Nuclear Weapons

Obama, Trump, and the Nuking of Hiroshima

America needn't apologize, but must consider who has his finger on the button.

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Hiroshima
Public Domain

In early August, 1945, a 19-year-old Navy ensign sailed from California to take part in the invasion of Japan. Those on board the vessel didn't know if they would live to see the end of the war. But suddenly, as they were en route, Japan surrendered. 

What happened in that interval? The United States dropped a new weapon, the atomic bomb, on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki. Days later, the Pacific War was over, and America was victorious. 

Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced he would visit Hiroshima, which no sitting president has done. His decision is bound to reopen the debate over President Harry Truman's use of nuclear weapons, the first and last time they were ever detonated in war. 

That Navy ensign was my father, T.J. Chapman, who outlived the war and everything since, celebrating his 90th birthday last year. Had the bomb not been built and used, his life might have ended then, and I would never have been born. So I may be biased. But it has occurred to me that there could have been Japanese just my age who, because of those cataclysmic explosions, were never born. 

The case that Truman erred is familiar. Critics say Japan would have surrendered soon anyway, that the entry of the Soviet Union into the war was the real reason for its capitulation, and that Truman was acting as much to block Josef Stalin from a postwar role in East Asia. 

In Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War, University of Chicago scholar Robert Pape concluded that the U.S. sea blockade and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria had convinced Japan's military leaders that the war was hopeless. The new weapon, in his view, didn't even hasten the day of surrender. 

Other experts differ. The bombs "convinced the Japanese military that its strategy for defending the home islands was doomed," George Washington University political scientist Alexander Downes, author of Targeting Civilians in War, told me. "Hiroshima and Nagasaki meant that the United States could simply sit offshore and vaporize the defenders rather than having to invade." 

What is clear is that no president would have declined to use these weapons. After four years of unimaginably savage and costly fighting in the Pacific, any military option that offered hope of finally achieving victory had to be seized. 

It wasn't certain that atomic bombs would work, but it was more than plausible. The potential benefit was enormous. Each day the war continued meant hundreds more Americans killed: Three U.S. Navy ships were lost just between the bombing of Nagasaki and the surrender. 

Nor was there any special moral issue in using the new weapon. For years, Allied bombers had been slaughtering enemy civilians on a mass scale in Germany and Japan. More people died in the March firebombing of Tokyo than in Hiroshima. 

An invasion of the island nation would have been apocalyptic. Estimates of the Japanese civilian casualties ranged into the millions, and the U.S. military anticipated as many as 1 million Americans would be killed or wounded. 

In the effort to win the war, there were no humane formulas or foolproof answers. In electing to drop the bomb, Truman acted in good faith to advance an impeccable and humane purpose—successfully ending a catastrophic conflict that had been forced on us. There is no good reason for a U.S. apology. 
That doesn't mean Obama is mistaken to visit Hiroshima. The need to use nuclear weapons there is debatable, but the urgency of preventing another use is not. 

His call for a nuclear-free world is less important in that effort than his effort to make sure our nuclear arsenal is safe and reliable, to deter other nuclear powers. The Iran deal is another step in the right direction. 

Having a wise, restrained leader in the Oval Office is also critically important. Donald Trump, who raised the possibility of nuclear retaliation against the Islamic State, doesn't qualify. The prospect of his finger on the trigger should give us—and the rest of humanity—nightmares. 

Obama's visit to Hiroshima should not cause Americans to feel deep guilt about how our government used nuclear weapons in the past. But it should stimulate intense anxiety about how they might be used in the future. 

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc. 

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  1. Obama is in to, yet again, be historic, unprecedented, no other sitting blah blah blah. Pointless aggrandizement.

    With the use of weapons, the relatively small use at the end of that war put a heathy fear into even the lunatics. There the very real potential that the use prevented any use since.

    1. This is just Chapman’s prelude to ‘The Libertarian Case for Hillary Clinton’. Coming soon to Reason.

  2. Debating the bomb in WW2 is giving the matter an air of civility that it doesn’t deserve.

    The bomb wasn’t dropped as part of some utilitarian calculation, weighing the value of defeating the Japanese vs. the cost of an invasion, vs. the value and cost of an indefinite siege on the Japanese islands, vs…. on and on.

    It was war. In war, you want to hurt the enemy as horribly as you can get away with, to set an example. If you nuke Japan, then the downside is…purely on Japan, and not at all on the US. So, you nuke Japan.

    You don’t drop the bomb because it’s the bestest way to win the war. You drop the bomb because you can.

    Then, you let the dispassionate souls of 50+ years in the future, totally removed from the time and place, debate the niceness and utility of it all, once the matter is settled, and it no longer matters.

    It’s really government at its finest.

    1. “It was war. In war, you want to hurt the enemy as horribly as you can get away with, to set an example.”

      There was a paper prepared for the Joint Chiefs that discussed using poison gas against the Japanese.

      And of course the U.S. made extensive use of napalm in bombing Japanese cities.

      1. Firebombing, not napalm.

    2. “You don’t drop the bomb because it’s the bestest way to win the war. You drop the bomb because you can.”

      Nope. Curtis LeMay (note, every insane Air Force general in every cold war movie you ever saw was based on his public persona (as opposed to his real personality- he was a professional military man, not a comic book character)). had weapons available that he deliberately chose not to use- poison gas, chemical warfare against the Japanese rice crop, etc. He was famous for having said ‘give me the word and I will make Japanese a language spoken only in hell”. (Note, this is untrue, but a good story- actually Admiral Halsey said “Before we’re through with them, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.” after Pearl Harbor.)

      1. He was famous for having said ‘give me the word and I will make Japanese a language spoken only in hell”.

        Clearly, then, the reason that poison gas and chemical weapons weren’t heavily used in WW2 must be the moral good-nature of everyone involved.

  3. Yeah, Trumps just wayyy to scary. Luckily the other major candidate is a non-interventionalist who’s never completely fucked up a foreign country for political gain. Oh, wait.

    1. I don’t remember Trump knocking over a North African country just for the fucking hell of it – and getting it’s leader killed after they had surrendered their WMD program.

      1. Oh, wait.

        kinda gives away that the post was sarcastic

        1. I was agreeing with the sarcasm not missing it.

      2. “We came, we saw, he died!,” cackled the Secretary of State upon news that the ageing dictator had been sodomized and murdered upon apprehension.

  4. Boooooo. There is no libertarian case to be made for killing hundreds of thousands civilians.

    Shame! Ding-ding! Shame! ding-ding! Shame!

    1. Unless the alternative is hundreds of thousands of civilians plus a million servicemen.

    2. There is no libertarian case to be made for raping, enslaving, and killing everyone you can get your hands on, then stupidly bombing the one nation close enough and powerful enough to stop you, either.

      1. I was unaware that we attacked Japan first. I suppose Pearl Harbor was retribution for…something?

        1. I think he’s referring to Japan raping and pillaging China then bombing Pearl Harbor.

        2. “I suppose Pearl Harbor was retribution for…something?”

          US cutting off trade to Japan which they needed to maintain their war efforts.

          1. Because that’s what free trade means – sell to us to help support our imperialist aggression, or we’ll kill you.

      2. Does there HAVE to be a “good guy” in every given conflict?? Are libertarians obligated to choose sides or debate over who was worse??

        The war between Moscuvy and the Golden Horde against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Crimean Khanate. Which side was the right side, from the libertarian obligated-to-choose-a-side perspective??

        1. No, there doesn’t have to be a good guy. There don’t even have to be bad guys. There just have to be guys with incompatible agendas.

        2. Does there HAVE to be a “good guy” in every given conflict? Are libertarians obligated to choose surrender or annihilation over defending themselves

          Does there have to be a bad guy? Are libertarians obligated to choose surrender or annihilation over defending themselves?

    3. No time for links, but both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were military targets: army headquarters, defense industries, etc. Yes, there were lots of civilians around, but that’s the case in any industrial city.

      1. Hiroshima was so low on the military targets list that it hadn’t been bombed previously in the war.

        1. Incorrect. To quote wikipedia-

          At the time of its bombing, Hiroshima was a city of both industrial and military significance. A number of military units were located nearby, the most important of which was the headquarters of Field Marshal Shunroku Hata’s Second General Army, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan,[106] and was located in Hiroshima Castle. Hata’s command consisted of some 400,000 men, most of whom were on Kyushu where an Allied invasion was correctly anticipated.[107] Also present in Hiroshima were the headquarters of the 59th Army, the 5th Division and the 224th Division, a recently formed mobile unit.[108]

          …Hiroshima was a minor supply and logistics base for the Japanese military, but it also had large stockpiles of military supplies.[110] The city was also a communications center, a key port for shipping and an assembly area for troops.[75] It was also the second largest city in Japan after Kyoto that was still undamaged by air raids,[111] due to the fact that it lacked the aircraft manufacturing industry that was the XXI Bomber Command’s priority target.

        2. It hadn’t been bombed because it was being saved as a target city for a nuke. Easier to assess damage on an untouched target than one that had already been leveled by Lemay’s B-29s and their incendiaries.

    4. The Japanese were killing 100,000 Chinese every month. Delay the end of the war by a year and kill millions of Chinese and Japanese, and hundreds of thousands of Americans, vs 150K Japanese now and none after?

      Besides which, war is hell. The Japanese deserved to lose just from the sheer stupidity of thinking they had to attack the US to keep the US from interfering with their colonial conquests.

      There’s all sorts of blame to scatter around for the Pacific War, including all the colonial powers who divided up territory they had no right to, to the US’s Open Door policy in China while gathering empire in the the Philippines to Woodrow Wilson not wanting to extend his 14 points to the subhuman Asians to FDR playing games. But Pearl Harbor was entirely on the stupidity of the Japanese military, and as long as they were in charge of Japan, Japan as a whole was going to be held accountable, and if that means suffering from war, so be it, war it is.

      War sucks. Don’t start one unless you are prepared to finish it. Don’t let your political leaders start one unless you are prepared to suffer the consequences.

    5. Too bad Japan wasn’t libertarian. Look, Turkey was never at war with the USA during WWI. (Think about that, Australians). Russia was not at war with Japan until about the week the bombs (intended for Nazi Germany) went off. The US was already sick of Soviet looting and such in Germany, and wanted Japan to NOT surrender to anything containing Soviet contamination. The modern design of the weapon gave the Japanese (prone to suicide, no-surrender, etc.) a pretext for surrendering without losing face. All of this is covered in “Fear, War and the Bomb” by PMS Blackett, a scientist able to integrate functions and find his way around the Periodic Table. And as Louis Ridenour noted in “The Hydrogen Bomb” (Sci.Am. 1952): “Once it is decided that people are to be killed, the moral question is fully settled. The instruments of that killing are not affected with any moral or humand questions or considerations.” Japan seems to have recovered from annihilation, while Russia and China have not recovered from communism.

  5. No qualms here with either Truman’s use of the weapon or with Trump’s (public) refusal to rule it out. We’re not going to nuke ISIS but publicly taking the option off the table serves no purpose. Making public threats and drawing red lines with no intention of following through is far more dangerous.

  6. I was surprised by Steve Chapman’s assertion that “no president would have declined to use these weapons.” However, his argument is convincing. Maybe it was inevitable that nuclear weapons would be used once or a few times in war, followed by perpetual, fearful restraint on all sides. Or, if a fission bomb had been developed during peacetime, a few demonstration shots might have sufficed to warn adversaries and remove any motivation for its use. More broadly, must the technology of war perpetually grow? With fully autonomous drones close to reality, our species must confront the question of what is more important, the urge to design new weapons, or our own survival.

    1. the urge to design new weapons, or our own survival

      The two are not mutually exclusive. The history of the development of weapons is a story of survival. We don’t design and use weapons that more effectively wage war because we want more war. We design and use them because we want less war.

      The problem that this academic navel-gazing misses is that war is not a function of weaponry but of intent and motive. Humans have waged war as long as they’ve been human, and even that is overly restrictive: animals, plants, fungus, bacteria, etc. all have been observed to wage war in their own ways.

    2. Former President Hoover was critical of Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb in his memoir, arguing that the Japanese were desperately trying to devise a surrender that would be acceptable to the US.

      I used to share the jingoist sentiment that the US was unambiguously just in using such weapons. However, their true primary purpose was, and is, to terrorize civilian populations rather than to destroy enemy armies and navies. Mass murder is not okay even when our side does it.

      1. When an entire nation is the active machine in support of the war then they are no longer civilians.

        1. So… if, say, some Yemenis land on US shores and start butchering American civilians left and right, you totally support their actions??

          ‘Cause the entire nation is an active support machine in aiding the Saudis in warring aggressively against Yemen. By your standards, if a Yemeni ever kills a US citizen, I expect you will make a full statement in support of the actions of that Yemeni. US citizens are no longer civilians, thus killing ’em should be moral by your metric.

          1. No, one does what is necessary. There’d be no need to nuke Yemen or do anything that causes mass casualties. Imperial Japan was a different animal.

      2. The Japs knew full well that the only acceptable surrender was unconditional. We even warned them before hand, surrender now or you will regret it.

      3. “However, their true primary purpose was, and is, to terrorize civilian populations rather than to destroy enemy armies and navies. Mass murder is not okay even when our side does it.”

        Probably biased since my grandma was at Dresden, and no, before people like Ron assume, she was neither German nor part of “active support” of the German war machine, but I agree with you here.

        Put in Truman’s position, I would have dropped the bombs, but I would have not targeted the same position. Civilian targets like Hiroshima and Dresden have always been about petty notions of vengeance, not about ending the war or strategical benefits. The Brits were quite open about their vengeance-motive at Dresden.

        1. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/mp06.asp

          “Hiroshima was a city of considerable military importance. It contained the 2nd Army Headquarters, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan. The city was a communications center, a storage point, and an assembly area for troops. To quote a Japanese report, ‘Probably more than a thousand times since the beginning of the war did the Hiroshima citizens see off with cries of ‘Banzai’ the troops leaving from the harbor.'”

          “The city of Nagasaki had been one of the largest sea ports in southern Japan and was of great war-time importance because of its many and varied industries, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials. The narrow long strip attacked was of particular importance because of its industries.”

      4. Herbert Hoover had dry agents bushwhack and murder innocent civilians because the GOP made beer a felony. Look up Henry Virkula, and Senator Tydings documented hundreds of such cases the say Reason documents murdering cops high on nationalsocialism shooting people in the back for no reason. Oh, his enforcement also destroyed he economy and his Moratorium on Brains helped build up the Nazi war machine.
        Was this not on daytime teevee?

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  8. Dan Carlin talked about this on one of his podcasts. Not that it would provide a definitive answer to whether or not the bombings were justified, but he asks you if you would be willing to walk into a baby’s bedroom with a flamethrower and torch the baby. You would save many more lives by letting it rip. Maybe this is a slam dunk for most people, but not for me. How about if you could cure cancer by doing highly dangerous experiments on unwilling humans? Not black and white to me. Best you can do is make sure you do all you can to make sure you never even get close to the point where killing civilians becomes the better option.

    1. Not that it would provide a definitive answer to whether or not the bombings were justified, but he asks you if you would be willing to walk into a baby’s bedroom with a flamethrower and torch the baby. You would save many more lives by letting it rip

      You left something out. Namely how torching the infant saves lives in the example. We know how the bomb saved lives, so we need more information on this analogy or we just point and laugh at the person making it.

      1. I hope you’re not about to say that it’s all right to murder the infant if you think it will save someone else’s life.

        1. His point is that any such scenario is usually quite contrived. When does such a thing occur in real life? There’s a reason Sophie’s Choice chose entry into Auschwitz as the setting for the titular choice.

        2. I hope you’re not about to say that it’s all right to murder the infant if you think it will save someone else’s life.

          Isn’t that the whole premise behind a medically necessary abortion?

          1. I hope you’re not about to say that it’s all right to murder the infant if you think it will save someone else’s life.

            Isn’t that the whole premise behind a medically necessary abortion?

            That’s gotta bern.

          2. Is a fetus an infant? I dunno. Do you?

      2. We know nothing of the sort. We know that Eisenhower, reflecting on the war crime in 1963, said, “…the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” We know that Chief of Staff Leahy said, “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan.”

        1. That runs counter to the accounts from the Japanese themselves, whose statements on their attitudes and state of mind I believe over that of the commander of the european theater.

          1. it also runs counter to the fact that a large portion of the army attempted as coup against the prime minister when he talked of surrender after the second bomb was dropped. Lucky for us the coup failed.

            1. This in spades. After the Russians had started war, after two atom bombs, after starvation and the prospects of nothing but more starvation, there was still an attempted coup by the military against the”revered” emperor. The atom bombs might not have been necessary against a rational leadership, but Japan’s leadership at the time was quite clear that they would rather see the nation destroyed and everyone dead than surrender. The atom bombs were the trigger that gave Hirohito some backbone to stand up to them and take charge for once.

        2. Opinions that most likely did not account for the postwar benefit of having the Emperor issue an unconditional surrender and retain authority in Japan while serving as a moderating voice.

          1. The bombs were as much about keeping the Soviets out of Japan as they were about getting Japan to surrender.

            1. With what? Lots of makeshift rafts?

              They maybe could have landed a regiment on Hokkaido, but landing on the least important part of Japan with a handful of men doesn’t seem to accomplish much. I don’t understand why the US would be concerned, unless they thought the Soviet naval strength was much greater than it was or that a land invasion would force them to accept Soviet assistance.

              1. Missing necessary “The Soviets could have invaded Japan …”

                1. IIRC correctly (it’s a been a few years since I studied it), the US concern was about minimizing Soviet influence in the Far East after the war. The Soviets were buying time to fortify their positions in Manchuria, Korea, Mongolia, etc… by insisting on an unconditional surrender per the Yalta Conference knowing that Japan would resist.

                  1. Ok, that makes some sense. Of course, the US didn’t know that China itself would go Communist after the war.

            2. No they weren’t. There is a case to be made that we wanted to keep the Soviets from just taking over mainland Asia and force the surrender before then. We had just seen what the Soviets did in Europe when they took over Europe. We knew there was no Japanese Army in Asia anymore to resist because they had already moved back to Japan. And it is a legitimate problem that the Soviets play kissy-face with the Japanese (half of Lend Lease supplies to the Soviets came in through the Sea of Japan and Vladivostok) for six years of WW2 – and then get all of the Japanese mainland empire for themselves.

              1. It should be noted that “We nuked Japan because of the USSR” is a very popular meme among leftists, who want to portray the US as barbarous, unduly afraid of Communism, and the real instigators of the Cold War.

        3. Was it a war crime to fire-bomb German cities in Eisenhower’s theater of command? I never understood how it’s better or worse to be killed by TNT and napalm versus an atomic detonation.

          1. Japan was already being firebombed into oblivion. We were down to cities of 30,000 or so. Not much more than a town. The instigating factor was the declaration of war by the Soviets, which had remained neutral up until that point.

            1. We were down to cities of 30,000 or so

              That runs directly counter to the death toll attributed to the a-bombs. You don’t get a few hundred thousand dead from two cities of “30,000 or so”

              1. What I meant is that we were bombing cities with populations as low as 30,000. That’s a pretty low number for military significance. From an old FP article:

                Japan’s leaders consistently displayed disinterest in the city bombing that was wrecking their cities. And while this may have been wrong when the bombing began in March of 1945, by the time Hiroshima was hit, they were certainly right to see city bombing as an unimportant sideshow, in terms of strategic impact. When Truman famously threatened to visit a “rain of ruin” on Japanese cities if Japan did not surrender, few people in the United States realized that there was very little left to destroy. By August 7, when Truman’s threat was made, only 10 cities larger than 100,000 people remained that had not already been bombed. Once Nagasaki was attacked on August 9, only nine cities were left. Four of those were on the northernmost island of Hokkaido, which was difficult to bomb because of the distance from Tinian Island where American planes were based. Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, had been removed from the target list by Secretary of War Henry Stimson because of its religious and symbolic importance. So despite the fearsome sound of Truman’s threat, after Nagasaki was bombed only four major cities remained which could readily have been hit with atomic weapons.

                1. That makes more sense than how it originally read.

                  Consider, however – The City of Watervliet in New York is home to only 16,000 people. It is, however, home to the arsenal that manufactures heavy artillery and bunker-busting bombs. Had there been bombing of American cities during WWII, the Arsenal would have been high on the hit list for anyone trying to impair US military capacity, despite the small size of the municipality. That means with the technology of that war, Watervliet would have been flattened.

                  The size of a city does not correlate to its strategic value as a target.

                2. If I recall correctly, they refrained from conducting conventional bombing raids on Hiroshima and Nagasaki when they knew the atomic bombs were coming.

          2. “Was it a war crime to fire-bomb German cities in Eisenhower’s theater of command?”

            Yes.

            1. Thank you.

        4. That assessment is utter bullshit.

        5. The records of the Japanese Supreme Council are more informative than historians with an agenda or military on our side. The Japanese Navy knew it was beaten and could not defend Japan in late 1944 and was trying to find surrender terms from that point on. The Japanese Army was opposed to surrender even after the bombs – since they had already moved most of their forces back to Japan from mainland Asia in early/mid 1945. They have never even really gotten themselves into the fight against the Americans so they had no interest in surrendering before that fight. Hirohito himself was the only one whose mind was changed by the bombs – and his mind was changed because of the bombs casualties. Even after he made the preparations for the radio announcement, there was an attempted coup (Kyujo incident) by elements of the Army to put the Emperor under house arrest the night before he made it.

          I don’t have any problem with us second-guessing that decision – forever if need be. We used a horrible weapon. We knowingly killed thousands of civilians. And I hope no one ever wants to be faced with the same decision again.

          But the way for us to contemplate that is not to demonize those who were there then – or apologize for them. The only purpose of that is arrogant Whiggish historicism – the notion that we are inherently better than our ancestors. We should learn by realizing the difficulty of the situation as it was.

          1. If we are not better than our ancestors, the human race is doomed. We must evolve and learn from our mistakes.

      3. It is a thought experiment. There isn’t actually a baby. Or a flamethrower.

        Just take it as a given that the only way to save 50k people is for you, and only you, to walk into the room with an innocent little baby and torch it up with the flamethrower. It touches on the nature of morality and lets you explore your innermost motives in ways that you wouldn’t otherwise.

        Some people are pure math types: If I could kill 3 and save 5, then go for it. Others are more to the other extreme, taking an innocent life is unthinkable, even if it cost 1,000 lives.

        Sure, it amounts to nothing more than navel-gazing, but it carries more depth and reveals more about your true thinking on life than discussions about underinflated footballs.

        1. To quote Wendy McElroy

          “You cannot run a cost-benefit analysis on killing innocents without stepping outside of libertarianism.”

          The goal of libertarianism should be to avoid war. However, once war has begun, attempting to hold onto pure libertarian principles is a losing proposition.

          1. Once it’s on, it’s on. You kill as many of your enemy as it takes to defeat them.

          2. The cost-benefit analysis is how many of OUR guys get killed, and how many of the people that started the war and killed millions (and had orders to murder all Allied POWs at the beginning of an invasion) will die. Not much to think about.

          3. “You cannot run a cost-benefit analysis on killing innocents without stepping outside of libertarianism.”

            Otherwise known as “la la la la la la, I can’t hear you!”

            Grownups know that there are trade offs in life.

        2. Sounds like the moral calculus of a SWAT raid by drug warriors. Sure, it was a shame that the grenade landed in a baby’s crib, but they had to save society from the scourge of drugs. Who can count the number of children saved by their vigilant pursuit in the war on drugs.

          1. That’s completely idiotic. Are you this fucking retarded?

    2. A week or two earlier Tokyo was firebombed with a far greater number of gruesome casualties. Bottom line: it is morally wrong for capitalists to use scientific weapons against primitive socialist looter hordes–this was the Soviet position when they lacked the Bomb. So Indiana Jones should have let the mohammedan with the scimitar slice him into pepperoni instead of “cheating” by drawing a capitalist pistol. That is the looter ethics.

  9. This is a disgusting piece that isn’t worthy of Reason.

    1. Look up “Argument from Intimidation” in the Ayn Rand Lexicon–online and free.

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  11. “Having a wise, restrained leader in the Oval Office is also critically important. Donald Trump, who raised the possibility of nuclear retaliation against the Islamic State, doesn’t qualify.”

    Yeah well let’s wait and see what Obama does and says. This sort of visit demands a certain intellectual ability to navigate through. Based on past speeches where history is concerned, I’m not convinced Obama will be able to pull it off without some subtle Marxist critical theory rubbish. He’s in it for the attention. I don’t expect substance to come of it.

    But hey, let’s see. Maybe he’ll surprise me for once.

    1. Maybe he’ll jocularly say it was “rude” to attack Pearl Harbor.

    2. So the Saracens should hike their sci-fi briefcase nukes into DC in a hurry, right? While the Kenyan mohammedan is still in office to make it easier with no messy retaliation? Izzis the message the commander in chief is sending?

  12. My father-in-law joined the Marines in the spring of 1945 (not sure how voluntary it was). He would have been in that bloody first wave on the beaches of Japan. Nobody in that family ever doubted Truman’s decision.

    I was watching a WWII documentary recently. An American POW was describing how horrified he was when Japanese women and children training for combat – he realized how bloody an invasion would be.
    http://histclo.com/essay/war/w…..j-ket.html

  13. Chapman trollbait detected! Abandon thread! I repeat, abandon thread! Save yourselves!

  14. I have always thought the biggest issue with the bomb was our demand for unconditional surrender. If we had made it clear to the Japanese that we would let them keep their emperor (which we did anyway), they may have very well surrendered long before the bombing. Instead, we were only willing to accept unconditional surrender. That is a pretty tough pill for any government to swallow as it implies the victor can do anything it pleases to the vanquished country (like partitions, expropriation of slave laborers, annexations of long-held territory, etc.). Unconditional surrender requires the loser to be completely and utterly defeated and is a recipe for a brutal, desperate war.

    1. At the time, Japan was not the 4 home islands + the Ryukus but an empire spanning from Manchuria to New Guinea to Burma. One of the goals was to force them to give up their imperial possessions for good.

    2. The Japanese emperor was a deity. Japanese culture, pride, and nationalism were all far greater and deeper ingrained in its people than nearly any other country. It was basically like North Korea is today, and as with North Korea, every civilian was raised to be prepared to fight and die for their divine emperor. That same culture based on pride and tradition is also a large part of why after their defeat they were so quick to recover and became allies with the U.S. Once they acknowledged their defeat, they simply moved on, with little animosity towards their conquerors, who had beaten them fair and square.

      1. “every civilian was raised to be prepared to fight and die for their divine emperor.”

        Not really. Such devotion to the emperor was more a part of Japan’s Samurai warrior ethic, and Japan’s elite really did take it seriously, Japan’s lower orders, not so much. There was wide-spread collaboration with the US forces on Okinawa by the civilian population. Hardly surprising since Japan’s fascists were happy to continue sacrificing them and they were reduced to eating dogs off the street.

        1. Okinawans don’t consider themselves Japanese.

          1. You’d be surprised just what kind of considering people get up to if their stomachs are empty stomach enough.

    3. Unconditional surrender was the acceptable form of surrender. Same with the Germans.

      1. and its the only way to go to war anything else is just a waste of lives and extends the war for years

      2. “was the acceptable form of surrender”

        Germany’s unconditional surrender to the Soviet Union and the consequent subjugation of East Germany by the Soviets was not acceptable. That was what the cold war was about.

        1. Well, communist involvement is always unacceptable. Especially since communism has no right to exist.

          1. “Well, communist involvement is always unacceptable”

            Not when they were beating the fascists. The Soviets were Western allies after Hitler broke his pact with Stalin. I think most in the West had no trouble accepting their Soviet ally bearing the brunt of the heavy work in destroying the Nazis.

    4. The Germans swallowed it in WWI when they had little left to fight with and 10,000 Americans per day were arriving. General Pershing wanted to completely destroy them because the Armistice meant that the Germans didn’t understand what it meant to lose and we would just have to do it again. Kind of like Iraq 1 and Iraq 2.

  15. If apologies are appropriate for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they are due for the intentional firebombings of civilian targets in Tokyo and Dresden as well.

    I’d be pretty indifferent between having been barbecued in a napalm firestorm or annihilated in a nuclear blast if I were to sit on a jury in the hereafter.

    1. “If apologies are appropriate for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they are due for the intentional firebombings of civilian targets in Tokyo and Dresden as well.”

      Mighty generous of you. But unfortunately American targeting of civilians goes far beyond a handful of cities during WW2. It’s been going on continuously, and continues today; If it’s any consolation, the Russians are doing the same thing against Syria’s civilian population.

  16. And invasion of Japan would have been devastating both to Japan and the United States. The US government actually had so many Purple Heart medals manufactured in anticipation of this invasion that it hasn’t had to have a medal manufactured since. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Iraq II, Afghanistan, and all the other wars put together have had fewer casualties than were anticipated by an invasion of Japan.

    The other possible good that came out of the bombings is that the world got to see the devastation the bombs could wreak on humanity without the danger of mutually assured destruction. Everyone wanted nuclear weapons after seeing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but even those who have them don’t really want to have to use them because they know what it can actually do to people.

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  18. “An invasion of the island nation would have been apocalyptic. Estimates of the Japanese civilian casualties ranged into the millions, and the U.S. military anticipated as many as 1 million Americans would be killed or wounded.”

    I don’t think young or even middle aged people can really comprehend what warfare looked like at that time, or conceive of the political system that resulted in all of it. It was literally a different age, and a different kind of combat. If America thought it would lose 1 million soldiers in Iraq, do you even for a second think they would have done anything in todays world? The pure balls it took are unfathomable today by most people, I think.

    In an age of robotic war-by-proxy Americans wet themselves over a few thousand troop deaths and call it a travesty. By the historic standards of war, that is a blow out victory of epic proportions. Sadly, that type of warfare gave an incentive not to engage in war unless necessary (such as being attacked by Japan) whereas today who really cares? Send in the drones boys! Then we pretend we aren’t taking out civilians with our remote controlled death machines. Winning?

    1. In WWII a thousand men died in one practice raid alone, off the shore of England. today one man dies in practice and the world shuts down. it was a different world a world where it was realized die or live under violent totalitarian Nazi and/or Japanese government.

      1. “it was a different world”

        It was a world where sacrifices were expected to be shared, not just foisted onto societies’ losers.

  19. “The bombs “convinced the Japanese military that its strategy for defending the home islands was doomed,”

    Odd statement for a political scientist to make. At that point in the war, the Japanese military’s primary interest was not in defending the homelands, but defending the emperor, especially against a foreign power that might seek to dethrone him. Their strategy was hardly doomed. It prevailed in the end. The US, in spite of the total destruction of Japan’s fighting capacity and use of nuclear weapons, still had to let the Japanese have their way on the only issue of importance that was on the table.

    1. No, they were allowed to retain the emperor simply because it was practical to do so.

      1. Exactly. It helped MacArthur control Japan during the Occupation.

      2. A lot more than the emperor remained unchanged. Fascist Japan lives on today.

        Americans could have ended the war months before were it not for their disagreement on the Japanese insistence that the emperor remain unchanged. Are you arguing that the US stymied their own peace talks with Japan over an issue they intended to concede anyway because it was expedient?

  20. People claimed the exact same thing about Reagan, that he couldn’t be trusted with the key to the bomb and what did Reagan do he ended the cold war. Trump is no Reagan but then again there is no reason to think he will nuke people in a hissy fit. BTW do you want more “smart ” wars like Hillary did in Libya and Syria or would you rather have a person like Trump who has also stated he would just get out of these countries. I’ll take Trump over Hillary any day of the week

    1. Presidents and presidential candidates routinely threaten to use nukes against other countries, whether or not they pose a nuclear threat. “All options are on the table” is the preferred formulation of the threat and I’d be surprised if the phrase hasn’t been uttered solemnly and publicly by every major candidate from either party for decades now.

      1. with out the backing of the ultimate threat there is no use in doing anything which I’m all for unless directly attacked. which is kind of what Trump has hinted at.

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  22. I’d just like to point out that with the mindset of the Japs at the time it took TWO nukes to get them surrender. They lost the war at Midway and should have sued for peace then. They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind.

    1. “I’d just like to point out that with the mindset of the Japs at the time it took TWO nukes to get them surrender”

      Two nukes and the US still couldn’t get the Japanese to give up their demand to keep the emperor. On this issue it was the Americans who surrendered in spite of their use of nukes.

  23. “I would never have been born.”

    I would have never been born if not for Stalin’s Purges and the Holocaust, the first of which forced my grandmother’s family to flee to Nazi Germany, and the second of which forced my grandmother’s family to flee to the US.

    I’m not about to say the Purges or the Holocaust was a good thing, though, just because they did benefit me, personally.

  24. The issue at stake is larger than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. The issue at stake is whether or not “strategic bombing”, the euphemism for the direct targeting of men, women and children as a life saving measure. I find it laughable on it’s face. Strategic bombing has never broken a society’s will to fight. It didn’t work for the allies in Germany, it didn’t work for the Germans in Russia or Britain, it didn’t work for French or Americans in Vietnam, and it didn’t work for the Americans in Japan. The civilian population was ready to fight to the death even after the atomic bombings, just like it was ready after the firebombing of Tokyo et cetera. The bombs could have been used to the same effect, to show the Japanese the full force of their adversary, without necessarily incinerating two cities full of women, elderly and children. Utilitarians justifying the murder of babies as a life saving exercise are as morally twisted as they are desperate to justify the crimes of a government they’ve been taught to adore.

    1. “The civilian population was ready to fight to the death even after the atomic bombings, just like it was ready after the firebombing of Tokyo et cetera. ”

      Putting aside that this is speculation posing as fact, that’s not how it was in Okinawa. They were hiding in terror in caves fearing further atrocities from the Japanese Army. When the Americans found them, they clothed and fed them and treated their injuries.

      1. I don’t think the Okinawans considered themselves Japanese though.

        1. The mainlanders consider Okinawans to be Japanese, and that’s the official line too. Americans performed admirably on Okinawa, and it’s a pity they were not able to capitalize on the good will they generated with the civilians, using them say for example, in a propaganda campaign aimed at the Japanese populace on the mainland.

    2. You are sadly deluded, and completely wrong. The bombs ended the war.

      1. The war could have ended earlier without dropping the bombs and achieving much the same, even better results.

        1. Too bad you weren’t there to show them how.

          Perhaps you’d like to share this secret with the world now?

          1. Siege warfare, and it’s not really a secret.

          2. “Perhaps you’d like to share this secret with the world now?”

            It”s no secret. The Japanese had been conducting peace talks with the US (in secret then, but public now) and the main sticking point was the future disposition of the emperor. The Japanese wanted a continuation of the status of the emperor, and the Americans opposed this. Eventually the Japanese got what they wanted. Had the Americans caved sooner on the issue, the war could have ended sooner. No Soviet involvement, no A bombing.

          3. Insults (your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries) hurled from a parapet in a French accent – followed by a dead cow. Works every time and has for centuries.

    3. and it didn’t work for the Americans in Japan. The civilian population was ready to fight to the death even after the atomic bombings

      So what happened *after* the bombings that convinced them to surrender?

      Had to be something, right? They did it. And you claim that *after* the bombings, they still wanted to fight to the death.

      August 6th, HIroshima. August 9th, Nagasaki. August 14th, surrender. You claim that after Nagasaki, they still wanted to fight to the death.

      So what happened between August 10th and August 14th that convinced them to surrender?

      The bombs could have been used to the same effect

      But the effect you *claimed* for the bombs was that they failed to convince the Japanese to surrender. So we shoot them off, and they still want to fight to the death.

  25. Truman could have detonated the bomb off the coast of a major city in Japan. Shock and Awe! Shock and awe! There would have been deaths from the fall out, but certainly far fewer than if he simply nuked a city.

    Give a variation on the epic “Last Resort” speech in Japanese: “Test me, and you will all burn together. You have been warned!”

    ????????????????????????????????????

    1. I’ve always thought that idea was flawed, particularly because we didn’t have extra bombs to waste. All the Japanese government would have done is say: “The Americans made a big boom and flash of light over the ocean, but so what? Japan can stand up against noise and light!”

      1. Exactly. It wouldn’t have stopped shit to just harmlessly demonstrate their use. That kind of thinking is nothing but softheaded pacifists projecting their delusions.

  26. So restrained he nuked two cities.

    1. Well they refused to surrender after the first one.

  27. Having a wise, restrained leader in the Oval Office is also critically important. Donald Trump, who raised the possibility of nuclear retaliation against the Islamic State, doesn’t qualify.

    If I recall correctly, none of the 20 or so major party candidates took the nuclear option off the table.

    1. But when Donald says it, it’s *extra* bad. Because Racism. And Nazis.

  28. The assumption of those prosecuting the war was that we needed an unconditional surrender. We didn’t. With proper negotiation there were other options, but we weren’t interested in negotiating, we wanted them to have to do what we told them to do 100%.

    The moral decisions in the war against Japan work only if you make this assumption, but that assumption is itself unwarranted.

    1. No, they needed to surrender, period. no conditions, no rebuilding the empire. Your misunderstanding this basic fact is disturbing.

      1. ” no rebuilding the empire”

        You think Mitsubishi et al were forbidden to rebuild? Good lord, man, talk about a disturbing misunderstanding of basic facts..

        1. To rebuild their war machine, and retake east Asia? Yes. They were forbidden to do so and have not. You just fight reality because it conflicts with your world view. Just like you do in every thread like this.

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  30. I think that Truman had no choice but to use the bomb before any attempt at an invasion. All that is debatable is whether or not the targets should have been different. If there had been an invasion, and if it had resulted in casualties on the scale of D-Day in Europe, the domestic political fallout in the U. S. would have been brutal. If the public had known that thousands of lives had been lost when the military had a bomb of such destructiveness that was unused. And to those who say that the bomb was unneeded and was dropped as a warning to the Soviet Union, the answer is “What was wrong with warning Stalin of the destructive power possessed by the U. S.?”

  31. Mr. Chapman is so right, we must be in the same age range, my dad served in the Pacific, and was also getting ready to invade Japan, he would be 91 now, thanks to Mr. Chapman for not feeding the anti Obama stupidity we see going on, and thanks to him for being anti Trump, the Orange Idiot Peel is doing much for uniting the true patriots, like Mr. C and me!

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  33. there could have been Japanese just my age who, because of those cataclysmic explosions, were never born.

    And probably a *lot* more Japanese who, because of those cataclysmic explosions, were born.

    The Japanese would have lost a lot more people in a full scale invasion of Japan than they did at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    And does anyone think the Japanese have been better off surrendering to Stalin?

    1. I’m sure Bernie Sanders holds that sentiment. Perhaps many of the anti-war types here as well. I certainly am seeing a lot of revisionist bullshit.

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  38. RE: Obama, Trump, and the Nuking of Hiroshima
    America needn’t apologize, but must consider who has his finger on the button.

    Now don’t any of you people worry about who has the finger on the button.
    All three are as sane as Doctor Hannibal Lecter.
    Kidney pie anyone?

  39. “Donald Trump, who raised the possibility of nuclear retaliation against the Islamic State, doesn’t qualify. The prospect of his finger on the trigger should give us?and the rest of humanity?nightmares. ”

    It’s the prospect of Hillary Clinton having her finger on the button that is the true nightmare. Hillary wants to get tough with Russia. Hillary’s a strutting macho feminist and Putin is a macho dude. Hilary has likened Putin to Hitler when she was Secretary of State, whereas Trump and Putin have had kind words for each other. If a minor incident ever happened with the Russian, with Hillary’s self-righteous attitude against Putin, one thing could easily lead to another and pretty soon the nukes would be flying just so Hillary could prove she’s tough as any man.

    Trump’s a lot of bluster saying a lot of things about which he’s not really serious. Hillary IS serious.

    1. Chapman is just seeing up to justify his forthcoming pro-Hillary series of articles. I’m sure he secretly gets a thrill up his leg when he imagines her as president.

      1. “Setting up”

  40. Trump wants the U.S. to be less involved with the defense of the world, including Asia, where we CURRENTLY are at nuclear risk should we ever get into a nuclear confrontation with China. Trump wants Asians to take over that responsibility even if they have to acquire nukes to do it. That’s actually a stroke of genius, really.

    China would be a lot less likely to under-estimate the resolve of Asian nations to defend themselves if nuclearly armed than to underestimate U.S. resolve to defend Asia far from our shores, thereby precipitating a confrontation. Free democratic nations being nuclearly armed would make the prospect of confrontation LESS likely and confine any such conflict to Asia, removing U.S. cities from nuclear risk.

    Hillary would follow the current dangerous policy. The Chinese would rightly sense Hillary’s lack of competence and would be more likely to precipitate a confrontation, only to find out that Hillary could be irrationally aggressive or confrontational just to prove she’s tough as any man. One thing would lead to another and the nukes would be flying just so Hillary could prove she’s tough as any man.

    A lot of what Trump says is bluster about which he’s not serious. Hillary IS serious and she’s got an ego bigger than Trump’s, and that’s the real threat.

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