Thousands of Chappaquiddicks
Gene Healy on Ted Kennedy: "Sure, Kennedy's an amoral sack of flab, but as far as I know, he's only ever killed one person, which puts him ahead of most presidents."
On a related note, it was 60 years ago today that the Enola Gay dropped a nuclear device on Hiroshima. In The Miami Herald, Leo Maley and Uday Mohan remember the long-lost days when the leading critics of Truman's decision were conservatives—a far cry from today, when most on the right despise the Hiroshima revisionists with the sort of fury they ordinarily reserve for Kennedy, the Clintons, and the French. On cue, one modern conservative reminds us that
the atomic bombs were, by many orders of magnitude, the most powerful explosives ever employed. But the havoc they caused, with a combined death toll of over 100,000, was far from unprecedented. By the time the Enola Gay took off, at least 600,000 Germans and 200,000 Japanese had already been killed in Allied air raids. Conventional explosives had reduced all of the major cities of both countries to rubble. In the end, no more than one-third of the total Japanese deaths from air raids—and just 3.5% of the total land area destroyed—could be attributed to Fat Man and Little Boy.
Far from being unusual, then, those two A-bombs merely marked the culmination of an already well-established principle: that urban areas were fair game for aerial attack.
In the '40s and '50s, there were anti-Roosevelt, anti-Truman conservatives who could have produced the exact same passage. But this time the writer is superhawk Max Boot, and he seems to think he's issuing a defense of the nuclear option rather than describing a deeper moral problem with the way the Second World War was conducted. He does "remain troubled by the deliberate killing of civilians"—bully for you, Max!—but he refuses "to participate in the self-indulgent second-guessing that has become a growth industry in the history profession."
Except, of course, when he wants to do a little self-indulgent second-guessing of his own. "[E]ven today," he writes, "there is cause to doubt whether more precision is always better. During the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. was so sparing in its use of force that many Baathists never understood they were beaten. The butcher's bill we dodged early on is now being paid with compound interest." The thought stops there, as though even Das Boot has a scruple or two, but why not complete it? If only Bush had possessed the moral courage of Harry Truman, then Iraq might glow with radioactive waste and our soldiers wouldn't have to die invading and subduing the country.