we want and someone else, some government, some corporation or some low wage worker a world away will take care of everything. It means that while we can fantasize about how our lives are our own to map, we feel like less and less things in our life are our direct responsibilities.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Saina Destiladu

Para bai hu egga' este lamo'na. Gof excited yu' put este na inegga'. Esta apmam ti manegga' yu' play Peter Onedera. Gof malago' yu' sumapotte Si Pedro gi i che'cho'-na, ko'lo'lo'na este na klasi para i kuttura-ta yan i lenguahi-ta.

Hu fahan i tiket-hu siha gi este na LINK. Sina un usa Paypal. Ti mappot, gof faset.

Okinawan Independence

“Okinawan Independence”
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
April 10, 2013
The Marianas Variety

Professor Yasukatsu Matsushima is a strong, but polite voice for Okinawa's Independence. I first met him last year while he was in Guam doing research. I ended up taking him on a hike to Pagat. Later he invited me to come to Okinawa and speak at several conferences on decolonization. On my most recent trip to Okinawa, I was fortunate enough to hear him give a lecture at Okinawa International University on “The Myths of Okinawan Independence.” Although the topic of Okinawa’s independence is very new and somewhat taboo, his talk was crowded with people wanting to know more. 

Professor Matsushima may seem assuming at first, but make no mistake he is resolute in his belief that Okinawa should be an independent country. This advocacy has made him somewhat notorious. In both Okinawa and Guam independence is something considered taboo, impossible or anti-Japanese/American. Because of this it can be difficult to simple just broach the topic with people. Both Guam and Okinawa have lived in somewhat comfortable colonial relationships and the possibility that this might be disrupted naturally creates feelings of fear and anxiety. 

So instead of talking about the possibilities and new freedoms independence might mean, you end up dealing with the unrealistic fears that people have. Independence does not mean you have to do everything on your own. It does not mean you can’t have a good strong relationship with your former colonizer. It doesn’t mean you have to grow all your own food. It doesn’t mean the enemies of freedom invade you the next day. But these fearful fantasies get in the way and prevent any substantive discussion from taking place.

Professor Matsushima’s presentation was meant to dispel the “misunderstandings” about the possibilities for Okinawan independence. He did so by discussing the topic in a normal and everyday way, defying the expectations that people had of it being a frightening and crazy. It was very effective. 

In truth, independence is not scary; or rather it should not be a scary concept. Like the other two common political status options, free association and statehood (integration) each has their own positives and negatives. There are very good reasons to support Independence as a future status for Guam, and there are reasons to be wary of it and critical. One of the best ways that I find to promote independence as a political status option is to discuss it in a very normal and regular way. The naturalness is something that can help many people who may not actually be against it, but merely feel as if they are supposed to resist it or be against it.

When people hear things such as independence they tend react to it in a narrowing sense and interpret the concept in a very insular and isolated way. Independence is seen as breaking away from the world, cutting yourself off, leaving behind everyone else, including the colonizer. The world of possibility seems to crash down around this concept. 

Matsushima presented independence in a much more expansive and inclusive way. He presented the history of other places similar to Okinawa in terms of size and population who have achieved their independence already. He also gave the historical context for places like Guam who are currently seeking decolonization, for which independence is an option. He also politely reminded people that independence is a very normal thing. There are close to 200 independent countries in the world today. Independence can be difficult but it is nothing scary or terrible. It is something to discuss because it may have benefits for Okinawa, and when you look at world history there appears to be a natural evolution from colony to sovereignty. 

This is a point that I often make to people on Guam. Why have so many other places become sovereign and independent? Why can’t Guam? Every colony has to contend with an idea that they are inadequate and inferior. A discourse is planted in the colonies that creates feelings of dependency and a fear of becoming independent. It has nothing to do with smallness or with being an island or with having a certain history. There were plenty of Indians who believed that if they weren’t under the British everything would fall apart and they would never survive. This is an effect of colonization, these feelings that you can never be good enough, that your culture is holding you back or that domination by another is the only way to keep out the terrors of the world. These are fictions and fantasies that serve to fundamentally disempower us. 

There is no fundamental reason why Guam and Okinawa could not become independent nations. There are plenty of political, economic and social issues that have to be contended with, and it would no way be easy, but there is nothing impossible about it. A key to both Mastsushima’s argument as well as my own is that independence is normal, what Guam and Okinawa have is abnormal. Our political statuses today are the one’s that don’t belong. Independence does not mean isolation, but rather entering, as a sovereign entity a new network of interdependence.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Threatening Thoughts #6: It's Already in Your Backyard

Threats, dangers, risks, these are all things that are out there, but each society and each individual will find their own individual and collective ways of organizing them and ranking them. Everything from personal experience, cultural representations, ideological lens, or accumulation of resources comes into play in helping us understand the things that we should be afraid of and the things we don’t “really” need to be afraid of. It is a strange sort of game to watch because it doesn’t really make sense. It is a very human endeavor. The way that a human can truly define themselves in this world, even if it means accepting an obvious fiction instead of a truth and laughing while they sign their own death warrants. Such is the lesson of the Garden of Eden and the choice of Adam and Eve. What makes human beings human beings is their ability to act in aggressive, passionate and unthinking ways against their own interest. They are rife with potential interests and can pick and choose those that they see as being important. A poor person can feel with all their heart that a rich person is the best to represent them. A Chamorro can feel that non-Chamorros are better than Chamorros. Women can feel that men should be in charge of their bodies. An island like Guam can feel more comfortable as a colony than as a sovereign entity.

There is something to our complexity that we can convince ourselves of almost anything and make things that should be unthinkable possible and even normal. One of the ways we define ourselves and assert our humanity is through the way we organize the things that threaten us. We accept certain things as endangering us because of various ideological, cultural, economic and political contexts. If the government says something is a threat, there are patriotic pulls that insist that as a certain type of citizen  you claim to be afraid of them. If you belong to a certain culture you may interpret certain things as threats to your existence. For one culture Facebook may be an irritation or something that divides parents and kids or puts their children at risk from predators. For others Facebook and social media may be seen as a clear and present danger to the vitality of your culture. The kids don’t want to learn their language and culture because they are too busy Facebooking or Tweeting. For some people you articulate threats in a counter-critical manner. You draw your identity and collectivity by being from a group of people who have identified the “real” threats, the ones everyone else won’t admit to. Ultimately, you speak volume of yourself by the things you claim to be afraid of, or the things you articulate as threats to your existence.

In terms of people misunderstanding their existence, North Korea and its potential threat is a perfect example of this. The reality is that North Korea is a starving, impoverished nation that simply wants to exist. The eager support that the United States provides South Korea in both economic and military terms, threatens North Korea and its existence and relevance. North Korea does not have the ability to do real damage to the United States and doing so would not be in its own best interests. North Korea does not have the ability to do much of anything except threaten. It could engage in suicidal strikes, but while there is plenty of rhetoric that North Korea can hit certain targets, there is little evidence that it would actually want to. For all the fear that people have been feeling lately about North Korea making certain threats, and proclaiming its ability to hit targets in South Korea, Japan and Guam, it is important to remember that this type of rhetoric is common amongst countries, the United States the most aggressive (literally) user. The United States constantly makes statements about who it can hit and how it can hit targets. When compared to North Korea however the US has shown a greater likelihood to actually attack those that it mentions it is capable of attacking.  

A great uproar has been made over North Korea having nuclear weapons and obtaining nuclear weapons. This is understandable since the world should be actively working to reduce the amount of nuclear weapons in the world. But if you are looking for nuclear threats why are you worried about North Korea? The United States has close to 10,000 nuclear weapons around the world today. Each of those nuclear weapons represents hundreds of thousand possible deaths. Each represent the potential end of humankind and if any accidents take place, a domestic catastrophe. If you are truly looking for threats from nuclear weapons, people in the US and attached to it (like Guam) should look inward and self-reflect. Sure, North Korea shouldn’t get any more nuclear weapons, but the US actually should be less hypocritical and start getting rid of their own. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Threatening Thoughts #5: Eating Our Fantasies

Guam should think for itself, and should understand better its position in relation to the United States and the world around it. Just accepting an "American" ideological point of view for everything means pretending we live a different reality in a different part of the world. It also means we prevent ourselves from understanding the benefits and dangers that we get by virtue of our geographic position. This is not something that I would advocate solely because of the North Korea issue. So long as Guam remains a non-self-governing territory, an unincorporated territory, its relationship to the United States should be of great importance, but not define the island, its present or its future. To accept that this relationship is central is to keep the fantasies alive and rather than seek any real sovereignty or real inclusion, you end up eating the air of your fantasies and slowly starving yourself into non-existence.

Part of the weakness of this island is its eager willingness to celebrate the fantasies we have, as opposed to educating ourselves about our realities. Nowhere is this more obvious than in terms of political status. We educate ourselves in school and in life as if we are a full and equal part of the United States. This is our fantasy and it is a seductive one. Especially since as minor, second-class Americans, we feel that the world revolves around the United States and that everyone in the universe wants to become American. This is not however our reality. Our reality is that we have a very intimate relationship with the United States, that inhibits us in some ways and supports us in others. But as a society we run from the truth of it instead of facing it. We accept the fantasies of Guam's inclusion since it is more attractive than understanding the realities of our position. Who wants to remember that we aren't a full or real part of the United States? Isn't it so much more comfortable to accept symbols or emotional platitudes that wish for such a things to exist, rather than to reflect on how it doesn't exist?

Threatening Thoughts #4: Too Much Workout Equipment

So much of the discussion of the North Korea threat issue to Guam centers around the "kinaduku" or "craziness" of its leader. Instead of having reasoned discussions people enter into silly caricatures and try to pretend that this should be the focus. In order to understand things all you need to know is how crazy North Korea's leader is. This leads to alot of pointless metaphors that don't help you understand much except how ridiculous and dangerous North Korea is. For example, with North Korea's emphasis on launching missiles, people are making all sorts of analogies to someone trying to compensate for not being endowed in another supposedly manly area. North Korea is obviously feeling inferior in one way and trying to compensate for their lack by building all these nuclear missiles!

These caricatures, these analogies aren't actually that bad, but only if you continue them in a logical manner. Yes, you could argue that as a weak and isolated nation North Korea seeks to make missiles to make themselves feel important and strong. But if this is so, then the United States of America must have the smallest metaphorical penis in the world. It has far more missiles than everyone else in the world and uses them more often than anyone else. So the metaphor isn't that bad, but only if you isolate it to a single target. If you use it more widely and even use it in a self-reflective manner, it can actually be illuminating. Nations in general create militaries for formal and rational reasons but also irrational and obscene ones. Although people may be very comfortable discussing the obscene ones for others, they like to only admit to the rational and formal ones for themselves.

The analogy that I like to use to describe North Korea and its "threat" to Guam is workout equipment. North Korea gets some new workout equipment. It really should keep them indoors and use them in a controlled environment so it can get the most out of them. But instead North Korea likes to set up its equipment outside on its front lawn. When it works out it grunts and yells things so that everyone in the neighborhood knows how much it can life, how many sets its doing and can get a nice view of all its fancy workout equipment.

The purpose of this workout equipment clearly isn't to work out, but rather to be shown off. Although it can be used to work out, the owner clearly means to show it off primarily and using it is of secondary importance. This is the way North Korea exists in relation to Guam. It has this equipment but the purpose isn't to use it, but to show it off. When you think about it, people who announce that they will conducting this missile test and can hit this or hit that, aren't actually going to use those things, but simply want everyone to know that they could.

But where is the US in this? The US is a place that has way too much workout equipment and so it goes all over the neighborhood placing its workout equipment in other peoples' lawns and in their garages and in their living rooms. The US sometimes does this by making deals, sometimes it does this by invading peoples homes and then leaving behind their work out equipment when they leave. In a sense the US shows off its workout equipment far more than North Korea does, and are far more aggressive about using it and forcing it on people.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Threatening Thoughts #3: Patriotic Tokens

Guam’s colonial experience is frustrating. Given the way the island and its relationship to the United States have developed since World War II, Guam is in so many ways already “American.” The island gets so many benefits and has prospered through its relationship to the US. Although Chamorros were treated in terrible ways before World War II, that seems to have changed now into simple disrespect, ignorance and disinterest.

It is important at points like this to remember that colonialism is not about positives or negatives. You do not define colonialism based on whether or not the people colonized benefit or not. You do not define colonialism based on whether or not the people suffer worse than anyone else in history or at that time. You define it based on the type of relationship that two entities have. You define it based on whether or not there exists a democratic relationship between the two. What are the legal cases or precedents that bind the two together? Do they affirm each as equal or do they affirm that power emanates solely from one end and the other is simply an object of that power? Do the rights in the colonies stem from basic founding principles or are they the result of exceptions?

As so many do not want to admit to this colonial present for the island, they seek any and all ways to try and deny it or overcome it. They simply refuse to admit to this possibility or they look for any and everyway to give a greater American identity to the island so the colonial truths they feel will now appear to be silly.

The “threat” from North Korea is no exception. In recent weeks both governmental officials and everyday people on Guam have latched onto this issue because of the way it represents another chance at overcoming the colonial difference and asserting an Americanness for the island. Even if it is just for a moment, by accepting and exaggerating this threat Guam can feel moments of American inclusion. Even if these moments are pathetic tokens or even require the base objectification of the island and its people.

North Korea is threatening Guam not because of Guam itself, but because it is America! Yeah! Biba USA!

US media is paying attention to Guam and we’re being mentioned constantly on all the 24-hour news channels. The US is recognizing us! Biba USA!

The Federal government has to now pay more attention to Guam since it is in such a  dangerous and terrible spot! Biba USA!

As America seeks to defend itself from possible threats Guam is constantly included in that articulation, and so as they talk about missile shields its like feeling a warm American flag, fresh out of the dryer wrap around you.

But all of this is ephemeral. It doesn’t touch that basic, foundational political difference. If people truly want to be part of the United States then they should seek to decolonize the island and not accept these tokenistic moments of identity as being reality.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Threatening Thoughts #2: We're Still Here

Achokka' taigue i na'an-hu gi este na flyer, bai hu gaige gi este na panel pa'go na talo'ani.

Para u tutuhun i panel gi alas kuatro gi UOG gi i CLASS Lecture Hall.

Maila yan ekungok i hinasson-mami put i "hinanhan" ginnen North Korea.

Kao magahet este na "threat?"

Hafa i mismo na piligrosu guini?

Kao magahet na mas safu hit guini anggen mapo'lo mas militat?

Kao umaya siguridad yan i mamta' i miltat? Pat kao mismo umakontra este na dos?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Threatening Thoughts

For the next week I'll be posting some of my thoughts on the North Korea threat issue. These opinions aren't the type you'll hear in most of the Guam media, lao put este na rason na hu fa'tinas este na blog. Sa' ti meggai na inayek guini put media. Ma'i'ot dimasiao i "opinion" put gof impottante na asunto. 
Este na hinasso siha, iyo-ku ha'. Ginnen i hinasso-ku, ginnen i inaligao-hu. Ti gof fayi yu' put i estao gi halom North Korea. 
Here are some of my thoughts on the North Korea threat issue. When you are a strategically important place like Guam, you can always use something like this, the danger around you, to get more of the things you might not be able to get otherwise. As a result you can get recognized, you can get cheered on, you can get seen as more American than usual. But there is a cost, and it increases the more you take advantage of this strategic value. The more you pray for war, the more you pine for the benefits that the potential conflict can give you, the more you identify yourself as a friendly neighborhood target for those seeking to weaken the United States. Strategically lonely distant outposts like Guam do not exist to defend themselves, they exist to act as buffers and as sacrificial pawns to protect the center, in this case the United States. The more you lobby based on war and the threat of war, and the more you militarize Guam, the sharper the sacrificial knives become, the closer they loom over the island. For all the rhetoric of Guam being defended, we should always keep in mind that the political, social, cultural and geographic gulfs between Guam and the United States, there is also a strategic one. In any serious conflict on this side of the world the United States will survive, it’s Guam that won’t.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

News from Okinawa

I've just been invited to go back to Okinawa later this month to speak at a conference at Okinawa International University. April 28 is a very big anniversary across Japan, because it is the day that in 1952 Japan recovered their sovereignty after being occupied by the US during World War II. While it is an important day to commemorate for most of Japan in Okinawa it is a bittersweet occasion and one that helps highlight their colonial history in relation. Despite all the rhetoric of Okinawa being part of Japan, on April 28, 1952 it was given over to the United States, who governed it as their military colony until 1972. For most Japanese the 28th would be a day to unify and to reflect on the way they moved forward and left behind their history of imperialism and loss, but for Okinawans it is a day reminding them of the lies that have always claimed their inclusion and the right to determine and control them, but which have led to them always being treated differently.


Okinawans blast vague plan to return land used by U.S. military

April 06, 2013
NAHA—Protest banners, raised fists and angry shouts greeted Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera after he landed in Okinawa Prefecture on April 6.

Residents made sure Japan’s defense chief knew how they felt about a Japan-U.S. agreement announced the previous day on the return of land now used by six U.S. military facilities to the south of Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture.

They said the agreement does not specify any time frame for the return of the land and appears intended to keep the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture.

"Listen to the voice of the Okinawa people," the protesters shouted ahead of Onodera’s meeting with Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima in Naha.

The 120 protesters included Diet members, citizens and prefectural assembly members angry and frustrated over the lack of progress in removing U.S. military bases from the prefecture.

The demonstrators called for the unconditional return of land used by the Futenma air station and argued against the planned relocation of the base to the Henoko area of Nago, also in Okinawa.
Under the latest Japan-U.S. plan, the Futenma land would be returned to Japan in "fiscal 2022 or later" as long as certain conditions were met.

"Okinawa will never accept any plan that is forced upon it by the central government,” said a 65-year-old man who took part in the demonstration. “Relocating bases to somewhere else in Okinawa will only divide the prefecture."

In his meeting with Onodera, Nakaima pointed to the vague timeline included in the plan, referring to the phrase "or later" that was included after targeted dates.

"The only way we read that plan is that no one knows when the land will be returned," the governor said.

After the meeting, Nakaima told reporters that the plan would leave Futenma in its present location in the densely populated area of Ginowan until at least fiscal 2022.

"Nine to 10 years is just too long to have it in one place," he said.

During the meeting, Onodera emphasized that the plan had a timeline of returning the land used by the six military bases between fiscal 2013 and 2028.

"Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strongly called for a specific schedule for the return of the land in order to promote effective usage of the land," Onodera said.

The defense chief also pointed to the fact that unexpected developments could delay the relocation of various facilities.

The governor appeared unconvinced.

"The history of the return of land used by U.S. military bases has been one of not returning it according to plan. I ask that you make every effort to realize this plan," Nakaima said.

The vague wording “or later” in the agreement raised criticism across the prefecture.

"The phrase was likely included because the central government was not confident about meeting the deadlines," said Susumu Inamine, the mayor of Nago where Henoko is located.

The latest plan upset even local politicians of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Masatoshi Onaga, a prefectural assembly member who serves as chairman of the LDP prefectural chapter, and other high-ranking officials met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on April 3.
They told Suga that only the inclusion of a "surprise" in the plan would change local public opposition regarding the Futenma relocation to Henoko.

However, Suga only said that Japanese officials were involved in difficult negotiations with the United States.

After the agreement was announced, Onaga said: "It does not contain anything that will lead the Okinawa people to say 'the central government did a good job in negotiating with the United States.' There will be no effect on public opinion in Okinawa opposed to the move to Henoko."

Residents in the areas where some of the U.S. military facilities are located also expressed disappointment.

Saneaki Aniya, 73, had his farmland expropriated for use by the Futenma base. According to the plan, his land will be returned by fiscal 2022 or later.

"I have almost no idea when that will be," Aniya said.

Although the land had been in his family for generations, Aniya has not set foot on it since 1958, when a fence was constructed around the base.

"The land may not be returned while I am still alive," he said. "It might have already been returned if they had sought to relocate the base outside of Okinawa or Japan from the very beginning."

The Japan-U.S. plan calls for returning the land after various buildings and facilities have been relocated to other locations.

Residents living in candidate sites to receive those facilities are already raising their voices against any move.

A warehouse in the Makiminato Service Area is scheduled to be moved to the Kadena ammunition depot area.

Ryoson Kuba, 76, makes fertilizer for his vegetables on land fenced off with barbed wire. Although the land is part of a U.S. military facility, local residents have been allowed to use it under an informal agreement.

"This is originally our land that the U.S. military took from us," Kuba said. "What is the central government saying now? If it tells us to leave, I want to tell government officials to return the situation here to the state it was before the start of World War II."


Okinawa rally to protest ceremony on ‘day of humiliation’

April 02, 2013

NAHA--Okinawa prefectural assembly opposition forces will organize a rally on April 28 to protest a government ceremony to mark the day Japan regained sovereignty after World War II.

The government plans to celebrate the anniversary of April 28, 1952, when the San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect, ending the Allied occupation of Japan.

But April 28 is known as “the day of humiliation” in Okinawa because it was placed under the U.S. administration when the treaty took effect.

The United States did not return Okinawa to Japanese administration until 1972.

Satoru Nakasone, who leads the Okinawa Goken-network, the largest opposition bloc in the Okinawa prefectural assembly, said Tokyo is rubbing salt into Okinawa’s old wound.

“The government is discarding Okinawa once again by holding a ceremony to celebrate the day of humiliation,” he said. “We want residents to gather and express their anger toward the government.”
The opposition parties will call on mayors, municipal assembly members, labor organizations and the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, the ruling parties in the assembly, to take part.

The rally is expected to be held at the Ginowan seaside park at the same time as the government ceremony. A similar rally was held last autumn at the park in Ginowan, home to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, to protest the deployment of U.S. MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft there.
The Okinawa Goken-network and four other opposition blocs together hold 24 seats in the 48-member prefectural assembly. One seat is currently unoccupied.

On March 29, the assembly passed a resolution to oppose the government ceremony.

Assemblies in at least 12 municipalities, including Naha and Nago, have adopted resolutions and called on the government to cancel or reconsider the ceremony.

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima has also expressed displeasure with the ceremony, saying that government thinking differs from the citizens of Okinawa.

The LDP headquarters included holding the ceremony in a party document during the campaign for the Lower House election in December.

LDP members of the prefectural assembly will likely skip the rally.

“It could fuel conflict between the government and Okinawa,” said a senior official of the party’s prefectural chapter.

The LDP has argued at the prefectural assembly that the government must first reduce the excessive burden of U.S. bases in Okinawa, and that the ceremony lacks consideration of the feelings of Okinawans.

But LDP members were absent from the assembly when it voted on the resolution to oppose the ceremony in March.

New Komeito supported the resolution.

The party will carefully consider whether to participate in the rally. An official said it will be meaningless unless the event brings together all Okinawans.


Saturday, April 06, 2013

Litratun Inagofli'e'

Below are pictures from the Inagofli'e' Peace Vigil held in February in Tumon. Yesterday on my blog I posted my Marianas Variety column about it from last month. You can read it by clicking here.

Thursday, April 04, 2013


Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Marianas Variety

This past Sunday the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice organized a peace vigil in Tumon, at the memorial site where a terrible attack took place two weeks ago. This vigil was meant to honor those who were killed and those who were hurt in the attack, and also provide a space for members of the community to come together and make sense of what happened. Candles were lit, blessings were offered, a song was sung, a healing circle was formed and some doves were let loose. Although the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice organized the event, it would not have been possible without the help of many local organizations and leaders, including a group of JFK high school students, who each contributed something.

The vigil was given the name “Inagofli’e’.” This is a word that many people today may not be familiar with, but has a very deep beautiful meaning in Chamorro. The word can be broken down in this way. “Gofli’e’” means to like or to love, but in a platonic way. It can also mean to care for. The “a” is the prefix “a-“ which is a reciprocal prefix, when added to a verb it makes the action reciprocal. Agofli’e’ means to care for each other, to love each other. The “in” comes from the infix –in-. Many are familiar with suffixes (they go after the word) and prefixes (they go before the word), but an infix, as you might guess, goes inside the word. If the word begins with a vowel, then the –in- is added at the front. Inagofli’e’ means the act of caring for each other. Many people already know this infix, it is most commonly used today in the term “inafa’maolek” which means “the process of making things good for each other” or “interdependence.”

The meaning however can go deeper. “Gofli’e’” can be broken down into two parts. “Gof” and “li’e’.” Gof is an intensifier. Today it is commonly used to make statements like “gof båba” or “gof maolek” and can be translated as “very” or “really.” “Li’e’” is a word that I would argue is one of the oldest or most central to the Chamorro language. Li’e’ translates to “see” as in seeing something. Although gofli’e’ today translates into caring for someone or liking someone, the older meaning of it is to “really see someone.”

When people who were fluent in Chamorro first watched James Cameron’s film “Avatar” they might have noticed what seemed like a hidden Chamorro language message. Although the film has nothing to do with Guam, there was one line in particular that may have resonated with Chamorro speakers through this use of “gofli’e’” as expressing care for someone else as the ability to truly see them.

In the film, there is an alien race called the Na’vi who bear many of the traits of indigenous people, most prominently an intimate connection to the natural and spiritual world. The line “I see you” plays a prominent role in the film. It is a greeting, but also an expression of love and respect. You can see someone as in process them visually, but you can also see someone in a spiritual sense, as if their aura, what is in them has become known to you.

In Chamorro the use of li’e’ can also have negative emotions. “Chatli’e’” is the word to hate, but similar to its relative “gofli’e’” it can be broken down into parts, “chat” and “li’e’.” “Chat-“ is a prefix that means the opposite of something. It can mean not really or not at all. It is a very complicated prefix in terms of its potential interpretations. “Chatmaolek” would mean not really that good. Chatguahu would mean not really feeling like myself, or feeling kind of queasy. Chatli’e’ literally means to not really see someone. I find it interesting that this was the way that people would express hate or dislike in ancient times; to not really acknowledge them, as if they did not exist or could not be perceived.

The term “gofli’e’” hints at an ethics that many people may shy away from today.  I have always found it interesting that Chamorros articulated love, concern, hatred, apathy in terms of whether people were visible to you are not. It is something important to remember today when so many things bombard us and we feel as if the world as at out fingertips, that we may see many things in terms of processing them visually, but how much of the world do we really see, as in really know and understand? How much of what we say and do is simply lip service, when in truth we don’t really see those that we are speaking of or professing concern for?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

America after Hegemony

America after Hegemony

With the Iraq war fading into memory even as the country still simmers, the U.S. peace movement faces the need to reframe its message.

We have spent the last 10 years resisting the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – tragedies that have not only devastated those two countries and taken tens of thousands of lives, but have left thousands of returning veterans with lifelong disabilities and taken a huge toll on our national economy.

We’ve exposed nuclear weapons’ threat to human survival, organized against sanctions and war on Iran and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and built alliances with labor and community groups to cut the military budget.

We’ve opposed lawless torture and drone killings, cyber-warfare attacks, and the U.S. “pivot,” which seeks to encircle China with military bases.

These campaigns are important, but they primarily arouse internationals, longtime activists, and leftists, not the indignation of millions. To get out of the echo chamber, we need to present a vision of a democratic foreign and security policy that would tie our many campaigns together into a coherent whole, from the local to the global.

Such a platform would provide hope to the many who sense that something is wrong with corporate capitalism, with U.S. foreign policy, and with the military-industrial complex. It would set the basis for a principled alliance between the peace movement and the labor, immigrant rights, women’s, economic, social, and racial justice movements that are its natural allies. 

In short, the peace movement needs to make it clear not only what we are against, but what we are for.

A Hegemonic Foreign Policy in a Unipolar World

The organizing principle of U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War has been to ensure that every nation in the world stays within a security structure managed and controlled by Washington. Nations, regardless of their ideological orientation, that refuse to follow U.S. wishes find themselves demonized and pressured to conform, while nations whose states are not centralized enough to control their territory are called “failed states” and are subjected to often counterproductive “nation building.”

In colloquial terms, Washington seeks to act as the world’s policeman. Defenders of U.S. hegemony often darkly warn of the disorder that might result if the United States did not shoulder this difficult task. They offer the 9/11 attacks as the ultimate darkness to spring from an unpoliced world, limiting the national security debate between Democrats and Republicans to what MIT scholar Barry Posen calls “the modalities of hegemony.”

But when it comes to any meaningful discussion of whether the United States has any business running the rest of the world, the silence is deafening. Congress and the mainstream media almost never discuss why the United States should maintain a global force structure, why it needs to station an estimated 1,000 bases in over 100 countries, why it requires exorbitantly expensive weapons systems, or why it has a “vital interest” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, or in the region surrounding China. These questions are never asked because of the ruling elite’s consensus on the need for hegemony.

It is true that most Americans still fear terrorism and, more generally. foreign threats to their security.  Opinion makers have cultivated these fears in every possible way since 9/11, with terrorism replacing Communism as a bogey-man justifying the policy of hegemony, or what Stephen Walt calls “deep engagement.”

Yet polls also consistently show that majorities of Americans support cutting the military budget instead of Social Security, Medicare, or other essential programs. That tells us that while people think the military might keep them safe, they are absolutely sure that Social Security does.

In other words, support for the hegemonic foreign policy is soft. But to crack the hegemonic consensus, the peace movement must offer an alternative to hegemony that offers real security to the American people — a new democratic foreign policy that does a better job than hegemony of providing human security.

Hegemony and Empire

Hegemony is not just a transitory policy of U.S. elites trying to secure the homeland in the most effective way possible. On the contrary, the United States’ hegemonic foreign policy is tied to its leadership of the global economic system that has been in place since at least 1945. 

With the world as a single market, capitalist firms can reap profits from worldwide production. They can produce wherever the cost of production is least, paying workers in underdeveloped countries a pittance. They can build global production and distribution chains, integrating capitalist firms in various countries into a single network. They can sell their products to a market of at least 3 billion people throughout the world with disposable income, creating world-wide monopoly corporations of unprecedented scale. Monopoly, not the so-called “free market,” is the most advantageous arrangement for capital, because it allows for relatively stable, profitable production untroubled by competitors. 

U.S. hegemonic military power has provided the framework for that single market. As globalization enthusiast Tom Friedman explained in 1999, “[S]ustainable globalization still requires a stable, geopolitical power structure, which simply cannot be maintained without the active involvement of the United States. ...The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist — McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15.” 

“Empire” is really a better name than “hegemony” for the current international system, because global U.S. control is not a political choice that can be changed by new domestic political alignments, but rather a system with deep economic roots that transcends partisan control of Washington. Indeed,  elite interest in a U.S. “empire” goes back long before the postwar period, back to the 1890s and to the framers of the Constitution. 

Yet the 2008 economic crash was an unmistakable reminder that worldwide monopoly production is no longer stable. Rivalry between banks and hedge funds over investment in the most profitable companies destabilized the financial system, as one bubble after another burst.  In the coming years, as Chinese economic growth and south-south economic ties begin to overtake U.S. leadership, the role of U.S. military might will also come into question internationally as an increasing number of countries and movements seek to arrange matters differently. 

The crash also raised questions in the minds of millions about the ability of the world capitalist economic system to deliver jobs, life, and prosperity to them. People are scrutinizing the desirability of capitalism and globalization as never before. Among the more than 99 percent of Americans who don’t own global companies, the question is there, waiting to be asked, of whether U.S. foreign policy actually serves their interests. The time is therefore ripe for the peace movement to offer a new foreign policy which serves the interests of the domestic and global 99 percent better than the hegemonic order.

Five proposals for a new foreign policy

Peace Action’s Kevin Martin has called for the peace movement to propose “a new vision for our country’s role in the world—to create a new foreign policy for the 99 percent.” Such a foreign policy, he says, should be based on the “widely shared ideals of democracy, justice, human rights, international cooperation, and sustainability.” 

I think Martin is absolutely right — but we still need to explain what that policy would be and how it would work, applying it to each region of the world and each type of international problem. We also have to identify the interests that would favor and those that would oppose the new policy. As such, Martin has pointed towards the policy that we need, but has not articulated it in detail.
So what would a foreign policy for the 99 percent actually look like?

The Coalition for a Strong United Nations, a Boston-based grassroots group, issued a “Peace Platform” in 2003 which, although a decade old, is consistent with Martin’s ideas. “[T]he world is no longer a collection of sovereign nations, but a single homeland, and each member of the human family is a citizen of that homeland,” it proclaimed. “No nation’s people can be secure when so many people around the world are denied a decent standard of living or deprived of basic rights. No peace can be achieved unless the society of nations begins to function more as a real community, with each nation abiding by a commonly accepted code of international law.”

The CSUN platform offers specific proposals in the areas of human rights, development, the environment, security, governance, education, and health. In the security arena it calls for the United States to “commit to a phased disarmament program,” “renounce universal military intervention,” “stop funding other nations’ military arsenals,” “strengthen the authority and resources of the UN,” “abide by the decisions of the World Court,” “support the development and training of a Non-Violent Peace Force,” and “create a Department of Peace.”

CSUN’s proposal outlines a better foreign and security policy, but it doesn’t explain how to implement it, or identify whose interests would be helped and hurt. Without an answer to that question, it is likely to remain on the shelf as an idealistic exercise.

At a Korean solidarity conference in November 2012, Joseph Gerson presented “common security” as a framework that, while not an ultimate foundation for human security, could meaningfully relieve international tensions. Common security, an idea first promulgated by the late Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme, “recognizes that nations as well as individuals respond to fear, that when one side augments its military arsenal and actions to respond to perceived threats from the other, that this will be seen as a threat by the other side, resulting in the enemy augmenting its arsenal and actions in a defensive but frightening response. This leads to a mutually reinforcing and spiraling arms race, not unlike what we now have in Asia and the Pacific.” A response based on common security, said Gerson, would involve “hard-headed negotiations in which each side names its fears and arrives at diplomatic solutions which address the anxieties of all involved. ... Common security is inconsistent with the pursuit of empire, which ultimately can be overcome only by people's will and as a result of contradictions including, in the case of the United States' misplaced priorities, imperial over-reach.” 
Given its emphasis on established diplomatic and security structures, common security is a more modest and less idealistic proposal compared to the Martin and CSUN visions. But can a common security paradigm guide the U.S. peace movement in helping the United States move away from hegemony to a democratic foreign policy? Tyler Cullis of the Boston University Antiwar Coalition took such an approach recently when he addressed the Iran sanctions issue at a January debate, outlining a negotiating platform for the United States that addresses real fears on both sides and proposes constructive steps. Yet it remains unclear if “common security” can move from preventing catastrophic wars to serve as an intermediary step away from empire that movements for greater justice and peace can build upon.

Speaking from a “realist” rather than a “peacemaking” perspective, Barry Posen made his own proposals for a change in foreign policy in a January 2013 article in Foreign Affairs. After a decade of war, he now says that hegemony is too expensive for the United States to sustain and that it “makes enemies almost as fast as it slays them.” Posen therefore proposes to end hegemony and adopt in its place a “strategy of restraint,” which means “removing large numbers of U.S. troops from forward bases” and “transforming the military into a smaller force that goes to war only when it truly must.”

Posen makes clear that the military budget cuts consistent with a “strategy of restraint” should release more funds to “preserve the country's prosperity and security over the long run.” These goals fit with much of President Obama’s early second-term rhetoric, though Obama has not at all embraced the strategy changes Posen calls for. And importantly, they draw a link from conflict resolution abroad to “nation-building at home.” 

Posen does not address the globalized commerce that has required the global security regime. He assumes that there is really no U.S. interest that requires the degree of “activism” that it has displayed in the past 20 years, nor does he propose any increase in international cooperation that might provide for stability in the absence of hegemonic power. His proposal therefore does not qualify as a new democratic foreign policy, but rather as a less imperial, less hegemonic policy, which if realized could create space for democratic interests to assert themselves in the future.

In a similar vein, Stephen Kinzer recently outlined a “Wacko Birds” manifesto for U.S. foreign policy, taking the name from an epithet hurled by the militarist John McCain. Like Posen, Kinzer emphasizes that the United States has overreached, but calls only for a more moderate pursuit of “U.S. vital interests.” Kinzer does not consider the possibility that the true interests of most Americans lie in cooperation with people in other countries rather than in solidarity with U.S. corporations.

Towards a Democratic and Peaceful Foreign Policy

Thus the problem remains ripe for more solutions. The peace movement needs a comprehensive, positive framework to present, one which is compelling enough to be taken up and implemented by a progressive majority consisting of an alliance of social movements. I thank the authors I have mentioned for their thought provoking contributions. Yet while each of the proposals examined has positive aspects, none seems to be adequate by itself to point the way forward. We have more work to do! 

As Martin writes, “It’s about the entrenched power of the U.S. war machine, and about how we the peoples of this country and around the world can work together to create more peaceful, just, and sustainable policies. We can do it; in fact we have no choice but to do it.” 
So, let us work to create those policies so that our movements can advocate for a positive vision of security and cooperation.

Cole Harrison
Cole Harrison is the executive director of Massachusetts Peace Action.


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