In the high-vaulted main hall of Union Station in Washington, DC, the sound of a drone attack interrupts the morning rush hour. A dozen people suddenly freeze in place. Some point up into the air. Others crouch with hands over their heads in a vain attempt at self-protection. The commuters on their way to and from the trains pause to look at the stationary figures. After a minute or so, the leaf-blower sound of the drone attack cuts off, and the figures crumple to the ground, crying out in pain. As the cries of the victims fade, two attendants cover the bodies with blood-stained sheets.
Bases East and West
Local resistance to U.S. military bases has long been a challenge to alliances and military strategies alike. In Colombia, this resistance has risen as high as the Constitutional Court, which recently declared the latest U.S.-Colombian base deal invalid. Washington isn't concerned that the ruling will affect counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics programs.
"Many of the most pernicious aspects of the military base agreement — especially regarding U.S. intentions for extraterritorial uses of the bases in the region - were not contained in the accord itself, but in U.S. budget and planning documents," write FPIF contributors John Lindsay-Poland and Susana Pimiento in U.S. Base Deal for Colombia: Back to the Status Quo. "It may be that strong opposition to the agreement chastened these ambitions. But scrapping the base agreement will not necessarily neutralize such regional interventionist plans."
In Japan, meanwhile, Okinawans continue to resist the best-laid plans of Tokyo and Washington. For the last three years, the residents of the Okinawan town of Takae have prevented Japanese construction teams from building helipads that the U.S. military wants in exchange for closing a nearby jungle warfare training center. "Over 10,000 locals, mainland Japanese, and foreign nationals have participated in a non-stop sit-in outside the planned helipad sites," writes FPIF contributor Jon Mitchell in Postcard from…Takae. "So far, they've managed to thwart any further construction attempts. At small marquee tents, the villagers greet visitors with cups of tea and talk them through their campaign, highlighting their message with hand-written leaflets and water-stained maps."
The Okinawan base issue is not going away any time soon. "The controversy will also likely play a large role in the November election for governor of Okinawa," writes FPIF contributor Greg Chaffin in Okinawa and the Changing U.S.-Japan Alliance. "The incumbent, Hirokazu Nakaima, faces former Ginowan City mayor, Yoichi Iha. Iha strongly opposes the relocation plan as well as to the continued operation of the Futenma base at all. Nakaima, bending to popular opposition to relocation, has at times harshly criticized Tokyo over its actions on the matter, but without declaring categorical opposition to the base. With Naoto Kan retaining leadership of the DPJ and thereby the prime ministership, the stage has been set for a major domestic political show-down between Tokyo and the local Okinawan governments, and the crisis over Futenma will likely recur in the coming months." You can also read a 60-Second Expert version of this policy report.