Tag: World War II
The crucial step in evaluating the evidence from Japan in 1945 is to understand how government by consensus works. In government by consensus agreement after consensus is arrived at is the sine qua non. It’s very important after a decision has been settled on to conform to the new position. People who are outside the consensus lose their positions of leadership.
When the Emperor says, “It was the Bomb that made us surrender” there is immediate pressure on everyone to then conform publicly to that position. There is a certain amount of “following orders” in this. There is also the pressure of not being out of step with the group.
What this means, from a historian’s point of view, is that everything after August 15, when the Emperor’s rescript is played over the nation’s radios, is suspect. Everyone will try to fit … Read More »
I don’t think much about the morality of Hiroshima even though most of the debate among historians focuses on this question. I think the question of whether the bombing was effective is far more important than whether it was right. The morality question is a retrospective question. The effectiveness question is about the power of nuclear weapons and whether it makes sense to rely on them. Now. But I’ve been reading Bill Miscamble’s new book From Roosevelt to Truman (written in particularly clear and graceful prose) and he defends Truman vigorously. It set me thinking.
[Another reason I don't normally engage in morality arguments specifically about Hiroshima is because I think you either have to condemn city bombing in general or allow all city bombing. If it's right to bomb Hamburg then you have to allow Hiroshima. If it's right to firebomb Tokyo, ... Read More »
We look at Hiroshima and are shocked and appalled. To us it is clearly one of those epochal events on which history pivots. Of course it was crucial in any decision the Japanese leaders took about whether to continue fighting the war.
From our perspective nuclear weapons matter. They are strikingly different. We spent 2 billion dollars to develop them. We got the best scientific minds to work on them. Of course they were important. But when you look at the bombing of Hiroshima from the Japanese point of view, stand (in your imagination) in the shoes of Japan’s leaders, the picture changes.
The first problem is context. Our accounts of the bombing of Hiroshima often take place on a blank canvas. Or perhaps the lead-up to the event is a description of the transporting of the bomb to Tinian Island or … Read More »