Are bombs really an answer to our problems? This blog will describe two scenarios, one fictional and one historical, which prove nuclear weapons are not a solution to international conflict.
Nuclear Weapons Were Not Needed in Japan
Growing up in school I was always taught the Japanese war effort was still strong going into the summer of 1945; that a full land invasion of Tokyo would be required for the allies to cause Japan to submit. It is this logic that is used to justify the intolerable use of nuclear weapons on the civilians of Japan. This could not be further from the truth. Admiral William D. Leahy, the President's Chief of Staff, wrote in his memoir that, “The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”1
One person’s opinion though doesn’t make something fact, how about a second opinion? In a speech in October 1945 the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, stated, “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima.”1 There was no need to use atomic weaponry because Japan had already tried to surrender to the United States. In fact in June William Leary wrote, “It is my opinion at the present time that a surrender of Japan can be arranged with terms that can be accepted by Japan and that will make fully satisfactory provisions for America's defense against future trans-Pacific aggression.” 1 One of the terms he is referring to is the protection of the Japanese Emperor, something the United States accepted only after dropping the two bombs. Still don’t buy it? Let’s ask the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific General Douglass MacArthur;
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General MacArthur is as high up on the chain of command as one could be in the military when it comes to the war with Japan. MacArthur did not feel there was a need for the atomic bombing of Japan, and even more shocking is that he was not even consulted on the matter. The overwhelming statement that the bomb was not needed by high ranking military officials (more of which can be read here) and the fact that the input of the military was not consulted over the use of the bomb shows that the use of the atomic bomb in Japan was not about securing victory or security; the US could have had both by simply accepting the Japanese surrender, but rather made a sickening demonstration to improve America’s geopolitical standing at the expense of the non-military men, women, and children of Japan. One should never allow people to use the military strength of Japan, or any country, as justification for the direct murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians. One of the major steps we can make toward changing people’s perception of nuclear weapons is to change the collective understanding of this historical fact.
The Consequences of the Use of a Nuclear Weapon are Superior to Any Benefit
If nuclear weapons are a solution to international conflict then in theory they should be used more often. For example, if an individual is defending the use of atomic weapons in Japan, logically it would follow that nuclear weapons would have brought peace in Germany had they been ready while Germany was still engaged in the war.
Take that in for a moment; think about how the world would be different today if two nuclear weapons were used in Europe. It is unfathomable how the face of Europe and the relations of western nations currently would be different if this happened. The Vietnam War dragged on for well over a decade, if the justification that the use of a nuclear weapon would lead to peace by preventing the casualties and the monetary cost of a full scale land invasion, why wasn’t one used?
The answer is simple. Nuclear weapons do not solve military problems, but only complicate situations. Nuclear Weapons create political turmoil and blowback, destroy the infrastructure which is key toward lasting stability and security, and strips the basic rights of the targeted human beings. As one survivor described it, “The atomic bomb completely deprived us of ordinary daily lives for human beings.”2
My father managed to come to the school to find me. On my way home, carried on my father’s back, I witnessed hell on earth. I saw a man with burned and peeled skin dangling from his body. A mother was carrying a baby, which was burned-black and looked like charcoal. She herself was heavily burned all over her body and was trying to flee from the place, almost crawling on the ground. Others lost their sight, their eyeballs popped out, or ran around trying to escape, while holding their protruding intestines in their hands. More and more people tried to cling on to us, saying, “Give me water, water, water…”2
That ‘hell on earth’ is not a sign of peace, and a nuclear weapon is not a tool of peace. Martin Luther King Jr. once said;
“And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace. What is the problem? They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.”3
On top of the destruction a nuclear weapon leaves behind and the great number of lives it takes, a nuclear weapon will always leave a scar. This is not the scar that comes after horrific burns heal or the scar of a surgery to remove the cancer from an individual decades after the war, a war they were not even participating in. This is a scar on the future, a scar that leaves a rough edge on the path forward, a scar that blinds our eyes to a truth where peace is not only possible but rather could be the very reality of life.
Nuclear weapons do not bring peace, but only death. Nuclear weapons do not solve conflicts but rather mask the continued tensions that come from unaddressed inequality and injustice.
If nuclear weapons are not a tool which ends conflict and brings peace why do we tolerate them?
In the same way we must not tolerate the false values and beliefs which are accepted in our society as a means of nuclear justification.
1 “American Military Leaders Urge President Truman not to Drop the Atomic Bomb,” University of Colorado. 2010.
2 Michiko, Kodama, “For a World Without Wars or Nuclear Weapons,” Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. August 3, 2012.
3 King Jr., Martin Luther, “Christmas Sermon,” Stanford University. December 24, 1967.