Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Blood on Our Hands?" Nicholas D. Kristof

The debate over the decision to use the Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has always been a constant debate throughout the years ever since World War II ended. Was it necessary to end the war and save lives? Or was it an atrocity that should have been and always should be consider an inhumane act? Was its use just limited to the war or was it used to show power on a much larger scale out on the field (towards the Russians)? Were the Japanese ready to surrender or were they prepared to fight to the last man on the main island? These are few of the huge amounts of questions that are shown regarding the debate.

The before and after overhead pictures of Hiroshima.

The author of the article I looked at came from the New York Times bearing the title, “Blood on Our Hands?” by Nicholas D. Kristof. In his article he talks about the American perspective becoming negative over the years with the feeling that Japan would have surrendered eventually. The Japanese by the end of the war knew that victory was completely impossible by any means, and therefore it would seem that at some point they would have to give up. Kristof tries to counter this point by bringing up quotes from Japanese officials who participated in the move towards negotiation and surrender before the bombings. Some saying that the bomb was a “gift from heaven”, and that it helped move the Japanese government towards surrender. While on the other side of the table others thought that it would be best if the Japanese held out as long as possible, until either they were provided with a conditional surrender or in the worst case, completely wiped out. The bomb to the people on the idea of surrendering was a direct example of what the alternative of an immediate surrender would be, and that there would not be a heroic battle for the island because they would be blown right off of it. At the end Kristof concludes that although there might have been ways to maybe have prevented to bombing of Nagasaki or shown off the weapon on an uninhabited island, the death of those in both cities would pale in comparison to how many lives would have been lost to an invasion of Japan.

A draw up of Operation Downfall, the plans to invade Japan.

Now with all of these points that have supported both sides of both arguments I feel that the only real conclusion that can be brought to is that there cannot be any real answer for the things we do in times of war. Each decision made can go both ways, but the one chosen should not always be seen as the worst or best choice made. After World War II and to present day, atomic and nuclear weapons are only used as threats and not active weapons in war. Maybe it is possible to not look at the event as a whole but more of who and when. It is known that the development of atomic weapons was taking place in countries through the world, and naturally one of those countries would try and test it in a real conflict. The atomic bomb appeared on the battlefield on the end of a long and tired war, if the bomb was not dropped then when would it have been dropped? Even during the Korean War there were ideas thrown around about the use of these weapons, and thankfully they were not used. At the time of its use the Atomic bomb belonged to the United States and nobody else. If it were to be used later on, when other countries had the capabilities, it would be possible to assume that these weapons could have been used in unimaginable amounts during any of the conflicts that had occurred during the Cold War era. How would a country like China, with a very large population have reacted to a use of an atomic weapon on Northern Korea? (China borders North Korea.) What if the Soviet Union used one of its atomic weapons on one of its satellite states to make an example to those who did not accept Communism at the time? With these thoughts in mind it might be best to put away the argument of “Was it necessary” and think more about “When would have it become necessary?”

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