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Assessing the crisis in Japan

Georgetown Scholars Assess Crisis in Japan

Japan Town HallFrom left, Michael Green, Andrew Natsios, Marko Moscovitch, Victor Cha, Rev. Matthew Carnes, S.J., and Wes Mathews discussed the political, financial and nuclear situations at hand in Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

March 17, 2011 – The Japanese are holding their own, despite the aftermath of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, its resulting tsunami and the ongoing nuclear crisis, Georgetown panelists said at a March 17 forum on campus.

“What this has demonstrated to the world is the incredible resilience the Japanese society has,” said Michael Green, associate professor of international affairs at the School of Foreign Service.

Green also pointed out that the country’s young people have shown a fighting spirit while utilizing social media and other forms of communication to help in recovery efforts.

“[The disaster] has highlighted in my view the vibrancy of Japanese youth,” Green explained.

Panel of Experts

Other speakers at the forum included Andrew Natsios, distinguished professor in the practice of diplomacy and former USAID administrator; Rev. Matthew Carnes, S.J., assistant professor of government; Wes Mathews, associate professor of physics; and Marko Moscovitch, professor of radiation medicine and director of the Health and Physics Nonproliferation Program at Georgetown’s Medical Center.

The Asian Studies National Resource Center, the Mortara Center for International Studies and the Georgetown International Relations Club sponsored the talk, moderated by Victor Cha, the D. S. Song-Korea Foundation Chair in Asian Studies and Government and director of Asian Studies.

Right Decisions

The current situation has stabilized a government that was in “freefall” – before the crisis, there were rumors that the prime minister would be out by this summer, panelists explained.

Despite the chaos, the government and the people “are not paralyzed,” Natsios said, citing Japan’s strong civil defense and advanced emergency systems.

“Apparently [Prime Minister Naoto Kan] has made all the right decisions in terms of mobilizing and not waiting,” the former USAID administrator said. “I’m actually astonished by the order and discipline of not only the military but also the Japanese people.”

Nuclear Crisis

Moscovitch agreed with warnings that citizens within the area of the failing nuclear plants in Japan should stay indoors.

The nuclear plant in question, built in the 1970s, is pretty much “dead,” even if the worst-case scenario is avoided due to current leakage of radiation, Mathews said.

“We should be humbled,” Mathews explained. “We have lots of technology and scientific experience but when push comes to shove, Mother Nature wins.”

Expressing Solidarity

Carnes opened the forum and asked for a moment of silence for the victims and survivors in Japan.

He said listening to stories of those experiencing the crisis allows the Georgetown community to “accompany them with solidarity.”

Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice (CSJ) is coordinating efforts to support humanitarian aid and disaster relief and will update its CSJ website as Japan-related educational programming and service opportunities become available.

Yuko Shimada (SFS’13), president of the Japan Network student group, said at the forum that her organization is creating a blog with opinions and thoughts about the crisis in Japan and prayers for victims.

From the Georgetown University website.

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Welcome! Who am I?

Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.