Monday, September 3, 2001

Bush should explain
Asia defense strategy

The issue: The U.S. Army has begun
moving weapons and equipment from
Europe to Asia, with troops possibly to follow.

Symbolically, the transfer of Army arms and equipment to Asia from Europe is a good indicator of the American commitment to the security of Asia and to the defense of U.S. allies, and long overdue. As a practical measure, it doesn't mean much and leaves a yawning gap in the American military posture in Asia.

More than anything else, President Bush and his advisers need to define U.S. interests in Asia so that the American voters and taxpayers can know clearly what it is that their armed forces may be ordered to defend. Equally important, that definition would reassure allies that the United States can be counted on and it would caution potential adversaries not to misjudge American intentions.

Next, the president should define a strategy for defending those national interests and allies. For the most part, that strategy should emphasize sea and air power, not ground forces except to assist South Korea to defend itself. Even there, the army of the Republic of Korea is capable of defeating the North Koreans on land and would require reinforcements mainly at sea and in the air.

Elsewhere, the main engagement of the United States would be at sea and in the air, such as in possible hostilities with China in the defense of Taiwan, over which Beijing claims sovereignty. The same would be true in the disputed South China Sea. If the Philippines or Indonesia needed help in putting down insurgencies, that would be a task for Special Forces teams to train Filipino or Indonesian troops in counter-insurgency operations.

Should the U.S. decide to deploy more Army troops to Asia, there would be the pertinent question: Where would they go? Agitation is rising against American soldiers in South Korea and against Marines on the island of Okinawa in Japan. For a variety of political reasons, American forces would not be welcome anywhere else save perhaps on the northern coast of Australia.

A smaller but still vital point: Neither the commander in chief of all forces in the Pacific, whose headquarters is at Camp H.M. Smith here, nor the commanding general of Army forces in the Pacific, with headquarters at Fort Shafter, has operational control over U.S. forces in Korea. As a legacy of the Korean War that ended in 1953, they still serve in a separate command. That split is an anomaly that history has shown to be a formula for disaster.

In sum, the shift in Washington's focus is welcome but it is progress only an inch long.

Program protects privacy
of HIV-positive people

The issue: A new rule requires that HI
infections be reported, but keeps
an individual's name confidential.

A new rule requiring doctors, health-care providers and labs to report HIV infections while keeping a patient's name confidential balances the need for the state to track cases while protecting an individual's privacy. Without this sensible system, the state and public health agencies would not be able to determine the extent of the infection through the population, provide an accurate count for federal allocations or direct education and prevention information where necessary.

Because of the stigma that remains with HIV infection and AIDS, people have been hesitant to take tests that would reveal their names. Under the new program, set to begin Oct. 1, codes will be assigned to a person tested. Health-care providers will report HIV-positive results using the codes.

AIDS cases have been reported in Hawaii since 1983 and totaled 2,489 as of June 30. In the past, the assumption was that people who were HIV positive would eventually develop AIDS, but with new treatment and medications, many may never contract the disease. The new program was developed by various concerned entities to keep track of people who are HIV-positive, but not necessarily sick.

Peter Whiticar, chief of the state Department of Health's HIV/AIDS Prevention Branch, said that an estimated 2,300 to 3,200 Hawaii residents are living with HIV. But that's just an educated guess. The new program "will help provide a much clearer picture of the spread of the epidemic in Hawaii," said Health Director Bruce Anderson.

The importance of gathering information is no more evident than in China, where the government has generally treated the extent of the AIDS problem as an embarrassment. Although China acknowledges 600,000 HIV-positive cases, United Nations estimates put the number at 1.5 million. Studies have shown that few Chinese understand how HIV is transmitted. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been asked by the Chinese government to help control the spread of the illness, says its first order of business is to collect reliable statistics to understand how the epidemic was spreading and who was at risk.

Health officials in Hawaii hope the use of codes will encourage those at risk to be tested. If they aren't, anonymous testing will still be available at the Health Department's Diamond Head Clinic and other contracted agencies. A person can choose to be assigned a code, but if not, the case will reported when the person seeks a doctor's care, officials say.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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