Obama is talking (live) to the US Marines, next to Hiroshima as this is published (“I will visit this afternoon, Hiroshima!”). Obama, correctly, will not apologize for the nuclear bombings of japan in 1945. However, it’s a good time to reiterate my old position.
Yes, the fate of children in Hiroshima bring tears to one’s eyes. However… However morality is not about crying about what happened, it’s about doing the best one can do, considering the circumstances. And the best, at the time, was, clearly, and in retrospect, to use atomic weapons exactly as they were used. It was a superb rolling of the dice. Better: it worked splendidly.
In 1944, the French army broke through near Monte Cassino in Italy, south of Rome. The Hitler line across very mountainous ground there had stopped the Allies for six months. The Commonwealth troops, Poles, British and American armies had suffered immense losses. And not advanced a mile.
French General Juin, nicknamed “Hannibal” by the American command for his ferocity, calm and strategic cunning, broke through, the French army piercing in two days through the twenty miles thick Nazi line like a hot knife through butter. It was really a Franco-North African army. And its ferocity was unequalled.
Stabbed in the center and through the heart, the entire Nazi line soon collapsed. However, the Americans got soon worried that the “French” were committing acts of war going over the line of what they considered proper. The American generals went to see the French generals… who laughed to their face: ”C’est la guerre!” The French explained they had no love lost for the treachery of Italians in June 1940, when they joined Hitler in attacking France. Thus the honor of Italian women was not high on the list, considering that the Italians had shown they had no honor. After covering 50 kilometers in a few days, through the mountains, giving no quarters, killing the most contemptible forces in the world, love acquired the same old meaning that real war calls for.
And, as far as the French were concerned, a good Nazi, was a dead Nazi. The French army would keep that relaxed attitude through the rest of the war. In the last few weeks of the conflict, in April-May 1945, the First French army charged through Bade Wurttemberg and Bavaria, suffering more than 5,000 dead in combat… while destroying all Nazi units in south Germany, killing untold thousands. That’s war: although Nazism was finished then, a lesson never to forget still had to be given (the Nazis had sent all the armies they had to try to stop the French, whom they hated the most). That was the moral thing to do. The French finished the war by killing as many Nazis as they could, precisely because a hard finish was needed. The sort of hard, unforgettable finish that was not given in World War One.
The German Republic we all enjoyed now was born in the blood and ashes of prior fascism and barbarity.
By summer 1944, the American generals had learned that ferocity was called for. During the (mostly failed) Operation Market Garden, the Nazi command bitterly complained that the Americans were taking no prisoners, even when the SS surrendered. Why not? Was not the idea of the SS that there should be no surrender?
Although technically France had declared war to Nazi Germany (with the United Kingdom and its puny army in tow), it was the Nazis who had decided to destroy civilization. They had started the war (contrarily to what they pretended later).
Who had started the war in Asia? The Japanese military command. A coup was actually attempted against it, by lower officers (in 1937). The coup failed and was repressed in (a lot of) blood. However, the fact remains that Japanese society, like the German one, or even Italy, engaged in collective mass murder.
The Japanese army massacred at least 15 times more (innocent) people than the total of Japanese (mostly military, mostly by their own hand) who died. Japan losses were of the order of two millions, mostly troops dead from bad treatment by… the Japanese high command (yes, this is a slightly biased description, but only very slightly: most Japanese who died in the war were Japanese soldiers mistreated by the conditions their command put them in!)
True, a two month old Japanese baby was innocent. And maybe her parents, too. However, collectively, all of Japanese society was culprit. Proof? The US could atom bomb, and it was the highest moral way.
Yes, I know perfectly well that the “collective responsibility” doctrine was rejected in 1945. That was clearly idiotic (and a political manoeuver, thinking of Stalin and Mao).
On the island of Okinawa, the civilian population resisted with a fanaticism that the Islamist State envies, no doubt. A consequence is that most of the civilian population of Okinawa died (I have covered all these arguments, with detailed numbers, in the past).
Hiroshima killed 70,000 right away, and for a total of 140,000 later. Nagasaki killed much less. And the war was over within three days.
And that high rate of atrocious atom bombing was all a lie, a make-belief.
Bombing August 6, and again August 9, made the Japanese High Command believe that a bomb would be coming every three days. Several Japanese cities, including Kyoto, were still untouched. All Japanese industry was within those cities. Clearly, Japan could not sustain an atomic bombing every three days.
In truth, there were no more bombs at the ready. A few could have been dropped over the next few months. Not enough to have a big military impact. Japan could have held into 1946. The landing prepared for Fall 1945 was expected, in light of what had happened at Okinawa, to kill at least one million.
Announcing a demonstration atomic bombing would have been a very bad idea, for a variety of reasons.
So, considering the situation, the atomic bombing were morally optimal. Those who don’t want to be atom bombed, better not start a world war.
A lesson for the future, averse to war. Those who got zapped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not get zapped in vain: they gave their lives, and a lesson.
Let’s help, and get help from, the Bhagavad Gita
‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds and evils’
You want to be moral? Start by not being an idiot. (Or the sort of fascist robots Japanese and Germans had turned into in the 1930s and 1940s.)