An impression: Delivery of water, food, and medicine to survivors of the earthquake-and-tsunami has been reduced and delayed because the government has been more concerned with coordination and order than supplying their citizens.
I do not have the evidence needed to confidently make this assertion. I am seeking evidence to either deny it or confirm it.
“Takahiro Saito, 28, from the disaster-ravaged city of Sendai… said that government organized relief has been too slow and private efforts to deliver supplies cannot succeed because the military has closed major roads and highways to all but emergency personnel.” (Washington Post)
“Petrol was diverted to the emergency relief effort. No fuel was made available to civilians. Only state vehicles could access the pumps.” (unattributed from the BBC)
The President of the largest, arguably most influential, Japanese business association: “Though companies are trying to send relief supplies, they cannot secure fuel for returning.” (Kyodo News Service)
“The expressways are practically empty, just SDF caravans and police.” (Private conversation regarding situation in Miyagi Prefecture)
“They (the government) are totally ignoring well-established private logistics and doing a horrible job of trying to replace it.” (Private conversation with colleague in Tokyo)
“Many relief supplies offered by food makers and other firms to areas struck by last week’s devastating earthquake in northeastern and eastern Japan have not yet been delivered… The situation was attributable to confusion in commodity distribution and difficulties in making arrangements between the government and quake-hit areas… Relief supplies are sent by the government through arrangements with the Self-Defense Forces and others after checking lists for such supplies and demand from quake-hit areas. Executives at manufacturers complained about the government’s sloppy responses to offers of their firms’ relief supplies to the quake-hit areas.” (Kyodo News Agency)
According to the March 21 OCHA Summary:
More than 350,000 evacuees continue to endure cold weather at shelters in 16 prefectures… 244,000 households remain without electricity
(601,000 people). Access to water is still a concern however and 1 million households (2.4 million people) remain without water across 11 Prefectures… To date, the Japan Self Defence Force has delivered approximately 379,928 meals, 1,370 kg of rice, and 52,146 canned foods, 19,889 litres of drinking water, 4,720 blankets and 46,580 litres of fuel. The Force has also provided bathing services to 5,424 persons.
Please consider the number of evacuees, the number of those sheltering-in-place, and the number of days since the quake. Compare this level of demand to the reported supply. This is not in any way a criticism of the effort and efficiency of the SDF. I am asking a question of strategy, not of tactics.
There are certainly a range of causes contributing to slow and insufficient supplies: quake and tsunami damaged infrastructure, fear of radiation (one of the principal supply lines into the impact area runs through the radiation exclusion zone), reduced availability of fuel, and more.
But the anecdotal evidence is simply becoming too great to any longer under-play the potential role of perimeter-power. My immediate concern is for the Japanese survivors. But I am also concerned about lessons-learned for the US and others. Too often when government is unable to do much of anything else, it can impose a rigorous perimeter… so it does.
What are you seeing, hearing, and reading? If you have other evidence, please use the comment function.