Friday, August 10, 2012

Maybe We Should Have Dropped Even More A-Bombs on the Japanese

Published on the Forbes magazine website on August 1st is a piece by former government functionary Henry I. Miller celebrating the August 6 anniversary of the detonation of the first atomic warhead used in conflict. Curiously, instead of congratulating the US Army Airforce and the Truman administration, Miller defends, as others have, the use of the weapon in bringing the war with Japan to an end without invading the country. The debate between the two ideas, that nuclear explosions over Hiroshima and later Nagasaki were necessary and morally acceptable and that use of nuclear weapons against a defeated civilian population was immoral no longer seems relevant. The overwhelming majority of the current US, and Japanese, populations were yet to be born when the bombs fell and for most Americans the event is as lost in history as McKinley's assassination or Grover Cleveland's oral surgery. Nevertheless, reflections on the incident and its subsequent justification after the fact as detailed by Miller are in order. Since he's added nothing new, simply restating the government's side, the same rebuttals apply. The Japanese military was spent as an effective fighting force, their once formidable fleet didn't have the fuel to continue operations, the unsupported remains of their army were facing starvation in caves and dugouts on isolated small islands in the Pacific. These forces were so inconsequential that they weren't even considered as targets for the new nukes. Instead civilians, victims first of a predatory neo-Samurai class, then became victims of a gigantic corporate state. Miller brings up the conjecture that in the process of invading the Japanese home islands many thousands of American troops would have been killed or injured. That would no doubt have been the case, but who says that the US was required to occupy the country? Couldn't MacArthur have issued his orders by loudspeaker from the deck of the Missouri in Tokyo Bay? A small Navy force could have quarantined Japan indefinitely. Of course, that wouldn't have been very humane, either. After turning thousands to radioactive cinders the US went on to transform Japan's neo-feudal society into a democratic one patterned to some degree on that of the US itself. As we well know, a democratic republic is end-point of political evolution.

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