Hiroshima and Nagasaki

I think that I have finally come to a place of peace regarding the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki: it should not have been used.

On the one hand, it is certain that the atomic bomb probably saved more lives than it took. That is true. However, that fact does not rule out the flip side: innocent civilians (including women and children) were killed. It sounds too much like the end justifying the means. In war-time, the only people that are candidates for “dying for his country,” as Patton would put it, are the soldiers. Therefore, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not acceptable targets, however many military installations had been put there. The bomb is too indescriminate in a case like that. One bomb should have been dropped far enough outside of Tokyo not to cause damage, but close enough that the effects of it could be seen clearly. That would have sent a clear message that the Emperor was not invincible.

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8 Comments

  1. Lee said,

    November 8, 2005 at 12:01 am

    I agree completely. Targeting civilians in order to more quickly bring about the end of any war is immoral. Even in times of war or great crisis, God’s ethical requirements do not change.

  2. zan said,

    November 9, 2005 at 3:25 pm

    I don’t know if I will ever make up my mind about this. However, after the first bomb was dropped the Empire did not surrender until the second one was dropped. I don’t think dropping it outside of Tokyo would’ve made that much of a difference if the first bomb didn’t, after the entire city was destroyed. The government did not care much for their women and children if you look at how they treated them. A land invasion would’ve killed many of US men. It is a tricky subject and hindsight is usually 20/20 but in this case I don’t think so.

    -Zan

  3. Mr. Baggins said,

    November 9, 2005 at 5:17 pm

    Indeed, you raise some good points, probably the points that influenced President Truman to make that decision. However, I am of the opinion that nothing justifies the targeting of innocent civilians, even our own troops. I used to think that the US was entirely correct in making that decision, since it saved so many of our troops. But my ethics professor at WTS (now president Dr. Peter Lillback) convinced me otherwise.

    Certainly, *their government cared nothing for their women and children. However, I question whether that fact is relevant for how *our* government was to view their women children.

    You are probably right that such a show of power outside Tokyo would not have convinced them. I wonder if anyone has thought of any alternatives.

  4. zan said,

    November 12, 2005 at 10:47 am

    I was talking to my husband last night about this. (My father-in-law was in the South Pacific and he was actually being prepped for a possible land invasion. He was stationed at Okinawa and was there when those women threw their children and themselves off those cliffs so they wouldn’t be caught by the evil Americans.) Anyway, After the second bomb was dropped the government wanted to surrender, but the military leaders did not. They were so passionate about fighting until the last man that they were about to form a military cue (sp?). They never got it off the ground and the government of Japan was able to surrender. According to my father-in-law, the Japanese had a very different view of warfare. They had kamakazis. They had no value for the individual life.

    War is very messy no matter how you look at it. Even in this country the settlers retaliated to the American Indians attacks in an equal savage manner.

    I think if there had been a land invasion my husband would not be here today since his father was a marine. Dealing with barbaric nations is no easy matter.

    -Zan

  5. edarrell said,

    October 2, 2006 at 8:35 am

    Estimates were that civilian casualties from a land invasion would have been between 1 million and 5 million. Our experiences on Iwo Jima and Okinawa suggested that the higher figure might be closer to accurate. Truman was aware of those estimates (there are famous stories about his prying the data out of the military guys in meetings).

    I have great difficulty with the use of atomic weapons, period. But I don’t think a rational case can be made that it made civilian casualties higher. While it is true that civilians died, and innocent civilians, it is also true that innocent civilians died at much higher rates on Okinawa.

    World War II was much more a moral dividing line than World War I was, in the end. I forget who it was who said it, but there were military people who fully understood that, had the Allies lost the war, there would have been war crimes prosecutions for the fire bombings in Dresden and Tokyo, among other places.

    Sherman was right: War is hell. War twists the morality of the most stable people. This is why war prevention and effective peace are so important.

  6. greenbaggins said,

    October 2, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    Those are very interesting points, and certainly something to be weighed. However, the question must still be asked: what was the _intent_ of the bomb? Surely a direct invasion would not intentionally have targeted the civilians, whereas the bomb did. That is my problem. Of course, then the question becomes this: if you knew that 5 million civilians would have died in a direct invasion, then can you say that the intent to invade was any better than the bomb? I’m not sure I can answer that question. However, it would seem that the intent is important here. And on this question, I don’t think that the bomb was justified. But I agree with Sherman’s assessment.

  7. edarrell said,

    October 2, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    The intention of the bomb was to get the Japanese leaders to realize that they were going to lose, and lose big, to get them to the point they’d just surrender, unconditionally. The military hierarchy who understood that the war was lost also knew that the defense of the main islands would be much more ferocious that the defense of Okinawa. They were counting on being able to scare off the Allied soldiers in the invasion, to keep the war going.

    Truman had been a raw recruit in World War I. He didn’t see much of combat, but he’d seen enough. When units hit 75% dead on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Truman understood they’d not want to go further. When he heard how civilians were committing suicide rather than surrender, he just had the numbers run out. Every scenario showed about a million U.S. soldiers dead, and at least a million Japanese civilians, perhaps as many as 5 million.

    With that as the alternative, a couple of atomic bombs were cheap, humane choices.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    October 2, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    I certainly agree with you that the intention was to make the Japanese realize that they would lose big-time. However, that intention does not rule out the intention to purposely target civilians, which a land invasion would not have done. Should they not have tried to blow up a bomb where the Japanese could see it? This might have been tried as a first step. If that did not work, then they could have tried bombing an exclusively _military_ target. I think there were other options to show the Japanese that they were going to lose without targeting civilians. Notice that today’s code in the US military is exclusively non-civilian targets. They do not do that anymore. Is that not a tacit admission that the atomic bomb was wrong? I used to think that the atomic bomb was good and saved many lives. I don’t think that it actually _increased_ civilian casualties. However, such was never my argument. My argument was that non-combatant civilians were targeted, and that that was wrong. Wishing something different will obviously not change the past. And it looks like we have certainly learned the lesson we needed to have learned; namely, not to target non-combatants.


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