We still don’t know exactly why Prime Minister Naoto Kan tapped former Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto for the high-profile post of Minister in Charge of Reconstructing Areas Ravaged by the March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami, but we did discover today that he is certainly the wrong man for the job. Matsumoto was handed his important new responsibilities only a week ago, but clearly his sense of self-importance has inflated even more rapidly than his authority.
Thailand has had a pretty good year since the demonstrations of April-May 2010 that culminated in a bloody crackdown in which at least 91 people died. The country is largely peaceful, the economy is thriving, unemployment is low, and the currency is strong. All these things are usually good omens for ruling party success at the ballot box, but the national election, which will be held on Sunday is more likely to muddy than clarify the long-running political drama that has divided the country for more than a decade.
It was 39 years ago today that the people of Okinawa finally escaped from the Pacific War, but they still await a more genuine era of self-determination. The 82-day-long Battle of Okinawa in 1945 was a horror. Something like a quarter of the civilian population ― more than 100,000 by most accounts ― were slaughtered in the crossfire between an alien army determined to conquer them and an Imperial Army that had no intention of protecting them.
Times of tragedy are not something to be welcomed, but they are occasions within which able political leaders can thrive and fulfill their destiny. In ordinary times, of course, it is beneficial to have the coherence and sense of direction that strong leadership can bring, but during a severe national crisis ― when the public is confused and afraid ― these dynamic qualities become little short of necessary. How miserable it is, therefore, that Prime Minister Naoto Kan has signally failed to measure up to the challenge.
Footage of the March 11, 2011, earthquake as experienced in the Akasaka district of central Tokyo.
Protesters against Okinawa military base treated roughly by police outside US Embassy in Tokyo.