Monday, February 04, 2013

Both Leaders and the Public Need Understandings on Crisis Management

In view of increasingly diversifying nature of security threats to untraditional areas, crisis management capability has become an important credential for national and corporate leaders. However, they learn it on OJT basis mostly, and fundamental concept of it is not sufficiently taught in college and graduate courses. Come to think of it, basic notions of other policy agendas, such as economics, foreign policy, defense, public administration, and so forth, are core subjects of social science in higher education. New security concepts after the Cold War necessitates more understandings on crisis management prevailed among the global public.

The way of dealing with crisis differs by actors by actors. Stark differences are seen between state actors and non state actors. State actors are authorized to use force as the last resort to resolve the crisis. On the other hand, unlike the East India Company in the era of colonial mercantilism, non state actors today are not armed to defeat insurgents, terrorists, and whoever threatens their vital interests. Therefore, sovereign state has ultimate resources in crisis management. The public needs to be well educated to watch, exert influence on, and cooperate with the government.

Let me talk about two cases. One is a natural disaster without precedence, which is the Fukushima accident in 2011, following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. This is the first incident of human history that nuclear power plant was hit by natural disaster, and unlike Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, no instruction manuals assumed such a thing. Criticism to Japanese Prime Minister-then Naoto Kan spurred as the media and the public were upset with the crisis. They were obsessed with specific errors in his conducts, but failed to discuss his policy and administration skill to manage the crisis.

The other case is a man-made disaster, which is the In Aménas hostage crisis in Algeria this year. Though victims were multinational, the Bouteflika administration of Algeria attacked the site to defeat terrorists without sufficient consideration to global standards for safety of the captive. The Algerian government did not even consider requesting foreign intervention to help their troops, though American, British, and French Special Forces are more skilled to execute the mission to balance counterterrorism and hostage safety.

We, including the media know too little about crisis management. Thus, we may make a wrong judgment about the conduct of leaders in crisis. In other words, we can evaluate on going situations quite emotionally. Therefore, it is necessary to promote understanding and awareness on crisis management. Think tanks and private foundations can host forums and lectures on to educate the public. Preferably, these events should be open to anyone through internet videos, not just accessible to closed members. Also, fundamental concepts of crisis management should be taught in more college courses from undergraduate level. Good national and corporate leaders need comprehensive and systematic understanding of this area. It is too dangerous that training for crisis management is substantially dependent on OJT. 

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