Twin disasters of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and killer tsunami would tax even the strongest government. Add in the possibility of a total nuclear meltdown, and you've got the recipe for a leadership crisis that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is now facing. Kan's administration — widely seen as weak even before the quake — is facing broad criticism over everything from the speed and honesty of its updates on the nuclear situation to its evacuation plans. Is Japan's government falling down on the job?
Japan's leaders are flailing badly: "Never has postwar Japan needed strong, assertive leadership more," say Hiroko Tabuchi, Ken Belson, and Norimitsu Onishi in The New York Times, and never have the shortcomings of its "weak, rudderless" government been so apparent. Not that it's all Kan's fault. Japan's leaders aren't trained in skills like "rallying the public," or finding outside-the-box solutions on the fly, that a "bewildering" crisis like this calls for.
"Dearth of candor from Japan's leadership"
What else is the government supposed to do? Japan's public and press, and even local officials, are savaging Kan over the nuclear disaster, says Linda Sieg at Reuters. But outside analysts say his government is "doing the best it could do in a difficult and rapidly changing situation." Still, the breakdown in public trust, whether warranted or not, is a problem that "could fuel panic and chaos" in itself.
"Japan government losing public trust as nuclear crisis worsens"
This disaster could revitalize Japan's governance: So far, even we Japanese are surprised by our "calmness and moral behavior," says Hiroki Azuma in The New York Times. And while the media is "relentlessly questioning" Kan's handling of the nuclear meltdown, there are strong "voices of support," too. If anything, these disasters have made us more unified, engaged, and "proud to be Japanese" than at any time since World War II. I hope our next government will reflect that.
"For a change, proud to be Japanese"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How science is accelerating our search for alien life
- Behind the newest attempt to get the Supreme Court to strike down affirmative action
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- Why insects are the future of food
Subscribe to the Week