As an American living in Japan, I found the reports of this incident very disturbing. For once I would like to see headlines that say “U.S. Military Contributes to Rebuilding Post-Typhoon Damaged Areas,” or “U.S. Military Seen as a Positive for Local Communities,” or, better yet, “U.S. Military Officers Plan to Donate Free Time to Community Service.”
I am bludgeoned by stories about the damage and destruction caused by my home country’s military. And I read about so many negative things regarding U.S. military actions in this country. Is it any wonder that people walk around with a feeling of fear? The latest disgraceful incident reinforces the worst perceptions of the U.S. military. Whether this marine is innocent or guilty seems moot at this stage, as the court of public opinion has tried this case much quicker than the traditional military court.
What the U.S. government should do is reassess its public relations efforts with regard to Okinawa and all its military bases across the globe. I’m sure these soldiers must be doing some good things in their local communities, so why don’t I read about it?
Let me be frank and clear; I’m not dismissing this incident. If the marine is guilty, he should be thrown out of the military and put in jail for whatever time limit is deemed necessary. If guilty, he is a disgrace to all U.S. service members.
But some higher-ups in the U.S. military and government may have forgotten that perceptions become reality for people. I hope the U.S. government does not allow this incident, as well as others, to shape the perceptions and beliefs of the people whom we claim to be helping and who we claim want our help.