Term Paper: Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb

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¶ … Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb

The use of atomic weapons has never been a clearly defined choice for any nation. Nuclear power yields destruction on a level that is virtually incomprehensible. Two single war-head nuclear bombs were dropped on two cities in Japan and those two cities were leveled. The Japanese had no choice but to completely and utterly surrender to the United States. Those two bombs ended a war. but, at what cost? The truth is that, on some level, the choice to bomb Japan and not Berlin was based upon a virulent racism that coursed through the veins of the United States. People of Japanese decent had been rounded up and placed in internment camps throughout the U.S. They had been vilified and made the subject of cartoonish attacks upon not only their person, but upon their entire culture. The Germans, however, did not receive the same kind of treatment, nor did the Italians. "They" (the European enemies) were like "us" (Caucasian-Americans of European descent) and therefore bombing them and destroying their entire cities would have been the equivalent of an absolute destruction of ourselves - nuking Germany was too close to home. In the short-term, dropping the bombs on Japan was the single most effective method available to hasten the end of the war in the Pacific, because the alternative was a land-invasion of one of the most heavily fortified and suicidal of defenses.

Ironically, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the firebombing of Dresden, resulted in massive civilian casualties. In fact, any weapon of mass destruction is not, by definition, a precise munition. Therefore, any use of them comes with the absolute knowledge that the primary target is not military, but civilian in nature.

So, if a nation or a military employs weapons of mass destruction, they are, arguably, specifically targeting civilians - the practice of which is exactly how "terrorism" is defined by the western world.

The decision by the United States to drop the two nuclear bombs on Japan was at once military and political. The reality was this: that the expected casualty numbers of American soldiers in a land-invasion of the main islands of Japan were calculated to be in excess of thirty-thousand dead and wounded within just the first thirty days. No invasion force could withstand that level of causalities in a prolonged urban battle. The massive losses experienced during nearly every land battle with Japanese forces made the prospect of a land invasion of Japan incredibly costly.

Knowing this, President Truman had to make a choice: subduing and neutralizing Japan was of the utmost importance - a treaty could simply not be signed (which was Truman's battle plan in Europe as well). The head of the snake had to be cut off. Therefore, the only way to accomplish this would be the total surrender of Japan and Germany. In Japan, the fleet necessary to mount a successful invasion was massive on a scale theretofore unrealized.

It would necessarily dwarf that of the Normandy invasion given the deep entrenchment of the Japanese forces. Truman had the military and the power to order the invasion. but, the catastrophic results, heaped upon the years of conflict already behind the nation, could not be reconciled in his conscious.

Therefore, Truman sought the fastest and safest (for American lives) path out of the war with Japan - the nuclear bomb,

Truman's advisors clearly stated that the Japanese were without allies, had no reliable support system, had a nearly decimated navy and air force, and by the end of the war had only a strong infantry presence remaining on the main islands. It was also pointed out that Japan was particularly vulnerable to air attack and because of the construction materials in use within their cities, were especially vulnerable to incendiary attack.

The result - it became absolutely clear that in order to demonstrate to Japan the futility of continuing to fight a war they had already lost, the nuclear option became the only one available. The problem, however, with nuclear attacks is that they are not precise. Their very nature is to destroy massive swaths of land, buildings and lives. They not only explode and destroy in the moment, but for decades after with all of the nuclear / radioactive fallout.

All of that was weighed in Truman's decision. and, knowing full well that by ordering the bombings, he was ordering the deaths of thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, he made the order anyway.

This was not the first time that civilians had been specifically targeted by the military - firebombing of Tokyo, London, Dresden, Berlin, and others had been going on since the war's beginnings. but, this was going to be different. "Atomic bombs have now been successfully employed against the enemy. A grateful nation, hopeful that this new weapon will result in the saving of thousands of American lives, feels a deep sense of appreciation for your accomplishment," [from an address to the men and women of the Manhattan project], (Alperovitz, 515).

In terms of the long-range effectiveness of the nuclear drop, the truth is that there are some very complicated answers.

The Japanese have lived under the effects of those attacks - their complete surrender, their loss of the ability to mount an army, the rewriting of their constitution and the restructuring of their entire political system by the United States, the establishment of a permanent U.S. military presence on several bases in the Japanese islands, and the generations-old effects now of the nuclear blasts. Cancer deaths rose sharply in Japan among all survivors of the bombs. Their children and grand children and now great grandchildren are all aware of the effects as they have seen so many of their relatives die from radiation poisoning and cancer. but, in the course of history after the war, no other nuclear devices have been detonated with the intent to kill others - not one.

Of course, by demonstrating to the world the enormous destructive power of the nuclear bomb, the United States created a new world in which acquisition of nuclear technology became paramount for all 1st-world nations. No nation could stand by and allow a single nation to hold and wield the power to utterly destroy them - that would create a total new world order with the United States holding the pinnacle seat. What Truman's decision created in the long-run was the Cold War, the nuclear buildup of thousands of warheads all capable of leveling cities and destroying nations, and the constant threat of absolute and total world destruction.

Truman's bombs led us directly to the fears we now have of the detonation of nuclear devices as part of "terrorist" strikes against the United States and her allies.

The United States has chosen to define terrorism as an act of violence against civilians with the intent to change political, military, social, economic or other policy of a government or people. This, of course, implies that terrorists do not, by their nature, attack military targets - only those people that cannot adequately defend themselves or mount a counterattack. This allows a relatively small number of people to create acts of violence that have far-reaching consequences - small pebbles making very big waves.

The problem with this kind of operation, and the U.S. has been involved in this kind of operation for a very long time, is that it denies the defensive side adequate targets to seek retaliation against. When a nation invades another, the enemy is clearly defined and the resulting actions are equally clearly justifiable. But when a dozen or so citizens of a single country mount a successful attack against another, is it the country or the people or both that should… [END OF PREVIEW]

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