Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
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08-02-2014, 07:22 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(08-02-2014 09:23 AM)JAH Wrote:  cjlr, please again read the article linked to by sporehux. It makes a compelling argument that the dangers of exposure to radiation were known at the time the bombs were dropped. You may argue that the decision makers did not know that. What does that say about the information they were given, because certainly the designers knew that.

I have read it.

The American occupation were very diligent in gathering what information they could about the aftereffects.
(also very secretive - but it was the military)

Were they dicks for confiscating remains and refusing to release the data they collected? Um, yes. That says nothing about what they knew beforehand. It reeks of fallacious post-hoc reasoning.

It is important to distinguish between knowledge of radiation in general - as had been developed (crudely and slowly) since the 1920s and knowledge of the particular after-effects of a nuclear bomb. Those were not known.

When I say "not" I do not mean not suspected. I do not mean to imply that no one had somewhat accurate models. But I certainly do mean to say it was not the consensus view. I mean to say that many estimates were, in hindsight, very much underestimates.

Did human nature play a part? I would say yes, and unequivocally. Given the range of possibility I think it is almost inevitable for the decision makers to lean towards the "well, it won't be that bad" version of events.

I understand that - and I lament it. But I say again: I can find no fault with that sentiment.

There was a notable minority who thought the Trinity test would ignite the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere and exterminate all life on Earth. The planners of the day simply could not treat (what seemed to be) worst case fantasies as equally likely.

I'll say again I agree it was bad. Knowing the consequences of radiation exposure I cringe and recoil even more at what happened and the ignorance which led to it.

But there were daytrips and parties out of Vegas to watch the bomb tests in the Nevadan desert. There were military plans to have soldiers deploy to post-nuclear sites within days in both the Downfall landings in Japan and the early cold-war scenarios. There were only the most nominal evacuations of the pacific test sites in the early days.

I assure you I have some familiarity with the scientific background and the history of its development. The scientific community is not known for toeing the line and keeping quiet under government pressure.

To say that there was firm knowledge of the realities of radiation and exposure is to assert that all of the above were executed under massively conspiratorial suppression or collusion. That seems untenable.

Ignorance is always a better explanation than malice.

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09-02-2014, 07:19 AM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(08-02-2014 07:07 PM)cjlr Wrote:  I could just as easily say attempting to downplay the numbers was apologism. But that'd be fatuous.

I am absolutely of your opinion. Numbers can be upplayed and downplayed, depending on what suits the person that writes that piece of history.


(08-02-2014 07:07 PM)cjlr Wrote:  Five million is the absolute low end of estimates. That's counting up only the people directly bayonetted and shot to death. Or vivisected. Or raped to death. Or beheaded. Take your pick of horrors; they all happened.

Twenty million is a median figure (of "excess wartime deaths", as it were); forced labour and deprivation were rampant. The post-war United Nations analysis gave a figure something around 20 million. Since the Japanese lost many records were destroyed. There is inevitably some guesswork in reconstructing just what happened.

Some estimates are significantly higher - 30 million people or more dead due to causes directly attributable to the war and the occupations.

Many of the deaths were due to the - plainly - complete breakdown of society. The Japanese straight-up massacred people when they moved in (from Nanking to Shanghai to Manilla to Jakarta to Hong Kong and on and on and on). They destroyed infrastructure. They rebuilt with forced labour. The Allies bombed the reconstruction and remaining infrastructure.

There was no food. There were no medical supplies. Roads were destroyed. Farmland was destroyed. Railroads were destroyed. Harbours were mined. Draft animals starved. There was no gasoline. There was no water purification. There was no waste treatment. Hospitals were destroyed. Schools were destroyed. "Colonial" and "European" infrastructure was destroyed. Japanese-sponsored collaborationistes had axes to grind against other groups in their occupied countries. Money was worthless. Outside trade ceased. Internal trade was restricted.

So people died.

How much of this can be attributed? Therein lies the difference in numbers. 5 million by direct action. 20 million or more by deprivation.

Those people would not have died had the war not been started by unilateral action by some of the most perverted governments ever to exist. As horrific as some of the acts of the Allied powers were, I stand by the statement that World War II is perhaps the last ambiguous human conflict in history.

So you are also accounting indirect causes of deaths when stating that 20 million people died under the occupation of the japanese. But if it wasn't for the Japanese, people would have died due to european and american colonization and occupation. Maybe even more than during Japanese occupation, when you look at the brutality and selfishness of the "white" people. Therefore, it would be hypocritical to blame Japan for the deaths of those people and to use that as an excuse to launch such massive attacks of retribution.

If you account indirect causes of death, 20 million makes more sense. I was purely thinking "does this number make sense, keeping the population of the occuppied countries, the Japanese military force and the Japanese philosophy in mind?". Even 5 million is difficult to imagine, but it is a big number and therefore difficult to grasp. I don't trust numbers in history books in general.


Nations which belonged to the allied forces have done the most horrific things throughout history ranging from the colonialization days to today. And the bombing of Japan absolutely fits their brutal and aggressive character, IMO. Not neccessarily more immoral than anything else they have commited before that, but still utterly despicable.

Sorry, I seem to have forgotten. What was your justification for that attack again? To end the war as quick and possible and to spare people?

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09-02-2014, 07:08 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(09-02-2014 07:19 AM)Youkay Wrote:  
(08-02-2014 07:07 PM)cjlr Wrote:  I could just as easily say attempting to downplay the numbers was apologism. But that'd be fatuous.

I am absolutely of your opinion. Numbers can be upplayed and downplayed, depending on what suits the person that writes that piece of history.

And the point of good historical methodology is to find the truth, insofar as it exists and can be found.

Surely you recognize that some statements are more accurate than others?

(09-02-2014 07:19 AM)Youkay Wrote:  So you are also accounting indirect causes of deaths when stating that 20 million people died under the occupation of the japanese. But if it wasn't for the Japanese, people would have died due to european and american colonization and occupation. Maybe even more than during Japanese occupation, when you look at the brutality and selfishness of the "white" people.

Funny; that's exactly what Japanese propaganda said.

To suggest anything even remotely comparable would have happened had the war been avoided is unbelievably absurd.Why do discussions like this force me to make clear the most bizarrely self-evident things? Colonialism was bad. Yeah?

But it does not fly to try to play the moral equivalency game. WWII is among the least morally ambiguous events in all human history. One needn't even call it black and white. Call it grey and white. Call it dark grey and white, if you feel the need. But it remains damn clear which was which.

(09-02-2014 07:19 AM)Youkay Wrote:  Therefore, it would be hypocritical to blame Japan for the deaths of those people and to use that as an excuse to launch such massive attacks of retribution.

That's rather facile. It's rather important to keep in mind what did happen. And what did happen was a stunningly bloodthirsty and rapacious occupation. Was what it replaced any good? No. Was what it replaced any better? If you didn't like being randomly selected to participate in a beheading contest as a prop, then yes, yes it was.

Who is to blame? Who can be held accountable?

Were the actions and motivations of the Japanese explicable within historical context and naturally responsive to previous events and conditions? No shit. That's true ad nauseam. Tracing guilt back to caveman days accomplishes nothing.

(09-02-2014 07:19 AM)Youkay Wrote:  If you account indirect causes of death, 20 million makes more sense. I was purely thinking "does this number make sense, keeping the population of the occuppied countries, the Japanese military force and the Japanese philosophy in mind?". Even 5 million is difficult to imagine, but it is a big number and therefore difficult to grasp. I don't trust numbers in history books in general.

It's one thing to be skeptical, but if you don't agree with consensus figures then just from where do you get the information you're basing your conclusions on?

(09-02-2014 07:19 AM)Youkay Wrote:  Nations which belonged to the allied forces have done the most horrific things throughout history ranging from the colonialization days to today. And the bombing of Japan absolutely fits their brutal and aggressive character, IMO. Not neccessarily more immoral than anything else they have commited before that, but still utterly despicable.

... but that's not particularly adequate. Your latter-day condemnation is of no use in contemplation of the motives and scruples of key figures at the time. Why did people act as they did? And were those reasons valid? What do we know now that was unknown or unknowable then?

What do you think are the answers?

"for the lulz because evil" is not very good analysis.

(09-02-2014 07:19 AM)Youkay Wrote:  Sorry, I seem to have forgotten. What was your justification for that attack again? To end the war as quick and possible and to spare people?

Um, it's spelled out upthread in some detail; would not simply checking be easier than asking me?

But (tritely):
(07-02-2014 09:06 PM)cjlr Wrote:  A: the sooner the surrender of Japan occurred, the greater the demonstrable benefit to not only the people of Japan but all those remaining under Japanese occupation
B: the use of the atomic bombs in close succession and in concert with the Soviet Manchurian Strategic Offensive significantly hastened the final surrender of Japan
A+B -> the use of the atomic bombs was therefore the least worst option open to the Supreme Allied Command in August 1945.
Also (subordinately) C: the full consequences of the use of nuclear weapons (re: radioactive contamination and besides the nature of the weapons themselves as a difference in kind rather than scale) were not seen as we see them today.

What are your views?

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09-02-2014, 09:11 PM (This post was last modified: 09-02-2014 09:24 PM by Youkay.)
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
- Yes, some numbers might be closer to the truth than others. But I wouldn't know which ones.

- I was never exposed to Japanese propaganda, so it is funny that you classify it as such. Maybe there is more merit to it than simply brushing it off as mere propaganda and stop thinking about it? Why would countries who were involved in the plunder and genocide of whole nations in the far east all of a sudden be interested in them not suffering from the Japanese? Doesn't make sense to me.

It is like a bully beating a person every single day, but when some other bully comes in to beat that person, the first bully protests. And then the first bully wants to obliterate the second bully as soon as possible, so he can continue hitting the person, but in a more subtle manner.

- I did not study this. I don't have factual knowledge whatsoever, and I am happy to be honest about my ignorance on this topic. I lived in different parts of the world and am now living in singapore. I am gathering opinions from people around me. Therefore, I am also interested in your opinion.


PS: in case of WW2, I dont see things in black and white, rather in black and a darker shade of black.

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09-02-2014, 11:11 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(09-02-2014 09:11 PM)Youkay Wrote:  - Yes, some numbers might be closer to the truth than others. But I wouldn't know which ones.

A safe assumption would be to go with the consensus figures, or, failing that, the median figures...

(09-02-2014 09:11 PM)Youkay Wrote:  - I was never exposed to Japanese propaganda, so it is funny that you classify it as such.

No, that's because that's literally what they said in their propaganda. Asia for Asians, colonials go home. Join us and kick out the white devils. That is literally what they said.
(that's what the ultranationalists still say)

And then they proceeded to be far bloodier and more destructive.

(09-02-2014 09:11 PM)Youkay Wrote:  Maybe there is more merit to it than simply brushing it off as mere propaganda and stop thinking about it? Why would countries who were involved in the plunder and genocide of whole nations in the far east all of a sudden be interested in them not suffering from the Japanese? Doesn't make sense to me.

Yeah, citation needed on that genocide claim.

It's possible to make sane critiques of colonial oppression without throwing out hysterically overloaded words like 'genocide' in the mix.

I'm still not sure just what exactly you intend to be getting at. I didn't brush off your statements. I certainly questioned the more extreme among them. Did I ever say "1940 was harmonious sunshine and light"? Did I say "European rule of south-east Asia was proper and justified"? Did I say "the Allied powers were saints acting on purely humanitarian interventionist motives"?

I was pretty sure I said none of those things. But you seem to be speaking as though I had...

(09-02-2014 09:11 PM)Youkay Wrote:  It is like a bully beating a person every single day, but when some other bully comes in to beat that person, the first bully protests. And then the first bully wants to obliterate the second bully as soon as possible, so he can continue hitting the person, but in a more subtle manner.

Sure. And one bully wakes up each morning with slightly more of a conscience, whereas the other thinks fresh human skulls make great décor.

I mean, seriously. You don't resort to guerilla warfare and armed resistance if the new boss is better than the old boss.

Were the Dutch attempts to reconquer Indonesia and French attempts to reconquer Indochina an ill-conceived and terrible thing? Emphatically so. Which incidentally has no bearing on the wartime decisions. Certainly insofar as France and the Netherlands were under German occupation themselves and even the British didn't have very much influence on American operations in the Pacific...

Colonialism was bad, m'kay? That's not directly relevant to the question of the atomic bombs. Is it a necessary element leading up to the state of affairs in August 1945? Absolutely. Was it a serious concern in August 1945? Absolutely not. It was America which was long since fully committed to Filipino independence and wanted to recognize the independence of the other countries that were liberated, recall. Roosevelt and Truman, not Reagan and Bush - a very important distinction.

(09-02-2014 09:11 PM)Youkay Wrote:  - I did not study this. I don't have factual knowledge whatsoever, and I am happy to be honest about my ignorance on this topic. I lived in different parts of the world and am now living in singapore. I am gathering opinions from people around me. Therefore, I am also interested in your opinion.

... I've given it at some length here already?

The Allied high command acted as they did because they wanted to end the war as soon as possible. Humanitarian concerns were very much a part of that motive. Not the entirety of that motive, obviously.

(09-02-2014 09:11 PM)Youkay Wrote:  PS: in case of WW2, I dont see things in black and white, rather in black and a darker shade of black.

Nobody sees things as black and white. That's the point. But "black and blacker" is ridiculous equivocation.

Was the Soviet Union a shithole for the common citizen? Unquestionably. Was it as bad as Nazi Germany? Not by a light year.

Was (say) French Indochina a shithole for the common citizen? Unquestionably. Was it as bad as Japanese occupation? Not by a light year.

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10-02-2014, 01:13 AM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
you misunderstand me, thinking that I am judgemental on what your position is.

there is actually only one main point I wanted to make. The reason you for the allied forces to want to end this war as quick as possible is hypocritical. The well-fare of Asian countries never before was in their interest. And the British actually reoccupied Singapore after the Japanese surrendered. It seems to me that the interest to end the war as soon as possible was not for the sake of the Asian people's welfare but most and foremost for financial reasons.

It is more like a "doing the right thing for the wrong reasons and pretending to have done it for the right reason hypocrisy" argument. And then a "doing the right thing in a wrong way" argument would follow up immediately.

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10-02-2014, 01:06 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(10-02-2014 01:13 AM)Youkay Wrote:  you misunderstand me, thinking that I am judgemental on what your position is.

Perhaps. I apologize for misinterpreting.

(one gets a little touchy when one has already been accused of endorsing genocide earlier in the thread, you see)

(10-02-2014 01:13 AM)Youkay Wrote:  there is actually only one main point I wanted to make. The reason you for the allied forces to want to end this war as quick as possible is hypocritical. The well-fare of Asian countries never before was in their interest. And the British actually reoccupied Singapore after the Japanese surrendered. It seems to me that the interest to end the war as soon as possible was not for the sake of the Asian people's welfare but most and foremost for financial reasons.

Even the colonies that were profitable before the war were anything but afterwards. The war was ruinously expensive and post-war reconstruction was doubly ruinously expensive.

I do not believe any case can be made that the prime motives of Allied high command in 1945 were to make a quick buck...

I reiterate that you seem to be presenting a false dilemma - first, that although I did say that ending the war as soon as possible was the overriding goal, I never made any statement suggesting this was a purely humanitarian motive, merely that that was a contributing concern and that in hindsight such a case is easily supported by what analysis might be made - it is furthermore downright axiomatic that powers fighting a war would wish to both end it favourably as quickly as possible to minimise casualties. Second, I find a sentiment of "well of course they didn't care about people at all" to be a caricatured antithesis - an overdramatic overcompensation to the perceived former sentiment, which, again, I didn't actually express. Certainly it does not stand if considered separately!

The ones who didn't give a shit were the hardliners in France and Netherlands. The ones who had no influence whatsoever on war planning...

The USA was the anti-colonial power in the 1940s. And the British were the least worst of the Europeans.

(10-02-2014 01:13 AM)Youkay Wrote:  It is more like a "doing the right thing for the wrong reasons and pretending to have done it for the right reason hypocrisy" argument. And then a "doing the right thing in a wrong way" argument would follow up immediately.

I am still not entirely clear on what you mean to say?

Considering the actions of the Allied command in August 1945, we can ask the standard questions:
What did they want to do?
Why did they want to do it?
Were those premises valid?
To what degree did they achieve their goals?

I have answered all of those in some detail:
To end the war as soon as possible.
To restore the status quo ante bellum and to minimise further suffering and devastation.
Yes - the use of the bombs cannot but have hastened the Japanese surrender; a very solid case can be made for this being a net gain in the human condition.
More or less fully, notwithstanding that counterfactual speculation as to timeframes is definitively uncertain.

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10-02-2014, 08:31 PM
RE: Historical Justification for the Nuking of Japan
(02-02-2014 04:51 PM)BnW Wrote:  So, why did we do it? I think there are no easy answers to that. I think the best answer is: to see if it would work. The two bombs were constructed differently and we wanted to drop both of them to see what they would do. And, more importantly, we wanted Stalin to see what they could do.

We already knew they would work.

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