Moushiwake Gozaimasen Deshita (申し訳ありませんでした)
Or, “Give me Liberty, or Give me…two Drinks…but only at dinner…between the hours of 6pm and 10pm…not in a club or bar.” ~What Patrick Henry would say today on Okinawa to keep himself from the gallows.
Or, more directly, “I am now treated like a child who’s merely one alcoholic beverage away from becoming a serial rapist.” ~HM1 Mark Nelson, in response to the recently imposed strict liberty policy on US forces throughout Japan.
I’m sorry. That’s what the headline reads, more or less. There are actually something like eleven ways to apologize in Japanese depending on the formality of the situation and the seriousness of the offense, and I chose – I think – one of the more formal and “apologetic” near the top of the list.
What I am so formally and seriously sorry for?
I’m sorry for the epic leadership failure in Japan. Epic Failures both in the civilian leadership of the US Department of Defense, and more so in the failed qualities and inexplicable actions of senior leadership in uniform today. And, I must admit, some of this invective spills over to the Japanese leadership as well…with their own brand of political correctness, unrealistic expectations and quite possibly some hidden agenda.
Now, I must say this, LOUD AND CLEAR: whatever I state here is not meant in any way, shape or form to exonerate or otherwise reduce the seriousness of any wrongdoing by an American against the Japanese – ever, anywhere, for any offense. I am a firm supporter of the Japanese, their culture, and a Lover of all things Okinawa (this is my third time living on the island, now in my 5th year). I believe we are in Japan at their invitation, are should act accordingly as guests. I categorically reject the notion of violence against any civilian, sexual assault or harassment of any kind, as well as the abuse of alcohol, particularly when driving or military duties are concerned. However, enough is enough, and it’s time to cry “uncle:” Americans, using the Japanese government’s own data, commit far less crime than do Okinawans, but are held to an impossible standard, and generally used as nothing more than a pawn in an emotional movement to remove American bases from Okinawa….
But first a review of liberty policy in Japan to help illuminate what I mean. The liberty policy statement below is from the official III MEF/Marine Corps Installation Pacific Facebook page (which is odd in and of itself, but at least the Corps is hip enough to embrace social media), italics and underline added for editorial emphasis:
“In order to reinforce responsible behavior and support our continued, positive relationships with the local communities we live in, Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck, Okinawa Area Coordinator for U.S. Forces Japan, has instituted refined instructions for all U.S. service members in Okinawa, as well as all U.S. Marines in Japan.
The following measures apply to all U.S. installations and service members on Okinawa and all Marines in Japan, effective immediately. Detailed instructions for implementing these policies have been issued to commands:
1. On-base alcohol sales are banned from 10 pm to 8 am daily.
2. Service members are prohibited from purchasing or consuming alcohol off-base (except in their own off-base residence).
3. Service members are prohibited from departing military installations or their own off-base residence under the influence of alcohol. Service members found with a Blood Alcohol Content of .03% or greater will not be allowed off base liberty.
These measures remain in effect until further notice, and are additive to other, existing policies. The USFJ 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew remains in effect.
This policy recognizes that the overwhelming majority of American service members, dependents and civilian employees are law abiding, honorable and respectful. We continue our unwavering commitment to support them and the communities we live in by educating service members and encouraging exemplary standards of professional conduct, on and off duty.
This was the original “liberty policy” put into effect on Okinawa following the violent rape of an Okinawan woman in 2012. This policy, however, has since been modified – as they always are given time – but this modification clearly shows the military leadership’s continued disdain for our members on Okinawa, even though the rapists where part of a ship’s company NOT STATIONED ON OKINAWA. For military personnel outside of Okinawa, alcohol regulations are limited to a ban on off-installation drinking — with the exception of personal residences — from midnight to 5 a.m. On the island, however, rules will become only slightly less stringent as troops are limited to two alcoholic drinks at off-installation restaurants [not bars or clubs, but establishments that primarily serve food….] between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., unless specifically authorized by a general or flag officer for official events.”
A series of violent incidents, culminating in the rape of an Okinawan woman by two sailors last October, prompted Lt. Gen. Angelella, Commander US Forces Japan (USFJ), to impose a sweeping 11 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew on all troops and to implement training in sexual-assault prevention, cultural indoctrination and “core values”— most which still remain in effect. I’m not sure where any American would assume or decide that violence is part of the Japanese or Okinawan culture; the idea of cultural indoctrination is yet another layer of well-intended but relatively useless and mind-numbing training that so often goes awry when it hits the field.
Air Force Lt. Col. Dave Hochul, a spokesman for USFJ, said Angelella recently decided to adjust the universal liberty policy after consulting with military leaders across Japan “to retain existing liberty measures while addressing some quality-of-life concerns for our forces.” “Some.” Mighty nice of our leadership to oblige the little people’s concerns.
It is cruelly evident that our leadership appeases a very few at the expense of oh so many. The Japanese citizens, and specifically the vocal and impassioned Okinawans that wish U.S. bases removed from their island home, which most Americans should find easily understandable, will not be satisfied regardless of these stringent liberty-curtailing efforts. Their agenda is clear and was established long ago: it is not he bad behavior they wish corrected, but the removal of our bases – very different end states by any analysis. Quite the opposite actually holds true: such activists will only hold such crushing measures as ample “proof” that Americans can never be trusted to be well-behaved members of their local neighborhoods and island-wide culture.
Further, such decisions by our leadership have and will continue to anger the Japanese citizens whose livelihood is dependent upon the U.S. presence on-island. The Marine Corps has remained tough on its drinking regulations, even though the other services relaxed their policies, which has drastically curbed island nightlife and caused dozens of Japanese bars and clubs to fold.
Poignantly and to the point, mass punishment without cause or justified aim destroys morale at its grass roots, an idea archaic as it is in parenting, and like in modern parenting, such unfounded and ruthless measures are simply a result of bad leadership…which results in even more ill-adjusted offspring. The correlations are valid: set the bar low, and no one will strive for better. Good parents know this. Good teachers know this. Good military instructors know this.
It appears that our poor leadership has forgotten it, or worse, choses to direct to the contrary.
“This policy recognizes that the overwhelming majority of American service members, dependents and civilian employees are law abiding, honorable and respectful.” The liberty policy does nothing of the sort. Rather, it implores that Americans in Japan are not to be trusted, and must be treated as a class-action underclass in order to control expected unruly behavior. As one sailor puts it so succinctly, “I am now treated like a child who’s merely one alcoholic beverage away from becoming a serial rapist.” If the policy recognized that the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY were indeed honorable and respectful, they would be shown the same type of overwhelming honor and respect. This is not the case; current policy is the clearest case of double-speak by our leaders, so clear that any Airman or Corporal will – and does – see right through the charade.
“We continue our unwavering commitment to support them and the communities we live in by educating service members and encouraging exemplary standards of professional conduct, on and off duty.” Again, this policy does nothing of the sort. It demonstrates to our service men and women that their executive leadership actually wavers in their commitment and support at the first hint of trouble, and that they will turn their backs in support of politicians and international bad press by instituting unfounded, illogical, and ungrounded means and methods of authoritarian control…simply because they can.
Furthermore, there is still a great question as to whom the policy actually applies. Does it concern or apply to military dependents, or other civilians on island with SOFA status? Apparently not. III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific clarified this case by stating, “To clarify, the new policy applies to service members. However, we are all unofficial ambassadors while we live here on Okinawa.” It does appear, oddly enough – and in another demonstration of the lack of consistency and logic in implementing military policy in Japan – that this is service-specific…and dependent. The Navy has extended the policy to all people with SOFA status, which may quite possibly be legally disallowed.
But, let’s try and look at some evidence-based facets of this situation instead. It remains unclear whether the tight restrictions and curfew have affected the overall number of crimes committed by U.S. military personnel on Okinawa. This conclusion reached according to arrest statistics provided by Okinawa’s own Prefectural Police. Rather, these policies, like so many of those in America, are more of a knee-jerk over-reaction that lake any vigor or substantive efficacy. Think armed troops in all our airports after 9-11.
For instance, there were 12 criminal arrests of Americans connected to the military in the first four months of 2013 on Okinawa; nine of these twelve were of minor military dependents. The average number of such US military-presence related arrests over a four-month period is about 14, according to police data for 2008-12. So, in this example, one could argue that the policy has reduced the number of arrests by ~14%. But, there are two tragic flaws in reach such a rash but alluring conclusion: first, correlation does itself not prove causation (there could be any number of other factors at play, let alone the very small sample size alone); but more importantly, 2) a full 75% of those arrested in 2013 are minors, not affected by the alcohol policy in any way, and themselves already under a curfew by existing Japanese law!
On an even more significant note, Americans connected to the military accounted for only about 1.4% of the 969 criminal arrests on Okinawa so far this year. So, assuming the population of Okinawa is 1.385M, and the US presence on the island hovers around 60,000 (4.3%, military + dependents), Americans actually commit serious crime at rate below that of a nominal Okinawan…. In other words, we – the Americans – should be committing crimes at about three times the current rate. If the Japanese government really wishes for the US military to “rein in the behavior of US forces in Japan,” perhaps they should show at least as much concern over their own citizenry.
“Right now, I don’t have any plans to change the liberty policy throughout the rest of Japan. I think we’ve got it about right,” Angelella said during a visit to Okinawa. “I see it as more of an inconvenience to our young service-members rather than a real crisis for them.” The General has missed the point that his young service-members are taking from his poor leadership: the curtailment of an American’s liberty is ALWAYS taken as a serious offense, particularly when it is unfounded, and in the civilian sector, it is unlawful. Oh, and the policy doesn’t just apply to “young service-members,” but ALL Americans in uniform. Such volunteers already give up enough of their freedoms, many of which are done willingly and for good and obvious cause. However, the policies in Japan are a wholly different matter, and it begins to beg the question: why would anyone want to serve in the military when the military itself doesn’t trust Americans to serve?
“I’m going to have to wait and see how we do here in the future,” Angelella said. “I think over time, if the situation warrants, we might be able to get to the point where the liberty policy throughout Japan is the same.” Remember, the two rapists in Okinawa where not even stationed on Okinawa, but were ship’s company on a ship home-ported in mainland Japan. How can this ever be construed as equitable treatment of forces in Japan? And why is Okinawa STILL being singled out when the most violent offenders have no connection to Okinawa?
My thoughts here are captured well by a recent article in the Navy Times: punishing everyone for the misdeeds of a few lousy shipmates has to go. Sailors say mass punishment is both unfair and ineffective and — due to a number of recent leadership steps — has turned their beloved Navy into a nanny state.
Many complain of new burdens, such as even more sexual assault prevention training, and having to blow into an “alcohol detection device” when showing up to work. Good sailors point out they’d never assault anyone or show up to work drunk — it’s the dirtbags who do that. So rather than punish everyone for their actions, sailors say, why not just make public examples of the screw-ups and throw them out? “In 18 years, I haven’t sexually assaulted anyone, but I am forced to attend ridiculous kindergarten-style force-fed training on how to not sexually assault my shipmates,” one sailor told Navy Times. “Hold rule-breakers accountable and leave the rest of the fleet alone.” More than 100 sailors responding to Navy Times on the topic of collective punishment voiced similar concerns.
Early in his Navy career, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SW) Mark Nelson enjoyed exploring ports in the Pacific, often traveling alone and staying at obscure hotels where he could meet locals, something he said enriched his experiences. “As long as I didn’t do anything really stupid (meaning: get arrested) and made it back reasonably sober for duty and ship’s movement, I was a free man,” Nelson told Navy Times. He took a break in service, rejoined as a reservist in 2007, and has since traveled to some of the same ports, including Guam, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines. His experience, however, has been very different. “I am now treated like a child who’s merely one alcoholic beverage away from becoming a serial rapist. What the hell has happened to my Navy?” he said via email.
I echo this sentiment exactly. During my first sea tour, where as a 25 year-old I was entrusted to fly combat missions in the 1991 Gulf War, I was equally entrusted on liberty – and went on my own solo adventures in Thailand. As long as I made it back for duty section and muster, there were no questions asked, and no worries. Back then, it wasn’t just a job; it indeed was an adventure! That slogan is no longer utilized for good reason. Fast-forward to 2004, and the trust has evaporated; we are limited to “sand-box” liberty pier-side, and when we can go out into town, we can only book hotels through the USO, and then only with a buddy, who you had to leave and return to the ship with. This for a man who stood an Air Defense Commander watch for a 3-ship Expeditionary Strike Group…. Needless to say that I couldn’t wait for my 20 years to expire.
Nelson’s frustration is shared by many readers who claim the service is becoming too politically correct. They say being treated like a child encourages sailors to act like children, and that mass punishments are morale-crushing. A number of sailors cited examples like this as a reason not to re-enlist. “I refuse to be held accountable for the actions of a fellow adult who has been read the same laws as myself,” wrote an IC3 aboard the carrier John C. Stennis.
Some argued that tightening the rules in 7th Fleet has only exacerbated the problem. “We treat grown men and women like teenagers and ground them,” wrote a petty officer second class aboard the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard. Limiting liberty hours, for example, encourages sailors to pound more alcohol in the window they have, which leads to binge drinking and further incidents, he reasoned.
I have always believed one simple truth about the military: the military is a sociological shake of the American apple tree, and given that shake, there is a whole spectrum of apples which fall. Although most are good, there are always going to be those few “bad apples,” and for the baddest of those bad, no amount of training, no amount of leadership, and no amount of shipmates are going to change their bad behavior and even worse judgment. No amount of rule change is going to stop dirtbags. “The dumb folks are always going to do what the dumb folks do,” as Nelson bluntly put it. Put another way, some people will never care about rules, or their consequences. They are the undeterable.
Moushiwake Gozaimasen Deshita. I’m so sorry for the Epic Leadership Fail on Okinawa. God bless our troops…from the enemy within.
Now I’m going to have those two drinks.
Don’t worry, I’m eating dinner (wink).
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