If I have to choose between allowing the U.S. military to use Tinian and Pagan for its live-fire training exercises, on one hand, and allowing Chinese nationals and businesses to use Saipan to operate casinos and other gambling operations, on the other, I would definitely choose the U.S. military—hands down. It’s a no brainer.
The CNMI is an integral part of the United States. We are a part of the American political family and we are United States citizens. We receive hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grant monies over the years to provide public service for our people. The U.S. military provides for our national defense. So what is our response to the military when it plans to have military training exercises in the CNMI? Complete ingratitude. Before Department of Defense officials even have the opportunity to explain to our local leaders what they are planning to do, we begin throwing rocks at them. We begin making unfounded accusations against them. We begin making plans to sue them. Why? Because of environmental concerns, some say. But what about national security concerns? Shouldn’t we be concerned about that much more?
Don’t we realize that the world is still a dangerous place? Witness Putin’s aggressive and unlawful annexation of Crimea in the Ukraine. When you have a despot like Putin running Russia with his finger on the “red button,” shouldn’t we be concerned? When you have China amassing its military and naval forces in the Far East, shouldn’t we be concerned, out here in the Pacific? Maybe during times that are less foreboding, we could ask the military to reconsider its plans for Tinian and Pagan. But all that it’s asking now is to conduct live-fire training on these islands, not bombing the hell out of these islands and blasting them to pieces.
I have no problem with the fact that the military should comply with NEPA—the National Environmental Policy Act. This is the law. And if they are in compliance, then what is the problem? What is all the commotion being made by some of our people? What we need to do is to calm down and not let our emotions override our reason and common sense. We might even ask the military to help the CNMI with some of our CIP projects, such as the Tinian Breakwater Restoration Project, the Rota West Harbor Project, and so forth. We must also remember that for better or worse, the CNMI and Guam are a part of America’s “first line of defense.” Yes, that’s what we are, even if nobody wants to say it out loud. The NMI Covenant was entered into by the United States, first and foremost, because of the strategic importance of the Northern Marianas to the U.S. If we still do not see this point, then we are really being naïve. Let us stop the thinking that some of us have that we are a freely associated state like Palau, the FSM, and the Marshalls. We are not. Those are independent countries. Our country is the United States.
Alexander “Colonel” Sablan