Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
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03-02-2014, 08:52 PM (This post was last modified: 03-02-2014 08:56 PM by cjlr.)
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(03-02-2014 08:14 PM)BnW Wrote:  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).

Yes. Absolutely.

(03-02-2014 08:14 PM)BnW Wrote:  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.

That was not my thesis.
(like, at all)

But, two notes - that the atomic bombs did represent a significant departure from prior bombing (one bomb versus thousands) may be granted simultaneously with that the effect of the bombings was not a significant departure from said conventional attacks; second, the Japanese leadership were very much concerned with the fact that the whole country was going to starve to death.

(03-02-2014 08:14 PM)BnW Wrote:  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.

Even you grant that only a "most likely".
Wink

(03-02-2014 08:14 PM)BnW Wrote:  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.

And this, then, is where I disagree (sort of). Let us consider the antithesis: did the atomic bombings have no effect on the decisions of the Japanese command in August 1945? I certainly do not think that theory stands. Post-war interrogation revealed that surviving Japanese did cite the atomic bombings as influencing their decisions.

I agree with you this far: the surrender would have happened regardless. But not as soon. That is my primary contention.

I think it is fair to credit the Manchurian offensive and the bombings (and I don't believe I ever said otherwise?). The former established beyond all delusion that forces outside the Home Islands were doomed. The latter demonstrated that everything on the Home Islands was doomed, and more importantly the attitude of the prior couple years - "make them pay for every inch" - was fantasy.

So: would the Japanese command have surrendered without the atomic bombings?

Yes. I agree. But then question then is when.

I've outlined above why I think the net result was better than the alternative, insofar as the extremely distasteful practice of weighing lives on a scale can be credited.

But I would also grant, freely, that another very strong thread in Allied planning was to just end things. And I cannot lay any blame for that impulse, either.

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03-02-2014, 09:26 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
cljr, I do find some credence that the US wanted a dramatic demonstration for the Soviets for the purpose of letting them know we could do it and to put a little fear in them. As I agreed to above it probably only sped up their own program, but that is how it goes in geopolitical actions when they are based on aggression.
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03-02-2014, 09:47 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
cjlr, I missed your above post while typing mine. Once in a meeting when the agency I worked for was finding ways to quantify risk assessment for certain failures I broached the subject of the value of a human life. I added did we consider the middle and upper classes more valuable than working or lower classes. One could almost hear the jaws drop. Needless to say no attempt was made to quantify the value of the possible loss of life from some of the possible failures.

It is a cold and difficult thing to think of human life as having a quantifiable value and assessing that value. Not an easy thing for humans to think about. It is a problem for many to consider this seemingly cold calculation.

I think you have made a good argument here that lives were saved by the use of the atomic bombs. I may not agree completely.
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03-02-2014, 09:48 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(03-02-2014 09:26 PM)JAH Wrote:  cljr, I do find some credence that the US wanted a dramatic demonstration for the Soviets for the purpose of letting them know we could do it and to put a little fear in them. As I agreed to above it probably only sped up their own program, but that is how it goes in geopolitical actions when they are based on aggression.

Perhaps that one is worth re-considering.

I may be letting my own background (nuclear physics lol) colour my hindsight, so far as the obvious or self-evident presence and nature of atomic weapons.

Not that that precludes any of the things I did say.
(and I cannot possibly imagine that as a major - let alone primary - factor in the decision)
Tongue

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03-02-2014, 10:03 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(03-02-2014 09:47 PM)JAH Wrote:  I think you have made a good argument here that lives were saved by the use of the atomic bombs. I may not agree completely.

I do not think - my efforts to the contrary - that it is possible to know for sure.
(which is... perhaps an overwhelmingly obvious conclusion Big Grin )

I think the surrender would have been delayed had the atomic bombings not occurred. I think everyone in question at the time would have recognized this.

I think a delay of one month would almost certainly have produced more casualties than the bombings - but I am not sure to what extent this was known or knowable at the time. I think a delay of several days would almost certainly not have.

As to the middle ground - who can say.

(well, and also the later the surrender the more territory in Soviet hands; the past three months' experience in Europe would have informed that angle - but as with the shock-and-awe-the-Ruskis factor while I absolutely admit of the existence of such a consideration I just as absolutely reject that that was a primary or even major consideration)

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03-02-2014, 10:37 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
I had a friend who went through the bombing of Nagasaki; she passed away a few years ago.

When she spoke about her experiences after the bombing, she was 10, she only spoke about the physical and emotional pain she suffered then and for years to come. She never spoke about the bombing as if it were a war, who won, who lost, was it right. She had so much to say about that--the pain.

How do you measure her experience historically?

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03-02-2014, 10:49 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(03-02-2014 10:37 PM)Dee Wrote:  I had a friend who went through the bombing of Nagasaki; she passed away a few years ago.

When she spoke about her experiences after the bombing, she was 10, she only spoke about the physical and emotional pain she suffered then and for years to come. She never spoke about the bombing as if it were a war, who won, who lost, was it right. She had so much to say about that--the pain.

How do you measure her experience historically?

You say "war is bad" and watch Grave of the Fireflies with a big bottle of sake.

No one chooses the circumstances they live through. Those in place to make the hard decisions most of all - they live with the knowledge of having chosen the fates that impersonally struck so many others.

One can acknowledge suffering. One can empathise with suffering. One can nonetheless find oneself forced to weigh suffering. I would say that this is even necessary, so far as all moral judgements are fundamentally comparative. And to consider numbers and statistics in no way precludes the individual experience - because what is the aggregate but the sum total of each and every individual experience?

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03-02-2014, 11:13 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
Well...whatever the reason...for all of our pontificating about WMDs we remain the only country to actually use nukes in war. And on population centers, too.

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04-02-2014, 04:41 PM
Thumbs Down RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
A military and political elite of a country sought out an untouched, pristine, city and murdered every single man, women, child, and pet there. Every home, every school, every place of worship, razed.

All to document the effects of a new WMD. And rationalized because "war".

...TWICE.

These are war crimes. These are mass murders. These are holocausts in the fullest sense.
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04-02-2014, 04:44 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(04-02-2014 04:41 PM)PoolBoyG Wrote:  A military and political elite of a country sought out an untouched, pristine, city and murdered every single man, women, child, and pet there. Every home, every school, every place of worship, razed.

All to document the effects of a new WMD. And rationalized because "war".

...TWICE.

These are war crimes. These are mass murders. These are holocausts in the fullest sense.

You don't appear to have read any of the preceding analysis.

But thanks for the emotive hysteria?

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