Editor’s Note: This article is part of the CNMI Perspectives, an occasional addendum to the Saipan Tribune’s Opinion section, soliciting the viewpoints, opinions, and thoughts of experts, academics, and members of the public on a specific topic. This topic explores the impending militarization of the Commonwealth.
The military buildup has the CNMI literally standing at the crossroads with no definitive determination of which direction we will end up going as we might not have full control of our destiny in this matter when we should. There are three roads intersecting us so do we take the road that says no to the military as this road leads to nowhere for the CNMI or the military. Do we really want to refuse any obligations we have to help the military when we depend on them? Just think, we are willing to sacrifice our young people to fight in foreign lands for other people but we don’t want to figure out a way to share some land! Give our children a break, it makes people wonder about the CNMI’s priorities with America.
Certainly if terrorists choose to make the CNMI a target or if there is another world war, which is possible with bombs falling on the CNMI, we would definitely want the military to occupy as much of the CNMI as possible. The military really does need our help so do we come off as pure parasites only wanting to take from America what we can get but not willing to do our fair share in sharing the burden of the cost to live free and safe? The federal government has given the CNMI over $2 billion in cash over the years and hundreds of millions in resources every year yet the CNMI has never sent a thank you card or one penny to the federal government. Let’s be real about this.
But there is a second road so do we take the second road that says yes to the military and literally sacrifice most of the CNMI’s future growth and expansion to become a CNMI that will look and be more like a militarized zone than a tourist destination? This road also leads to nowhere by turning Pagan and Tinian into live fire practice facilities that is not the future that citizens had expected for their small islands and especially when the plans for the future of the CNMI are not coming from CNMI leaders but the military. Pagan will no longer be the future developing island that will have a complete and permanent society with schools, hospital and other necessities for a permanent sustainable community. Tinian will also be limited in its growth potential if the military gets its way. In fact, some of the land the military wants to take on Tinian is already being looked at for cultivation to support the marijuana industry that is being considered. So is it right to let the military dictate our future on a road that literally stops our growth and expansion and limits our Commonwealth to what it is today?
But there is a third and final road to choose from and it reads yes-and-no to the military buildup. This road has potential options on both sides of the road that leads to an unexplored valley that is full of plant life and flourishing with symbiotic (mutual) relationships. The military will be able to accomplish what they need to do and there is plenty of room for the CNMI to grow and expand without being limited by military activities. The problem is getting the military and the CNMI to take the same road, especially when this road is only marked yes-and-no but it is still being surveyed to be cleared for development.
Personally, I think and believe we should be working on the yes-and-no road. We really can’t just thumb our noses at the very people we expect to protect us and keep us safe, especially when our children are among those in their ranks. We really don’t want to look like parasites only wanting federal money because we should be true patriots like our children in the military. But at the same time we can’t just let the military commandeer (take) what they want from us as the CNMI is only being invited into their decision after they have made the decision, which was the military’s biggest boo boo! The military and the CNMI need to save face, as we say, and the best way is for the CNMI to put forth our plan to help the military and then we will have a real starting point for both sides that will be much more favorable to the CNMI.
This issue truly reminds me of King Solomon and the decision to split the baby in half so who will be the bigger person in this to propose a solution, the military or the CNMI? Given that it is the CNMI’s land that is being protested, it should be the CNMI to come forward to offer the options and believe me there are some good options for us to present if we can stop hating long enough to look. I have studied this and there are some good options that will even be more beneficial to the CNMI’s present and future efforts to develop a robust and successful tourist industry with a high quality of life for the people.
The CNMI just needs to be smarter than the military with this issue and unlike Solomon, we don’t have to make threats but we do need to consider “sharing” as we teach children in elementary school that “sharing is caring.” So do we walk our talk even when it is difficult or do we come off as parasites to the military and the rest of America, especially to the taxpayers and Congress, who have been sending over $100 million every year to the CNMI? Yes, our budget is actually $200 million-plus every year, we just don’t count the federal dollars—we just spend them. So everyone needs to really think about this long and hard because we are getting a close look at the reality that freedom is not free as someone has to make sacrifices beyond the battle field to keep us safe and free. This time we are being asked! Heck, it was women working behind the lines who had a major role in saving us in WWII.
We know the military needs these facilities to keep a sharp edge on America’s spear. So being an American is not as easy as some may think. It is because it is not all about taking from America as we must also give back through patriotic efforts and deeds! To my critics, please try to have enough sense to wait and see what the plans are for the yes-and-no road before you start complaining about something you obviously don’t anything about yet. So can we please get a little patient on this sensitive issue before you irresponsibly start throwing rocks like an idiot throwing at nothing! (Ambrose M. Bennett)