Who should apologize?

This is a straight up question on governmental protocol -

One of our submarines crashed into a fishing boat, and in doing so, 9 people are missing and presumed to have died.

Seems clear that the sub is at fault in the collision. Without naming specific persons responsible, it does seem prudent that our government send an official apology to Japan.

is this the correct person to do it?

It seems probable that we’ve sent ‘official apologies’ before. Is “the Navy’s no. 2 officer in Washington” really the most appropriate?

The apology was from George W. Bush. A high ranking naval officer delivered it. I don’t have a problem with this.

Not only is there no problem with this but it is very appropriate. The naval officer (Adm. William J. Fallon) apologized on behalf of the President of the United States who apologizes on behalf of the American people. It was the Navy that screwed-up and it is the navy who most go and deliver the apology. I doubt apologies come easily to Admirals so it is more than appropriate that a senior naval officer be made to face up for the tradgedy. Indeed, I would hazard a guess that the Admiral not only delivered the President’s apology but also apologized on behalf of the navy (although I don’t know if that’s the case or not).

Perhaps I worded it wrong. I understand that the apology comes from the US government/George Bush President.


There’s quite a bit of historical protocol about who delivers messages = level of seriousness.

For example, when foreign dignitaries die, the choice of attendees representing the US is very carefully made. (former pres, current veep, first ladies etc signal more important than current ambassador etc.).

That’s my question. The Navy’s #2 guy? what’s wrong with the Navy’s #1? or the Secretary of State? or Veep?

Is this the most proper choice for delivery? It may well be. Who have we sent in the past?

No problems here just yet, but I want to preemptively remind folks to keep this GQ. It has the potential to turn into a Great Debate, but I think that we can restrict ourselves to generally-accepted rules of etiquette, previous precedents for this sort of thing, etc.

My local paper ran an article on this a few weeks ago. (Probably an AP report, though I’m not sure.)

The article claimed that the admiral’s apology sparked criticism in Japan. Apparently, in Japanese culture, the apology should have been made directly from the submarine captain to the families, rather than from government to government.

The article said that in American culture, an apology renders you vulnerable to lawsuits; hence, the apology from a high-level official with some immunity. In Japan, an apology makes you less likely to be sued; hence, the expectation of a more personal apology.

It seems ** mph ** is on the right track, in that Japanese culture looks for the specific person responsible vs. any governmental official. here: apology