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Was the atomic bombing of Japan ethical:

:V
I mean this to be completely neutral since its just a question.

This is assuming that

1.) Not dropping the bomb would lead to other issues that may be more damaging to Japan/United States/other parties

2.)Even if there were viable, or no viable, alternatives, was the bombing itself ethical?

But mainly I see a lot of discussions on the atomic bomb and a lot of its hindsight, but I always thought it was an interesting ethical issue since I understand why we were forced to bring up this weapon, but I still don't know if it would be called ethical, or the most ethical, decision.

Well he's talking about WWII when the Chinese bomb pearl harbor and they commuted suicide by running their planes into the ship.
 2 Major Tom, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 6:12:59 PM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
Look up Operation Downfall and the projected casualties (both sides) of in excess of 10 million.

We needed to win the war against a stubborn enemy who was fully equipped and prepared to defend their home islands with a fanaticism that would make the jihadis in Afghanistan blush. And do it with the fewest losses to both sides.

There was no viable alternative unless you wanted a million American KIA/WIA and upwards of 10 million Japanese KIA.

So really it was as ethical as you could get. Only somebody ashamed of their history would think it was not.
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
I think MT is putting it rather simplistically.

For the record, I'm of the opinion that the atomic bombs might have been justified, but the firebombing of other Japanese and German cities certainly wasn't.

edited 3rd Jan '11 6:21:47 PM by silver2195

Currently taking a break from the site. See my user page for more information.
:V
I am aware of Downfall. I am also aware that we had no alternative and the Japanese did not intend to surrender.

The question being is that even if would have suffered higher loses, were the atomic bombs too inhumane a weapon?

As for firebombings, at least in Japan, it had a thriving cottage industry and firebombing was directed at these targets.

Berlin I don't know so much about, but aside from Dresden, the targets were mainly industrial.

Dresden is the most controversial campaign and, at least of the books of WWII I read, considered one of the less ethical decisions the allies made.

edited 3rd Jan '11 6:19:14 PM by saladofstones

Well he's talking about WWII when the Chinese bomb pearl harbor and they commuted suicide by running their planes into the ship.
One issue with Major Tom's argument is that it doesn't seem to say what the differences in civilian casualties would have been, since civilian casualties are treated on a different moral level. Of course, whether or not killing millions of soldiers is better than killing hundreds of thousands of civilians is an issue all its own, and I'm not siding with either, but I do find that these debates tend not to take the differences between soldiers and civilians into account to a sufficient extent. Arguments like "they started it, didn't they?" obviously don't apply to the civilian victims of this.

 6 Major Tom, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 6:41:23 PM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
^ The Japanese were prepared to arm and were arming their civilian populace. Had we had to go through with Downfall instead of the nuclear option, the Imperial Japanese military literally would have thrown every last man, woman and child they could find at us armed with whatever they could scrounge up including swords, spears and arrows.

That's why the casualty projections are as high as 10 million Japanese. We would have been up against literally millions of irregular forces consisting of civilians all of whom would be trying to kill our men.

They didn't want to drag out a war to make us look bad, they didn't want to rally world sympathy like they were some kind of refugee camp in Lebanon, they wanted to destroy our military capacity to such a degree in their final hours that we would literally be incapable of defending ourselves again for a very long time. If we had to go through with such a climactic battle, that idea wasn't implausible. The kamikaze strikes and throwing every last tank, artillery piece, plane, bomb, bullet, ship or what have you would have sunk and destroyed potentially hundreds of our ships, killed hundreds of thousands of our men and women in uniform (as there was no such thing as a taboo target for the Imperial Japanese such as not attacking hospital ships) and wounded hundreds of thousands more. In the aftermath of that we would have not have been able in a military stance to repel the Red Army if they decided to backstab and attack us following that.

edited 3rd Jan '11 6:43:23 PM by MajorTom

Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
 7 Scrye, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 6:54:03 PM from North Carolina/Maryland
Terminal Lance
I have a question. Is killing a million people with a nuclear weapon any less ethical than killing a million people with a pointy stick?
"True story, I came when I read Scrye's story, and so did everyone within five miles." —OOZE
When you all get the chance, research the Mokusatsu Incident. I've brought this up before, but it raises intriguing - if not disturbing - alternate explanations regarding the decision to use atomic bombs.

I have my doubts about the legitimacy of attacking Japan in that matter. Remember I said "doubts", not "it was completely wrong and anyone who says otherwise is a warmongering monster". Dialogue on this issue continues in Japan, and their interpretation of the event is understandably quite different, but for a number of legitimate reasons. Japan is notorious for its revisionist tendencies in public schools and international relations, but I've spoken with members of the Japanese community on this matter, and willful opposition to the truth is not quite the case. This argument is difficult to gauge because its hypothetical nature raises complex dilemmas about conventional morality and our willingness to resolve conflicts as decisively as possible.

While Japan was by all means a real threat, I don't think it is a fair or conclusive assessment to simply say that we "knew for a cold hard fact" that the Japanese would fight with every man, woman, and child. Conflicting stories - or word on the street - suggests that the Japanese military leadership had been falling apart from the inside-out long before the US president gave his ultimatum. Civilian support of Japan's offensive against the United States had arguably been overestimated, as several sectors of Japanese society either grew apathetic to the national cause or genuinely frightful of US retaliation to further aggression on their part.

I recall watching a documentary called Black Light/White Rain that explores this topic in great detail. On one part (or in one of the extra scenes), a man who was part of the staff that organized the Enola Gay mission said the following in paraphrasing:

"In all the years that have passed, I've never lost a wink of sleep over the bombing of those cities. Not a single night of sleep lost. But I would never do that again, or wish that on anyone else. People keep talking about how we need to nuke terrorists and whatnot. No. If you really understood how a nuclear weapon works, you wouldn't want to use it."

Again, this is all from memory (but I'm sure as hell not making this up), and it may have been a different documentary, but this description puts the questionable justification of the bombing into greater perspective.

I honestly think we really can't push this debate toward its full potential without involvement of the Japanese, and I understand that this is a luxury to some degree.

 9 Tuefel Hunden IV, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 7:43:38 PM from Wandering. Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
Watchmen of the Apocalypse
And Aprilla makes the best overall point and a quick check of the incident he mentioned is an interesting point and it points out the internal turmoil.

Our estimates for our casualties were made from the defense of the Islands held by a very determined enemy with a lot of will power to back them. The main land one could assume would have all that turned up to 11 because it is their home land. We can partially blame a lack of intel to make an accurate call on that situation as a whole and we feared the worst. We could have just simply firebombed the island into a cinder just as effectively.
"Who watches the watchmen?"
Unchanging Avatar.
Firebombing would have been worse. Firebombing is something they already knew we were capable of. They would have fought on for longer had they been firebombed, civilian casualties notwithstanding. The value of the atomic bomb was that it was completely new to them, and basically terrified them into surrender.
Except for 4/1/2011. That day lingers in my memory like...metaphor here...I should go.
 11 Tuefel Hunden IV, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 7:56:43 PM from Wandering. Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
Watchmen of the Apocalypse
I dunno the level of devastation would have been comparable considering they still favored a very flammable building style. Didn't do some fire bombings on Japan prior to the bombs?
"Who watches the watchmen?"
 12 Radical Taoist, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 7:59:06 PM from the #GUniverse
scratching at .8, just hopin'
1) We didn't need to take the island. I mean, seriously. We had naval and air domination of that whole section of Asia. We could have happily blockaded them until they agreed to play nice and bombed anything that looked like an airfield or an AA emplacement.

2) The Emperor was not ready and willing to surrender by that point, but a lot of his cabinet members were. The real fear was the Soviet Union, who were ready to invade Japan's former territory and had not renewed their neutrality pact with Japan. The U.S., wise to Soviet influence on the region, dropped the bomb to speed things up. The idea was to make sure the Reds didn't get Japan.

I'm personally of the opinion that dropping the atomic bomb wasn't the great evil. We did more damage in Japan with conventional firebombing. The atomic bomb shouldn't have been developed in the first place period.
 13 Deboss, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 8:50:38 PM from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Overall, my assumption is yes. It would have been different had I been given the decision, but that's me.
 14 Blue Ninja 0, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 9:26:24 PM from The Middle of Nowhere Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
Slowly dying on the inside
Is killing a million people with a nuclear weapon any less ethical than killing a million people with a pointy stick?
Yes, but IMO that's mostly due to the poisonous fallout and massive property damage that goes along with a nuclear blast. If you kill a million people with a pointy stick, you only have to worry about corpse disposal, but you don't have to worry about the after-effects of radiation, clean-up of poisoned land, loss of infrastructure and supplies, etc.

And as Radical Taoist said, nuclear bomb deterrance was aimed at the Soviets. We needed not only to get into Japan before they did (to avoid a divided Japan, the way we already had a divided Germany) but to scare the crap out of the Russians long enough for us to consolidate what we had already gained.
Once the avalanche has started, it is too late for the pebbles to cast their vote. - Ambassador Kosh
 15 Scrye, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 9:31:00 PM from North Carolina/Maryland
Terminal Lance
^^^The Manhattan Project was originally greenlit because refugee German scientists, Einstein included, came to the US government and told them Germany was trying to make an atomic bomb. We were originally trying to make the bomb before Hitler did, only Germany fell before we finished development. Then we switched focus to Japan. The development of the A-bomb originally had nothing to do with Japan.

edited 3rd Jan '11 9:32:12 PM by Scrye

"True story, I came when I read Scrye's story, and so did everyone within five miles." —OOZE
Unchanging Avatar.
[up][up]You're being too absolute here. It wasn't just about intimidating the Soviets so they would stay away.

edited 3rd Jan '11 9:32:11 PM by Ultrayellow

Except for 4/1/2011. That day lingers in my memory like...metaphor here...I should go.
:V
@Taoist: Everything I've seen indicates that the Emperor was willing to surrender (rather, he forced the surrender and nearly died for it since there was an attempted coup) but the Japanese military wasn't. There were even plans to attack the peace treaty signing (Mac Arthur thought enough of this threat to have a replacement in case he was killed) with the understanding that it would make the United States less likely to seek peace in the future.

But part of the issue to me is that Japan was an aggressor and went out of its way to provoke the United States.

Also when bringing up civilian causalities, the blockades surrounding Japan would have caused a lot more deaths if given more time.

And suggestions for an attempt to isolate Japan was impractical, since to my knowledge they still had a large portion of their military outside of Japan and it was a basic inevitability that the mainland would be invaded.

Also Stalin was likely stalled in his attempts since he stated to his cabinet towards the end of World War II, "The war on fascism ends, the war on capitalism begins."

One line I remember, I forgot what Japanese officer said it, but the jest was that they would fight until the last Japanese city was in cinders.

I wonder if there is an ethical idea that deals with a situation where all the available choices are in some way evil and because of the complexity of the issue, knowing which choice is the least evil will not become apparent until after the decision is made.

edited 3rd Jan '11 9:57:31 PM by saladofstones

Well he's talking about WWII when the Chinese bomb pearl harbor and they commuted suicide by running their planes into the ship.
 18 drunkscriblerian, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 10:02:57 PM from Castle Geekhaven Relationship Status: In season
Street Writing Man
@Tuefel: Yes they did, and ironically enough the firebombings caused nearly triple the casualties of both atomic bombs.

And the statistics mentioned about invasion vs. atomic bomb dropping were mostly correct and that was the reason for dropping the bomb. Japan was not about to quit; they gave the U.S. Marines the bloodiest battle of the Pacific campaign at Iwo Jima (a worthless hunk of sulfurous rock), just because it is technically considered to be part of Japan.

Truman made a cold, calculating and difficult decision. He didn't want to do it, but he didn't want another several million casualties added to the ledger. At the time the long-term effects of radiation weren't yet known, so Truman could not have reckoned on the hundreds of thousands of slow deaths from cancer the weapons caused.

Historians have gone back and defended his actions time and again, and its unfortunate but I would as well.

If I were to write some of the strange things that come under my eyes they would not be believed.

~Cora M. Strayer~
:V
Also I just remembered, radiation was poorly understood since evidently there was very, very few cases of radiation poisoning. The Russian Red Orchestra did use the bombings to study individuals poisoned by it and what the reactions were.

I think 48 hours was the maximum time it was believed that an area could be nu clearly bombed and infantry could move in without significant health risk.
Well he's talking about WWII when the Chinese bomb pearl harbor and they commuted suicide by running their planes into the ship.
Mentor
Considering the other options available I think the bomb was the most efficient solution to the problem but that doesn't make it the most moral. A blockade would have been more moral in that you weren't killing people with guns or bombs and it would have been up to the Japanese when the suffering stopped.

 21 drunkscriblerian, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 10:11:38 PM from Castle Geekhaven Relationship Status: In season
Street Writing Man
@thatguythere: War isn't moral. It's quasi-civilized industrial-scale violence. The only way to keep a vestige of decency is to apply the violence in as focused and discrete fashion as the situation will permit.
If I were to write some of the strange things that come under my eyes they would not be believed.

~Cora M. Strayer~
 22 Totemic Hero, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 10:18:42 PM from the next level Relationship Status: Abstaining
Spit taker
The problem I have with this thread is that the question treats the atomic bombing as a singular event. Instead, how it should be asked:

  • Was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima ethical?
  • Was the atomic bombing of Nagasaki ethical?
"These days they have a stat for how many times a guy goes for a cup of coffee." -Mark McGwire
 23 drunkscriblerian, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 10:21:11 PM from Castle Geekhaven Relationship Status: In season
Street Writing Man
@Totemic: Good point, I hadn't considered that.

The first I would universally defend; it sucked, but was the best choice out of a whole range of bad ones. The second...well, there is some confusion and debate about how much the US checked on whether one was enough to get the Japanese to back down, so I guess I'm fence-sitting there.
If I were to write some of the strange things that come under my eyes they would not be believed.

~Cora M. Strayer~
 24 Totemic Hero, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 10:28:52 PM from the next level Relationship Status: Abstaining
Spit taker
Well, with Nagasaki the timing is the real issue. If intimidating the Japanese into surrender was the goal, you'd think you'd want to give them more than 72 hours or so to figure out what you just hit them with.  *
"These days they have a stat for how many times a guy goes for a cup of coffee." -Mark McGwire
 25 Blue Ninja 0, Mon, 3rd Jan '11 10:30:29 PM from The Middle of Nowhere Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
Slowly dying on the inside
Ultra Yellow: I did not mean to imply that we nuked the Japanese solely to deter the Soviets, merely that it was an added point of consideration for the decision to use atomic bombs.

Drunk Scribbler: Post 21, well said.

The second bombing I thought was a sort of "We can keep this up" message to the Japanese (and Soviets). A way to demonstrate that we could turn all of their cities into smoldering craters unless they surrendered. Of course, we didn't have more atomic bombs at that moment, but it was a bluff that worked.
Once the avalanche has started, it is too late for the pebbles to cast their vote. - Ambassador Kosh
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