This CSIS PacNet article on the need to look beyond the disaster struck a chord with me, reminding me of an argument I had on Twitter just days before:
The people’s focus has been on recovery. This is understandable given the devastation and loss of life. However, many Japanese officials fear that this singular focus will intensify so much that, in feeling a sense of solidarity about the suffering brought on by the disaster, the people will not only pull together but turn inward. Thus, at the societal level, the people will lose interest in anything not related to themselves. The result will be a desire to withdraw from things not Japan-related. The motivation for international engagement, let alone interest in international issues, will be the farthest thing from Japanese people’s concern.
Governments can and must multitask. Japan’s foreign policy establishment wants to remain internationally engaged, but they do not have the platform or authority to convince the Japanese people not to turn inward in shared grief. This is the responsibility of the politicians. Political leadership is needed to convince the Japanese people not only of the importance of international engagement, but how it can and will multitask.
It’s safe to say that this is an area where having a strong bureaucracy really helps – while the politicians play politics and attempt to secure whatever capital they can out of the disaster, it is the officials in the ministries and local government offices that will make sure that Japan stays on course. The disaster relief efforts have already moved into the recovery and reconstruction phase, and once that period also passes, Japan doesn’t have the luxury of making up for lost time.
A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan.
His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch