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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 8, 2003

Military here has global role

By Charles Ota

Charles Ota is the Chamber of Commerce's vice president for military affairs.

Recent letters to the editor suggest that the reason military units are stationed in Hawai'i is to help sustain the state's economy, and that Hawai'i's senior congressional delegates are flexing their influence to funnel defense dollars here to boost the state's economy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reason for the military presence in Hawai'i is because of the continuing threat of terrorism and aggression in all parts of the world, and internal conflicts within some Asia-Pacific nations. Terrorist operations threaten regional security and the lives of Americans serving abroad and in Hawai'i, Alaska and on the western shores of the Mainland. These conditions threaten global stability, as well as the security of our homeland.

The unstable relations between North and South Korea, China and Taiwan, and India and Pakistan are examples of conditions that pose threats to the United States and the rest of the world.

The forward presence of strong military forces in the Asia-Pacific region demonstrates that the United States recognizes these threats and is prepared to respond quickly to any act of military aggression. It effectively deters aggressive actions by any nation, and enables us to strike back quickly and decisively. The threat of another "Pearl Harbor," this time with weapons of mass destruction, is very real and we cannot afford to ignore it.

The policy of deterrence has and will continue to be the preferred means of preventing wars and other conflicts. It avoids the costly and devastating consequences of a war.

On a broader scope, the policy of deterrence allows for peace and stability throughout the world. It provides economic security for all nations, allowing them to freely and openly participate in global trade and commerce. Hawai'i's economy is heavily dependent on the benefits of today's global economy.

It doesn't take much to visualize the tremendous impact a war would have on the global economy. It would permeate our economy, affecting thousands of local businesses that rely on imports and exports.

Can you imagine the effect a stoppage of trade and commerce with China and Taiwan would have on the local economy? Or from South Korea or the Philippines? It would devastate thousands of businesses and hundreds or even thousands of jobs would be lost. We can ill afford this disruption in the global economy.

On a personal note, there is another important consideration.

Hawai'i is home to generations of immigrants from the Asia-Pacific region. A war or even an internal conflict could result in the loss of many lives and property of our families and friends living in the affected nations. Surely the avoidance of war should be the preferred option.

It is true that the state benefits from the military's presence. The thousands of troops in Hawai'i do get paid and patronize our local businesses. Defense projects are essential to fulfilling the military's missions and there are numerous construction projects to improve the infrastructure of military bases. These expenditures benefit our local businesses.

We are encouraged by pending plans to enhance the military's posture in the Hawai'i.

We also appreciate the military's superb leadership in supporting our local charities, public schools, environmental projects and many other community programs.

But these are not the reasons why the military is in Hawai'i.

The U.S. Department of Defense has determined that positioning combat forces and combatant commands in Hawai'i is essential to our national security. This strategy was our policy before World War II and remains the preferred option for the foreseeable future.

We must be diligent and avoid the complacency that led to the debacle at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The consequences today, in terms of national security and the global economy, would be far more devastating.