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Is All Fair In Love and War?

Malcolm B Duncan is a NSW based lawyer, satirist and independent politician. Several of his personalities are regular Webdiarists. The eighth and latest part of the Chronicles of Nadir series by 'Tom Lewis' is here.

by Malcolm B Duncan

There’s a lot of bombing the bejeezus out of all sorts of people around these days and Webdiarists seem to be much keen on discussing it recently so I am grateful both to SWMBO and the Librarian at St Vincent’s College Potts Point for bringing to my attention AC Grayling’s Among the Dead Cities: Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime? Bloomsbury Publishing, London 2006.

Grayling is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London and he raises some interesting points that I thought germane to a few recent debates on WD. Grayling of course is a philosopher while I am a legal philosopher so we differ from the outset however some of the questions he raises and analyses raise interesting points about warfare in general, air warfare in particular (including the use of tactical nuclear weapons) and moral culpability.

He writes very much from a British perspective, having grown up in post-war England but he analyses the attitude of Bomber Command to "area bombing" in Europe as against tactical bombing by the US 8th Air Force and the fire-bombing of Tokyo and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

The pacifists amongst you will be sad to learn that he starts from the premise that the war, on the part of the allies, was a just war and that just war is permissible [pp 210-4] but comes to the conclusion that both area-bombing in Europe and the atomic attacks were immoral, disproportionate and unnecessary.

For reasons which will appear below, I differ but not without some disquiet.

His starting point [p10] (I said he was a philosopher) is:

I reported the assertion that ‘deliberately mounting military attacks on civilian populations, in order to cause terror and indiscriminate death among them, is a moral crime’. I then asked: Are there ever circumstances in which killing civilians in wartime is not a moral crime? Are there ever circumstances – desperate ones, circumstances of danger to which such actions constitute a defence – that would justify or at least exonerate them?’ I take the assertion and these questions as my terms of reference.

Here, it should be noted that he is dealing with aerial bombardment specifically. Although he is not an historian the book contains a fairly detailed history of the bomber airwar for Europe. He points out that at the beginning of the campaign standing orders required that:

Bombing was to occur only on definite visual identification of a target to avoid accidental harm to civilians [p 30]

and he takes into account the actions of the Germans (14 May 1940 Rotterdam 30,000 civilian casualties [p35] which was an accident and the night of 24-5 August 1940 when the Luftwaffe accidentally dropped their loads on London rather than the target – an aircraft factory [p38]) in inflaming public opinion in favour of revenge. The Blitz commenced on 7 October 1940.

On 9 July 1941 the War Cabinet authorised the issue of the following directive to bomber command:

switching its primary attention from oil and naval targets to ‘dislocating the German transportation system’ and ‘destroying the morale of the civil population as a whole and of the industrial workers in particular’ . [p 47]

By 14 February 1942 (a rather ironic date) that changed to:

"The primary object of your operations should now be focused on the morale of the enemy civil population , and in particular on the industrial workers. [p50]

He gives but does not principally rely on the bombing of Dresden:

Eight hundred RAF bombers attacked on the night of 13-14 February 1944; and the next day and the day after, the Americans followed with 300 and 200 aircraft respectively. The Americans aimed at the railway marshalling yards, but the RAF night attack of the 13-14 used a stadium in the city centre as its aiming-point. The majority of bombs dropped in Bomber Command’s night attack were incendiaries, 650,000 of them. The firestorm that resulted wiped out the Baroque city, and killed somewhere in the region of 25,000 people.[p 72]

He then turns to the attacks on Japan, principally the conventional attack on Tokyo on 9-10 March 1945 in which 1,667 tons of incendiaries were dropped creating a firestorm which killed more than 85,000 [p 77] and the ensuing atomic attacks which, in a view which is at least controversial if not outright surprising from an Australian or US perspective, he asserts were unnecessary and morally indefensible because on any view of it Japan knew it was defeated and "victory was no longer genuinely doubtful" [p79]

The book then considers the points of view both of the bombed and the bombers He points out [p104] that on a rough estimate, it took 2.25 tons of bombs to kill one German civilian and that bomber command lost 7,700 aircraft in the process. [p 104] It is a passing criticism of the book that such figures are not specifically footnoted but as I say he is not an historian and for the purpose of the overall argument there is no need to doubt the numbers although one might doubt whether they really were all civilians.

Fairly [p 134] he raises the important question of what is a ‘military objective’ and goes on in a number of places to discuss the various theories that if industrial production of an enemy is a legitimate target (think no power in the Gaza strip) are the industrial workers themselves not legitimate targets? Developing that idea (and he doesn’t) what about the people who grow their food or make their clothes? What about the children now 12 who may be fighting the war of terror in 5 years time? Where does one draw the line?

All good questions. Is ‘total war’ morally wrong and always indefensible?

In discussing the revenge question he quotes something which should be remembered:

[Vansittart in his Bones of Contention, March 1945] wrote ‘The Germans are savage to a degree almost inconceivable to anyone who has not had actual experience of them, and are a people born to deceit.’ These were not his own words; he was quoting from the first-century Roman historian Paterculus, and he went on to quote Tacitus, Seneca, Claudian, Nazarius, Ammianus, Marcellinus, Quintillian and Josephus to the same effect. [p 165]

Plus ca change? As a partial aside, I was struck at the 1916 display at the Australian War Memorial on Saturday by the heedless, even wanton, destruction wrought by German artillery on French civilian targets on the Somme. In confining himself to air warfare, Grayling does not address that in his moral assessment and WWI was a very different scenario but where lay the moral compass there?

Back to the book:

In the case of the USAAF in the pacific theatre, the ferocity and destructiveness of its air-bombing campaign these are also explainable by two factors. One was the belief and hope that a bombing campaign could win the war against Japan without an invasion. The other was – to use blunt terms – racism towards and anger against the Japanese. There were at least four main reasons for this. One was the perfidy of the Pearl Harbour attack. Another was Japanese cruelty to American prisoners of war as testified by those liberated during the American advance along the Pacific islands. A third was the ferocity of the Japanese as fighters in contesting those advances. The fourth was the tactic of Kamikaze attacks …[p 109]

Apparently to this Pom, ANZACs didn’t play much of a role in the Japanese defeat.

There is then a chapter on "Voices of Conscience" relating domestic protests both in Britain and the US against air tactics (interestingly, Eric Blair was not one of them [p204]).

He then proceeds to discuss the case against the bombing and the case made to justify it.

He points out that every German soldier had a paybook which contained a clause stating that he was not required to obey an illegal order [p 230] and ultimately concludes that the bomber pilots should have refused orders to fly area-bombing rather than specific target missions. He also assesses the effectiveness of the bombing concluding that it achieved neither its objective of destroying German morale (just as the Blitz and the V1s and 2s did not destroy British) nor of destroying German production which continued to increase every year of the war despite the bombing until its oil supplies were so disrupted that industry could not continue.

Taking these points one by one, they have a post hoc ergo propter hoc quality about them. Assessing the lawfulness of a command in wartime is difficult on the ground, how much more difficult in the air? One is being subjected to flack at all the targets one attacks, and how, practically as a pilot, navigator or bombardier does one assess the correctness of the target information? If intelligence tells you it’s a factory making widgets for tanks and it happens to be a large housing estate how is the flyboy to know?

The argument about destroying German morale is largely correct but by golly Japanese moral soon crumbled when the atomic message sunk in.

As he rightly concedes elsewhere in the book, one of the reasons German production continued to increase (and morale was maintained) was that the Nazi regime had an almost endless supply of slave labour to perform tasks like rubble clearing, burying the dead, re-building, manning factories etc and this was an incredibly low maintenance workforce – you could starve it to death and just get more. Where, I ask you, is the moral balance in doing whatever may be necessary to destroy a regime that behaves in that manner?

He then advances a completely unacceptable post hoc argument: the death camps. He correctly labels these as crimes against humanity but, given that their true nature was, at best, known to very few outside the very highest eschela of Allied Governments while they were operating and only became widely known after they were liberated, it seems logically impossible to use them as a justification for bombing Germany beforehand. Not so, perhaps, with the Japanese. The rape of Nanking and the Manchurian campaign were known before Peal Harbour and the roll-back of the Japanese advance revealed their true barbarity, particularly in their treatment of prisoners of war.

Grayling turns the argument to Japan and says it was morally unjustifiable to bomb Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima because

The defeat of Japan was not in question when the Tokyo firebombing happened in March 1945 [p 263]

In my view, this is the most questionable assertion in the book. Macarthur was assembling an invasion force and anticipated over a million casualties (not troops fighting - casualties) if they encountered the resistance they had on useless defensive campaigns like that waged by the Japanese on Iwo Jima. To my mind, that sways the moral balance considerably. Does Grayling really believe that the Emperor would give in or his troops would not fight to the last man? He refers to some peace overtures [p 264] by "Japan’s military command" (not footnoted) but these were not overtures from the Emperor or his Government.

The uncontestable fact is that after the dropping of the two atomic bombs, even the Emperor gave in. Weighing the loss of life to troops on both sides (and the inevitable civilian casualties in house to house fighting), dropping the atom bombs was eminently justified both tactically, strategically and morally. It is interesting also to note that none have been dropped anywhere since.

The area-bombing argument, however, falls into a different category. Grayling quotes [p 280] Admiral Ralph Ofstie [where do they get these names?] of the United States Navy giving evidence to the House Armed Services Committee that "strategic bombing was ‘inherently inaccurate’ [and] … militarily ineffective." That is not to mention the blind rate (bombs that fail to explode like the famous exocet which lodged in a British battleship during the Falklands and which, had it exploded would probably have changed the outcome of the war). Bombing is notoriously ineffective and the examples are almost limitless: carpet bombing in Vietnam; smart bombs in Iraq, shelling in any war you like to name – Bosnia, Afghanistan, etc, etc. Further in a world where military targets are rarely isolated from major civilian areas (look at Fleet Base in Sydney or the Pentagon) wide-spread bombing campaigns are bound to cause massive civilian casualties, more massive the more and bigger the bombs.

Yet area bombing must be viewed (particularly in the modern context of warfare) in a more legalistic sense in my view. Is it within the rules of engagement defined as the rules of war (necessitating that there must be a formal declaration of war first) from the outset? If it is, it is in; if not it is out. That, of course begs the question, what if a modern country is not a signatory to the Geneva convention and its protocols and it issues rules of engagement which allow terrorism or genocide?

To what extent must international law (if there is such a thing) or morality influence the terms of those rules of engagement?

What if there is no state to declare war? What of "freedom fighters"? Where, Webdiarists does the balance lie? How does Grayling’s moral philosophy inform the debate?

From my point of view, area bombing is not a moral question – just a bad allocation of resources. The odd nuke, effectively used however, can save lives.

Over to you but not out.

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Moral precedents - World War I blockade.

I recommend to anyone really interested in a discussion of the morality of the atom bombs and area bombing that they check out Jonathan Glover’s Humanity – A moral history of the twentieth century.  It's a great read, wherever you stand in this debate. 

Glover draws a moral line from the British naval blockade of Germany during the First World War to both the area bombing of German cities and the dropping of the atomic bomb.  The blockade was introduced by the British Government in response to the declaration by Germany of the waters around the British Isles as a war zone, where their submarines could sink foreign ships.  The blockade, which historian Liddell Hart identified as ‘the decisive agency in the struggle’, was retained even after the Armistice to ensure German compliance with the demands of the Allies.  It was not lifted until March 1919, and Germans went on dying right up until food started to get through in May. 

The blockade is estimated to have starved to death somewhere between 425,000 and 800,000 Germans. 

Glover’s argument is that the blockade broke through the ‘moral barrier’ against the mass killing of civilians, setting a precedent that led eventually to the intentional bombing of German civilians and the use of the atomic bomb in Japan.  If that seems like along shot, it is interesting that none other than Air Marshall Harris cited the blockade as a precedent:

“The point is often made that bombing is specially wicked because it causes casualties among civilians.  This is true, but then all wars have caused casualties among civilians.  For instance, in the last war the British Government issued a White Paper in which it was estimated that our blockade of Germany caused nearly 800,000 deaths.”

According to Glover, the blockade eased the way for area bombing.  In turn, the destruction by aerial bombing of German cities such as Hamburg and Dresden led to the firebombing of Tokyo.  In this view, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were then almost inevitable. 

The main focus in Glover’s Bombing chapter is the last phase of bombing from August 1944 onwards, when the Allies had command of the air.  By this time aiming techniques had improved and daylight precision bombing was possible.  Glover distinguishes the area bombing of the last phase from that of the middle phase, which was effectively the ‘second front’ that Stalin so desperately sought from the other Allies - not because it did much damage to industry, but because it diverted huge amounts of production and resources from the Eastern Front.  For example, the proportion of bombers produced (mainly for the Easter Front) went down from about 50 per cent of aircraft production in 1942 to about 18 per cent in 1944. 

Area bombing of German cities was supposed to quicken the end of the war by disrupting industry and undermining morale.  Citing evidence from Albert Speer’s interrogation after the war, Glover argues that area bombing was ineffective on both counts.  Speer said in his interrogation that sustained attacks on the chemical industry would have brought Germany down and that “the night attacks did not succeed in breaking the will to work of the civilian population”.  Speer concluded that “a bomb load is more effective if it is dropped upon economic targets than if it is expended upon towns and cities”. 

I personally think that, on the evidence, the area bombing of Germany in the last phase of the war and the mass killing of civilians that resulted was an atrocity that can not be justified.  Although of course the Allies didn’t have the benefit of hindsight, there is no convincing case that the destruction of German cities in the last phase of the war did much to hasten its end.  Against the unimaginable horrors of Dresden, a far more substantial case needed to exist. 

Bishop George Bell of Chichester made a speech to the House of Lords in 1944 that few wanted him to make.  He accepted that Germany had started the large-scale bombing, and that the killing of civilians in attacks on military and industrial targets was inevitable.  However, he rejected the notion that it is acceptable to destroy whole cities because they contain military and industrial targets. 

“What we do in war – which, after all, lasts a comparatively short time – affects the whole character of peace, which covers a much longer period”. 

BTW, I think it’s easy to look through the victims in these arguments.  It doesn’t make me a Nazi-loving revisionist to dwell briefly on the horrors endured by the German and Japanese civilian victims – and C Parsons, they were victims – of Allied bombers. 

(Unless you subscribe to the notion of collective guilt - but hey, that’s another thread.) 

Lessons unlearned.

Greg Moylan, you continue unchastened to cast aspersions and to misrepresent people's views despite having been shown to have been dishonest. Not very wise.

In light of the above I seek further clarification. Recall your comment:

Here is a link to the actual report summary, which is, unlike your one page link, 32 pages long. It could not have been too hard for you to Google "US strategic bombing survey" to get the actual report summary rather than some activist group's summary of what they would have liked the report to have said, rather than what it actually said.

I asked you, for confirmation, whether you were claiming that the extract I linked was not part of the USSBS report you linked. I received an evasive answer. Now I'll try to get a direct answer to another question which is:

As the extract is indeed in the USSBS report, when did you become aware of this, before or after you made the above statement?

Historical revisionism 106 - Moralising as a last resort

Roslyn Ross: " War is a primitive method of problem solving and reflects a lack of civilized behaviour and a diminution of enlightened thinking."

Roslyn Ross: “I support the right of the Iraqis to fight for their freedom. I don't support the violence of methods used.”

- on June 19, 2006 - 7:40pm

Well, in a way, Roslyn, I suppose those fighting the Axis Power were confronting something of a similar moral dilemma, weren't they?

And as I said at the outset of this discussion, what was necessary to conclude the war in 1945 was the total defeat of Nazism in Europe and Japanese Imperialist Militarism in the Asia Pacific reason.

Or is someone suggesting we shouldn't have done that?

As Greg Moylan put it below;

"Simply put, the Allies wanted to destroy, root and branch, the militarists who had led the Japanese into their colonisation of Korea, occupation of China, invasion of Indochina attack on Pearl Harbour and invasions of the Philippines and South East Asia."

That necessitated the deracination of the political system that nurtured and supported Japanese Imperialist Militarism, in the same way as the complete de-Nazification of Germany was a strategic objective of the Allies.'

That would not happen in a "settlement" which left Nazism in place in Germany and Imperial Militarism in place in Japan.

The indisputable fact is, the complete and utter defeat of the Axis Powers required their unconditional capitulation.

Anyone saying anything short of that is speaking untruth.

And I repeat, it is for all intents and purposes meaningless at this remove to double guess whether the defeat of Germany could have been possible without bombing.

And it is not without significance that we have the Japanese Emperor's frank admission that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced him to accept the terms on offer to his government.

You may not have approved that method.

But millions who struggled in the fight for freedom against the Axis danced in the streets when the Nazis and their Japanese allies did surrender, as opposed to merely offered in secret to negotiate a peace.

In any case, the revisionist line taken on these matters has usually a transparent ulterior agenda of one sort or another. Either besmirch the Allies, or portray the Axis as victims, normally.

And in the final analysis, you can doubtless take comfort from knowing that you were never in the position where you had to make a choice.

Bryan Law: "C. Parsons, I'm glad you've finally admitted that the moral content of US military policy is equivalent to that of Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Japanese warmongers."

Hello, Bryan. Perhaps you could show us where I said that?

And by "military policy", do you mean "military strategy"

Or "rules of engagement"?

And could you show us how you measured the "moral content" of US military policy and weighed it against that of Hezbollah and Hamas?

And, as a matter on interest, do you support Hezbollah and Hamas?

The semiotics of historical revisionism 105 - limitless fantasy

Bob Wall: "Those who wish to place all responsibility on Japan recite the mantra "Potsdam" ad nauseum but fail to appreciate on fact - that is, that the decisions made at Potsdam were made in knowledge of Japanese peace overtures."

Then why didn't the Japanese Government accept the ultimatum and surrender?

The Japanese Government didn't even surrender after Hiroshima had been bombed.

It didn't even surrender after Nagasaki had been bombed, and was then sacked by the Emperor.

And the Emperor, in his own words, did not force the surrender until "the enemy (had) begun to employ a new and more cruel bomb," namely the Atomic Bomb.

These are insurmountable obstacles to the thesis you are advancing, that Japan was going to surrender "anyway", and was putting out "peace feelers", etc.

So, having these impressive developments before them, why didn't they surender?

They were stalling, and Dave Curry points out why...

David Curry: "One argument against the use of the bomb relates to the Allied demand for unconditional surrender.  This was a stumbling block for the Japanese War Cabinet because they feared their Emperor would be forced to step down."

The Japanese high command  feared for their own necks, not that the Emperor would be forced to step down.

And logically such a fear would have been just as much a stumbling block had the Allies not used the bomb - but had instead mounted an invasion of the Japanese mainland.

Had the Allied naval blockade starved the Japanese nation to death, and had the Allies mounted a seaborne invasion of the Japanese Mainland, the Emperor's fate would have been the same.

And keep in mind, too, Japanese forces still occupied Taiwan, parts of mainland China, the Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Indochina and elsewhere in the Asia Pacific region.

These would have to be wrested back.

More particularly, the Japanese government could, by the time of the Potsdam Declaration, see the likely fate awaiting them reflected in those fearful punishments being dealt to the Nazi high command, and even  the Italian Fascists.

The extent of Japan's awesome war crimes in China and elsewhere, and the fact that China was a party to the Declaration and Ultimatum, quite apart from any vengeance that was awaiting at the hands of the USA, assured them the gallows.

Bomb or no bomb. "Peace feelers" or no "peace feelers".

The Japanese government was prepared to sacrifice its people in order to save its own skins, I have no doubt.

That's why they didn't surrender. And hadn't surrendered despite the firebombing of Japan's cities.

Nor despite the Allied naval blockade. Nor despite the prospect of invasion. Nor despite the suffering of Japan's people.

The reason they did surrender however - and the Emperor Hirohito was quite unequivocal about it - was the "new and more cruel bomb" which levelled Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In his own words, Bob.

As Greg Moylan points out, the Japanese government had been on notice since 1943 that only its unconditional surrender was acceptable to the Allies.

The Emperor Hirohito was not eventually deposed, though his power was greatly reduced under the new, democractic constitution imposed on him by the dreadful Allies.

His intervention doubtless saved the lives of countless Japanese and Allied citizens. Pity it didn't come sooner.

But it didn't.

The Japanese Government's "peace feelers" had no more prospect of success than Heinrich Himmler's expectation of a negotiated settlement in the European theatre.

It's a revisionist furphy calculated to disparage the Allies, besmirch the Ame4ricans in partucular, and mitigate the errors of the aggressors.

Bryan Law: "By their logic, Hezbollah and Hamas, had they nuclear weapons available, would be foolish not to use them against Israel."

Oh, they will. As soon as they get them.

The missiles are already being tested in North Korea and the high grade fissionable products are under manufacture in Iran.

And if Imperial Japan had had an Atom Bomb, then Nanking, Darwin and Honolulu would be just memories by now, wouldn't they?

The discussion has been about whether Japan, as the Japanese Emperor himself insisted, was forced to surrender because of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or whether, as Bob says, they were going to surrender anyway.

Craig Rowley: "The question of who was responsible for war between America and Japan is an interesting one to emerge though."

Oh, gee, Craig, let me guess.

Well, obviously not Japan. It was busy colonising China, Burma, the Philippines (then a US possession), Thailand, Singapore, Malaya, Indonesia and bombing the beejesus out of Hawaii ( a US possession) and Australia.

Nope, it couldn't have been Japan's fault.

So it must have been the very same Great Satan which turned down Japan's "peace feelers" in 1945.

LOL

Good Confession CP

C. Parsons, I'm glad you've finally admitted that the moral content of US military policy is equivalent to that of Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Japanese warmongers.

Oh, gee, C Parsons, true

Oh, gee, C Parsons, true to form you've made a poor guess (or rather built yet another poorly propped up straw man). And yes, your resort yet again to straw man is laughable.

Now, just to show the distance between your straw man creation and my actual position, let's clear up a few things.

Who do I really think was responsible for war between America and Japan?  Japan, primarily but not exclusively.

Why? See the second half of my comment submitted on July 16, 2006 - 1:50pm.

What is the implication?  If we acknowledge a more accurate history and better understand the part played by Western powers in the long-chain processes leading to the attack on Pearl Harbour, then we have a little chance of learning how to avoid repetition of similar processes in our time.  In short, our approach to the moral philosophy questions Malcolm raised will be better informed.

Are you capable of developing a better understanding of the complex causes of Japanese militarist imperialism?  Your next reply will answer that no doubt.

no doubt and the choices

Hi Craig, it did.

Greg, why do you think Japan invaded Korea? Are you aware of the international business groups associated with Japan in those early days before WWII? Why do you think there was no substantial world outcry? Well Japan did walk out of the League of Nations when criticised about "Manchuria", but why no effort to enforce "better behaviour"? I wonder how much the Spanish War took out of peoples' resolve to enforce civility.

What happens when nations behave as NAZI Germany/Japan/Soviet Russia/Italy did in the bloody 1930s and are not held to international account for it?

C Parsons says we shouldn't hold Allies to account for war crimes. Why not? If they are real and atrocities, why not? Or do you too agree that atrocities do not require accounting for if by the side "we" back? (C Parsons is very keen to hold Saddam to account for Anfal, why so limited a morality scope? Tunnel vision?)

Interesting morality that would be. Of course, how hollow would sound our justification for any intervention if we then use moral reasons, such as catching the Anfal alleged instigator. Or are atrocities only accounted for when they become valuable tools for Bush et al propaganda to ease election woes? Just can't remember Daddy Bush saying anything about it at the time, nor Rummy at the time of his (in)famous handshake.

Amazing the echoes from the past recur, Saddam bombed the civilian Kurds because their militia had attacked his army. Bombed their villages, bulldozed them away, used gas, destroyed infrastructure, rounded up their people and disappeared them. And, as C Parsons pointed out, no-one did anything then to save them either except the usual real moral crusaders like Brown. Is it a family problem with the Bush's, this ignoring of war crimes by allies?

What if by hiding Allied atrocities it became the norm to be immune from accountability for such deeds if done by one of "us"? Is there any evidence of such deeds by "us" since WWII, and have any been held to account? Yes and no.

Some treat morality as a convenience, they wheel it out, but it is not a mere convenience. It is very inconvenient and may interfer with what one really really wants to do. Then one must choose.

Japan's Righteous Anger

Craig Rowley you have asked, and answered the rhetorical question:Who do I really think was responsible for war between America and Japan?  Japan, primarily but not exclusively.

Why? See the second half of my comment submitted on July 16, 2006 - 1:50pm.

The answer to Why? that you give is:

Next, pure prejudice. No, not on the part of the Japanese this time. A series of coercive acts, insults, and provocations by Western imperialist countries from the 1850s to the 1930s caused great anger to fester among the Japanese people. These provocations bolstered militarism

All is now clear. Japan colonised Korea in 1910 because Korea was a Western nation whose provocative acts caused great anger to fester among the Japanese people. And those blue-eyed, flaxen-haired Manchurians had it coming to them as well for their coercive acts and insults. The same for that Great Western Imperialist country, China, whose sheer caucasian-ness, along with its coercive acts, insults and provocations of the Japanese since the 1850s caused a great anger to fester in the pure hearts of Yamoto.

Well that works for me. Whitey (as Bryan Law calls Westerners) is always to blame and and so Japan's invasions of Korea, Manchuria and China proper were quite justified by their whiteness.

I will put aside my scepticism on two counts; first that the Koreans, Manchurians and Chinese aren't in fact Western countries and, except to the extent that the Japanese manufactured incidents such as Mukden and the Marco Polo Bridge Incidents, they had done nothing to coerce, insult or provoke Japan and, secondly, under the dispensation of the Meiji Restoration the opinions, let alone the emotions of, the Japanese people were a scant consideration to the militaristic elite who ran the Empire in the name of the divine descendant of the Sun-Goddess.

I will ignore inconvenient facts such as those, so, like you, I can slate responsibility home to Whitey. And when wicked Whitey decided to place an oil embargo on Japan because of its invasion of China well that was another coercive, insulting provocation which caused such great anger to fester among the ordinary Japanese that their leaders were just duty bound, only in response to Japanese public opinion of course, to bomb Pearl Harbour.

Shorter Craig Rowley (and Bryan Law and Bob Wall): No matter what happens in the world Whitey is always to blame.

Pity that the people of Korea, China, the Philppines, etc, whom the Japanese invaded, don't see it that way.

No not righteous (and I'm not your straw man)

C'mon, Greg Moylan, you have been most unfair in taking just one element of my answer to the rhetorical question and expanding it to fit C Parson's straw man.

It is disappointing to see your arguments degenerate into CP-like sarcasm.

I've not slated responsibility home to 'Whitey' and never said that no matter what happens in the world 'Whitey' is always to blame. 

I suppose you find dealing with the other three points I made slating the lion's share of responsibility back to the Japanese is too incovenient. Why else would you ignore those three other points?

Fair Comment Craig

You are right, Craig. It was unfair of me to focus on just one of your four points about the causes of Japan's agression in the 1930s, and yes I was unfair to pigeon-hole you with the Bryan Law/ Bob Wall line that Whitey is always to blame.

Still I think, and I was making the point, that attributing Western responsibility for Japan's aggression against its Asian neighbours on the basis of a great anger festering in the Japanese people over coercion insults and provocations to their nation by Western powers is wrong and mis-states Japanese history. Under the Meiji dispensation real power lay in the hands of a small clique and the opinions and emotions of ordinary Japanese were of little import to the members of that clique in formulating Japanese foreign and military policy. The masses were there to obey and execute the Divine Will and not the other way around.

Their opinions and feelings were just about as relevant as the great anger festering in the North Korean masses, reported by the North Korean Press Agency, KCNA at the insults and provocations of the United States Japan and South Korea, is to the formulation and direction of North Korean policy today.

If there were one thing you could slate home to the Western Powers it would in being a bad role model to the Japanese elite who got their ideas of colonial possessions and mercantile empires (your first an your third "manifest destiny" points) from watching the Western powers in the late 19th century. Even so, we are all our own moral agents so even if the Japanese had a bad example to follow the moral responsibility for following it is theirs alone.

By the 1930s the concept of imperial glory was on the wane among Western powers and by then, too, Japan had no good reason to fear threats to its security from Western powers unless it went out of its way to sorely provoke them by doing something intensely annoying, for instance by bombing their principal naval bases in a surprise attack.

What is interesting is the degree that the mentality that underpinned the Meiji dispensation survived Japan's unconditional surrender despite the best efforts of Macarthur to dismantle that dispensation and reshape Japan during his rule. I'll save that issue for another post though.

Taking up that point Greg

Thanks Greg for making in a much more reasonable way what is a fair counter to one of the four parts of a complex causality I'd outlined. 

I can see where you are coming from when you say that the opinions and emotions of ordinary Japanese were of little import to the members of that clique in formulating Japanese foreign and military policy, but I'll explain why I see it a little differently. I see that small clique capitalising on the propaganda potential of those provocations.

Take the Mukden incident for example. It's evidence of a propensity for the Japanese military to use a "provocation" (in this case one they'd staged themselves) as pretext for subsequent actions, yes? The clique needed such pretext because Japanese citizens needed to be rallied to the "Defensive State" -- the basis for the military machine.  They could then take that "Defensive State" consensus, shape it up with something akin to the pre-emptive strike doctrine we hear so much about these days, and they've got a war machine on the move.

Craig, I think that the

Craig, I think that the point you have made about the exploitation of the sentiments of their populations by national elites to get the support for a policy of the elite is sound. I acknowledge that it can be applied to contemporary affairs and on another thread I could write about the contemporary moral issues  involved, particularly having regard to Eisenhower's valedictory warning about the menace of the American military-industrial complex.

However, and this is something I say not in criticism of what you have written on this thread, for I value your contributions as being considered and thoughtful, the issue that concerns me is the issue that Malcolm raised which is whether the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was morally justified. I approach that issue in terms of the facts at the time and the prevailing morality of the time.

You have raised important issues about what informed the minds of the powers who were the masters of Japan. I have been trying to raise the same issues about what informed the minds of theAllied decision-makers. As the discussion progresses I am sure that the compelxityof the situation  in which the morality of the  judgement to destroy two Japanese cities must be judged in will emerge. You will, I am sure therefore, understand my disdain for those who decide to derail the discussion with cheap racist shots at Whitey (which in an earlier post I quite unfairly associated you with).

I should also mention my thanks for the contributions of Angela and Roslyn in expressing their views on the moral framework of this discussion. I am sure that I won't agree with all that they have said but there is much that, even on a brief reading of their posts, I agree with in terms of a framework and difficulty of having a framework to make moral judgements.

Ducking and weaving.

Greg Moylan, try to obfuscate as much as you like but the point is you launched an attack that was erroneously based. I used material that was accurate and true to the contents of the USSBS. Attempting to disparage the medium regardless of the accuracy of the material is an all too common and dishonest tactic. The accuracy of the material I used is something you should have known before commenting on the matter, especially as you have made so much of whether the USSBS has been read or not. That is, if you had been earnest in establishing the facts. But then ...

Recall your earlier comment:

If the Survey was the work of the US Strategic Bombing Command you would expect them to extol their own efforts, and attribute success to themselves.

And my reply:

Perhaps morality dictates that a little research is advisable to ascertain the composition of the Survey group before casting aspersions.

That was an earlier example of you not being interested in ascertaining the facts before casting aspersions. You might also recall that I introduced my reply with:

That said, it is not difficult to Google "US strategic bombing survey" before making comments such as ...

Did you ever stop to think about that comment? Do you ever stop to think?

I previously suggested that you had lost the right to slur other 'Diarists and now you provide further proof. No amount of ducking and weaving and slurring can hide the faults in your method.

Craig Rowley, that was a good start to the discussion on the buildup to the Pacific War. It has been a long time since I read material on the matter but the gist of your comments rings a bell. Have other things to do this morning so I look forward to finding more on this later. One interesting aspect of the tensions within Japan was how westernised part of its society was becoming before the war - baseball had become very popular, fashion, movies and such. This was countered by the traditionalists including the militarists who saw it as a corruption of Japanese culture.

"Manifest destiny", yes, a clash of manifest destinies could be said to have occurred. As well as a clash of cultures and attitudes, lack of understanding can lead to all sorts of problems.

Angela, yet again interesting observations especially on morality and double standards. The victors make the rules and write the history. At least, in the case of the latter, until the passage of time allows investigation and analysis of what really happened and the reasons behind events. Strongly resisted by some as it can be.

Malcolm B Duncan., on how quickly the war would have been over - see Macarthur's suggestion of weeks. What some of us are trying to examine is why the overtures were not pursued. Recall the memo of January 1945 which received no response from the US. What if they had? Could the war have been ended weeks or months earlier? The crux was the emperor, a God to the Japanese, and we have seen his involvement began well before the bombs. A major factor in; considering this issue is what one thinks of the use of nuclear weapons. I have given some examples and you are probably aware of J Robert Oppenheimer's quoting of the Bhagavad-Gita at the Trinity test, as he recalled here:

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that one way or another.

Immoral and Insane

Malcolm Malcolm B Duncan, I appreciated both your article and the reasoning behind it.

However I find myself unable to morally assess a historical event without understanding the circumstances in which it took place.  The development and use of nuclear weapons is critically important event in the human history on planet Earth, and it deserves serious attention.

The Pacific War is not well understood in popular discourse, due to the many lies told about it and perpetuated today (e.g. Japan intended to invade Australia, the “Nip” is an especially brutal soldier).  The same can be said about the creation of Israel, and stability in the middle east.

The biggest lie of all is that nuclear weapons were used to save lives.  They were used in heedless disregard of human life. These weapons are immoral and insane.  Let's beat them into plowshares.

Grind them into dust!

I seem to have offended some by reminding them of the existence of white racism, and its application by Britain and America to Japan.I apologise for the offence, but ask people to address relevance.

Before 1853 (Commander Perry’s gunboat) and the subsequent arrival of 4,000 marines, when the US opened trading relations with Japan at gunpoint, Japan was a feudal society “closed” to the outside world.

Within 15 years of penetration by western culture and the products of its industrial revolution, Japan turned away from its feudal relations and created a modern unified and centralized state. The consequences of the Meiji restoration were profound. Certainly Japan created a modern army (based on Germany) and Navy (based on Britain), but it also abolished feudal class structures, created a new legal system (France and Germany), and developed its own industrial production.

Unlike China, which produced no effective response to western incursion and the British opium trade until 1949, Japan deliberately and successfully organized to match the European powers in military/industrial capacity and policy.

It emulated those European powers by establishing its own cantonments within China,  annexing Korea, and building Island defences - dealing military defeats to both China and Russia along the way.  At that point it expected to join the other colonial powers in regulating trade and possessions in East Asia.  It became a British Ally.  Post WW1 it treated with Britain and the US to determine Naval power in the Pacific.

Now some of you will deny a racist cause, but the US and Britain simply could not accommodate the idea of yellow people sitting at the imperial table with their genetic betters.  Hence the oil embargo.

If this is a moral debate, I’m happy to condemn militant imperialism by ALL parties, and assert the Wilsonian principles of self-determination and economic interdependence for all peoples.

To suggest that militant imperialism ought be condemned only in peoples of colour is (dare I say it) a clear example of white racism.

For those who’re interested, I grew frightened of nuclear war when I was 9 years old (Cuban missile crisis).  I was 20 before I figured out I could do something about it.  When I was 27 I realized I needed more knowledge and took on a University degree in comtemporary Asian studies.  I studied the Pacific war in order to better understand present conditions – and how to unpick the rampant militarism we still experience today.

In August 1945 Japan was militarily defeated and trying to surrender.  There was no need for an invasion, and the atom bombs were mass murder on a grand scale.  Their use was meant to consolidate the capitalist “European” (white) colonial power.  It didn’t work.

The immoral, illegal and unwinnable wars in Vietnam and Iraq are just more recent chapters in that sorry saga.  I think we’ll see the use of nuclear weapons again within ten years.  Japan will be nuclear capable within three.

Apples and oranges.

Greg Moylan, "Here is a link to the actual report summary, which is, unlike your one page link, 32 pages long. It could not have been too hard for you to Google "US strategic bombing survey" to get the actual report summary rather than some activist group's summary of what they would have liked the report to have said, rather than what it actually said."

Are you claiming that the extract I posted in my first post is not in the USSBS as linked by you?

On the matter of links - the one you say is bad works on my system.

I will hold further comments until you answer the above question.

Documents and Extracts

Bob Wall, what you said was

First an apology - I forgot to link the US Strategic Bombing Survey - the one I used was this. It came from this page, where there are more useful links.

What you did was link to a short extract from it with quite a bit missing between the first paragraph in the extract and the rest as the appeared in the original document. There is, it may come as a surprise to you, a difference between linking to a document and linking to an extract from it. A document provides context from which a reader can make objective judgements.. An extract, selectively chosen, does not provide that context. Oh well, now you know the difference and I'm sure that when you next want to link to an extract you will mention that it is an extract. Or better still learn how to use Google so that you can link to the full document in the first place and save yourself from being embarrassed.

 Have you read the Report Summary yet, and the link that I provided? If not, then happy reading.

By the way, I haven't said that any link you provided was bad. In the case of the Nuclearfiles.org link my comment was that it was there to promote a given line. 

 

So trusting, so ingenuous.

Greg Moylan, surely you do not believe politicians' public statements are always the truth and the only reasons that guide their decisions? One could look to the issue of Iraq and the US lies about that to prove trusting them is misguided. Such ingenuousness is not a good basis for dealing with international politics. Or perhaps you simply do not want to consider factors that might contradict your preconceived opinions.

On the matter of Bryan's comments on the lead up to the Pacific war he is right in pointing out that there was a lot more to it than some suggest. On your "However let's look at the facts and not play Bryan's racist "let's blame Whitey" game." are you suggesting that the US has always been free of racism? Forgetting the native Americans, slavery, segregation and the ban on Japanese immigration after WWI are you? The last point is relevant to discussion of factors that led to a souring of relations between the US and Japan. Perhaps you were unaware of that matter.

You seem determined to avoid discussing reasons other than those given in the Potsdam Declaration that informed the decisions made - despite there being plenty of material available on the matter. On the matter of unconditional surrender, David Curry is accurate on how it got on the books. Also, his:

We can never know of course, but would a quiet invitation to the Japanese to surrender, along with the abandonment of the demand for unconditional surrender and an assurance that Japan could retain the Emperor, have avoided Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

is worthy of consideration. As people seem to fail to read or choose to ignore evidence provided, it seems appropriate to post once again this:

Negotiations for Russia to intercede began the forepart of May 1945 in both Tokyo and Moscow. Konoye, the intended emissary to the Soviets, stated to the Survey that while ostensibly he was to negotiate, he received direct and secret instructions from the Emperor to secure peace at any price, notwithstanding its severity ...

And this:

The mission of the Suzuki government, appointed 7 April 1945, was to make peace. An appearance of negotiating for terms less onerous than unconditional surrender was maintained in order to contain the military and bureaucratic elements still determined on a final Bushido defense,
and perhaps even more importantly to obtain freedom to create peace with a minimum of personal danger and internal obstruction. It seems clear, however, that in extremis the peacemakers would have peace, and
peace on any terms. This was the gist of advice given to Hirohito by the Jushin in February, the declared conclusion of Kido in April, the underlying reason for Koiso's fall in April, the specific injunction of the Emperor to Suzuki on becoming premier which was known to all members of his cabinet ...

So for some months before Potsdam Hirohito was involved in moves to seek peace. A possibility was there to end the war without an invasion and without the bombs (the "Frankenstein monster"). As MacArthur said:

The war might have ended weeks
earlier...if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor."

I suggest looking further than the public statements such as Potsdam to determine whether other factors influenced the decisions made there. If you do not wish to look at the matter comprehensively and objectively that is your choice. However, if that is your choice then I suggest you lose any right (if there is one) to slur other 'Diarists, nor are you in a position to suggest others should not be taken seriously.

Craig Rowley, thanks for the support. And the questions - although ruminations on the matter could be lengthy and convoluted.

That way MADness lay

Bob, whilst ruminations on the matters I've raised here and here could be lengthy and convoluted, I can cut to the chase. 

The question of moral philosophy Malcolm posited, at its broadest, is: What shall we call jus in bello?

In Grayling's words: 'Are there ever circumstances in which killing civilians in wartime is not a moral crime? Are there ever circumstances – desperate ones, circumstances of danger to which such actions constitute a defence – that would justify or at least exonerate them?'

In other words, can we suspend the Golden Rule for a bit and start bombing the bejeezus out of some sorts of people?

Now I reckon Malcolm scores a point against Grayling's stated reasoning for thinking it was morally unjustifiable to bomb Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, but IMHO there is an alternative line of argument against those particular bombings. The logic of this alternative line still leads us to Grayling's ultimate conclusion that 'deliberately mounting military attacks on civilian populations, in order to cause terror and indiscriminate death among them, is a moral crime'.

The alternative logic is that which lead Albert Einstein to utter a pained sigh when he learned of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The alternative logic is that America’s resort to the atomic bomb ushered in a frightening new era that threatened the world with a larger nuclear holocaust.

Making the use of weapons of mass destruction jus in bello was saying goodbye to the path guided by the Golden Rule and hello to another leading to total anihilation - the escalator to Mutually Assured Destruction.

Malcolm thinks we could launch a missle and not set off the MADness.

So now to briefly link back to the path I was tracing earlier, the one that I hoped would get a few 'diarists taking the time to start thinking about where Japanese militarism came from. 

You may recall PF Journey's piece in which he spoke of pride and prejudice driving Japanese policy during WWII.  Well I see something in that, but to my mind there is more.

Japanese militarism and imperialism steadily developed for reasons that can be seen clearly when carefully examing the long period between the Meiji oligarchs' adoption of a policy of fukoku kyôhei and that morning of 2 September 1945 on the deck of the USS Missouri.

First, and in agreement with PF's analysis, was a matter of pride -- look back on the period and you'll find Japan wanting to be a first rate nation, wanting the prestige and power associated with foreign territorial possessions, and wanting to stand proud amongst the world's imperialists (even though 'our' kind had several centuries headstart in the empires game).

Next, fear. Particularly in the period leading up to the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05 you'll find Japan was fearful of being invaded by a Western country. China was weak militarily and economically in the late 19th century and Japanese leaders feared the rivalries of the Western powers could bring China to collapse, which would have profound implications on the security of Japan.

Next, a pride and prejudice combo -- belief in "manifest destiny". Along lines similar to George W's burning bush 2nd Inaugural, the Japanese could cast themselves as liberators and feel like they were freeing the far east from the claws of Colonial powers. Manifest destiny to the Japanese, descendants of the sun goddess Amaterasu, was to lead the fight in a righteous war expelling foreign powers from the region.

Next, pure prejudice. No, not on the part of the Japanese this time. A series of coercive acts, insults, and provocations by Western imperialist countries from the 1850s to the 1930s caused great anger to fester among the Japanese people. These provocations bolstered militarism.

The rise of militarism and MAD -- they're both the harmful consequences of a dangerous combination of fear and loathing, pride and prejudice. These are the issues we really need to explore, understand and deal with. Until we do it makes no sense to be trying to find justifications for terrorising and killing on a massive scale.

Weekend Roundup

Well, isn’t Webdiary topical of a sudden?

Thank you for your contributions so far and I shall address some specifics below but may I say, at the outset, both in Grayling’s defence and mine, that the book and my commentary does not purport to deal with the subject matter as a question of history. The purpose of the book and the thread is to ventilate questions of moral philosophy. Now, some factual material has to come into the debate but we are not purporting to rewrite history. The accusations of historical revisionism by C Parsons are simply wide of the mark. The essential question is: was the bombing (either area bombing or atomic bombing) morally justified by the historical circumstances as perceived at the time the orders were given by those who gave them?

Notwithstanding what has been said by a number of you and the very interesting and detailed information provided by many including source material of which I was not aware (I have always taken the view that WWII is far too close in time to get any proper historical perspective on it), I remain satisfied that the Emperor had not ordered a surrender prior to the atomic bombing and that there was no cogent reason for the Allies to think that the Imperial Japanese Army would lay down arms without a direct order. Indeed, that view seems to be strengthened by the material adverted to by C Parsons which suggests that the Army Minister was prepared to fight on. Only total obedience to the Emperor seems to have avoided that. Further, it is notorious that some isolated units and individuals continued to fight on after the surrender because they were either unaware of it or did not believe it was a dinkum order.

So could I ask for a bit less concentration on arguing about the historical facts and a little more on whether there was a moral justification for what happened.

At this juncture, I should like to take up with Bryan Law whose misguided criticism I thought had been adequately dealt with by Craig Wharton but then it revived. I did not say at any stage that I condoned nuclear warfare as a tactic. Your assertion that to condone the use of a weapon in one theatre is to condone it in all is palpable nonsense. Just because I use a sledgehammer to break a large rock does not mean I need one to break a clod of dirt. Similarly, Bob Wall’s assertion (and it is nothing more) “The disappointment is that there are people who are unwilling to objectively examine the issue” is incorrect. Objectively assessing the material you have quoted does not lead to the conclusion that the war would have been over quickly (i.e. in a matter of days not months). Japan still had the capacity to wage war and continued to do so. As long as that continued, soldiers’ lives would be lost and there would be increasing civilian casualties. Macarthur had an invasion plan and was prepared to implement it. There were plans for Australian troops to be taught Japanese to participate in such an invasion and the training orders had been issued (SWMBO’s father, a Captain in Signals, already had his orders for the course). I believe, in the circumstances, the dropping of atomic weapons on Japan was justifiable in that it ultimately saved lives and necessary in that it brought about almost immediate capitulation on terms that had been offered months before. I have no accurate figures for the lives lost in those months when a Japan clearly contemplating defeat fought on anyway but it must run into 100s of thousands. That is not an indorsement of nuclear warfare in any other circumstances.

So, kiddies, this little brown duck ain’t running anywhere.

>Tactical battlefield nuclear weapons in fact, are likely to be counterproductive (particularly if the other side has them) and strategic nuclear warfare on a world scale would destroy the planet (an interesting take on this is Hackett’s World War III). So could we just analyse the language used carefully so this does not degenerate as so many of these debates do into arguments over what was actually meant. Let’s rather talk moral philosophy.

On that point, I’ll take Bryan Law on on the assertion that there would have been no Pacific war if other countries had afforded fair trading terms to Japan. War with Japan was inevitable under any circumstances – who exactly do you think invaded Manchuria? It wasn’t persons of middle-eastern appearance raping Nanking. From a moral point of view, war with Japan was not only necessary and justifiable, but a bloody good idea.

I have no objection whatsoever to people opening this up to a moral debate about the various conflicts since WWII or the current situation in the Middle East although I expect the last will merely degenerate into the usual entrenched pro/anti-Israel factionalism.

Your serve.

Oh the morality! The morality!

First an apology - I forgot to link the US Strategic Bombing Survey - the one I used was this. It came from this page, where there are more useful links.

That said, it is not difficult to Google "US strategic bombing survey" before making comments such as Greg Moylan did:

The first is "Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?" If the Survey was the work of the US Strategic Bombing Command you would expect them to extol their own efforts, and attribute success to themselves.

Perhaps morality dictates that a little research is advisable to ascertain the composition of the Survey group before casting aspersions.

Speaking of research, Greg, did all the information you imparted come from Wikipedia or did you use other sources?

As to "the Survey's authors were privy to information not available to Allied leaders", here you will find views of major figures. These are two:

These judgments also were shared by the two supreme military heroes of World War Two-- Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur. While there is continued debate as to whether Eisenhower, as he claimed, actually advised Truman and Stimson in July 1945 not to use the bomb, it is nonetheless notable that greatest American military leader of the twentieth century and a two-term President of the United States consistently condemned the Hiroshima decision, from 1963 until his death, stating that "[T]he Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing." Even if the meetings with Truman and Stimson of 1945 remain historically uncertain, there is little doubt that Eisenhower's doubts about the bomb dated back to that period. Eisenhower's son John on two occasions has corroborated Eisenhower's "depression" upon learning of the bomb and its impending use. According to the younger Eisenhower, the General stated "Well, again, it's none of my business, but I'd sure hate to see it used, because Japan's licked anyway, and they know it." (pp.352-358)

While Eisenhower's outspoken displeasure with the Hiroshima decision is well-known among historians, perhaps more surprising is that Douglas MacArthur too refused to endorse the atomic bombings as militarily necessary. While MacArthur is another figure who changed his public statements over time regarding wartime issues, he remained relatively consistent regarding the bomb. The diary of MacArthur's pilot, Weldon Rhoades, from August 7, 1945 states that "General MacArthur definitely is appalled and depressed by this Frankenstein monster [the bomb]." Herbert Hoover's diary regarding a May 1946 meeting with MacArthur states "I told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we could have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria." In a postwar interview with journalist Norman Cousins, MacArthur expressed the view that there was "no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier...if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor." (pp.350-352)

Now to your:

Morality dictates that we consider the value of the bombing in bringing the war to an abrupt end, ...

On the basis of the morality issue, does it not also dictate that examination be made of the reasons the Allies insisted on "unconditional surrender" despite their awareness of Japanese peace overtures and the views (as above) of senior commanders? How much did politics play in the decision? How much did Truman's lack of experience in international affairs and his then recent accession to the presidency play? Amongst other factors. The question could be then whether factors such as these caused the rejection of an opportunity to end the war in a matter of months without an invasion. That was a possibility.

I note you assumed the invasion was a given and did not address the issues raised in my previous post and repeated in the above paragraph. This was, in fact, the focus of my previous post. Yet it was ignored. That's up to you but combined with other matters mentioned above, is your "moral universe" one which justifies you passing judgment on Angela?

Bryan Law, the dropping of the bombs is an issue I have contemplated for a long time. My views have varied over the years and are still open to question although I think it would have been better if the genie had not been let out of the bottle, that the decision to use the bombs was more political than military or moral. There is reference to that in the above link as well as many other sources.

The disappointment is that there are people who are unwilling to objectively examine the issue.

Maybe they are on the run, there is also a lot of dodging and weaving.

Bob Wall thanks for your

Bob Wall thanks for your gracious apology for not linking to the US Strategic Bombing Survey Report Summary, and for your failed attempt to provide a link to that Report.

Here is a link to the actual report summary, which is, unlike your one page link, 32 pages long. It could not have been too hard for you to Google "US strategic bombing survey" to get the actual report summary rather than some activist group's summary of what they would have liked the report to have said, rather than what it actually said.

As you have mentioned research I have to ask you, since you have said:

"... the dropping of the bombs is an issue I have contemplated for a long time ..."

How is it, since you treasure research so much, that you haven't read the actual report summary before? It makes me conclude that you are among those disappointing people here who are unwilling to objectively examine the issue.

Anyway enjoy reading the actual report summary and especially the link How the United States Strategic Bombing Survey Reports endorsed the use of the atomic bombs. You'll find it thoroughly canvasses the issue which my post addressed, but which you studiously seek to avoid, of what the consequences would have been in terms of loss of life if the atomic bombs had not been dropped and the war continued, even for a few months

You'll be much better informed when you do read it, though, I am sure, no wiser.

I am so sorry that you have a problem with Wikipedia. However I find it a great deal more reliable than sources such as the Project for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's nuclearfiles.org which are there to promote a given line. Sites like that don't help anyone to objectively examine an issue.

Finally you will see that a recent post of mine addressed the morality issue of why the Allies sought unconditional surrender from the Japanese. Read it carefully (Wiki links and all). Again you'll be better informed though again, I am sure, no wiser for doing so.

Stamp on their bones!

Craig Warton, why do you find it so hard to acknowledge that contemporary war-fighting in Asia and the Middle East (and Europe, Africa and the Americas) are related and interconnected, not least by the US imperial ambition.  Are you anti-globalisation?

If you justify the use of nuclear weapons in one theatre by one protagonist, you justify it for everyone.  As I said, immoral and insane.

Bob Wall, I think we've got them on the run!

Can you read Bryan?

Bryan, this item was posted as a review on a book about strategic bombing and that is what I commented on, particularly in relation to the use of nuclear weapons against Japan. I am not the least bit interested in "engaging" with you or Bob Wall for that matter in your efforts to:

a) Drag the middle East into every discussion

b) Bash the USA

c) Reinvent history to aid goal b.

d) Find a way to drag Israel into it to prove the 6 degrees of separation principle.

By all means, reinvent history so that the USA is responsible for everything including it now seems, the start of the pacific war.

Have them on the run? No Bryan, I simply dont see the point of discussing anything with people like you or Bob Wall.

Who was responsible?

The question of who was responsible for war between America and Japan is an interesting one to emerge though. 

For example, it can lead us to ask: What unleashed Japan's quest for empire? What were the forces that had pushed Japan down the road of military conquest in the east, leading ultimately to war with the west and catastrophic defeat?

So if Bryan and Bob have prompted discussion of that Craig Warton, then it is fine with me even if it's not for you. And in the answer to those questions I've now put on the table we might find something that does inform us about what is happening in the Middle East and what could happen elsewhere at other times, which is a useful exercise. After all, as Santayana said ... 

Perhaps just a little history

Normally, I'd wait for the roundup Craig Rowley but I've just posted it and now I have noticed your contribution.   Like your Hun (see the Vansittart quotes), your Nip is a warlike little bastard.   They attacked the Russians in 1905 (and, as Graying points out  [p 278], like Pearl Harbour it was a surprise attack).    They fought on our side in 1915 percieving the possibility of taking over German Imperial possessions in the region and they attacked China.   There was only one decade (the 20s) in the first half of the 20th century where they didn't commence or join a major war.   I rather think we need to bear tha in mind when considering their Imperial ambitions.   They had a long and concerted history of militarism with its modern origins in their habit of sending their officers for training both in Germany and England as early as the late 19th century.    They then set about building one of the biggest and most modern navies in the world.   Planning you see, planning a long way ahead.

Accordingly, I find it hard to think that restrictions on supplies of oil or limitations of markets were anything more than an excuse for pre-existing, planned, concerted Japanese aggression.

what is the aim? Where do morals fit? whose morals?

Accordingly, I find it hard to think that restrictions on supplies of oil or limitations of markets were anything more than an excuse for pre-existing, planned, concerted Japanese aggression."

Malcolm, you are totally right,but this is old news me chum. I remember back in the days of 3unit history when I had to write this for my HSC.

Japan clearly saw itself as the future Empire of the East, and carefully militarised appropriately over decades as well as intertwining with governments to gain protection..

Throughout history we get little warnings of bad things to come. I do think when we ignore the sufferings of vulnerable by the growing power group we need to examine the reasons why and what it will mean in the future. There were plenty of warning as to the nature of the Japanese and German and Italian regimes and these were ignored,usually because sympathisers held sway within governements.Impossible to stop some say? bull,who financed the loans for Hitler?........Who supplied the pigiron,the oil,allowed the remiltiraisation of the Rhineland? All were methods to stop. Once the tanks roll,even then,stop the oil and they stop too.

If we pay more attention to morals I think much of the blowback that happens later after ignoring them would not happen.

I am glad to read your appraisal as to Nukes on the battle field,but what if one knows the other doesn't have them and thence no MAD,no retaliation,just the obliteration of an enemy. Is that OK? Or is there something wrong with Nukes use full stop? Can you see this question is what lead to North Korea attaining Nukes while so under threat and the probable need for Iran to have such as a deterrent for their people.Recent history gives them a more sane report card as far as military aggression goes than any one else in the region.

Of course,in the age where nukes travel in subs,and are traded from post soviet countries on the black market(very black, and Valerie Plume's job was to track them for the CIA, what a worry!) and where there is private ownership of submarines and UAVarmed drones,there are nasty dangers of false flags and nuke launches blamed upon a friends' enemies triggering Armageddon response.. Thus defeating MAD,as would a suicidal leadership or out on the piss President"what does this button do?".

But back to morality or war. The more I read your article the more there is to think about. why do we insist upon a morality in war at all? As you say just do it. But should we complain then when it is just done to us back?

The idea of Morality in war,the conventions of practice of the art of warfare and how to treat prisoners i think developed in the first plance in Europe because so frequently one side winning would the be the side losing next time.Also the land battled over was supposed to still be livable later and the population ready to serve the new lords and the ideas of Chivalry and Knigthly behaviour so based upon wars.The Crusades were sold as Moral,determined by God and providing the soul's salvation if able to go.the gospels seemed to have been forgotten,but remember the people could not read what was said then ,in the Bible,as it was in Latin and in the Church .

Now when people use Christianity to justify war we know they are a hypocrite."turn the other cheek " is about as clear as it can get.( But damn hard.) Even so,organised religion has developed the concept of a Just War (which Iraq invasion failed according to Vatican and Anglican heads) to enable one's troops to go off happy their soul is not doomed by the church, and Jesus ..............does allows forgiveness. So morality for any war requies the religious view of the majority of soldiers to be embraced . There was problems for the moslems of the US,one attacked his troop.(not exactly in the Koran that.). I understand the Koran allows for the defending with arms of  one's people when attacked but gives specifics about waging war but a moslem scholar might have more about it.

Thus, a soldier's religion must be appeased for him to go to battle sanctified(after all he may see gd pretty soon).I undesrtand the Japanese developed a warlike Budhism,others mayelaborate ,for this purpose. Bush has developed a warlike Evangelicalism where it is all right to Fight for christ. Just like in the Crusades.If they can really stir things up they may even get a second coming but that would be bad for those in Rthchild av.,as it would probably be a casualty big time.More morality of war,when it acutually is part of the prophesies of your religion.

Malcolm, no matter what people say about rules and laws  it is plain from recent events that these are only window dressings and do not apply to powerful nations when it doesn't suit. There is no real morality ,or the Allies actions would also have been held to account in a war comenced ,as I said,not because of threat or invasion but because Hitler did an immoral thing invading another country.That is probably why the fire bombings were not well known at the time and only now with archival releases are real details coming out. There is also the question of should Germany have and still be paying reparations? And Japan? And Italy?And the Soviets?- who also took Poland as the Germans came in. Methinks they were used to pay Lendlease whose loans are interesting.Stalin was heavily supported by the US once Germany attacked.Their own weapons back to haunt them after supporting a tyrant yet again,to suit the final war game.Morality-lack of - there gave us 50yrs of Coldwar.

I agree with you about archives and it being early to make claims about regime choices and why,and it is frustrating to me that so many mysteries of the C20th I shall die before learning the real story.

I undertand what Greg Moylan says(and I used to say I never met an Irish Aussi I didn't like,but anyway not Ward room material so probably two chips), and it would be hard for service people to face deeds that count as atrocities,but is it any easier when one doesn't get held to account? the devils are still there before one's eyes every night.To feel one has been justly punished can help the healing process. If war is based upon moral grounds to appease religion then justice must be for both sides.But it is not is it?

War is hell and bring out the best and worst,cliches that are true but add one is shitscared the whole time if one is normal.There is the Catch 22.(a book that looked at the morality of the reality of war).

My uncle who flew in RAF did not know about the incendiaries adn their effect on the ground.There were rumours.The people who did know were the strategists.

Britain now gives life imprisonment to those refusing to serve,yet the convention requires refusal if war is illegal or the action is.The trotrue scandal involved charging the low ranks but the head of GitaBAy is about to be head of ,promoted to,.......NATO!!!!! Now that is some fire power for an immoral person to be in charge of. Any one scared yet?

I think Malcolm the little rule book has all the rules of engagement and imprisonment. These are flouted by powers who thinkk they are beyond such and unaccountable. The last time such things happened at such scale we had a world war.

I think there is an interesting parallel with Japan's militarisation and that of the US and Israel, although the latter clearly had threats to defend against.The former spends more than the next ten countries combined on the military.The latter behaves as one does when never held to account. They would be stopped in their bombings if the Jet  fuel request was refused now, with a US security guarantee. Pax Americana would give Israel a peace a lot faster and be on the side of the moral again.

Methinks Pontius pilate tactcs are to be used.Very immoral.Long term loss of value of occupation then.

Cheers

 

Morality is a civilized concept

Morality is a concept which arises out of enlightened thinking and increased civilization. It has always been present in war to varying degrees and in various applications. Ancient concepts of 'honour' amounted to a version of morality and modern concepts of 'honour' in war do the same.

But war by its nature is brutal and immoral even though moral and honourable acts may be present at times in war situations. War is a primitive method of problem solving and reflects a lack of civilized behaviour and a diminution of enlightened thinking.

War should always be avoided wherever possible but of course, human beings are inherently self serving, instinctively fearful and biologically aggressive and nations do not have 'friends' they have interests..... hence, power where it exists corrupts and great military power corrupts even faster.

Interestingly it seems to be those who are in a position of power, or in a safe place, who advocate the use of military aggression most readily. Tucked away in safe little Australia it is easier to envisage nuclear annhiliation for problematical nations or peoples than it is for those people or nations who are living with the problems and trying desperately to make a decent life for themselves and their children while living without freedom and often without hope.

Perhaps if a law was passed requiring all leaders to have children in the army, serving at the 'front' there would be less recourse to war as a problem solving mechanism. Human nature seems to be that we are quite happy to see 'others' maimed, mangled and murdered but are reluctant to inflict such death and suffering on our own.

 

A little more history perhaps?

That phrase Malcolm -- "...your Nip is a warlike little bastard" -- serves to emphasize what I had in mind (which wasn't the immediate influences of American tactics, such as the embargos aimed at bringing the militarist march of the Empire of Japan to a standstill).

It serves to focus attention in the direction I was contemplating. 

And a brief discussion of a little more of history may bring us to more depth in the discussion of the moral philosophy question you opened with. So let's go back to the beginning of that "planning a long way ahead". What was the trigger for that? Why was it that a march to militarism emerged from the Meiji restoration?

Potsdam ad nauseum.

Those who wish to place all responsibility on Japan recite the mantra "Potsdam" ad nauseum but fail to appreciate on fact - that is, that the decisions made at Potsdam were made in knowledge of Japanese peace overtures. They therefore took the responsibility for setting terms of unconditional surrender as opposed to exploring alternatives. Lengthy extracts from the Declaration are irrelevant to that point.

The reasons for the decisions made at Potsdam is an area to investigate - Bryan Law has given one possible reason for the US dropping the bombs - here is a hint.

The USSR had territorial designs in East Asia is another.

The above are a start.

Craig Warton, bluster is no substitute for substance. You also seem to have skated over the approach made to the US I reminded you of.

Bryan, good to see something other than a knee(or whatever) jerk reaction. Good point about the lead up to the Pacific War. These things are never as simple as some try to make out.

Reasons for demanding Unconditional Surrender

Bob Wall, I am afraid that that I received my basic education before the silliness of post-modernism corrupted our education system so in looking for reasons for the actions that people take I tend to look, as a very safe guide, at the reasons they give for taking those actions so when I look at your comment:

"The reasons for the decisions made at Potsdam is an area to investigate - Bryan Law has given one possible reason for the US dropping the bombs - here is a hint."

I look back on the Allies’ stated reasons for demanding unconditional surrender and in doing so I look to the Potsdam Declaration, despite your aversion to reading it and preference for indulging in conspiracy theories.

The reason for the demand for unconditional surrender is given by the Allies in paragraphs 4 and 6 of the Declaration:

(4) The time has come for Japan to decide whether she will continue to be controlled by those self-willed militaristic advisers whose unintelligent calculations have brought the Empire of Japan to the threshold of annihilation, or whether she will follow the path of reason.

(6) There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.

Simply put, the Allies wanted to destroy, root and branch, the militarists who had led the Japanese into their colonisation of Korea, occupation of China, invasion of Indochina attack on Pearl Harbour and invasions of the Philippines and South East Asia.

The demand for unconditional surrender wasn't a new one, sprung on Japan at the last minute in late July 1945. In the Cairo Declaration made on 27th November 1943 by the United States, Great Britain and the Republic of China, the Allies spelt out their reasons:

"The Three Great Allies are fighting this war to restrain and punish the aggression of Japan. They covet no gain for themselves and have no thought of territorial expansion. It is their purpose that Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the first World War in 1914, and that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China. Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed. The aforesaid three great powers, mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent.

They then spelt out their intent:

"With these objectives in view the three Allies, in harmony with those of the United Nations at war with Japan, will continue to persevere in the serious and prolonged operations necessary to procure the unconditional surrender of Japan."

You quote Bryan Law with approval. Bryan says:

The Pacific War could have been averted if those three countries (Japan, the US, and UK) showed good faith and mutual support through the League of Nations in articulating and upholding fair trading conditions. Whitey just couldn’t stomach the idea, so we created the conditions of war instead.

I personally would have grave reservations with quoting with approval any statement made by someone who makes racist slurs (Whitey just couldn't stomach the idea) but then perhaps you have less scruples than I have.

However let's look at the facts and not play Bryan's racist "let's blame Whitey" game.

First, the United States was not a member of the League of Nations, President Woodrow Wilson having lost his battle to get the US Senate to ratify the treaty which would have given the US membership in 1920. Nor was Japan after 27th January 1933 when it walked out of the League after the League ordered it to get out of the Chinese territory of Manchuria, which Japan had invaded in 1931 (the Mukden Incident), setting up the puppet government of Manchukou.

Second, Japan invaded China proper in 1937, using the pretext of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Japan being no longer a member, the League of Nations was powerless to stop it. Initially China received military support, including war material from the Soviet Union and Germany. The United States and UK did not provide China with a great deal of military assistance but the US did apply an oil and steel embargo on Japan to protest its naked aggression. The oil embargo was the principal reason for Japan's attack on the United States as, without oil reserves of its own, Japan could not continue its aggression in China, so needed to secure supplies which were in the Dutch held islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

Given those events and the anti-colonialism of Franklin Roosevelt one has to be amazed that Bryan says:

I’m not so familiar with the European theatre, but have studied the Pacific War in depth. Japan was indeed talking to both the USA and England about imperial arrangements in Asia (since before WW1, in which they were all allies).

and that he could seriously assert that all of Japan's nastiness in the Pacific War could have been avoided if only the US and UK had sat down with Japan (presumably over a nice cup of tea) to discuss fair trading conditions. What terms would they have agreed? From Japan's point of view very clearly that they could keep what they had stolen in China and Manchuria, and still get oil and steel to keep their war machine going (oh and bugger the Chinese, they're not Whiteys like you).

Then again I don’t take anything Bryan writes seriously. Nor should you.

Congratulations on your proficient use of a long bow Bryan

Bob Wall, so glad you had a Eureka moment I can only hope that the euphoria it generates for you will allow the point to sink in that the Japanese had to talk directly to the US and the UK or better still accept the offer of unconditional surrender. It really is very simple. For all the pedantry you have displayed, if they had surrendered, no A bomb dropping.

Bryan, well done with your weapon skills, you handle the long bow superbly. From Hiroshima to Palestine (or should I call it Mesepotania) in one sentence. 60 years just like that, who needs a Tardis? CP and Malcolm were referring to the use of the bombs on Japan. You might remember that these ended WW2 - even the emporer said so.

Yet in some bizarre example of moral equivilance you try and bring Palestine into it. You did say you were a Pacifist didnt you?

Finally Bryan, the cold war started when the Germans surrendered in May 1945. Have a bit of a look at the Russian actions towards the Allies from this time on. Just in case you didnt know, the Russians "liberated" Eastern Europe and forgot to withdraw (oops) - that is where the Cold War started. But there again you did say you didn't know much about the European theatre didn't you?

Crush the enemy

 Craig Wharton, Malcolm B Duncan concludes his article with "from my point of view, area bombing is not a moral question- just a bad allocation of resources.  The odd nuke, effectively used however, can save lives

C. Parsons adopts a similar utilitarian position, insisting that dropping nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki “worked” ie it mandated unconditional Japanese surrender. 

 
Now having made the argument that judicious use of nuclear weapons is an effective means of waging war, and seeming to imply that the USA was within its rights to use these weapons, Malcolm and CP must extend that “right” of use to any nuclear capable party to armed conflict.

By their logic, Hezbollah and Hamas, had they nuclear weapons available, would be foolish not to use them against Israel.  After all, they are unlikely to “win” a conflict with Israel using conventional weapons only.  Such a position is both immoral and insane.  Alan Curran, take note.  

I’m not so familiar with the European theatre, but have studied the Pacific War in depth.  Japan was indeed talking to both the USA and England about imperial arrangements in Asia (since before WW1, in which they were all allies). 

 
The Pacific War could have been averted if those three countries showed good faith and mutual support through the League of Nations in articulating and upholding fair trading conditions.  Whitey just couldn’t stomach the idea, so we created the conditions of war instead.  

What no-one’s mentioned so far is that the nuclear bombing of Japan might have appeared to be the last shot in the Pacific War, but was actually the first shot in the Cold War, as the US warned the USSR to stay out of East Asia.  

The Korean trip wire is the enduring legacy of the Enola Gay and Bok’s Car.  It has haunted us ever since.  Jesus and Gandhi would both insist that first priority be the creation of just and fair relations between all humans- put into effect before the dogs of war set to.


 


The semiotics of historical revisionism 104 - motives

Bob Wall: "For those who miss the point - the overtures (from Japan) began well before Potsdam."

In which case, the Japanese government could have availed itself of the opportunity provided by the Potsdam Declaration to accept the terms of surrender outlined in that document and made clear to  them by the Allies.

This Allied ultimatum was presented to Japan on July 26, 1945.

The ultimatum was as clear as it was stark;

a) unconditional surrender, or

b) total annihilation

The Japanese government did not accept the ultimatum, despite the ongoing destruction of its cities by conventional bombing.

You report this;

"The next day, July 13, Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo wired ambassador Naotake Sato in Moscow: "See [Soviet foreign minister] Molotov before his departure for Potsdam ... Convey His Majesty's strong desire to secure a termination of the war ... Unconditional surrender is the only obstacle to peace ..."

And yet the Postdam ultimatum made it perfectly clear, unconditional surrender was the only term on offer.

Unconditional surrender was the only means to peace.

And still the Japanese Government did not surrender, even as Japanese cities burned.

Then the Atomic Bomb fell on Hiroshima.

Yet the Japanese Government still did not accept the terms offered, the only alternative on offer being "total annihilation".

The Soviet Union entered the war.

Then the second bomb fell on Nagasaki. And still the Japanese government did not accept the only terms on offer by the Allies, and that now included the USSR.

"After atom bomb were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Hirohito called a meeting of the Supreme Council on 9th August, 1945. After a long debate Hirohito intervened and said he could no longer bear to see his people suffer in this way."

He sacked the government and appointed a new government which would accept the terms of surrender.

The indusputable facts are;

a) Japan could have surrendered under the terms of the Ultimatum at any time after 26 July 1945, but did not.

b) it could have surrendered after Hiroshima was destroyed, but did not.

c) b) it could have surrendered after Russia entered the war against Japan, but did not.

d) it could have surrendered after Nagasaki was destroyed, but did not.

In fact, the surrender came at the instigation of the Emperor, after "a long debate" in Supreme Council on 9th August, 1945.

Clearly, there was even then no willingness on the part of the War Cabinet to accept the only surrender terms on offer to them.

So the Emperor sacked them. He found the terms no "obstacle" at all.

Case closed, Bob. Closed.

The main question here is why is the revisionist line  being peddled, often in defiance of evidence and even logic?

Take for example this startling instance, an article appearing in the UK Guardian Newspaper written by the UK GreenPeace's Dominick Jenkins, which argues that the bombings were unnecessary from the reverse logic to that which you are arguing, namely;

“It (the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) did not bring about surrender. With 62 Japanese cities destroyed by firebombs and napalm, Japan was not overwhelmed by the destruction of one more. The army minister, General Korechika Anami, told the supreme war council that he would fight on."

That is, the Japanese were intending to fight on in spite of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What do you say to that, Bob?

A clue to Jenkins's motives for this bizarre argument is found in the title of his book;

"The Final Frontier: America, Science and Terror "

The purpose of his revisionist account is to deal opprobrium to the 'Americans' (the bomb was actually an Anglo-American enterprise) for having developed nuclear weapons for 'no reason' because it didn't shorten the war and so "caused the Cold War".

(How Jenkins accounts for the surrender only days after the bombings is anyone's guess.)

In reactionary circles in Japan, the revisionist line serves another purpose - to mitigate Japanese war guilt by having the Japanese portrayed as victims of the war.

Similarly, revisionist accounts of Allied air campaigns in Germany help console Germans' sense of historical responsibility.

Such revisionist accounts are nearly always some kind of polemic calculated to either disparage the Allies or excuse the Axis Powers.

That they are irrational and baseless counter-factual accounts doesn't lessen their appeal in certain quarters.

 

Could the terms of surrender been different?

C Parsons- I don’t think anybody here would argue that there wasn’t an overwhelming case for winding up the war in the Pacific.  To have fought on and invaded Japan would have undoubtedly cost many thousands of lives – who knows how many? 

However, I think there is a question about whether dropping the atomic bomb was the only option open to the Americans.  Even Eisenhower had his doubts, telling Newsweek in 1963: “First, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.  Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon”. 

One argument against the use of the bomb relates to the Allied demand for unconditional surrender.  This was a stumbling block for the Japanese War Cabinet because they feared their Emperor would be forced to step down.  The evidence can be found in cables sent by the Foreign Minister, Shigenori Togi, to the Japanese ambassador in Moscow about negotiating surrender.  One of the cables said, “… if the enemy insists on unconditional surrender to the very end, then our country and His Majesty would unanimously resolve to fight a war of resistance to the bitter end”. 

The ‘unconditional surrender’ clause slipped in virtually by accident.  Roosevelt had met with Churchill in Casablanca in 1943, where unconditional surrender was discussed but not agreed.  Roosevelt popped it in during the press conference there, while thinking that getting the French Generals Giraud and de Gaulle to see each other was as difficult as arranging a meeting between Civil War Generals Grant and Lee. 

Roosevelt: “And then suddenly the press conference was on, and Winston and I had had no time to prepare for it, and the thought popped into my mind that they had called Grant “Old Unconditional Surrender”, and the next thing I knew I had said it.” 

Churchill was apparently taken by surprise, but could see no other option than to back Roosevelt up.  Churchill apparently argued for more flexibility at the Potsdam Conference.  However, the Potsdam terms were still non-negotiable, and they did not say that Japan could keep the Emperor. 

We can never know of course, but would a quiet invitation to the Japanese to surrender, along with the abandonment of the demand for unconditional surrender and an assurance that Japan could retain the Emperor, have avoided Hiroshima and Nagasaki? 

Just a thought. 

(Reference: Humanity - A Moral History of the Twentieth Century, by Jonathan Glover).   

Revelaton!

Craig Warton, thank you for that Eureka! moment - "Bob Wall, if you check, I think you will find that the 1940 Non
Aggression pact between Germany, the USSR and Japan was still valid
between the latter two countries into 1945."

What made you think I was unaware of that fact? As a member of "the Big Three" but being a party to the non-aggression pact with Japan, the Japanese might have thought the USSR was the best party to use as an intermediary in its efforts to seek peace. Of course the USSR had an agenda that precluded peace at that time. I'm sure you are aware of that. The Japanese should perhaps have been aware of that also but thought, perhaps, that the USSR was still their best avenue to seek peace.

If you read the first article I linked on this thread you will find mention of other attempts by Japan to seek peace. You might also, using material there and in other sources you might consult, think about why the Japanese used intermediaries instead of going to the US/UK directly. I remind you also of the section in my first linked article about the memorandum FDR received from Gen. MacArthur before the Yalta Conference:

This memo showed that the Japanese were offering surrender terms virtually identical to the ones ultimately accepted by the Americans at the formal surrender ceremony on September 2 -- that is, complete
surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor.

Received by FDR January 20, 1945.

As MacArthur later verified this then an approach was made to the US. But was not acted upon. Sort of contradicts your "But they didn't do that did they?". I advise reading material provided by a contributor before responding to them.

Bob the article you quote

Bob Wall the article you quote from when you excerpt: 

This memo showed that the Japanese were offering surrender terms virtually identical to the ones ultimately accepted by the Americans at the formal surrender ceremony on September 2 -- that is, complete
surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor.

is not supported by the surrender documents here, 

http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/academic/history/marshall/military/wwii/declaration.of.war/jap_surrender.txt

 nor the subsequent historical record.

Paragraph 13 of the Potsdam Declaration demanded of Japan:

(13) We call upon the Government of Japan to proclaim now the
unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to
provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in
such action.  The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter
destruction.

Articles 6, 7 and 12 of the Declaration set out the intentions of the Alliies for the government of post-surrender Japan how they intended to achieve it (through occupation) and when they they would complete  their task :

(6) There must be eliminated for all time the authority and
influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of
Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until
irresponsible militarism is driven from the world.

(7) Until such a new order is established AND until there is
convincing proof that Japan's war-making power is destroyed,
points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies
shall be occupied to secure the achievement of the basic
objectives we are here setting forth.

(12) The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from
Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established, in accordance with the freely
expressed will of the Japanese people, a peacefully inclined and responsible Government.

The sticking point for the Japanese was, as it had always been, the status of the Emperor and so in their reply to the Declaration on 10 August 145the Japanese included the paragraph:

"The Japanese Government are ready to accept the terms
enumerated in the joint declaration which was issued at Potsdam on July 26th, 1945, by the heads of the Governments of the  United States, Great Britain, and China, and later subscribed to by the Soviet Government, with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler.

The Allied response, given the following day, addressed the Japanese understanding directly, and bluntly:

"With regard to the Japanese Government's message accepting the terms of the Potsdam proclamation but containing the statement, 'with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler,' our position is as follows:

"With regard to the Japanese Government's message accepting the terms of the Potsdam proclamation but containing the statement, 'with the understanding that the said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler,' our position is as follows:

"From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and
the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to
the Supreme Commander of the Allied powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate the surrender terms.

Quite clearly the Japanese were left in no doubt that the Japanese Emperor, like every part of his Government, would be subject to the authority of the Allies' chosen commander, that he would have no prerogatives as a sovereign ruler and that sovereignty, final power, would, from the moment of surreneder, reside in the person the Allies placed above him. This was not to be, the Allied communication made clear to the Japanese, a conditional surrender and the Japanese Emperor would be treated no differently than the rest of his government.

The Japanese communication to the Allies of their complete acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, including, as clarified by the Allied response of 11th August, that the authority of the Japanese Emperor and  the Japanese Government would be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers was made on 14th August 1945. 

The terms of the Instrument of Surrender signed on behalf of the Emperor the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters  the  on 2nd September are equally without any qualification or condition regarding the status or person of the Emperor, as the article you quote asserts. The Instrument states in its first two paragraphs:

We, acting by command of and in behalf of the Emperor of Japan, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, hereby accept the provisions set forth in the declaration issued by the heads of the Governments of the United States, China, and Great Britain on 26 July 1945 at Potsdam, and subsequently adhered to by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which four powers are hereafter referred to as the Allied Powers.

We hereby proclaim the unconditional surrender to the Allied
Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under the Japanese control wherever situated.

And in its final paragraph:

The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate these terms of surrender.

As Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, Douglas MacArthur moved promptly to assert his authority over the Japanese Emperor and government, issuing a Statement of Policy on 9th September http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/1945/450909a.html

which included the following:

This note (referring to the Allied Note of 11th August) was acceptable to the Japanese Government, and since the date of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the State has been subject to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. The Japanese Government is apparently making every effort to execute the instructions of the surrender document, of General Order No. 1 and of General Order No. 2. Therefore, at the present time, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers is controlling the Government of Japan along the following lines:

I

The instrument of surrender is being enforced.

II

(A) The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers will issue all necessary instructions to the Japanese Emperor or to the Imperial Government, and every opportunity will be given the Government and the Japanese people to carry out such instructions without further compulsion. If necessary, however, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers will issue appropriate orders to the Army and corps commanders indicating the action to be taken by them to secure the obedience by the agencies of the Imperial Government or by the Japanese people within the areas of their commands. In other words, the occupation forces will act principally as an agency upon which the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers may call, if necessary, to secure compliance with his instructions to the Japanese Imperial Government.

While Macarthur used Hirohito as an instrument of his occupation administration (resisting calls for his prosecution as a war criminal) Hirohito had no role in the occupation government of Japan and under the 1946 Constitution which MacArthur foisted on the Japanese (and which is still in force) the Emperor was stripped of all sovereign power and reduced to being a symbol of the State, with a purely ceremonial role in the affairs of State while being forced to renounce his divinity, which had been the source of his sovereign power under the Meiji Constitution. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Japan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirohito#Post-war_reign

In summary, the Japanese surrender was unconditional and their try-on of 10th August to get the Emperor exempted from its terms was bluntly rebuffed on 11th August. Since the issue of the Emperor's post-surrender status was the sole impediment to their acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration the Japanese, though their Note of 14th August accepting the terms of the Declaration, in the full knowledge that the Emperor, like everyone else in Japan, would be subject to the Supreme Commander's authority there can be no argument that the Japanese surrendered everything except the person of the Emperor.

Nuke the USA?

I never thought I'd see the day when C. Parsons and Malcom B Duncan would advocate the use of nuclear weapons against civilians as a means of bringing rogue states to heal.

Although I despise US and Israeli foreign policy with a passion, particularly their practice of agressive war and their use of air strikes against civilian populations, I would never condone the mass slaughter of their citizens just because their state has gone feral.

I think we can do much better in constructing mechanisms of justice and security.

 

Nukes

Bryan Law . how do feel about Hezbollah lobbing rockets into Israel against civilian populations. These idiots are going to get their country destroyed just because they like playing with rocket launchers. Perhaps someone should insert a page into the Koran that says, If if you bomb Israel you are are going to get your bottom smacked, and that rocket launchers are no match for an F16.

Advocate nuclear weapons?

Bryan, I must admit to finding your comment a little puzzling. How do either of the two people you name "advocate the use of nuclear weapons against civilians as a means of bringing rogue states to heal." ?

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are historical facts and nothing you, or anyone else decides to say on here can change that. They have merely given a case why they think the use of nuclear weapons at that time was justified. No where can I find a comment by either advocating their use on other states. I do find your comment of rogue states rather interesting to. Both Germany and Japan had embarked on aggressive expansionist policies from well before the official start of WW2. In addition there was a recognised declaration of war against both countries - hardly just a rogue state.

Bob Wall, if you check, I think you will find that the 1940 Non Aggression pact between Germany, the USSR and Japan was still valid between the latter two countries into 1945. If Japan had wanted to talk peace then they really needed to talk to the US and Britain.

But they didnt do that did they?

The moving finger writes....

The distinction between ‘civilians’ and ‘combatants’ has never been an easy one. Civilians in factories for example, make the weapons the combatants use. All factories, thanks to the process chains of modern production, can be seen as legitimate targets in a war.

 
War morality ultimately can be summed up as ‘do what is necessary to ensure that your side wins’. Not only the munitions worker, but the people who make the munitions worker’s food, clothes, housing, etc. Soldiers do not go to war. Peoples and their economies do.


 
I have just finished watching a program on ABC TV’s 7:30 Report (ACT) featuring a story on Group Captain Clive Robertson 'Killer' Caldwell, the greatest air ace of the RAAF’s campaign in the Middle East in WW2. Contrary to the spirit of chivalry held to be operating across air forces at the time, Caldwell believed that an enemy pilot who had bailed out and was coming down on a parachute was not to be respectfully left alone, but to be shot at just as if he was still in a plane. His reason was simple: as soon as the bloke could get into another plane, he would be back up and shooting at Allied pilots again.

Fair enough, I suppose. It is not in the same class as shooting a soldier who has surrendered, the convention against which is arguably the last survival of chivalry in the modern world. When it is observed. 


 
The last great conflict which spared civilians was the First World War (WW1). Its  Western Front consisted of a sliver of land about 10 miles wide stretching from the Swiss frontier to the North Sea. The front snaked about a bit during the course of the war, but made little net movement east or west despite the huge losses of men on both sides in attempts to make it move much more.  That long thin snake of land contained within it soil and mud continually churned up by exploding artillery shells, the bodies of men and horses, the wreckage of military equipment and the remains of shattered trees. The industrial development of the 19th Century had given both sides the capacity to produce one medium machine gun for every 5 yards of front, and one artillery piece for every 25 yards of it. Yet only a few miles either side of the front, all was quiet, and for the citizens, it was business as usual. Civilians were safe, even when engaged in war production. (And what in a war we may ask again, is not war production?)

 
A large segment of the German population concluded after 1918 that revenge was necessary for Germany’s defeat. That segment was large enough to launch the political career of Hitler, and with it, WW2. A different conclusion was reached by the overwhelming majority of Germans at the end of that second world war, and Germany has since been one of the least belligerent states on Earth. So much trauma and dislocation was experienced by so many Germans and other Europeans that determination to never let it happen again overrode revenge, salvage of honour and pride, and all the usual other motives for starting again. This was civilians defending themselves – against military hotheads.
 


 
I know an elderly woman who as a 16 year old Sudeten German was held for a year in an underground prison in Prague along with the rest of her family. A total of about 4,000 Germans native to Czechoslovakia were in that prison, and 2,000 of them died in it, including the lady’s father and her brother. The German communities in Eastern Europe, such as the Sudetens, were used by Hitler in much clever propaganda, and it suited the majority of them at the time to go along with it. But their subsequent wartime experiences were worse than those of the Germans living in Germany, because they were (understandably) regarded as traitors by their non-German neighbours. My elderly friend came to Australia in the 1950s and has refused ever since to go back to Czechoslovakia, even for a visit to relatives.

 

 At the end of WW2 the Russians held around 100,000 German POWs. Unlike the POWs under Allied control, these men were not protected by the Geneva Convention, (The German Army was noted for the brutality and ruthlessness of its campaign against the Russian ‘untermenschen’.) Stalin had all but about 5,000 of those German prisoners worked to death in the Gulags.  This appears to have been one of Stalin’s warnings to the Germans to never try it again, or to let anyone who wants to make a grab for power.  Overall, the policy seems to have worked. Yet it would appear that arguments for and against it on utilitarian grounds would be pointless. Who knows either way?

 
Much of the debate on this thread around issues featuring the inimitable (or the inevitable?) C Parsons is dotting eyes and crossing teas. ‘Would the result have been worse if the US had not bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki?’; ‘Should the RAF Bomber Command have avoided civilian targets’ and so on are ultimately futile questions, since we do not have the results of the alternative policies that were never followed. What we do know is this: the first half of the Twentieth Century was the bloodiest period in all of recorded history. The second half was one of the most peaceful (despite Korea, Vietnam, and all the wars leading up to and including the present one in Iraq). The two main belligerent powers of WW2 became very peace-loving and peace-conscious; Germany having been largely destroyed, and Japan ruined and A-bombed twice, and serving, in the immortal words of the first western correspondent into what was left of Horoshima as “a warning to the world”.


 
Nuclear weapons prevented WW3, largely because of mutually assured destruction, and the high probability that the politicians and military brass of both sides would be among the first casualties. Without them, we would not only have had WW3, but also WW4, WW5, and WW6 by now.
 


 
(An interesting side aspect here. RAF Bomber Command favoured bombing the densely populated working class districts of Berlin and other cities, rather than the leafy suburbs where the houses of the captains of German industry and their executives sat separated from each other by large expanses of lawn and woodland. Yet according to the logic that justifies Australian CEOs getting $5 million a year while a skilled worker gets around $50,000 (ie 100 times less), one German CEO knocked out by a bomb would have the same economic effect as the demise of 100 skilled workers. Assuming all other things were equal of course.)
 


 
Given that war is by definition an attempt by one state to demolish the rule of the law of another state, it is in many ways bizarre that there are ‘laws’ or ‘conventions’ of war. Yet there are. In my time in the Australian Army we were instructed to treat whatever prisoners humanely, even if only because harsh treatment of them would result in Australian prisoners in enemy hands copping the same. 


 
By similar reasoning we might derive the following:

  1. If you don’t want your civilians bombed, don’t bomb theirs;

    If they bomb your civilians, you had better bomb theirs (worse if possible);

  2. expect your civilians to be targeted sooner or later.

 Wars are an attempt by both sides to get the upper hand as quickly as possible. When this does not or cannot happen for whatever reason, a long drawn out ‘stalemate’ occurs, such as on the Western Front in WW1. Or a long drawn out vendetta, as is occurring right now in Iraq between Shias and Sunnis, and between Arabs and Israelis. For the greatest happiness for the greatest number, the best side should win. In WW2, the best side was not the Axis of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Revisionist attempts to portray the Allies as barbaric because of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki assume there was a better way for the best side to win.

 
Good night and good luck. (And will the last debater still croaking out a case please put out the cat?)

 

 

 

 

 

Dishonesty is not enough

CP, you seem to be also trying to prove you have a problem with reading and comprehension.

You wrote:

The Soviet Union was not at war with Japan until after Hiroshima had been bombed, and the Soviet Union could not, as a non-combatant accept Japan's surrender.

In my previous post I had included this:

'"the demands of the times" made Soviet mediation to terminate the war absolutely essential.'

I repeated that line to emphasise the point yet you still write of whether the USSR could accept Japan's surrender. Being deliberately obtuse or do you not know what the word mediation means?

As to the Potsdam declaration this was also in my previous post:

The next day, July 13, Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo wired ambassador
Naotake Sato in Moscow: "See [Soviet foreign minister] Molotov before
his departure for Potsdam ... Convey His Majesty's strong desire to
secure a termination of the war ... Unconditional surrender is the only
obstacle to peace ..."

And from my first post:

Negotiations for Russia to intercede began the forepart of May 1945 in both Tokyo and Moscow. Konoye, the intended emissary to the Soviets, stated to the Survey that while ostensibly he was to negotiate, he received direct and secret instructions from the Emperor to secure peace at any price, notwithstanding its severity ...

For those who miss the point - the overtures began well before Potsdam. More is available in links I have previously provided.

On the basis that you, CP, seem unable or unwilling to understand these points I see no point in any further responses to you.

some want wisdom ,some want to repeat past mistakes in history

Malcolm B Duncan, very interesting. Very well written.A+ ,but where was Susan in all this?

If the justification for hitting cvilians and their survival infrasturcture,likehospitals and water and electricity and food,is to win a war then how is that achieved? 

 How can civilian widespread suffering affect such a regime as the NAZIs where there was no democratic choices for them,and a fierce secret police to remove dissenters.

And as you said,the slave labor were hardly able to stop working(unlike UK women were not allowed to workas duty lay in the home,and the men were away fighting so slaves were essential) and bye bye dissenters there in that poor lot..

In such a situation can you really say there is any military justification for such measures? when there were fuel lines to hit? to stop the fuel would have stopped Germany straight away,no tanks,no planes. Why was this not the absolute target right from the start? And Sweden ,happily supplying the Pig iron right up to the end. And Swizerland holding the bags.And American industrialsit making buckets from their slave factories.  Stop the money and the oil and few regimes can last any time.

I disagree with you Malcolm. If there is no military strategic advantage to a target then it should not be hit . This is the international law that we all talk of, non? Essential infrastructure, minimal harm and suffering to civilians etc? 

Yet this war was begun using moral justificaton. neither Britain nor France were invaded or attacked by Germany before they declared war. The justification was moral, ie it is wrong to invade Poland and wage a war of aggression. Was that not the crime that so many were hung for at that great site of instant justice in Nuermburg? So if moral and legal values can hang German leaders, does the same law /moral obligations not apply to all? is justice selective? is that just?

if one can hang Axis for warcrimes then what of Allies who commit the same?

I also strongly disagree with your idea of using nukes. Or does this only apply when we have nukes, solely. The odd nuke does not stop the reply odder nukes and there may be little left to fight over nor a future for any lives initially saved,if  they even are.

Pre-emptive theory justified will result in rapid nuclear arms acquisition of every nation able to. At least there would be no more proxy wars.

 

----------------------------------------------

 

C Parsons"...For me, the interesting question is why certain quarters go on peddling the line that by winning the war over Nazism and Japanese Imperialism, by giving the Axis powers no quarter, that the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese governments were somehow "wronged" by "Allied war crimes"..."

It was not just the Axis children who were wronged by Allies' war crimes, it was the Allies' families and their future, as the 20th century has shown. It is hope through constant examining of history ,especially as new archives are released (pity Bush shut up Reagan's for another 30yrs as they came due).

Through studying these  we can have a fuller understanding of what really happened, a fuller picture from all perspectives, in a total and thus gain wisdom to persue a better world and future, hopefully avoiding the pitfalls from the past and the horrors that may await.

Especially with pre-emptive nuking being suggested as a life saver. No inhumane weapon is a lifesaver. War should always be the last resort and i have not yet seen that in any war I can think of. Challenge there.

Cheers


The semiotics of historical revisionism 103 - case closed

Bob Wall: "This is a misrepresentation as it infers, by standard practice, that I am being quoted directly whereas the content is an extract from an article I posted."

Well, I do apologise, Bob. I thought your posting the extract reflected some intention on your part to advance it as part of the historical record. My mistake, obviously.

Now, you have posted this;

"By mid-June, six members of Japan's Supreme War Council had secretly charged Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo with the task of approaching Soviet Russia's leaders "with a view to terminating the war if possible by September."

If possible?

Bob, could you help us with that point?

The Soviet Union was not at war with Japan until after Hiroshima had been bombed, and the Soviet Union could not, as a non-combatant accept Japan's surrender.

And given that the ultimatum from the Potsdam Conference which was issued by the United States, Great Britain and China to Japan offering that country the choice between;

a) unconditional surrender and

b) total annihilation

- how could either the USSR or China respond to "Japanese peace feelers" and how could it be 'possible' to terminate the war by any date or by any means other than by unconditional surrender?

How could any Allied signatory of the accords negotiate or even discuss a surrender by Japan either;

a) independently of their partner Allies; and

b) on terms other than of unconditional surrender by Japan, which was not forthcoming until after the atom bombing of Nagasaki?

Earlier I quoted the Emperor Hirohito specificall stating that of the Atomic Bombings "This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers…"

After the bombs fell, this is what happened;

"After atom bomb were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Hirohito called a meeting of the Supreme Council on 9th August, 1945. After a long debate Hirohito intervened and said he could no longer bear to see his people suffer in this way. On 15th August the people of Japan heard the Emperor's voice for the first time when he announced the unconditional surrender and the end of the war. Naruhiko Higashikuni was appointed as head of the surrender government. ..."

The govenment was sacked.

And then the Emperor announced his determination to accept the Potsdam conditions of unconditional surrender.

After a long debate. And with the unprecedented intervention of the Emperor.

Quite clearly, there was no prior intention by the deposed government to accept surrender. Otherwise, why the "long debate"?

Perhaps "peace feelers" were offered as a delaying tactic? A ploy? But since the Postdam Declaration was utterly unambiguous about the point, short of Japan's unconditional surrender, there was no basis for discussion between the combatants.

This had been made clear to all the Axis Partners over and over and over since the Tehran Conference in 1943.

And, in any case,  why would the Japanese "negotiate" with the Russians who weren't at that stage in the war with Japan?

For the express reason that the combatant states, which the Russians were not at that state, were bounden to not negotiate independently.

Now, just on the issue of bombing as a strategic tool, and specifically  atomic bombs.

The first atomic bomb over Hiroshima killed 155,200.

According to one estimate, 135,000 people died in the conventional bombing raid over Dresden.

 he March 10, 1945 conventional bombing raid on Tokyo killed more than 100,000 civilians and razed nearly half of Tokyo in the final months of World War II.

Now, imagine it had even been possible for negotiations with the combatant Allies through Russia to get underway, how long would it have been before Japan actually surrendered?

How many 'conventiional' bombing raids would there have been like Tokyo - and Dresden?

Two? Three? Ten more ? Twenty more?

How many allied soldiers - and indeed Japanese soldiers and civilians would have died during a a ground invasion of Japan?

Would it have been as many who died in the conquest of Germany?

The revisionist argument is filled with lots of hypothetical scenarios about what "would have happened" if the atom bomb had not been dropped.

Well, f the Japanese government was about to surrender, it was clearly doing so because Japan was being blown to smithereens.

And it would make no difference whether it was by single atom bombs dropped one at a time - or by thousands of conventional bombs dropped by whole fleets of bombers.

Either way, they would be surrendering because they were being bombed - not just because they wanted to.

An the indisputable fact remains - and this is from the Emperor's own mouth as heard by millions of his subjects and amply documented elsewhere - Japan did not accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration until, and because of, the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In his own words, Bob.

Case closed.

 

 

More CP dishonesty.

Note to ED and readers, C Parsons began his response to me thus:

Bob Wall: "Although Japanese peace feelers had been sent out as early as September 1944 (and [China's] Chiang Kai-shek had been approached regarding surrender possibilities in December 1944), the real effort to end the war began in the spring of 1945. This effort stressed the role of the Soviet Union ..."

This is a misrepresentation as it infers, by standard practice, that I am being quoted directly whereas the content is an extract from an article I posted.

Note another piece of dishonesty - CP wrote:

The Soviet Union was not at war with Japan until after Hiroshima, and could not, as a non-combatant accept Japan's surrender, nor have any role in formulating a surrender.

Who said the Japanese tried to surrender to the USSR? 

In that article you will find details of Japanese approaches to the USSR that date to before the Potsdam Conference. These have been well documented. Here is an extract:

 

By mid-June, six members of Japan's Supreme War Council had secretly charged Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo with the task of approaching Soviet Russia's leaders "with a view to terminating the war if possible by September." On June 22 the Emperor called a meeting of the Supreme War Council, which included the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the leading military figures. "We have heard enough of this determination of yours to fight to the last soldiers," said Emperor Hirohito. "We wish that you, leaders of Japan, will strive now to study the ways and the means to conclude the war. In doing so, try not to be bound by the decisions you have made in the past."

By early July the US had intercepted messages from Togo to the Japanese ambassador in Moscow, Naotake Sato, showing that the Emperor himself was taking a personal hand in the peace effort, and had directed that the Soviet Union be asked to help end the war. US officials also knew that the key obstacle to ending the war was American insistence on "unconditional surrender," a demand that precluded any negotiations. The Japanese were willing to accept nearly everything, except turning over their semi-divine Emperor. Heir of a 2,600-year-old dynasty, Hirohito was regarded by his people as a "living god" who personified the nation. (Until the August 15 radio broadcast of his surrender announcement, the Japanese people had never heard his voice.) Japanese particularly feared that the Americans would humiliate the Emperor, and even execute him as a war criminal.

On July 12, Hirohito summoned Fumimaro Konoye, who had served as prime minister in 1940-41. Explaining that "it will be necessary to terminate the war without delay," the Emperor said that he wished Konoye to secure peace with the Americans and British through the Soviets. As Prince Konoye later recalled, the Emperor instructed him "to secure peace at any price, notwithstanding its severity."

The next day, July 13, Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo wired ambassador Naotake Sato in Moscow: "See [Soviet foreign minister] Molotov before his departure for Potsdam ... Convey His Majesty's strong desire to secure a termination of the war ... Unconditional surrender is the only obstacle to peace ..."

On July 17, another intercepted Japanese message revealed that although Japan's leaders felt that the unconditional surrender formula involved an unacceptable dishonor, they were convinced that "the demands of the times" made Soviet mediation to terminate the war absolutely essential. Further diplomatic messages indicated that the only condition asked by the Japanese was preservation of "our form of government." The only "difficult point," a July 25 message disclosed, "is the ... formality of unconditional surrender."

Summarizing the messages between Togo and Sato, US naval intelligence said that Japan's leaders, "though still balking at the term unconditional surrender," recognized that the war was lost, and had reached the point where they have "no objection to the restoration of peace on the basis of the [1941] Atlantic Charter." These messages, said Assistant Secretary of the Navy Lewis Strauss, "indeed stipulated only that the integrity of the Japanese Royal Family be preserved."

Note the words ""the demands of the times" made Soviet mediation to terminate the war absolutely essential."

Then CP rabbits on about Germany - which I did not mention.

Note also CP's subject heading - hardly applicable to the sources that have been used in the articles I have posted. Certainly not the US Strategic Bombing Survey.

The above examples of the continued resort to various forms of dishonesty are why I have chosen to largely ignore CP's posts. Just thought a reminder would help.

 

the semiotics of historical revisionism - 102

Bob Wall: "Although Japanese peace feelers had been sent out as early as September 1944 (and [China's] Chiang Kai-shek had been approached regarding surrender possibilities in December 1944), the real effort to end the war began in the spring of 1945. This effort stressed the role of the Soviet Union ..."

The Soviet Union was not at war with Japan until after Hiroshima, and could not, as a non-combatant accept Japan's surrender, nor have any role in formulating a surrender.

And in any case, the Soviet Union bound by the terms of the Potsdam and Tehran accords and could not accept a conditional or negotiated surrender by any Axis powers.

This awkward set of facts is simply ignored in revisionist accounts.

The Soviet Union declared war on Japan on 8 August 1945 three days after the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and the day before Nagasaki.

Japan's surrender was accepted immediately it complied with the terms of the Postdam accord.

The ultimatum from the Potsdam Conference that was issued by the United States, Great Britain and China to Japan offering that country the choice between unconditional surrender and total annihilation.

Russia wasn't a party to the Accord because it was not at war with Japan.

This ultimatum was presented to Japan on July 26, 1945.

Its terms were fully consistent, however, with the Tehran Accord, in which the European Allies (including the USSR) insisted upon complete and unconditional surrender by Germany.

"No power on earth can prevent our destroying the German armies by land, their U Boats by sea, and their war planes from the air. Our attack will be relentless and increasing."

Anyone suggesting that the Axis Powers had grounds for a negotiated settlement to their conflict with the Allies is simply not telling the truth.

Presumably out of ignorance, and hopefully not by design (although I have discussed all this with Bob before in an earlier thread).

Japan could have surrendered at any time.

There was nothing to negotiate.

There were no other terms for surrender other than unconditional capitulation. And Japanese "peace feelers" through China and the Soviet Union were no more acceptable than any "peace feelers" from their ally Nazi Germany.

Phil Kendall refers to General Curtis LeMay's "murderous firebombing of nearly every Japanese city" prior to the Atomic Bombs falling on Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

Indeed. And despite this, the Japanese government did not accept the only terms on offer to them - unconditional surrender.

The Potsdam Ultimatum made it perfectly clear that no other terms were acceptable.

Still, they didn't surrender.

After Hisroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, the Emperor made an unprecedented entry into the political arena, sacked the War Cabinet - and himself annuounced Japan's unconditional surrender.

His express, declared reason was the Atom Bombs

"….despite the best that has been done by everyone….the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and more cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives….This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers…"

Those are the Emperor's own words.

Anyone telling you differently is simply speaking an untruth.

For me, the interesting question is why certain quarters go on peddling the line that by winning the war over Nazism and Japanese Imperialism, by giving the Axis powers no quarter, that the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese governments were somehow "wronged" by "Allied war crimes".

I have my suspicions on this count, but it would be uncharitable of me to voice them here.

More on Japanese peace overtures.

G'day Phil, here is another account of Japanese peace overtures. Some extracts:

Months before the end of the war, Japan's leaders recognized that
defeat was inevitable. In April 1945 a new government headed by Kantaro
Suzuki took office with the mission of ending the war. When Germany
capitulated in early May, the Japanese understood that the British and
Americans would now direct the full fury of their awesome military
power exclusively against them.

American officials, having long since broken Japan's secret codes,
knew from intercepted messages that the country's leaders were seeking
to end the war on terms as favorable as possible. Details of these
efforts were known from decoded secret communications between the
Foreign Ministry in Tokyo and Japanese diplomats abroad.

In his 1965 study, Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam (pp. 107, 108), historian Gar Alperovitz writes:

Although Japanese peace feelers had been sent out as early as
September 1944 (and [China's] Chiang Kai-shek had been approached
regarding surrender possibilities in December 1944), the real effort to
end the war began in the spring of 1945. This effort stressed the role
of the Soviet Union ...

In mid-April [1945] the [US] Joint Intelligence Committee reported
that Japanese leaders were looking for a way to modify the surrender
terms to end the war. The State Department was convinced the Emperor
was actively seeking a way to stop the fighting.

And

In an article that finally appeared August 19, 1945, on the front
pages of the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Times-Herald, Trohan
revealed that on January 20, 1945, two days prior to his departure for
the Yalta meeting with Stalin and Churchill, President Roosevelt
received a 40-page memorandum from General Douglas MacArthur outlining
five separate surrender overtures from high-level Japanese officials.
(The complete text of Trohan's article is in the Winter 1985-86
Journal, pp. 508-512.)

This memo showed that the Japanese were offering surrender terms
virtually identical to the ones ultimately accepted by the Americans at
the formal surrender ceremony on September 2 -- that is, complete
surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor. Specifically,
the terms of these peace overtures included:

  • Complete surrender of all Japanese forces and arms, at home, on island possessions, and in occupied countries.
  • Occupation of Japan and its possessions by Allied troops under American direction.
  • Japanese relinquishment of all territory seized during the war, as well as Manchuria, Korea and Taiwan.
  • Regulation of Japanese industry to halt production of any weapons and other tools of war.
  • Release of all prisoners of war and internees.
  • Surrender of designated war criminals.

Is this memorandum authentic? It was supposedly leaked to Trohan by
Admiral William D. Leahy, presidential Chief of Staff. (See: M.
Rothbard in A. Goddard, ed., Harry Elmer Barnes: Learned Crusader
[1968], pp. 327f.) Historian Harry Elmer Barnes has related (in
"Hiroshima: Assault on a Beaten Foe," National Review, May 10, 1958):

The authenticity of the Trohan article was never challenged by the
White House or the State Department, and for very good reason. After
General MacArthur returned from Korea in 1951, his neighbor in the
Waldorf Towers, former President Herbert Hoover, took the Trohan
article to General MacArthur and the latter confirmed its accuracy in
every detail and without qualification.

The US Strategic Bombing Survey verdict:

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs did not defeat Japan, nor by the
testimony of the enemy leaders who ended the war did they persuade
Japan to accept unconditional surrender. The Emperor, the Lord Privy
Seal, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the Navy Minister
had decided as early as May of 1945 that the war should be ended even
if it meant acceptance of defeat on allied terms ...

The mission of the Suzuki government, appointed 7 April 1945, was to
make peace. An appearance of negotiating for terms less onerous than
unconditional surrender was maintained in order to contain the military
and bureaucratic elements still determined on a final Bushido defense,
and perhaps even more importantly to obtain freedom to create peace
with a minimum of personal danger and internal obstruction. It seems
clear, however, that in extremis the peacemakers would have peace, and
peace on any terms. This was the gist of advice given to Hirohito by
the Jushin in February, the declared conclusion of Kido in April, the
underlying reason for Koiso's fall in April, the specific injunction of
the Emperor to Suzuki on becoming premier which was known to all
members of his cabinet ...

Negotiations for Russia to intercede began the forepart of May 1945
in both Tokyo and Moscow. Konoye, the intended emissary to the Soviets,
stated to the Survey that while ostensibly he was to negotiate, he
received direct and secret instructions from the Emperor to secure
peace at any price, notwithstanding its severity ...

It seems clear ... that air supremacy and its later exploitation
over Japan proper was the major factor which determined the timing of
Japan's surrender and obviated any need for invasion.

Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by
the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the
Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all
probability prior to 1 November 1945 [the date of the planned American
invasion], Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had
not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if
no invasion had been planned or contemplated.

The effect of the A-bombs was probably in speeding up the decision making in the Japanese Cabinet. More here in a letter from the chairman of the Strategic Bombing Survey to Pres. Truman.

Thus the problem facing the peace leaders in the government was to
bring about a surrender despite the hesitation of the War Minister and
the opposition of the Army and Navy Chiefs of Staff. This had to be
done, moreover, without precipitating counter measures by the Army
which would eliminate the entire peace group. This was done ultimately
by bringing the Emperor actively into the decision to accept the
Potsdam terms. So long as the Emperor openly supported such a policy
and could be presented to the country as doing so, the military, which
had fostered and lived on the idea of complete obedience to the
Emperor, could not effectively rebel. 

A preliminary step in this direction had
been taken at the Imperial Conference on 26 June. At this meeting, the
Emperor, taking an active part despite his custom to the contrary,
stated that he desired the development of a plan to end the war as well
as one to defend the home islands. This was followed by a renewal of
earlier efforts to get the Soviet Union to intercede with the United
States, which were effectively answered by the Potsdam Declaration on
26 July and the Russian declaration of war on 9 August. 

That last bit was a big factor in the process - the USSR had an agenda and helping Japan's peace moves was not on it. Then there was the agenda of the US in re the USSR. That issue might gain more attention as the thread proceeds.

Thoughts on the 1946 US Strategic Bombing Survey Report

Bob Wall the excerpt you quote from the US Strategic Bombing Survey report giving its verdict that:

It seems clear ... that air supremacy and its later exploitation over Japan proper was the major factor which determined the timing ofJapan's surrender and obviated any need for invasion.

Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945 [the date of the planned American invasion], Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.

warrants a few comments. The first is "Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?" If the Survey was the work of the US Strategic Bombing Command you would expect them to extol their own efforts, and attribute success to themselves.

The second, and more important, is that in undertaking the Survey, with access to Japan's cities and to its war-time leaders after the war, the Survey's authors were privy to information not available to Allied leaders, including the United States President, at the time of making the decision to drop the two atomic bombs. They had the advantage of 20/20 vision hindsight (and after the war the Americans were awed by the devastation that their firebombing of Japanese cities had wrought). He did not. He had instead the precedents of the battles of Iwo Jima and of Okinawa to indicate that the Japanese would fight ferociously to the death and inflict huge casualties on the Allied forces before being overcome. He also had the fact that the Japanese kamikaze pilots had inflicted terrible damage on the Allied Fleet assembled off the Okinawa and could be expected to inflict much greater damage as the fleet closed in on Japanese waters for the invasion.

The dropping of the atomic bombs, (along with news that the Soviet Army had joined the war on 8th August) seems, from the record, to have been the pretext by which the Emperor unseated the War Party of his Cabinet and gave the Peace Party the ascendancy, precipitating the Japanese to surrender at the price of complete unconditional surrender demanded of them at which they had baulked till the last.

Morality dictates that we consider the value of the bombing in bringing the war to an abrupt end, even at the cost of the lives lost in Hiroshima and Nagasaki against the lives saved, both Allied and Japanese, from truncating the war by even a few months thus sparing the lives of thousands of Alllied sailors and airmen as well as hundreds of thousands of Japanese who would have been killed in continued fire-bombings of Japanese cities up to, and beyond, the commencement of the invasion of Japan and if, by then, the Japanese had not surrendered, the hundreds of thousand Allied servicemen (the well-being of whom must, of necessity, be a prime consideration of any Allied war-time leader) and possibly millions of Japanese, who would have been casualties in the invasion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Downfall

There is also the evidence, given by Allied ex-prisoners of war, that their Japanese captors were planning to massacre them in their tens of thousands should an Allied invasion commence, which was avoided by the precipitate surrender of Japan and the explicit instructions in the Potsdam Declaration as to the protection to be accorded to those held in Japanese captivity upon Japan's surrender.

Considering all the above one has to wonder at the moral universe Angela Ryan inhabits such that she can smugly write:

It was not just the Axis children who were wronged by Allies' war crimes, it was the Allies' families and their future, as the 20th century has shown. It is hope through constant examining of history, especially as new archives are released (pity Bush shut up Reagan's for another 30yrs as they came due).

 

Certainly not one that has any attachment to reality. Just a world of arrogance and a unwarranted sense of superiority. Not one that has a care in the world for the lives of Allied servicemen and women saved. They deserve better than that.

The semiotics of historical revisionism 101

phil kendall: "How typical of C Parsons to get his oar in first, on such a bonzer topic."

Oh, thanks Phil, but that was actually the Emperor Hirohito speaking, explaining why he decided to accept the Allies' surrender terms so quickly after Hiroshima.

Presumably, this was just in case anyone in the future imagined it was purely coincidental timing, and so he points directly at the atomic bomb and states quite emphatically that that was what made up his mind for him.

This is a bit awkward for the "no bomb" case, I grant you, which is why the Emperor's statement doesn't feature much in revisionist accounts.

But of course, Imperial Japan was just one Axis Power. There was their charming ally, Nazi Germany...

So, could have Nazi Germany been defeated without bombing?

That's the "question", so called.

Well, we can say with some certainty that Nazi Germany was defeated with conventional bombing - and it remains entirely unanswerable in empirical terms what could have happened in some parallel universe where only the Nazis were bombing cities, and the Allies for some bizarre reason preferred to not retaliate.

But we can compare what the defeat of Nazi Germany entailed without the atomic bomb being dropped on Germany, even while conventional bombing was used on a large scale.

For this purpose, I recommend as an introduction to the topic Antony Beevor's account of the closing stages of the European conflict  Berlin: The Downfall 1945, (Viking Press, London, 2002).

This is a thick book giving an account of unimaginable savagery, of continental-wide calamity on a Biblical scale, of daily mega-death and destruction without precedent, going on month after month after month.

And that was just Berlin.

Here's a quote from the Herald reviewer;

"Estimates place the USSR's casualties at somewhere between 20 million and 47 million. In two months of 1943, for example, the Red Army suffered as many dead as did Britain and her dominions (including Australia) through the entire war. While battles such as El Alamein and Normandy were being fought, Germany took 80 per cent of its casualties on its Eastern Front."

Okay, that's the case for proceeding without the Atomic bomb and for hand to hand street fighting.

By contrast, the argument for the bomb was quite straight forward.

I'm sorry, Phil?

Wasn't that the answer you were hoping for?

Pass the port

 Break out the cigars, lads.  Pass the port. 

Move the cheese platter out of the way.  Forks on one side of the table (us).  Knifes on the other (them).  Tip the bowl of sugar cubes upside down (a few million civilians).  See how many sugar cubes can be reduced to pulp - using either knives or forks.  The side with the biggest pile wins.

Then the men go for a walk in the moonlight, reliving empire and faded glory.  And the women clean up the mess.


 

 

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