Japan: Questions For The Post-Recovery Phase

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SENDAI, JAPAN - MARCH 14: A worker operates a power shovel to remove trees after a 9.0 magnitude strong earthquake struck on March 11 off the coast of north-eastern Japan, on March 14, 2011 in Sendai, Japan. The quake struck offshore at 2:46pm local time, triggering a tsunami wave of up to 10 metres which engulfed large parts of north-eastern Japan. The death toll is currently unknown, with fears that the current hundreds dead may well run into thousands. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

SENDAI, JAPAN – MARCH 14: A worker operates a power shovel to remove trees after a 9.0 magnitude strong earthquake struck on March 11 off the coast of north-eastern Japan, on March 14, 2011 in Sendai, Japan. The quake struck offshore at 2:46pm local time, triggering a tsunami wave of up to 10 metres which engulfed large parts of north-eastern Japan. The death toll is currently unknown, with fears that the current hundreds dead may well run into thousands. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic DezzuttiJapanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, called the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami the most difficult challenge the country has faced since World War II. As the country begins to fathom the true impact of this natural disaster, it will also undoubtedly rank high on the entire world’s list of worst natural catastrophes.

But sadly, since we have the Haiti earthquake and Indonesian tsunami in our recent memory, we can compare the United States’ reaction to this disaster and see the commonalities and the major differences.

Visit CBSNews.com for the latest on the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

As a major ally of the United States, Japan is already receiving aid and assistance, and certainly sympathy. But do we feel differently as a country than we did when reacting to other disasters because of who Japan is and its current economic status?

Put simply, does Japan’s status as one of the strongest economies of the world, and the owner of a significant portion of America’s debt, change the way we approach the inevitable post-recovery phase of this record breaking disaster?

After the shock of the human devastation begins to wane, critical questions will arise that point out the key differences when a disaster happens to a country that arguably is in better economic shape than our own.

It’s easy to support American investment in Haiti since many understand that NGO’s are helping to rebuild a country that was considered a very poor third world country well before the earthquake. But how do we treat a country that is in far better shape than much of our own country?

Japan and the United States have a unique alliance, with a variety of past and current baggage. Common human decency will rule the day while there remains people to be found and saved. But as we encounter the next stage, the unique nature of our history and present day relationship, will highlight the ramifications of our recent political and economic choices.

Even in these early stages of the recovery, I’ve already heard friends wonder out loud if we as a country can start working off some of our country’s debt. Even though that’s a somewhat crass consideration, it won’t seem so crass a few weeks from now.

Since Japan is cash rich and natural resource poor, it’s an honest consideration that the United States essentially be hired as a main contractor of sorts, of the reconstruction.

Yes, China and its cheap labor are closer, by thousands of miles. But if you thought our country’s history with Japan had issues, you should examine Japan’s history with China. Let’s just say ours is much, much simpler, even with atomic warfare in the picture.

There are complicated questions of investment and aid and other large areas of concern that the recovery effort will bring to bear. But it’s been a long time since a country in the position Japan is globally needed such major reconstruction. With entire cities literally wiped off the map, billions will be spent in rebuilding.

When exactly does the United States transform from a helpful ally in the recovery effort to an interested contractor in the rebuilding effort? And, is that a role that is up for bid, and if so, how might that help or maybe hinder our current fiscal relationship with Japan?

These are all questions that are far above my pay grade, but they need to be asked. It’s a great example of how things are never as cut and dry as they may seem.

For the time being, the focus must be on helping the injured, finding the missing and stabilizing the area. But once rebuilding begins, the priorities, and how to meet them, become far bigger questions.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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