Today is the one year anniversary of the huge earthquake, huge tsunami, and the nuclear power plant disaster that devastated Japan. For the last year I have been thinking about how the effects of 2011/03/11 on Japan parallel the effects of 2001/09/11 on the U.S. in many ways. Of course, the number of people killed and the area of devastation of the disaster in Japan is much worse and the cause was different, but the effects on the country and people have many similarities, I think.
The estimated economic cost to America of 9/11 is $770 billion, but that does not include the wars that were spawned because of it in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and other places. Whether this 10+ years of war will in hindsight someday be seen as worth it or not is yet to be known since these things are usually unknowable until decades have elapsed. That is despite what the people with 100% hardened opinions based on a centimeter's depth of understanding may think contemporaneously. 9/11 was the beginning of major changes that most of us are not happy about, but that no one truly knows whether they will lead to better things, or at least tolerable things, in the future. My feeling is that it is the same for Japan and 3/11. Japan is soul searching and reevaluating many things and it seems it is likely to lead to many changes in the future. Some have already happened, for example, the nuclear power plants in Japan are shutdown. That may or may not be permanent, but Japan is dependent on foreign sources of energy, nuclear power was pretty much the only one that was seen as reliable, pretty clean until last year, fairly plentiful, and didn't depend on unstable parts of the world, so this has been a huge decision.
The economic impact of 3/11 on Japan was severe, just as 9/11 was on the U.S. Also, the shock of the sudden disaster and the worry that at anytime it or something similar could happen again is much like it was after 9/11 in the U.S. Both country's feelings are partly fear, but in both cases it is a rational fear based on a reality that is filled with uncertainty and that uncertainty can never be eliminated by just further study and analysis. Another 9/11 or 3/11 would be even more devastating to the countries and that is on top of the loss of life. The tremendous economic impact of these sorts of disasters can't be ignored so it is reasonable to try and either prevent future ones or minimize their consequences. America and Japan and any other country which experiences a sudden, unexpected, huge catastrophe of such magnitude that it also threatens the country's whole economy is usually presented with a range of choices, all of them bad, tough, and some even unknown. It is so rare in a person's life or in a country's life that during a crisis the choice is between the clearly good choice and the clearly bad choice. In those cases anyone can make the right choice. Most of the time however it is choosing between multiple bad choices and trying to find the one that is least bad. And doing that with incomplete information and without the benefit of an infallible crystal ball that shows the future. Japan is in the middle of this right now. I wish Japan the best of luck with whatever big decisions it makes.