Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Obama's visit to Guam

President Barack Obama will visit Guam sometime in March and the importance of his visit to the military build-up can’t be understated. But it’s really hard to know what to make of his visit or how it might affect the build-up.

Obama’s visit may be very short, and his exposure to the build-up may be entirely from the military's perspective. His trip may be little more than a briefing and a meeting with the troops before moving on. Some of this may depend on whether the White House wants to get the president involved in the build-up debate, particularly since the Pentagon seems to be set on it no matter what issues or concerns are raised.

But the president will be likely briefed about the build-up, and hopefully his briefing papers will include this column in the Marianas Variety by Brian Schaible, a marine biologist, who succinctly outlined some of the many problems the build-up will create for Guam.

If Obama stays more than a few hours and meets with local officials, then I hope that this meeting includes people who have expressed concerns so that the president gets a complete view of the build-up's impact.

The U.S. officials in charge of the build-up on Guam are middle managers. They have no power of consequence. Their mission is to minimize obstacles and concerns to the build-up. My expectation is that the U.S. will make a number of adjustments to the build-up plan in response to opponents, but these changes will be mostly cosmetic and malleable. The only person with power to change this is President Obama, so that’s why it will be important he gets a full range of views.

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