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June 26, 2011



I read this post a while back and felt unconvinced at the time, and for some reason thought about this topic today. I'm sure Frank has done a careful assessment of the situation, but historians can't predict the future very well at all - there are just too many variables - and so what would have happened in the event of an invasion remains extremely speculative. The uber-fanatical Nazis were allowed to fight to the last, and the end came quite quickly once allied momentum was achieved. I reckon I could build a pretty good case for the invested interests on the mainland favouring a quick capitulation - but it would more speculation. Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain amongst the most destructive and indiscriminate acts of war to this day, and to justify it in any way other than it was simply the quickest and most convenient way to finish off the enemy would be disingenuous. That's not even to say that it was wrong mind you - the morality of war is, you might say, somewhat of a minefield!


Well this post and your response are quite reductive. In fact I dare say you shouldn't make a judgment until you've read the book or studied the issue more closely. The fighting with the Nazis wasn't as protracted or as brutal as it was with the Japanese in the Pacific so I don't think that comparison holds water-it was a different conflict. Considerable calculations on the expected casualities are discussed in depth through out this book.

More people were killed in the fire bombing of Tokyo than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. The Japanese started indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations in China. Not to mention the enslavement of conquered people in factories or for use as "comfort women," the inhuman experiments on prisoners in Unit 731, the high rate of death in prison camps, and a whole list of atrocities like beheading contests and water torture that were indiscriminate and destructive seem to be glossed over in these discussions as well.


I understand your points, but I'm not really trying to make a contrary historical argument so much as a moral or philosophical one. The fact is those bombs *guaranteed* the death of many an innocent person, and yet the argument here is that to not have dropped them would *probably* have resulted in more death. Given the stakes and the complexity of the situation I'm not so sure I could be convinced that dropping the bombs was the right thing to do. What guarantee was there that this display of awesome power would convince the right people to surrender anyway? Could dropping one in a less populated area have done the job? Perhaps in this case nobody would think that America was really serious about using it on a city - but then if this were the case they still could have done so as a follow up. Nuclear bombs have not been used again, and I think there are many good reasons for this.


I guess I'm critical of the "poor us, the only country to have had atomic bombs dropped on us" mentality that excuses the facts that it could have been averted had they accepted the surrender terms given to them and that they had reaped what they had sown by attacking the US at Pearl Harbor. The book goes into a lot of detail at suggesting what *probably* would have happened given what happened at Iwo Jima and the Battle of Okinawa and the massive military build up in Kyushu, kamikaze subs they were preparing, not to mention arming ordinary citizens with sharpened sticks. Many citizens killed themselves when Pacific islands were taken due to propaganda that the Americans were monsters and would rape kill them. I do feel that lives were saved by dropping the bombs and you seem to saying the opposite based on the fact the bombs were never used again-that doesn't seem to be compelling enough evidence to me. Give the book a read and then tell me what you think.

Also, the fact that it took TWO bombs to convince the Japanese to surrender tell us a lot about their mentality and the fact that it was the right approach in my mind.


I don't want to sound like I'm claiming more people wouldn't have died in an invasion, only that I question how certain you have to be of your alternatives before resorting to nuclear weapons. I suppose that's a central question Frank is addressing, and until I have to chance to read it I'll have to take your on his having made a compelling case. My opinions on war in general have been coloured greatly by Iraq, which has made me more than a bit cynical of justifications before and after the fact (...despite that war being worlds apart from WWII I know).

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