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Saturday, August 06, 2005


It was sixty years ago today that the first atomic bomb was used on Hiroshima. Yesterday, Victor Davis Hanson concludes in "60 Years Later" that:
The truth, as we are reminded so often in this present conflict, is that usually in war there are no good alternatives, and leaders must select between a very bad and even worse choice. Hiroshima was the most awful option imaginable, but the other scenarios would have probably turned out even worse.
But Hanson inadvertantly hints at another option earlier in the piece:
Truman’s supporters countered that, in fact, a blockade and negotiations had not forced the Japanese generals to surrender unconditionally. In their view, a million American casualties and countless Japanese dead were adverted by not storming the Japanese mainland over the next year in the planned two-pronged assault on the mainland, dubbed Operation Coronet and Olympic.
Why was "unconditional surrender" our goal? What would have been wrong with a negotiated surrender, that might have led to an even earlier end to the war in the Pacific, thus sparing us not only the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but much of the bombing campaign that resulted in far more deaths, sometimes in a single night, than either of those two atomic bombings?

Indeed, as Ralph Raico points out in "Hiroshima and Nagasaki":
By early summer 1945, the Japanese fully realized that they were beaten. Why did they nonetheless fight on? As Anscombe wrote: "It was the insistence on unconditional surrender that was the root of all evil."
Hanson struggles mightily in his own essay to justify the mass murder of civilians, even claiming that the Japanese population basically deserved what they got:
Americans of the time hardly thought the Japanese populace to be entirely innocent. The Imperial Japanese army routinely butchered civilians abroad — some 10-15 million Chinese were eventually to perish — throughout the Pacific from the Philippines to Korea and Manchuria. Even by August 1945, the Japanese army was killing thousands of Asians each month. When earlier high-level bombing attacks with traditional explosives failed to cut off the fuel for this murderous military — industries were increasingly dispersed in smaller shops throughout civilian centers — Curtis LeMay unleashed napalm on the Japanese cities and eventually may have incinerated 500,000.
To me, this is just another instance of right-wingers employing the logic of the left. It's a collective mentality that justifies the killing of innocents as long as, in theory, they are saving more lives than they kill somewhere else. It's not just a reprehensible moral calculus, it's turns out to be a false choice. A negotiated surrender would have saved enormous amounts of life, on both sides.


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