Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Necessary Evil

   Every August 6th and 9th, the thoroughly discredited notion that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary in hastening the end of World War Two is trotted out by the usual suspects in the revisionist history and peace activist communities. It's frustrating for serious students of military history and insulting to the generation that had to face down and vanquish a brutal foe, but part of what was preserved by their sacrifice was the right to express even the most cockamamie opinion.
   The most important thing to remember in any historical analysis is that everything that happens, happens in the context of its time.  By August of 1945, the butcher's bill for a world at war was in the neighborhood of 50 million souls.  Japan was the lone holdout among the Axis powers.  A negotiated peace was out of the question.  The Allies were unflinching on unconditional surrender and rightly so, because international standards for justice demanded that Japan be held to account for aggression and war crimes that pre-dated World War Two by a decade.  
    Despite the inevitability of defeat and in contrast to the half-hearted opposition and wholesale surrender of entire German armies in the waning days of the war in Europe, fanatical Japanese troops continued to fight virtually to the last man.  The ancient Bushido code of "death before dishonor" was reflected in wave after wave of kamikaze attacks at sea and suicidal banzai charges on land in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in early 1945, and it was a code that extended to the civilian population in a highly militarized society.  With that in mind, Allied invasion planners whose only remaining target was the Japanese mainland envisioned upwards of a million more deaths if the home islands were to be taken by conventional force to finally bring Japan to its knees.  The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as horrible as they were, averted a prolonged bloodbath and reduced the estimated death toll by at least 80 percent.
   No serious debate about the morality of using the atomic bomb can be entertained without considering what would have happened without the bomb.  To approach it any other way is either intellectually dishonest or naive, which - not coincidentally - are the respective hallmarks of revisionist historians and peace activists.  
   As Don Rickles (of all people) once said "We all want peace; sometimes we just can't make a deal for it."
   
   

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