- The Inter-State “Frames of War”:On “Japan–US Friendship” and Okinawa in the Transpacific
If war is to be opposed, we have to understand how popular assent to war acts upon the senses so that war is thought to be an inevitability, something good, or even a source of moral satisfaction.—Judith Butler, Frames of War
Inter-State “Frames of War” in Okinawa since 1995
My reflection on a possible and more viable form of transpacific scholarship begins from a situated observation of Okinawa and its outside in early December 2016, and a particular act of theorization called forth by that situation.1 While my specific critique seeks to problematize the homosocial regime of friendship among nationalist elites in the United States, mainland Japan, and Okinawa especially from the late 1960s to the present, Okinawa’s crucial proximity to both Taiwan and mainland China makes what follows especially relevant to the students of “the Chinese factor” in transnational American studies.
On November 28, 2016, Okinawa Prefecture’s governor Onaga Takeshi—a conservative Liberal Democrat politician who nonetheless has succeeded for some time in aligning antimilitary activists, a part of the local capitalist class opposing increasing militarization, and many concerned residents protesting the new US Marine Corps base constructions in northern Okinawa—was said to have “bitterly” agreed to the US–Japan joint construction of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft landing pads around the community of Takae in Higashi Village (pop. 1876). Onaga reportedly noted that the planned helipad construction was inseparably tied to the lucrative prospect he could not turn down: the return of the vast portion of the US Marines’ Northern Training Area (NTA), which would be incorporated into newly established Yambaru National Park and expected to contribute to Okinawa’s booming tourism. Meanwhile, activists knew that the Takae helipads would constitute part of the [End Page 491] US Marines’ effort to update its infrastructure within the shifting requirements of today’s US-led transnational warfare. While the NTA—also known as the Jungle Training Center—was immensely useful for the United States in the late 1960s as it served to simulate forests and villages in North Vietnam, the Takae community now figures for US Marines like a surrogate desert city in the Middle East that is targeted to be traversed, bombed, and governed by a coalition of multinational troops. The fact that not only US Marine and Japan’s Self Defense Forces (SDF) officials but also German, Dutch, and Israeli military officers had already visited Takae as early as 2008 provides a premonition for this multistate reconfiguration of military needs and constituents.2
The current governor’s “All Okinawa” ideology—which Governor Onaga and his supporters rather predictably argue is not an “ideology” but a claim for “identity”—precisely reveals the symptomatic imbrication of capitalism and nationalism that Wendy Matsumura calls “the limits of Okinawa.”3 This ideological compression in the last two years partly amounts to a certain containment of antimilitary, egalitarian desires into an identity-based claim for reworking neoliberal policies within Okinawa and for recognition and redistribution from the dominant apparatuses in Tokyo and Washington, DC. Governor Onaga’s probusiness supporters have ineluctably set themselves a limited horizon where an antimilitary struggle is comprehensible within the scope provided by discourses that amalgamate neoliberal insistence on productive subjects and self-racializing enframing of Okinawa’s essentialist biocultural nationalism.4 While one should not discount the extent to which Governor Onaga’s partial incorporation of an antimilitary agenda has helped provide a moral boost to peace activism in Okinawa, one must also bear in mind that his opposition to the US Marine airbase construction in the beautiful oceanic location of Henoko does not contradict his simultaneous acquiescence to the imposition of the new helipads in Takae and his plan to possibly install a free economic zone once the space now occupied by Marine Corps Air Station Futenma becomes available.5
We can comprehend these politico-economic frames that seek to contain radical political imagination in Okinawa as a case of what Judith Butler calls the “frames of war.”6 As Butler puts it, it is the “sensuous parameters of reality itself” that...