Source: Professor Olsen@large
Seventy years after the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we live under the possibility that nuclear weapons will be used again—possibly but not necessarily by us Americans or on us Americans.
I’m trying to understand the reasons for Hiroshima and Nagasaki by reading Hiroshima’s Shadow:Writing on the Denial of History and the Smithsonian Controversy, edited by Kai Bird and Lawrence Lifschultz, which was recommended by my e-mail pen pal Tanweer Akram of the Bertrand Russell Society.
The book was published after the Smithsonian Institution in 1995 canceled an exhibit about the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, after the American Legion and the Air Force Association objected to inclusion of material questioning the necessity of the bombing.
It is plain to me as I read this book that the decision to use the atomic bomb mainly reflected the momentum of two earlier decisions:
- The decision to wage war against civilians by bombing enemy cities from the air.
- The decision to develop atomic weapons for that purpose.
After these choices were made, I think the decision to bomb was, if not inevitable, the path of least resistance. Once the original bright moral line was crossed, the only issue was whether to do the same thing by means of a new and more horrible method.
I think the consequences of these decisions would still be with us even if the tragedy of Hiroshima could have been avoided.
Americans and Britons once were shocked by the German Zeppelin raids on London during World War Two, the destruction of the village of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, the bombing of Shanghai by the Japanese and of the bombing of Rotterdam and Warsaw by the Germans.
But we soon came to accept the fire-bombing of Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo, first as regrettable necessities and then as the new normal.
That new normal is still with us. Bombing is still the basic American military tactic, even when it doesn’t work. When your only tool is air power, everything looks like a target.