Friday, August 05, 2005

Looking back at Hiroshima

When shock and awe worked

On August 6, 1945, America acted on the morally questionable decision to kill over two hundred thousand innocent civilians in an attempt to bring the Asiatic-Pacific theatre of World War II to an early end. In my opinion, the decision is a defensible one, though there are valid arguments that the choice of target was flawed. I also believe the decision to repeat the act on Nagasaki before the Japanese had been given time to take stock of the situation is probably indefensible. The Truman administration most likely felt it necessary to demonstrate to the Soviets that Little Boy was not a one-off, but that could have been made equally clear by dropping Fat Man on an uninhabited Pacific island.

The Japanese still display an admirable ability for circumspection with regard to what we did on that day. None of the speeches I've heard so far on CNN's coverage of the ceremony has attempted to turn the remembrance of this day into another venue for the obsessive America-bashing that now rivals soccer as the world's most popular pastime. And this despite the fact that Japanese still have a hard time facing the reasons there wasn't much objection at the time to America's decision. The speakers have mostly focused on the need for all humankind to see the attainment of peace as the world's highest priority. A little dreamy at this stage, but noble, nonetheless.

Even Reuters managed to get through their report on the event in Hiroshima without bringing up Iraq. This may have something to do with Japan's complicated feelings about Iraq and U.S. foreign policy in general. As long as North Korea keeps lobbing missles over their islands and bragging about their newfound nuclear prowess, it's unlikely the Japanese are going to adopt the mindless-pacifist stance many on the left would like to see. They're even talking lately about the possibility of building their own bomb to balance nuclear deterrence in the region. And unlike their insane neighbor to the north, Japan could probably put the finishing touches on their own Little Boy in about twenty minutes. There would certainly be a dismaying irony to the emergence of new nuclear nation from a people so given to idealistic talk of peace. In any event, it's doubtful that China would allow North Korea to push Japan to such a recourse. We shall see.


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