Base Politics Research

US military base in Okinawa

US Base Politics

My core research area is the study of US base politics, specifically US bases overseas and host nation resistance to maintaining a US military presence. I am interested in questions of variation such as: why are there more protests against the US military in some host communities than others? And: why are some anti-US-base protest movements more successful than others? I am currently working on three projects in this research area:

  • Right Frame, Right Time? Anti-US-Military Protest Movements in Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines

My dissertation project addresses protest variation between host communities in Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. Drawing on an original dataset of protest events, primary documents, and interviews, I argue that a key driver of variation is the way in which anti-US-military frames resonate with the local community. I argue that a highly visible US presence in a community that has traditionally been on the political periphery is more likely to help anti-US-military activists’ narrative mobilize opposition to the US military presence.

In this project, I am developing an original dataset of protest events against the US military in US host nations from 1990 to 2016. Drawing on news sources, the dataset captures a variety of variables prescribed in the social movement and base politics literatures including: estimated number of protesters, tactics, protest frames, change in the status of the base, transnationalism, and openings in the political opportunity structure (e.g., incidents attributable to the US military presence, important anniversaries, visits from officials, etc.). 

  • Not All Boats Float on the Rising Tide: Third Wave Democratization and Anti-US-Base Movements in East Asia

In many countries, the 1980s was marked by state-society contention and struggles for democracy. This trend was particularly notable in East Asia, where people’s movements led the way for democracy at the end of the decade in South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan. South Korea and the Philippines not only shared this historical moment but also bilateral security arrangements with the United States, allowing the US military to station personnel within their borders. In both countries, the US military presence elicited local resistance due to concerns about crimes committed by military personnel, safety, environmental degradation, and national sovereignty, among others. Despite these similarities, there is a striking difference between the two countries: while the Philippines’ anti-US-base movements were successful in their struggle to remove the US bases from within their borders, South Korean movements were not as successful. I demonstrate through qualitative case analysis that this difference is primarily because Filipino activists linked anti-base contention with the struggle for democracy whereas their South Korean counterparts did not.