Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
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03-02-2014, 08:39 AM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(03-02-2014 12:01 AM)Tartarus Sauce Wrote:  I consider the atomic bombings to have been an atrocity we committed, as well as the firebombings of Tokyo and various German cities. I think the whole "invading Japan" casualty projections are bullshit since we never would have needed to invade. We had the Japanese surrounded and cut off from their supply lines, as well as having completely decimated their navy. We would never have had to resort to an invasion, we could have just waited for them to capitulate due to their dwindling supply of resources.

The British landings in Malaysia would have occurred in early September. The American landings were to occur in early November. The post-war debrief suggested the Japanese might have surrendered by autumn's end in any case. Almost certainly before the Downfall landings. Probably not before a lot more human misery ensued. But that is information Allied planners did not and could not have known.

Because even then one may look at the situation. There was no food in Japan. More people would have starved every day the war continued. Japanese forces still occupied Indonesia, Malaysia, Indochina, and China. More people would have been killed and abused every day the war continued. The Burma campaign was ongoing. Fighting in China was ongoing. More people would have died every day the war continued. Conventional bombings and associated casualties would have occurred every day the war continued.

So the comparison isn't to the Downfall, which probably wouldn't have happened in any case. It's simply to be made to the perpetuation of the status quo for even a few more weeks.

We can say on one hand "no shit it was bad", but that's a very trivial judgement. Because I can see a very strong case made for it being the least worst alternative.

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03-02-2014, 10:57 AM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
cljr, you certainly express the classical explanation for the use of the atomic bombs fairly completely.

It would take more time than I wish to spend to figure out if the actual loss of life associated with the war being prolonged for a few weeks or even a month would have been greater than the 150,000 to 246,000+ (according to wiki) killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I did peruse the wiki article on total WWII casualties and it does not seem likely to me that the a prolongation of the war for even a few months would have deaths which exceeded the amount killed in the bombings. Of course the possibility of mass civilian deaths in Japan would make using statistics for the whole of the war somewhat misleading.
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03-02-2014, 12:57 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(03-02-2014 10:57 AM)JAH Wrote:  cljr, you certainly express the classical explanation for the use of the atomic bombs fairly completely.

Thanks.

Although, you say "classical" explanation, but so far as I can see there aren't really any serious alternatives. The decision-making processes of the relevant figures are quite well documented.

(03-02-2014 10:57 AM)JAH Wrote:  It would take more time than I wish to spend to figure out if the actual loss of life associated with the war being prolonged for a few weeks or even a month would have been greater than the 150,000 to 246,000+ (according to wiki) killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Fair enough. I have spent some of that time...

(03-02-2014 10:57 AM)JAH Wrote:  I did peruse the wiki article on total WWII casualties and it does not seem likely to me that the a prolongation of the war for even a few months would have deaths which exceeded the amount killed in the bombings. Of course the possibility of mass civilian deaths in Japan would make using statistics for the whole of the war somewhat misleading.

Statistics for the whole war (ie, total day per days of war) are not sufficient in any case. There were serious disruptions in supply chains across all the occupied territories, and as a consequence day to day conditions worsened and the brutality of the occupiers increased over time. But! We can always make a fair stab, even with some really lazy approximations.

To make up a number - let us say there were 20,000,000 extra civilian deaths over the whole war in Asia; a median estimate. Let us naively say the war lasted six years (a compromise - 8 years in China versus 4 in southeast Asia) and deaths were at a constant rate (again not true - conditions deteriorated over time). That gives 280,000 per month. Add in the tens of thousands of Japanese people who would have been killed by Allied bombing and the tens of thousands who would have been killed by starvation and deprivation, and even if that 280,000 is a highball the combined figures would indicate that either bomb was the equivalent of a couple weeks (at most) of the status quo so far as grisly statistics are concerned.

The question remains:
It is August 1, 1945. You are Supreme Allied Command. Your priority is to end the war with minimum casualties (your own, civilian, and enemy, in that order).
What do you do?

And so far as possible the question must be answered without hindsight.

I do agree that any single event cannot be said to have flipped the Japanese high command from "no surrender" to "surrender". A surrender after both bombings and the Soviet invasion was still subject to an abortive coup. Perhaps only one atomic bomb would have led to much the same effect. Who could possibly know? Perhaps had neither been used much the same would have resulted. It is certainly possible. I do not think it is likely.

I cannot find fault with the decisions made.

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03-02-2014, 01:35 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(03-02-2014 01:39 AM)JAH Wrote:  Tartarus Sauce, you make an excellent point. I think that although the war was won the impulse to do something dramatic without invading was too strong. I also put much credence in the notion that it was done to frighten the Soviets. Although as pointed out above what it did was force the Soviets into their own atomic bomb program.

I have to admit a certain dislike for finding out the Rosenbergs, or at least Julius, actually were spies for the Soviets. It spoiled some of my certainty about the cold war era in the US.

Oh, if you really want to see your certainty about the Cold War go down in flames watch Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States. Eye-opening.

http://www.sho.com/sho/oliver-stones-unt...tates/home

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03-02-2014, 02:12 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
cljr, I did another more detailed perusal of the statics about deaths in WWII. Total Chinese deaths, civilian and military, are estimated to be 10,000,000 to 20,000,000 (per wiki). With the total civilian and military loses in the war some 60 to 85 million (again per wiki), noting that a huge percentage of these were Russians. Hard to be certain as the way the statistics are presented are alphabetically by nation. So there are several problems with countries like the US and Britain participating in both theaters.

Nonetheless it seems your calculation may be reasonably valid. I also accept that it any discussion is from hindsight.

I will continue to think that the use of the weapon against the Japanese had other elements than the strategic reasons. Some of this is may be the fact that I would like to believe I would not have done it. I think this may color my thinking.
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03-02-2014, 02:18 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
Minimalist, please give me the cliff notes version of what Oliver Stone says. I really don't want to take the time to look through all of it.
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03-02-2014, 02:47 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
I was taught that dropping the bombs was really intimidation. I fight to end all fights.
But I also agree with cjlr

The constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear."
~Jiddu Krishnamurti
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03-02-2014, 08:14 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
ok, I'm back. I regret my original choice of citations (and am still really embarassed about that) but even though these guys are wingnuts, they may still be on to something. There are some well thought out positions expressed here on why it was or was not necessary to nuke the Japanese. I'd like to get the opinions of a few other people on the record, people who have some authority on the matter.

Here is a link that provides a number of quoetes from people who were in the know at the time it happened. A few tidbits:

"...in [July] 1945... Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. ...the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.

"During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude..."
(emphasis mine) - Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons. - Admiral William D. Leahy

The link goes on and on and also quotes people who were close to MacArthur, who had gone on the record several times in the years after the war saying he did not think it was necessary and we could have had peace if we agreed to let them keep the emperor on the thrown (which, again, we ended up doing).

cjr - the problem with your view of the history is it assumes that we nuked Japan and they surrendered. I think that account fails, though. We had been dropping bombs and napalm on civilians for quite some time at that point*. We killed more people with more conventional weapons than we did with the atomic bombs (although they did not eradicate an entire city in one shot). The idea that, suddenly, the Japanese leadership was concerned about civilian deaths just doesn't make sense. The big change was when the Russians invaded Manchuria. That was when they knew they were done and finally surrendered. That would have most likely happened whether we nuked them or not. And, if it didn't happen that day, it was weeks away. The war was over at that point. They were beaten. It was a matter of days with or without those bombs.

*One side note off topic - during WWII we were showing the press the new weapons we had, including napalm, that was going to destroy the Japanese war making capabilities. The problem was factories were made of materials more likely to withstand fire and the houses were the people lived were all made of wood, and very likely to burn. The weapons were clearly designed to target civilians and no one in the press asked a single question about that. James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers, does an excellent job bringing up this point in his book Fly Boys. I highly recommend both books to anyone who has not read them.

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03-02-2014, 08:22 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(03-02-2014 02:18 PM)JAH Wrote:  Minimalist, please give me the cliff notes version of what Oliver Stone says. I really don't want to take the time to look through all of it.


Start here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Ston...ted_States

Quote:Oliver Stone and American University historian Peter J. Kuznick, began working on the project in 2008. Stone, Kuznick and British screenwriter Matt Graham co-wrote the script.[5] The documentary miniseries for Showtime had a working title Oliver Stone's Secret History of America. It covers "the reasons behind the Cold War with the Soviet Union, U.S. President Harry Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, and changes in America's global role since the fall of Communism."[6] Stone is the director and narrator of all ten episodes. The series is a re-examination of some of the under-reported and darkest parts of American modern history using little known documents and newly uncovered archival material. The series looks beyond official versions of events to the deeper causes and implications and explores how events from the past still have resonant themes for the present day. Stone said: "From the outset I've looked at this project as a legacy to my children, and a way to understand the times I've lived through. I hope it can contribute to a more global insight into our American history."[7]

Among other things learn why Henry Wallace was dropped from the Democratic ticket in 1944 to be replaced by a third-rate nebbish named Harry Truman.

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03-02-2014, 08:32 PM (This post was last modified: 03-02-2014 09:13 PM by cjlr.)
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(03-02-2014 02:12 PM)JAH Wrote:  cljr, I did another more detailed perusal of the statics about deaths in WWII. Total Chinese deaths, civilian and military, are estimated to be 10,000,000 to 20,000,000 (per wiki). With the total civilian and military loses in the war some 60 to 85 million (again per wiki), noting that a huge percentage of these were Russians. Hard to be certain as the way the statistics are presented are alphabetically by nation. So there are several problems with countries like the US and Britain participating in both theaters.

Nonetheless it seems your calculation may be reasonably valid. I also accept that it any discussion is from hindsight.

Granted.

But I absolutely have spent some time poring over statistics and analysis of said statistics.

(03-02-2014 02:12 PM)JAH Wrote:  I will continue to think that the use of the weapon against the Japanese had other elements than the strategic reasons. Some of this is may be the fact that I would like to believe I would not have done it. I think this may color my thinking.

Also granted.

I do not contest that the decisions were made under no human emotion or non-strictly-rational considerations.

Most of the usual factors proposed as alternative motivations are not sound; I stress emphatically that I do not accuse you of espousing such but often I find re-evaluation of events like the atomic bombings are tragically polemic and lamentably shallow.
EDIT: ie, "to test the bomb" - no. "to show off" - no. "to kill japs" - no.
DOUBLE EDIT: I just want to be clear that I'm not referring to you guys in the thread here. You're better than that. But I have certainly seen it argued (and had it argued to my face) that "if the bombings were not a strictly necessary precursor to the surrender then the stated reasons do not apply, therefore [invalid explanation x,y,z] instead". And that's making a fallacious argument against a straw man.

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