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    Tuesday, March 01, 2005

    Atomic Bomb

    In class yesterday we debated the morality of the United States dropping the atomic bomb on Japan in WW2. This is always an interesting debate for me, because people seem to have such strong opinions although most know very little about the controversy. The essential question is this:

    Was it morally correct for the United States to drop atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    Essentially the debate has two sides. Either people feel that the only use of an atomic bomb in the history of the world (which killed thousands of civilians along with 10,000 soldiers) was justified because it ended the war and possibly saved the lives of japanese and american soldiers alike, or it was morally reprehensible because we destroyed the lives of thousands of noncombattants in a blatant display of state-sponsored terrorism.

    Here's my take on the situation. War is inherently immoral. Some may say amoral. The disputes or wrongs of one or more parties is solved through wanton bloodshed. Think about it. Lying is dishonest. Spying is national security. Killing is murder. A soldier killing in combat is honorable. Any attempt to place a value sytem or other moral restrictions created from a society in peacetime upon any society in wartime crosses two logical lines. First, what is moral for one society may not be for another, because morals are the product of culture--something unique to every society and sometimes subgroups within those societies. Second, because the status of relationships between people and nations is different in times of peace than war, we cannot apply guidelines unilaterraly to them. Just because you wouldn't steal a loaf of bread now, when you are full and make a decent living, does not mean taking that same loaf of bread is morally wrong when you need it to feed your starving sister and her children (a la Jean Valjean).

    The United States followed Britains lead and began firebombing cities during the European campaign and over Japan. One night, over 84,000 civilians in Tokyo were killed in a firestorm--more than anything in Europe--sparked by US bombs. This destruction was calculated to break the support of the masses and pressure the government into capitulation (terrorism). The atomic bombs did just that. They caused the government to capitulate. They were justified by saying that all citizens are combattants because they make the goods (ball bearings, oil, etc) that makes war possible.

    I say exactly. War is war. We don't like it. That's why we must work our hardest to not get into it. When, however, we are drawn into a conflict, war becomes total. Every person supports the government tacitly or actively. By striking with atomic bombs we did terrorize. We also ended the war without the 1,000,000 american casualties predicted if we had to invade the home islands. Since nations, like people, are inherently self-interested, than it was not immoral for the US to drop the bombs. That action was motivated for the best interest of the US, its people, and ultimately saved lives.

    I'm interested to hear comments.

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