Saturday, July 17, 2010

Buildup in America

Politico this week published a column by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) that argued that the U.S. should take its $14-$16 billion in Guam buildup spending and instead “build in America.”

Hutchinson appears unaware that Guam is a United States possession, territory, politically disfranchised colony, and the place where “America’s Day Begins."

This prompted a sharp retort from Acting Governor Michael W. Cruz to Hutchinson about Guam’s true status and sacrifices. His point was deserved but ephemeral.

Hutchinson’s mistake about Guam’s status is nothing compared to the colossal mistake of allowing live military firing ranges on Guam, now planned for Pagat, or stripping Apra Harbor of much of its coral or overpopulating the island.

Hutchinson is on the Senate Appropriations Committee and is the ranking member of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee and is challenging the military’s plans for Guam as well as the its entire premise of the Pacific and European base strategy. She writes:
Some argue that the U.S. overseas presence provides assurance to our allies and deterrence to our adversaries. History has shown otherwise. Having U.S. troops in Europe did not deter the Russians from conducting military operations against Georgia in 2008. More recently, the U.S. military in South Korea did not deter North Korean aggression against a South Korean naval vessel.
Hutchinson knows enough about Guam to understand that the buildup is “problematic” for the island, and writes:
This proposal is fraught with significant environmental concerns, insufficient infrastructure, an implausible timeline — and staggering costs, now estimated at $16 billion. With these considerable barriers, better basing alternatives should be explored.
Hutchinson doesn't help herself by arguing that the buildup should be “right here on American soil,” and treating Guam as if it were something else. But in doing so, Hutchinson is just revealing, restating or otherwise highlighting the degree of insensitivity, callousness and ignorance in Washington about Guam. It is why the U.S. is putting its firing range in Pagat and could care less, truly, what Guam thinks about it. Guam is being reminded by Hutchinson where it really stands. Honesty comes in many forms and here it is.

Hutchinson's lack of knowledge about Guam's relationship to America is of no consequence in Washington because few know better. But what does matter here is Hutchinson's attack on the very rational for the buildup, something that has been rare in Washington. She is taking this position as a member of the Senate committee that has a lot to say about where the Defense Department spends its money.

Many military bases in the U.S. have been closed, often to local opposition because of the loss of jobs. Hutchinson probably suspects that spending billions on new military facilities on the U.S. mainland, instead of on a politically disenfranchised Guam, may appeal to a broader number in Congress, especially at a time when more stimulus dollars are needed.

It is possible that the Guam buildup fight may have finally arrived in Congress.

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