By: Patrick M. Cronin / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun
When Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics, a quarter century will have passed since the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the Tokyo subway sarin attack. From the aftermath of the earthquake until the present Abe administration, Japan has advanced its crisis management to a level few other nations have achieved. Today it is better prepared than ever to cope with large-scale natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunami, grave incidents such as terrorist attacks with mass-destruction weapons or against vital infrastructure, major accidents such as another nuclear meltdown, and situations related to national defense such as a missile launch or an armed attack on sovereign territory.
But future crises, whether from natural causes or man-made, may be more challenging than anything in recent memory. The brutality of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the long reach of Al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula are stark reminders that malevolent forces threaten our fragile international order. A single act of nuclear or biological terrorism would threaten to undermine our advanced economies and democratic societies very rapidly. Furthermore, a natural disaster, a North Korean missile, or malicious offensive cyberattack might pose an equally momentous challenge to our national resilience.
This is why a comprehensive approach to thinking about national resilience in the face of strategic contingencies requires urgent attention. Though we can never be entirely safe from terrorism and natural disasters, even in our own country, we can shore up our capacity for dealing with major crises.
If national security demands more resilient responses for coping with strategic contingencies, shared goals and limited means demand greater alliance cooperation between Japan and the United States on these issues. These allies need to develop smarter, more effective ways of achieving resilient responses to strategic contingencies. Together, the United States and Japan can improve their national and alliance preparedness and responses to a range of plausible contingencies.
As strong as Japan and the United States alliance is, the nexus of defense and homeland security remains an underdeveloped dimension of this cornerstone relationship. Yet from 3/11 to 9/11, and from sovereign territory to cyberspace, our respective societies need to learn how to prevent, endure and ultimately emerge stronger from large-scale hazards. The Japanese people certainly demonstrated national resilience in the face of the triple disaster started with the Great East Japan Earthquake nearly four years ago. The United States can learn from that, and at the same time there are more lessons that require further action even in Japan.
While the U.S.-Japan alliance focuses increasingly on regional and global security, it should also consider homeland security as a core mission. The alliance needs to do for homeland security challenges what it has done for regional security. Japan and the United States have more to learn if their governments and societies alike are to be prepared as possible for a sudden crisis at home.
To help policymakers in Tokyo and Washington develop an “all-hazards” approach to crisis management to improve their capacity for strategic resilience, the Center for a New American Security and the S&R Foundation’s International Institute of Global Resilience is embarking on a 16-month project that will bring a diverse group of experts and officials together in quiet dialogue. Participants of the latest dialogue held in Washington on Tuesday included such heavyweights as Shotaro Yachi, chief of the Japanese National Security Council (NSC)’s secretariat, and Kurt Campbell, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
The project will inform a public research report to be released in March of next year. The new concepts that will come out of our project can, together with new systems and technologies, help officials to fashion crisis management approaches to cope with even the most taxing scenarios.
At the end of this project, we will have identified a range of recommendations that could improve Japan’s and America’s approach to crisis management. The two governments could decide to increase bilateral cooperation for strategic planning for a wider range of contingencies than is currently the case. Training, exercises and professional exchanges could be increased. Whole-of-government stakeholders, from senior officials and uniformed troops to private sector, prefectural and local officials, and civil society, could be involved in these efforts. Ideally, the two governments will fashion a new framework for how to achieve greater resilience regardless of the type of crisis that strikes. A new model for crisis management can, in turn, become a springboard for strengthening regional resiliency for coping with various contingencies.
Cronin is a senior adviser and senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).