In the late 1970s, Newsweek magazine reported that the U.S. Defense Department had launched a curious study of the kind usually conducted by an academic institution: Why did the great empires in history such as the Romans, Mongol, British, etc. all fall? The cause, the study found, was an inflated budget for the defense of an over-extended territory.

There was no follow-up in the magazine, but I sometimes wonder if the conclusion drawn in the Pentagon study motivated Washington to start negotiating “host-nation support” with its allies thereafter.

Maybe, the Roman Empire should have emulated today’s United States and asked colonies such as Roman Britain to defend themselves and share more of or all expenses for “hosting” the Roman legions. But Rome continued to stupidly bear the base maintenance and wall building costs (Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall) all by themselves.

Japan today shoulders 74.5 percent of the maintenance costs of U.S. bases planted in Japan, or more concretely, an annual $1.56 billion, excluding Japanese base workers’ salaries, land rents, new base construction, damages, etc.

The current five-year period of Japan’s host-nation support will end in less than two years, whereby Tokyo and Washington have started negotiations for the next round of Japan’s share of host-nation support. Will Washington demand 100 percent-plus for Japan’s host-nation support as President Trump has so often suggested and demanded?


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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