U.S. Court Rules in the “Okinawa Dugong” Case
Implications for U.S. Military Bases Overseas
Author: Miyume Tanji
In January 2008, a U.S. federal court in San Francisco ruled that the U.S. Defense Department's plans to construct a new U.S. offshore Marine airbase in Okinawa violated the National Historic Preservation Act by not protecting a Japanese “national monument,” the endangered Okinawa dugong. This article discusses the background and trajectory of the lawsuit and the implications of this judgment. The outcome of this lawsuit is expected to improve processes of evaluating and managing environmental and other social impacts of U.S. military forces on hosting communities in Okinawa/Japan. The case also demonstrates the potential of transnational civil society actors to overcome a deficient democratic system within one state. The expanded theater of the anti-base Okinawans' protest brought them new allies while avoiding difficult and unnecessary conflict on the ground at home.