Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Here is a thoughtful article on dropping the bomb on Japan to end World War II.

“Yes, no more Hiroshimas. But to take the atomic bombing of Japan totally out of context and use it to highlight one nation or one city’s suffering is morally offensive. The war with Japan, with its racial overtones on both sides as well as the undeniable cruelty and barbarity by the Japanese military, should have been ended the second it was possible to do so. Anything less makes the moral arguments surrounding the use of the atomic bomb an exercise in sophistry.”

I have to say that, even through the Cold War, I never lived in fear of nuclear weapons or what could happen in the event of a conflict. I was born too late for the “duck and cover” nonsense of the Sixties, and consequently that fear of annihilation never intruded on my childish innocence. As a parent now, I want my boys to live in the same kind of bubble. They know the world can be a bad place – they know that poverty, violence and death exist – but they don’t understand that there are weapons out there that could wipe out existence on such a grand scale. I don’t want them to have that knowledge until they are old enough to cope with it. For Heaven’s sake, I have a 5 year old who has nightmares if Jonny Quest is too scary. He doesn’t need to grapple with the thought that life could be erased from the Earth and leave nothing but shadows on pavement.

As far as the war is concerned, I am comfortable that it ended as it did. In the 20/20 hindsight of history, it seems likely that it was the most humane ending to a horrific war. I’ve spent much more time studying the European side of World War II; the Pacific Theater frightens me. It’s too big – spread so thin over so much territory – and again too small – thousands of casualties to take an island as small as Iwo Jima (10 square miles: if you live in Houston, that’s 5 West U’s). The vicious nature of the combat in the Pacific, the impenetrable jungle, the tropical diseases – all of it combines into something worth paying a terrible price to end.

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