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Californian journalist, college professor wants Marine Corps to give Camp Pendleton back to California

Joe Matthews (LinkedIn)

A Californian journalist is calling for Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton to be “surrendered” to the Golden State’s real estate developers, claiming that much of the base’s open areas serve little purpose in the age of drone and cyber warfare and that the Marines serve a “commander-in-chief who treats California like an enemy.”

Zocalo (Mexican-Spanish for “Public Square”) writer Joe Mathews -who is also a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion and Harvard Graduate- wrote an op-ed in The Sacramento Bee that large swaths of Camp Pendleton should be turned over to the state for commercial and development use, claiming that the majority of land is unused.

“Less than 20 percent of the base is developed,” he wrote. “The tens of thousands who live and work there don’t lack for services. There are theaters, museums, golf courses, a lake, a new hospital, a scuba center, a YMCA, food franchises, 11 fire stations, five public schools, 14 barbershops and eight dry cleaners.”

Unfortunately for Mathews, a map of the Camp Pendleton training area reveals a large chunk of that “undeveloped” land consists of training and impact areas, the latter of which is littered with unexploded ordnance and explosions that -according to the USMC- “may be amplified and heard up to 50 miles away.”

But Mathews added another, more political reason as to why Pendleton should be handed over to California, one that the bulk of US Marines are statistically less likely to be a fan of.

“Camp Pendleton serves a commander-in-chief who treats California like an enemy,” Mathews wrote. “Time magazine reported that the Trump administration had plans to detain 47,000 migrants at the base. If it were used for rights-violating border policies, California’s leaders should pressure the feds to leave.”

The comment is unsurprising, considering Mathews has previously expressed public support for allowing non-citizen voting on a local and state level, referring to the act of not allowing non-citizens to vote as a form of “apartheid.”

Mathews went on to say that in the era of modern warfare (fought remotely in many cases), he believes the Marines don’t need as much training ground.

“Now that wars are conducted by drone or Internet, how much does the military need the base? The last major Marine amphibious assault was 68 years ago,” he wrote. “Since Camp Lejeune in North Carolina also handles varied training, do Marines really need to train on such valuable California land?”

Despite the fact that Marines already operate in a fairly small footprint across the US (especially compared to their Army counterparts), Mathews seems convinced that his idea is a solid one- and one that will benefit California.

“Camp Pendleton with a smaller military footprint, or without the military at all, might seem unthinkable,” he wrote. “But so was the idea of the Army surrendering San Francisco’s Presidio or Fort Ord on Monterey Bay. Both have productively transitioned to civilian use. Like them, Camp Pendleton is big and beautiful enough to serve us all.”

(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Camp Lejeune trained new Marine recruits; this is actually done at Parris Island.)

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