I can’t remember right now what got me interested in atomic weapons in the Second World War; most likely, Wikipedia led me to it by degrees.Â It got me reading the discourse about the usage of the atomic bombs in Japan- a debate that can have no conclusive outcome, but still attracts alot of attention and thought.
The two opposing theories I learned about years before in school were fairly
simple.Â From the pro-atomic perspective, it was necessary to end the war.Â A ground invasion of Japan would have, by some estimates, cost millions of lives, both Japanese and American (this requires you to set aside any scepticism about how accurate such projections were).Â Certainly, the Japanese Empire showed no interest in surrender, in spite of their worsening situation, so the U.S. had no choice but to make use of a weapon that would deal immense physical and psychological damage.Â This would, ultimately, result in fewer lives lost in comparison to an invasion.Â So goes the pro-atomic reasoning.
In the opposing corner, the anti-atomic faction insists that under no circumstances was it necessary or prudent to use the atomic bomb.Â They maintain that the total annihilation of a city, with all its men, women, and children, is a war crime, and that Japan would have surrendered without the use of the Bomb.
Both of these arguments have a healthy mix of ethical considerations and some practical, albeit speculative elements.Â I don’t have any desire to debate the morality of the choice, since morality is too easy to judge 60 years removed, and even then, human moral standards are like snowflakes- no two are alike.
One thing in favor of the anti-atomic viewpoint is that history has since given them ample opportunity to find fault with the outcome of the war.Â The argument goes that had the U.S. not dropped the Bomb, there never have been a nuclear arms race that would bring us to the brink of cataclysm on several occasions.Â An interesting observation, but I’d like to jump in a suggest the opposite- that if the Bomb hadn’t been dropped twice by the U.S. in 1945, it would have inevitably been used by us or someone else, with potentially more destructive results.Â To put it another way, I suggest that Hiroshima and Nagasaki taught humanity a lesson, one that has not yet been forgotten, and the destruction of two cities and their inhabitants has kept us from an even worse fate.
Like the other arguments I’ve heard, it’s just silly speculation, but it gives me something to think about while my toes freeze in the middle of winter.