In 2005, when you say “Fat Man and Little Boy,” you could be referring to Michael Moore and Robert Reich, but 60 years ago, devices sporting those seemingly innocuous monikers caused historically unmatched destruction, and ended a long war.
Poll questions surrounding the 60th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan contained a universal question: “Was it necessary?”
The polls that I’ve seen don’t ask, “Was it the best option?” but rather focus on an absolute necessity for the bombings. Most things aren’t absolutely “necessary.” There are always other options – options that may seem especially viable while being comfortably considered from afar, usually while participating in some poll decades after the incident in question.
Our opinion of what is “necessary” is often subject to our personal proximity to the danger, and since so many of us weren’t even alive in 1945, it’s easy to debate that question without the pressures of the moment. Harry Truman and company didn’t have such a luxury.
Isn’t it strange that you don’t often see polls on whether or not it was “necessary” to attack Pearl Harbor in 1941?
The arguments have been presented ad nauseam … there would have been millions of casualties on both sides in an allied invasion of mainland Japan. Not to sound rash (a qualifier that almost always precedes something so rash that it should only be read in close proximity to a tube of Desitin), but how is it that a quarter of a million-plus deaths in atomic bombings is more horrible than millions dying in the “regular” way? That seems to be the crux of the argument most often presented, and one that’s never made sense.
Should the atom bomb have been first dropped as a demonstration of its power, such as on a remote island or isolated military base? If you’re somebody who thinks a “demonstration” would have made Japan surrender, think about it for a minute. Japan didn’t even surrender after the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and instantly killed tens of thousands of their own citizens. Do you really think blowing up a rock pile somewhere in the Pacific would have made Japan’s leadership throw their hands in the air and wave the white flag?
Rational people who figure their enemy is also rational could be making a lethal assumption.
As you would expect, many of the critics of Truman’s decision are right here in the United States. After all, it can be easy for anti-war Americans to point the finger at the United States when it comes to civilian death in war. The United States has been lucky – with the exception of 9-11, civilian deaths on the mainland America due to enemy action have been minimal. The geographic location of the United States made it tough for enemies of America to stage strikes on its soil. This isn’t due to lack of desire, but rather lack of ability.
Heavy criticism of America’s bombing of civilians implies that their World War II enemies instead focused on military rather than civilian targets (don’t tell that to the victims of the rape of Nanking or the other millions of Chinese civilians killed in the second Sino-Japanese War, or British victims of Germany’s Blitzkrieg), but the United States doesn’t return the favor. Enemies of America were so honorable that, for example, if Japanese leadership discovered that the USS Arizona were filled with Cub Scouts shortly after ordering “Tora Tora Tora,” the attack would have been aborted. Sure.
Because of this, the U.S. critic may find it easy to look at the incendiary attacks on Dresden, carpet bombings on German and Japanese cities, and the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – millions of civilian casualties in all – and assume the United States was unfairly advantaged because Japan and Germany were unable to return the favor to Joe Sixpack in Boston, Los Angeles and Paducah. American success in World War II violated the tenet of leftist philosophy: fairness. They’ve read and seen “Failsafe” so much that the only acceptable final ending to the U.S.-Japan war would have been for Henry Fonda to order American planes to nuke New York.
In World War II, as far as nations go, the good guys won, and the bad guys lost. Period. Basing historical judgment of wars purely on its kindness, or lack thereof, to civilians, is like searching for anthill-friendly steamrollers.
As an addendum, here’s a quick “fun fact”: There are no more tiny islands in the South Pacific that are inhabited by Japanese soldiers who don’t know the war’s over, but there are still remote corners of academia where you can find leftist professors who still think their philosophies haven’t been completely discredited.