Shifting Terrain: The Domestic Politics of the U.S. Military Presence in Asia


Sheila A. Smith

East-West Center Special Reports, No. 8


Honolulu: East-West Center

Publication Date: March 2006
ISBN: 978-0-86638-203-8
Binding: paper
Pages: 64
boots of soldiers pictured marching


The United States has maintained military forces in the Asia Pacific region since the end of World War II and its alliances with key countries in the region continue today to be seen as critical to regional peace and stability. Academic and policy attention has focused on the shifting regional balance of power or the new sources of instability in the region, yet a parallel story has gone largely untold. Complex social and political changes in the countries that have hosted U.S. forces are changing the way governments in Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines manage the American troops stationed in their countries.

As the U.S. government seeks to transform its global military presence, and as the process of realigning America's overseas military forces proceeds, Washington must consider these new domestic influences on governments that host U.S. forces. Broad public support in these societies for a shared security agenda will be the foundation for future alliance cooperation. But Washington, Tokyo, Seoul, and Manila must give greater attention to the local impacts of U.S. forces and develop policies that mitigate the pressures on local residents. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, to be successful new initiatives for managing the presence of American forces in each of these societies will need to conform to domestic law and meet public expectations for government accountability. National governments in Asia's democracies must balance their national security goals with these new norms of democratic practice.