Japan needs America’s help

Published 11:25 am Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Star Tribune editorial

A film producer pitching a disaster movie couldn’t have conjured up a scarier scenario: An earthquake registering 8.9 on the Richter scale triggers a tsunami that destroys coastal cities. But a typical disaster film ends after two tense hours. For Japan’s real-life nightmare, there’s no intermission, and the Japanese will need the world’s generosity.

Early estimates suggest that at least 10,000 people lost their lives in the initial earthquake and tsunami, but with thousands missing, the toll is likely to grow.

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Life is grim for the survivors, too, as the natural disaster metastasizes into a humanitarian crisis.

The crisis will only add to the challenges facing the $5 trillion Japanese economy. The Nikkei stock market dropped 6.2 percent the first full trading day after the quake.

On Sunday, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the country was suffering through its worst crisis since World War II.

But within two generations of World War II, the resilient Japanese rebuilt a nation from scratch to become a dynamic, innovative world economic leader. In the process, it also became a staunch ally of the United States.

U.S. government officials should remember this country’s magnanimous postwar history, too. Even amid congressional cries to cut foreign aid, the United States should be generous with humanitarian aid and technical assistance as Japan attempts to avoid a nuclear meltdown.

And we as individuals should respond, too. Americans who reflexively reach for their wallets when an economically disadvantaged country like Haiti is hit with an earthquake may pause when an economic power like Japan is hit with its series of disasters. They shouldn’t.

The Japanese people are in dire need, and our donations will make a difference. Please give generously.