Dropping the Atomic Bomb: Reflecting on How to End War
If I were the great-grandchild of the person who decided to drop the atomic bombs on Japan I would not agree with their decision or perspective to use the weapon. And the key to understanding their decision to use the weapon, lies in identifying the reasoning and context of WWII, American involvement in the war, and American society during this time period. I do not think that there is one dominant, overarching factor that can explain why this decision was made - various reasons contributed to it. Some of this reasoning included wanting to grow American patriotism and nationalism by swiftly ending a war that had engulfed the entire planet. The reasoning was to show America’s strength to the world and prove that they had the power to destroy entire cities. The reasoning included fear, and on top of this, blatant racism. There is no questioning that these factors contributed to their final decision to use the atomic weapons, but moreover we mustn’t allow ourselves to simply identify, note that they are why our ancestors did this, and move on. If anything, that is the wrong way to view them.
If we are to fully understand this perspective, and analyze the consequences of it, we must carry with us the same awareness in our society today, as we do looking back on these events. We must understand this reasoning because if such sentiment is still present today (which it absolutely is), would it not stop influencing people to make the same decision yet again? And if that is in fact a possibility, how do we reconcile with that? We all know that history repeats itself, so would it be unrealistic to say that this could happen once, twice, many times more if that same reasoning still exists in the people in positions to make such decisions? I think that it is a possibility. And it is a very concerning possibility to think about.
I do not see the dropping of the bomb as a reasonable way to end the war in the Pacific. That decision was wrong. Blatantly. Yes it did end the war, but at what cost? In response to the question: “Was it justifiable, given what we know of Japan’s horrific treatment of its subjugated populations?” I say that it was absolutely not justifiable. You cannot compare apples to oranges because they are two different things. You cannot compare different methods of utter destruction against each other because it is beyond demeaning to the victims and individuals who experienced such horrors. They are incomparable because they are two different things. You cannot weigh two evils against one another and expect to see a level scale. What the Japanese did in Nanjing, and in China was evil. It was atrocious, it was heinous, and it was a testament to some of the most disgusting behaviors human beings are capable of, as was the treatment of the comfort women. But we cannot use these evils and crimes against humanity as excuses to commit more evils and crimes against humanity. You cannot justify the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the mass murder of 200,000 by comparing it to a separate, other atrocities. It is invalidation to the victims. It is sinister. It is childish, immature, and vile to compare apples to oranges and use that as a justification of mass murder. Because the Japanese army committed that atrocity does not justify us to commit another one. It never will, because no matter how hard you try, you cannot fight against atrocities by committing more atrocities.
I firmly believe that the bomb would not have been dropped on Germany, and I think that the reason this could never happen is rooted in Anti-Asian racism in America. The Second World War brought about a time of unprecedented Anti-Asian hate in America, which we looked at earlier this year regarding the Japanese Internment Camps, hate crimes against East-Asian people regardless of whether they were Japanese or not, and institutionalized, lawful discrimination and racism against Japanese-Americans. None of that happened for German-Americans. While propaganda was used against both countries, regarding Japan, almost all of the propaganda we looked at earlier this year was stripping Japanese people of their status as human beings. Portraying them as animals, monsters, aliens. That level of dehumanization being forefronted across the country is why the bombs were dropped on Japan. Because the mentality of the people who decided to drop the bomb, and of the majority of white America at the time, was essentially: “Who cared if they died. It didn’t matter if they were killed, they're not humans. They’re not ‘like us,’” Note the us/them mentality. The same sentiment simply did not apply to German people. And for this reason, the bomb would not have been dropped, because they were seen as essentially more human than the Japanese. And that is the reality that this country must attest to. We must face this history as a country because if we don’t, and we continue to defend the position that it was right to drop the bomb - we forward the racism that brought us to that position. That is something I will not do, and it is up to us as individuals and citizens of the country that committed these actions to educate ourselves on this, and to face our nation's history.
The use of the bombs to end the war worked. That is not something that can be questioned. However, what we must question is should we resort to such methods to end wars. I think that the use of nuclear weapons on Japan did show the world how terrible these weapons are and the effects to which they should not be used again. But has this stopped countries from manufacturing more bombs? Has it stopped from advancing atomic weaponry to such an extent that we have the power to create a hydrogen bomb with an explosion 1,000 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No it hasn’t. Yes, knowing the consequences of the use of such bombs has proven (so far) and resulted in no explosion or attack since. But I would not use this as a guarantee that it could never happen again.
In another testament to our nation's past of the use of nuclear weapons, we look at the case of Bikini Atoll and nuclear testing that occurred there and the displacement of peoples in the Pacific. I do not think that by any margins we can attest the future of mankind to these testing sites. And by saying the “future of mankind” are we talking about the people of Bikini Atoll? Are we talking about their future? Are we talking about the destruction we brought to their lives? Are we talking about how we uprooted their future, and how we destroyed their lives, their homes? Answer: no. That does not speak to the future of mankind to me. To me, that speaks to the future of racism, the future of dehumanization, and the future discrimination on many levels. If that is to become, and/or remain the future of mankind, how do we counter that? How do we fight that? We fight it, firstly, by facing this history. Because it is not the future of some, or the future of others, it is the future of ALL mankind that should be brought into question.