It's happened yet again. Photographs of top U.S. brass apologizing for crimes by their military personnel against Japanese citizens are occurring far too often for comfort.
Rear Admiral James Kelly's bow in front of the mayor of Yokosuka over the alleged murder by a U.S. sailor of a Japanese taxi driver is guaranteed to bring the U.S.-Japan security pact into question. And rightly so, as this pattern of criminality following on so soon after the Okinawan alleged rape issue in February is both deplorable and a major criticism of the command structure of the U.S. armed forces.
It's no good for folk to invoke the hoary old metaphor of a few bad apples existing unchecked within any institution. The United States government through the State Department and Pentagon have simply got to straighten out the indiscipline among elements of its military personnel stationed in Japan or face the unpleasant consequences for its entire Asia-Pacific strategy.
No nation, however close its political and military ties to the United States, is going to stomach a seemingly endless number of cases of murder, rape and theft against its citizenry. Alliances within democracies that continue to insist on shared values of respect and human rights rest ultimately on a degree of public support that no elected politicians can ignore for long.
The question that outsiders find particularly puzzling is simple: Why can't the U.S. military authorities better control the behavior of the servicemen under their command? Perhaps some elements within the U.S. military may need to be continually reminded that Japan is an independent state that determines its own foreign and security policies, albeit in close liaison with Washington. The American occupation ended in the middle of the 20th century, though some in the U.S. military may still be imagining that they are living the life of Riley in the autumn of 1945.
U.S. Marine, air and naval facilities in Okinawa and Yokosuka stand on Japanese soil. It follows that no Japan-American basing agreements are worth sixpence if they keep on becoming the venues for mass protests and demonstrations against the United States. It won't do simply to claim that the crimes that rightly gain massive coverage in the Japanese media are rare incidents that may be exploited by those with their own anti-American agendas.
Unless there is better discipline by U.S. military authorities, it is hard to see how any Japanese government, even one as pro-American as the coalition cabinet under Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, can avoid ducking the issue indefinitely. Watch out Washington, for talks on limiting U.S. rights or hints that budgetary restrictions could apply to future financial deals over Japan's base contributions.
It's surely time that the U.S. did rather more than simply proclaiming a curfew or ordering a ban on the consumption of alcohol among its personnel. Smacks across the knuckles don't appear to be doing the trick. Maybe it might be more effective to start going after the generals and admirals if and when the next incident occurs. The U.S. Navy won't need reminding that the Brits shot Admiral Byng on his own quarterdeck as an example to others.© Japan Today