By SSRN, June 17, 2022
In a recently published article, Allen et al. (2020) argue that U.S. military deployments nurture favorable attitudes toward the U.S. among foreign citizens. Their claim is based on social contact and economic compensation theories, applied to a large-scale cross-national survey project funded by the U.S. government. However, their analysis disregards the geographical concentration of U.S. military facilities within the host countries. To examine the relevance of geography and assess both positive and negative externalities, we focus on Japan—a crucial case given its status as the country hosting the largest number of U.S. military personnel in the world. We show that residents of Okinawa, a small prefecture hosting 70% of U.S. military facilities within Japan, have considerably unfavorable attitudes toward the U.S. military presence in their prefecture. They hold this negative sentiment specifically toward the bases in Okinawa regardless of their contact with Americans and economic benefits and their general support for the U.S. military presence within Japan. Our findings support an alternative theory of Not- In-My-Backyard (NIMBY). They also shed light on the importance of local foreign public opinion for foreign policy analysis and call for a more balanced scholarly debate on the externalities of the global U.S. military presence.