Lowering Standards at The Atlantic?

I consider myself a fan of The Atlantic, but this post by James Gibney is simply disgusting (emphasis added):

John McCain and others often cite U.S. bases in Korea and Japan as a model for a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq. This rape case, which the Japanese authorities dropped because the family of the 14-year-old junior high student didn’t want to pursue charges, is a reminder of one of the less savory dividends of U.S. bases in your backyard. U.S. military personnel have been raping Okinawans for the last 60-plus years.

Soldiers have often had a bad track record with women, and Japan’s behavior during World War II is proof of that (even if the Japanese don’t admit it), but Gibney crosses the line between saying rape incidents are a problem that causes tension between the US, Japan, and Okinawa* and arguing American soldiers are predisposed to rape. By the Gibney standard, news stories like this should lead us to oppose efforts to send UN Peacekeepers to Darfur.

Gibney’s main point is to use the Okinawa rape case as an anti-Iraq War talking point, and he pushes his argument further beyond the pale by “admitting” in the next paragraph that not all American soldiers are sociopaths. There are numerous reasons against being Iraq, but our soldiers will rape the local women and some of our soldiers are sociopaths aren’t among them. Faulty reasoning got us stuck in Iraq, but bad faith arguments won’t get us out. James Gibney should be ashamed.

(h/t to Marc Danzinger, who is an Atlantic fan no more)

* Note that one of the reasons the Okinawans are so vigorous in protesting transgressions by American personnel is that many Okinawans consider themselves a separate people from the rest of the Japanese, so the Japanese government’s endorsement of the Okinawan deployment is seen as an extension of Japanese domination of the Okinawan people. This fact is rarely mentioned in media discussions of the US presence in Japan.

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5 thoughts on “Lowering Standards at The Atlantic?

  1. Indeed, Okinawa (or Ryukyu Islands, which may or may not be more ‘correct’) was its own independent kingdom for quite some time and was only comparatively recently annexed by Japan. I believe it was also an American colony for quite some time after the war, even up to the ’70s. But I think another key point here is that half of all American soldiers stationed in Japan are stationed on Okinawa- that is, roughly 20,000 American soldiers stationed on what is really a very small island.

    And then there’s the Status of Forces agreement which gives American soldiers something like the extra-territoriality enjoyed by foreigners in China pre-1949.

    Now, I don’t want to repeat Gibney’s ridiculous (and highly offensive- even to me) argument, but you combine that huge number of soldiers on one small island and the history of bad behaviour by a few of those soldiers, and you can see why the locals are so vocal and so easily upset. At the very least, a fairer, more even distribution of those soldiers throughout Japan would go some way to calming things on Okinawa. Stricter discipline and renegotiation of the Status of Forces agreement to make American personnel fully subject to Japanese law would help, too.

  2. Well, I frankly don’t see why we need American soldiers in Japan at all. Or Germany. But to the point of your post…

    Yes, that’s a disgusting comment by Gibney and he ought to be ashamed. I wouldn’t be surprised to read such a remark at a blog like Pandagon or Daily Kos but the Atlantic has to exercise a little more quality control in its recent push to add bloggy content to its site.

    Then again, I find Marc Danziger’s self-righteousness more than a little breathtaking. This seems to be his M.O: call himself “Armed Liberal” so as to position himself as a voice of reason on the left, while all the while remaining firmly, consistently, neo-conservative. It’s part of the same tired Reagan/Kirkpatrick “I didn’t leave the Democrats, the Democrats left me” trope that ought to be retired by now, frankly. I have no doubt that Danziger is sincere in his deviation from a left-wing foreign policy perspective but please.

    All newspapers and magazines occasionally publish something below their standards. I respect National Review (sort of) and still trudge there despite their decision circa 2001 to publish some disgusting comments by Ann Coulter. Were the Atlantic to transform itself into a shrill, lefty type publication then perhaps Danziger would have a point. But happily pouncing on one error in order to show the perfidy of an entire publication (who in one issue produce more insight and intelligence than Winds of Change has in its entire history) strikes me as being silly.

  3. @Chris: I wholeheartedly agree that the US presence on Okinawa is problematic — we symbolize Japanese imperialism even more than we symbolize the American variety — and that the history of Okinawa makes it very different from deployments in South Korea and elsewhere. But that’s not really Gibney’s point, now is it? He’s stressing the commonality of Okinawa to other deployments.

    @Matt: I’m not sure why you’re going off on Danziger, ’cause that’s not the point of the post.

    But as for NR publishing Coulter, remember that her 2001 remark that we should invade all Muslim countries and convert the people there to Christianity actually got her fired. Is The Atlantic going to fire Gibney? No way — and they probably shouldn’t.

    Despite a strange little campaign of late waged against The Atlantic by the extreme pro-war right, I’ve always found The Atlantic to be a centrist publication that invites provocative thinking from liberals and conservatives alike. I’m still going to read it, but not read a certain blogger.

    P.S. Winds of Change was a good blog circa 2003, but became increasingly dogmatic about the war thereafter. I think this rhetorical shift is one reason why the right side of the blogs has shrunk in traffic.

  4. Yep- for whatever reason Danziger rubs me the wrong way so I couldn’t resist- sorry for veering off-topic. The Atlantic is my favorite magazine and it truly does make an effort to present a balanced viewpoint on most issues, so slagging the whole publication for one stupid blog item seems a bit histrionic to me.

  5. For the record:

    I did not say that American servicemen are predisposed to rape. That would, among other things, be an insult to my father and brother, both of whom were in the Navy in Okinawa. (FYI — I’ve spent more than a decade living and working in Japan, including two years at the U.S. embassy.)

    And nowhere did I “admit” (that word never appeared in the piece, so why did you put it in quotes?) that the vast majority of American servicemen were not sociopaths. There’s nothing to admit. It’s just another statement of fact, like the one that U.S. servicemen have been raping Okinawan women for 60-plus years.

    Finally, you’d have to ignore or willfully distort the second to last sentence of my item (which suggests that policymakers “weigh carefully the hypothetical benefits of a long-term U.S. military presence against their very real costs”) to argue that the logic of my position calls for opposing the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur (although they are a known vector of AIDS, but that’s another story).

    Thanks, James Gibney

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