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Velvet Imperialists

Foreign Policy In Focus - I'm not a big fan of Dana Rohrabacher, the grandstanding Republican congressman from California. But last week at a congressional hearing on U.S.-Japan relations, he ably cut through the Pentagon's doublespeak.

The hearing's topic was the current conflict between Washington and Tokyo over the military bases on the Japanese island of Okinawa. The United States wants to close the aging Futenma air base, send half the Marines over to Guam, and build a replacement facility in a less populated part of the island. Most Okinawans don't want a new base or an old base expanded to accommodate the remaining Marines from Futenma. The Japanese government hasn't decided whether to listen to Washington or to its own constituents.

Rohrabacher had a simple question for the Pentagon official at the hearing. "How many U.S. military personnel do we have in Japan?" he asked. Looking very uncomfortable, the official said that he would have to get back to the congressman with those figures.

Excuse me? The congressman wasn't asking about the location of Osama bin Laden or the Pentagon's covert plan for Helmand province. The number of U.S. troops in Japan - approximately 47,000 - is no state secret. In response, Rohrabacher quite sensibly pointed out that it's impossible to make a case for a new base unless we have a clear sense of our capabilities and our needs. Read more.

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