Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Somebody got what I was trying to say - thank God for that. Thought I might have been going mad for a while there...

7 Comments:

Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

I got what you were trying to say; I too think that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were morally dubious.

You asked, however, what the difference was between those bombings and the terrorists. The difference, to put it succinctly, is legal context.

If you think that legality holds no brief here, then I'm sure you don't care about the illegality of the Iraq war or, indeed, good old Robin's Balkan war.

Within that same argument was a moral justification; that the civilians in those cities were directly helping the war effort, and were therefore a legitimate target. The bombings could also be justified by this:

Parties are bound by the laws of war to the extent that such compliance does not interfere with achieving legitimate military goals.

It is dubious, yes, but you asked for answers. I realised where you were coming from, and was very careful not to accuse you of moral equivalence. I simply gave putative answers to your questions. I have put a fuller answer at Jarndyce's place.

DK

8/09/2005 06:05:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

I've still got a problem with the assertion that the civilians were helping the war effort. Some, certainly - but by no means all (with Hiroshima, the bomb detonated directly a bove a hospital, after all - and I doubt many of the children living in the city were manufacturing weapons or contributing to the wartime economy in any way).

In any case, the same logic could be used to justify the Blitz, etc. - Once you start down the path of saying that deliberately targeting civilians is acceptable in a war situation, total war starts expanding to its logical conclusion, and everyone and everything gets blown to fuck.

8/09/2005 07:01:00 pm  
Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

And so it did. I deliberately said in my post that these same arguments could be applied to the Blitz, etc. and I'm sure that that is how the Nazis would justify starting it. If you like, I was playing Devil's Kitchen advocate as much as you were (although I happen to believe, on a weighing up of the evidence to which I have access, that it was the right decision).

with Hiroshima, the bomb detonated directly a bove a hospital, after all

I shouldn't imagine, given the bomb delivery methods of the day, i.e. dropping it out of some doors over roughly the right area) and the fact that the bomb was detonated at 2,000 feet, that that was a deliberate decision.

My main problem with the atom bombs is that, such was the force and area covered by the blast, there was no way that you were not going to kill civilians. I would also like to learn how much they knew about fallout (I suspect that it is not as much as we do now). They certainly cannot have known about the long-term effects (although they may have postulated them).

However, from the distance of 60 years, it is very easy to look at these things dispassionately. One has to remember that this was WWII; and everyone and everything had already been blown to fuck.

One also has to wonder if, had the awesome and awful effects of the atom bomb not been demonstrated, whether the Cold War may not have had a very different ending...

DK

8/09/2005 08:00:00 pm  
Blogger Eric S said...

As far as fallout...they were well aware of it. A fallout pattern map was made after the Trinity test, for example.

The Smyth Report gives a general idea of what was known at the time--although many details are left out since they were still classified. It's interesting to read a document written in the 1940s without filtering it through contemporary historians.

It's quite clear that they knew what they were doing: "A weapon has been developed that is potentially destructive beyond the wildest nightmares of the imagination; a weapon so ideally suited to sudden unannounced attack that a country's major cities might be destroyed overnight by an ostensibly friendly power."

Was it any more 'morally dubious' than the systematic destruction of Japanese cities by firebombing? On 25 May 1945, 502 US bombers destroyed 16.8 square miles of Tokyo in a single raid. Many smaller cities ceased to exist in anything but name--Toyama was 100% destroyed, Namazu 90%, Fukui 85%...the list is very long. Had the nukes not been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it's likely they would have been annihilated by incendiary bombs anyway. I fail to see any 'moral' difference between these attacks, though. To those incinerated in the raids, it makes no difference. If you consider the entire strategic bombing campaign to have been immoral, then there's no point in dwelling on Hiroshima or Nagasaki. An easy stance to take in 2005...not so easy in 1945.

The Japanese gave no sign that they were willing to surrender as 1945 ground on, so the Allies kept pressing forward. They knew what an invasion of the Home Islands would entail: millions of casualties on both sides. The possibility that the entire Japanese empire would suicidally defend itself to the last man, woman, and child was very real, and as such, EVERYONE was considered to be a potential combatant.

I find Operation Ketsu-Go to be considerably more immoral and terrifying than nuclear weapons. The sheer scale of the plan makes the Islamist suicide bombing campaign look rather insignificant.

Your final point, DK, is an important one...had nukes never been used in 1945, what would our history look like? I can imagine dozens of alternate histories, none of them particularly pleasant...

8/10/2005 02:25:00 am  
Blogger Jarndyce said...

DK:

One also has to wonder if, had the awesome and awful effects of the atom bomb not been demonstrated, whether the Cold War may not have had a very different ending...

That's a pretty textbook utilitarian argument that could (extrapolated) be used to justify rights and liberty violations on an extreme scale, no? Surely you don't really want to go there...?

[BTW: I understand you're not suggesting that, or taking your line to its logical conclusion. But even to use good-came-from-the-bad as retrospective justification is treading a little too far for me. Mind you, you're probably right on the essence.]

8/10/2005 06:16:00 pm  
Blogger Eric S said...

In this context I don't think it was so much an argument as it was speculation.

What would have happened if nukes had never been used in 1945? It's interesting to ponder the question, but of course we can never know the answer with any certainty. We can, however, make some reasonably educated guesses as to what *might* have happened, without using our conclusions to 'justify' anything.

8/10/2005 06:42:00 pm  
Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

Jarnyce:

Understand that my feelings on this whole subject are fairly equivocal.

However, you acknowledge that what I am arguing is "probably right on the essence" and that's rather the point. No, I'm not arguing that bad things can always be justified. However, the point must be made that people feared the concept of nuclear war like no other war; people did not write books about the world coming to an end because of a severe bombing of Coventry.

The sheer awesome power of the A-bomb would not have been believed had it not been used. And had that fear not been inculcated into the Soviet and US leaders as much as into everyone else, then they may have been tempted to use the atom bomb, and we would learned to fear it too late.

DK

8/15/2005 01:24:00 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link


(Mostly) Britain
(Mostly) Europe)
Regional Expertise
Misc
New Blogroll Additions

Archives by Date

02/23/2003 - 03/02/2003 | 03/02/2003 - 03/09/2003 | 04/25/2004 - 05/02/2004 | 05/09/2004 - 05/16/2004 | 05/23/2004 - 05/30/2004 | 08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004 | 09/05/2004 - 09/12/2004 | 09/12/2004 - 09/19/2004 | 09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004 | 09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004 | 10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004 | 10/10/2004 - 10/17/2004 | 10/17/2004 - 10/24/2004 | 10/24/2004 - 10/31/2004 | 10/31/2004 - 11/07/2004 | 11/07/2004 - 11/14/2004 | 11/14/2004 - 11/21/2004 | 11/21/2004 - 11/28/2004 | 11/28/2004 - 12/05/2004 | 12/05/2004 - 12/12/2004 | 12/12/2004 - 12/19/2004 | 12/19/2004 - 12/26/2004 | 12/26/2004 - 01/02/2005 | 01/02/2005 - 01/09/2005 | 01/09/2005 - 01/16/2005 | 01/16/2005 - 01/23/2005 | 01/23/2005 - 01/30/2005 | 01/30/2005 - 02/06/2005 | 02/06/2005 - 02/13/2005 | 02/13/2005 - 02/20/2005 | 02/20/2005 - 02/27/2005 | 02/27/2005 - 03/06/2005 | 03/06/2005 - 03/13/2005 | 03/13/2005 - 03/20/2005 | 03/20/2005 - 03/27/2005 | 03/27/2005 - 04/03/2005 | 04/03/2005 - 04/10/2005 | 04/10/2005 - 04/17/2005 | 04/17/2005 - 04/24/2005 | 04/24/2005 - 05/01/2005 | 05/01/2005 - 05/08/2005 | 05/08/2005 - 05/15/2005 | 05/15/2005 - 05/22/2005 | 05/22/2005 - 05/29/2005 | 05/29/2005 - 06/05/2005 | 06/05/2005 - 06/12/2005 | 06/12/2005 - 06/19/2005 | 06/19/2005 - 06/26/2005 | 06/26/2005 - 07/03/2005 | 07/03/2005 - 07/10/2005 | 07/10/2005 - 07/17/2005 | 07/17/2005 - 07/24/2005 | 07/24/2005 - 07/31/2005 | 07/31/2005 - 08/07/2005 | 08/07/2005 - 08/14/2005 | 08/14/2005 - 08/21/2005 | 08/21/2005 - 08/28/2005 | 08/28/2005 - 09/04/2005 | 09/04/2005 - 09/11/2005 | 09/11/2005 - 09/18/2005 | 09/18/2005 - 09/25/2005 | 09/25/2005 - 10/02/2005 | 10/02/2005 - 10/09/2005 | 10/09/2005 - 10/16/2005 | 10/16/2005 - 10/23/2005 | 10/30/2005 - 11/06/2005 | 11/06/2005 - 11/13/2005 | 11/13/2005 - 11/20/2005 | 11/20/2005 - 11/27/2005 | 11/27/2005 - 12/04/2005 | 12/04/2005 - 12/11/2005 | 12/11/2005 - 12/18/2005 | 12/18/2005 - 12/25/2005 | 12/25/2005 - 01/01/2006 | 01/01/2006 - 01/08/2006 | 01/08/2006 - 01/15/2006 | 01/15/2006 - 01/22/2006 | 01/22/2006 - 01/29/2006 | 01/29/2006 - 02/05/2006 | 02/05/2006 - 02/12/2006 | 02/12/2006 - 02/19/2006 | 02/19/2006 - 02/26/2006 | 02/26/2006 - 03/05/2006 | 03/05/2006 - 03/12/2006 | 03/12/2006 - 03/19/2006 | 03/19/2006 - 03/26/2006 | 03/26/2006 - 04/02/2006 | 04/02/2006 - 04/09/2006 | 04/09/2006 - 04/16/2006 | 04/16/2006 - 04/23/2006 | 04/23/2006 - 04/30/2006 | 04/30/2006 - 05/07/2006 | 05/07/2006 - 05/14/2006 | 05/14/2006 - 05/21/2006 | 05/21/2006 - 05/28/2006 | 05/28/2006 - 06/04/2006 | 06/04/2006 - 06/11/2006 | 06/11/2006 - 06/18/2006 | 06/18/2006 - 06/25/2006 | 06/25/2006 - 07/02/2006 | 07/02/2006 - 07/09/2006 | 07/09/2006 - 07/16/2006 | 07/16/2006 - 07/23/2006 | 07/23/2006 - 07/30/2006 | 07/30/2006 - 08/06/2006 | 08/06/2006 - 08/13/2006 | 08/13/2006 - 08/20/2006 | 08/20/2006 - 08/27/2006 | 08/27/2006 - 09/03/2006 | 09/03/2006 - 09/10/2006 | 09/10/2006 - 09/17/2006 | 09/17/2006 - 09/24/2006 | 09/24/2006 - 10/01/2006 | 10/08/2006 - 10/15/2006 | 10/15/2006 - 10/22/2006 | 10/22/2006 - 10/29/2006 | 10/29/2006 - 11/05/2006 | 11/05/2006 - 11/12/2006 | 11/12/2006 - 11/19/2006 | 11/19/2006 - 11/26/2006 | 11/26/2006 - 12/03/2006 |

Blog Pimping

«#Blogging Brits?»
Blogwise
Feedster
Blogdigger
Blogarama
blo.gs
Is my Blog HOT or NOT?
Eatonweb portal
Bloghop
Blogdex
BlogExplosion
Daypop
Who Links To Me
Technorati profile
BlogSearchEngine

Rate Me on BlogHop.com!
the best pretty good okay pretty bad the worst help?

Politics Blog Top Sites

Top of the British Blogs
blog search directory
Advertise on blogs
.