Thursday, August 06, 2015

Questioning the morality of Hiroshima is one of the blessings of the Allies' victory

MacArthur watches the Japanese surrender.
Were the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified? Eamonn McCann, the Irish Times editorial board and many others – say no. I find it hard to question the decisions of those who were living in those times.

It's easy to look back from 70 years, pick out those memos and notes that support the case that the bombs were unnecessary, that the Japanese were about to surrender, but do those memos present a clear picture or just a small fragment of the information that the Allies had at the time?

Many things are obvious in hindsight that are not so obvious at the time. Accepting the idea that the Japanese were about to surrender in August 1945 minus the atomic bombs requires ignoring a lot of information that the President had to sift through.

This is the best summary I've found of the myriad of factors that led to the decision to drop the two bombs in August 1945.

Yes, the Japanese were putting out peace feelers, but they were not prepared to accept the unconditional surrender demanded by the Allies.
Unfortunately for all concerned, Japan's leaders were divided over precisely what terms should be sought to end the war, with the Japanese military leaders still wishing to avoid anything that the Allies would have considered a clear "surrender". Surely Japan's leaders hold the lion's share of the responsibility for the fate that befell Japan.
You had a new president – one who was kept dangerously in the dark about the Manhattan Project prior to his assuming the office of the presidency – listening to a wide range of advisers offering him conflicting advice. Sure they eventually came to the conclusion that Japan could keep the Emperor, but they weren't sure the American population would accept that AND they had to be sure that they weren't just setting themselves up for another war a few years later as happened in 1918.

It was, like so many of the decisions made during the war, militarily and morally murky, even questionable. They were fighting to win. Win. That was the only goal. Everything else was secondary to that goal, even if that makes us - the grandchildren of the victors - uneasy.

I guess we should just be thankful that the side that won the war is the side that allows such discussions.