Former Japan PM Kan illustrates the dearth of leadership in the world

Earlier this year current Japanese Prime Minister declared that no one individual or individuals would be saddled with the blame of the Fukushima disaster.  He said that the whole nation should “share the pain” of Japan’s unfortunate situation.  This despite the exposed corruption of nuclear regulators, the lack of required preparations by TEPCO, and the woeful response to the crisis by just about everyone in the government, from Ministers who failed to document meetings to staffers who, according to politicians and high-ranking bureaucrats, withheld or mismanaged radiation fallout data in the early days of the disaster, to regulators who were captured by the industry they were responsible for regulating.

The recent independent Fukushima panel report, while condemning all of the parties involved in the disaster in harsh tones, failed to point a finger at any one person as well, claiming it “was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepco” founded in the failure of regulatory systems.

Now it seems that former PM Kan, the man in the center of the disaster response, has responded to this report, and fails to take responsibility for anything that happened.

From Jiji Tsushin (7/11/2012):

自己責任を否定=原発事故調に反論-菅前首相

Former Prime Minister Kan denies responsibility for self, argues against the Diet Investigation Commission['s conclusions]

民主党の菅直人前首相は11日付のブログで、東京電力福島第1原発事故について「原因の大半は、事故発生の2011年3月11日以前にある。これが私の結論だ」と述べ、自らの責任を否定する一方、東電や経済産業省原子力安全・保安院の対応を批判した。

In his blog post dated July 11, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, of Democratic Party of Japan, commented on the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident by saying, “Almost all the causes for the accident had existed before March 11, 2011, the day the accident happened. And that’s my conclusion.” He denied his own responsibility, and criticized the response [to the accident] by TEPCO and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

国会の事故調査委員会が報告書で、首相官邸の過剰な現場介入を「事故の進展を止められず、被害を最小化できなかった最大の要因」と結論付けたことへの反論。菅氏は当面、ブログで持論を連載する。

It is a rebuttal to the Diet Investigation Commission’s report that concluded the excessive interference by the Prime Minister’s Office with the efforts at the plant was “the largest factor that prevented [TEPCO from] arresting the progress of the accident and minimizing the damage”. Mr. Kan plans to write about his conclusions on his blog for a while.

Mr. Kan sounds very familiar. Just blame the predecessors.  It’s the default position of the current president of the United States.

As the blogger EX-SKF points out, failure to take responsibility and blaming those who came before is, indeed, the “default position” of the world’s political and bureaucratic elite in our current age.  And that’s a problem.  Who runs for political office without being aware of the situation about which he will be forced to deal?

The people did not force Kan to lead the nation by mass exultation or referendum.  Kan sought out the job as a career-long aspiration.  In fact, like Noda, Kan was not elected by the public but only by DPJ party members.  And he has been in the government for years.  One doubts that anyone who has achieved the prime minister’s office in such a highly political town as Tokyo could possibly be unaware of the manner in which the nation is run, including the corruption and cozy relations that exist between the government and industry in Japan and which have existed throughout Kan’s tenure in politics.

For Kan to reach the top office, he must have not only known about it but participated in it to some extent.  Claiming that he was not responsible because of the system in which he has thrived is rather self-serving and indicates a lack of leadership skills.

Obama continues to blame former President Bush for all of America’s problems.  Yet he knew what he was getting himself into when he begged the public for the job.  It is why the US continues to decline.  And so, too for Japan.

True leaders take responsibility.  They understand it when they accept the role.  They surround themselves with people they trust and to them, delegate the duties of their office.  However, they never delegate the responsibilities of office.  Failure by a subordinate is a failure of judgement by the leader, not a cover by which the leader escapes responsibility.

It is the leader’s responsibility to assure that other elements within the organization do not cause problems.  That Japanese leaders have failed to hold the bureaucracy accountable for their corruption is not a fault of the system, as Kan would claim, but a failure of successive leaders to root out the corruption.  Even so, it does not mean that Kan is relieved of this responsibility by throwing up his hands and saying “shouganai.”

Kan is responsible for the Fukushima disaster.  Obama is responsible for America’s woeful economy.  Both problems came with the office and both men should be blamed for it.  Their salvation is found, and this is key to understanding leadership, in how they respond to the responsibilities that they have chosen to accept.  Had Kan responded more effectively to the disaster, he would still be in office and hailed as a hero by the public.  But he didn’t and ultimately had to leave office in disgrace.

Now we have Noda who has given his personal guarantee for the safety of the Ooi nuclear reactors.  But does anyone really believe that Noda will take responsibility in the event a disaster befalls Ooi?  Japan, and most of the rest of the world, simply do not have men and women who have the personal fortitude and integrity to be considered true leaders.  Instead, we have a bunch of self-promotional elitists whose leadership consists of pushing expensive agendas in the hope that nothing goes wrong and then claim innocence when something does.  As long as this dearth of true leadership exists, we are all, quite frankly, doomed.

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