The Atomic Bomb: Justified or not?
Imagine, in the morning of August 6 1945, in an instant you were hurled towards the ceiling and then dropped towards the floor, as if you were some kind of ragdoll. After struggling to get up, your body aching, the wind knocked right out of you, you walk outside, and the only thing you see is an image representing close to hell. The sunlight gone, the city covered in smoke, buildings lit on fire, corpses scattered throughout the streets, this was the image of those who survived the Hiroshima & Nagasaki atomic bombing. So, the question is, was the dropping of the atomic bomb ‘justified’?
To answer this incredibly complex question, involves a multi faceted answer that not only looks at both players, but the general context these people were in. A little over a week before the dropping of the atomic bomb, the Allied Forces issued the Potsdam Declaration, an ultimatum for Japan to surrender or face “prompt and utter destruction” (President Truman, 1945). By this point, Japan was already in ruins. Little remained of their Navy forces, their cities were on fire, and the time was ticking for Japan to make a decision. It wasn’t as if the Japanese people didn’t want to surrender, but during this time, many Japanese people embodied the doctrine of the samurai. The way of the warrior: honor, and the sense of fight to the death were heavily engrained in the leaders of Japan. They didn’t surrender, because in their minds, the concept of surrendering never existed.
Popular opinions from supporters of the bomb (e.g. President Truman) would say that it forced a swift surrender by the Japanese, and prevented massive casualties on both sides. A study on June 15 1945 by the Joint War Plans Committee estimated an invasion would’ve resulted in 40,000 dead American soldiers and 150,000 wounded. On the other hand, within 2 weeks, 200,000 Japanese citizens would’ve been dead and upwards to 3 million had the war gone on for months (Skates, 2000). In contrast, approximately 250,000 were killed in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Rezelman et al, 2000).
Conversely, many historians such as Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, would argue that the bombing was not the reason that Japan surrendered, but it was only an extension to the already fierce firebombing of Japanese cities, and that it was ultimately the Soviet Union declaring war on Japan that sealed their fate (Jenkins, 2005). Prominent scientists such as Leo Szilard criticized the bombing for being immoral, indefensible, a war crime, and an act of terrorism. Had the Americans not won the war, it would’ve been they who would be trialed as war criminals.
Knowing all of this, was the bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki justified? Did it have to happen? This is a subject that remains heavily debated even till today. It depends on which historian you talk to, and whether they think Japan was remotely close to surrendering prior to the bombing. The lives that potentially were saved still don’t take away the fact that many Japanese civilians were killed that day. Had it been an invasion instead, it would’ve been primarily soldiers; and following Soviet Union’s declaration of war, a surrender might’ve been imminent.
There is nothing as indiscriminate as an atomic bomb, where its sheer magnitude is something no country could’ve prepared for, could’ve hid away from; there are no reasons to allow these bombs to be dropped on any cities. It is weapons like the atomic bomb that could’ve spelt the end of the world. At this rate, it will not be a meteor, or a great flood that ends the human race, but humans themselves. Thus, we must take it upon ourselves to never use such genocidal weapons again, because already it was not only once but twice, did we risk going down the path of no return.
Jenkins, D. (2005). The Bomb Didn’t Win It. The Guardian.
Maddox, R. (1995). The Biggest Decision: Why We Had to Drop the Atomic Bomb. American Heritage 46(3)
Rezelman, D., Gosling F. G., Terrence R. (2000). The Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki. The Manhattan Project: An Interactive Hstory. U.S. Department of Energy
Skates, J. R. (2000). The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb. University of South Carolina Press. p. 79.
Industrial revolution: for better or for worse?
The Industrial Revolution: a time period between 1760 to 1840 known to many as the greatest heydays in modern history. It was a time where Western civilization began to move from an agricultural dependent society to one where it finds new efficiencies in their lifestyle and improvements to their standard of living using methods of machinery, chemicals, minerals, and steam. This sounds great until you realize the costs involved in achieving these efficiencies, these improvements. Working conditions were deplorable with long working hours for low wages. So, one has to wonder did society as a whole benefit from this time period? Or more importantly, who did this time period benefit? Who were the winners and who were the losers?
Well, there were obvious benefits to the industrialization of society. Working conditions as a whole did improve. Work environment moved from outdoors to indoors making work available throughout the seasons. In addition, long distance transportation was made available. This allowed for people who normally would be trapped in rural areas to migrate in search for newfound opportunities. This led to signs of social mobility, where many of the poor gradually became the middle class, which ushered in an age of many social changes and reforms. But just as there were many who moved up the social status ladder, there were even more people who were left behind.
So who were these unlucky individuals? They were the many who found themselves exploited by working twelve to fourteen hours a day, five days a week, all year long for low paying wages (Fitzgerald, 2000). Regardless of gender or age, women and children alike were both expected to work these hours (Fitzgerald, 2000). They were the peasants who worked in the noble’s lands, those who lay trapped in the rural areas – places that were never very well industrialized, places that the trains did not reach. This led to unfathomable income inequality. While some were profiting from their newfound factories, buying up estates, amassing household slaves, many were left hungry and deprived of opportunities.
In the end, were there winners and losers? Well it depends on the time frame you’re looking at and who you were during the revolution. In the short run and if you were say, a peasant, chances are the Industrial Revolution made you worse off. However in the long run, despite the poor economical situations for many, civilization as a whole wouldn’t be as prosperous as it has become. We wouldn’t be here to discuss the haves and have-nots if it weren’t for the Industrial Revolution. So, we owe it to the peasants who endured and suffered to lay the foundation in which we walk. We owe it to the middle class who furthered social standards, the artisans who had technological breakthroughs that avoided the threat of famine. We owe it to the merchants who acquired charters from lords to establish towns (Fitzgerald, 2000). It is thanks to these people that society profited from its hardships and it is because of them can we have this discussion today.
Sorry to my blog readers that this post is rather vague. The topic I chose could have books written on, so it’s my fault for not choosing to tackle a simpler issue. Word limit was 500, so you get what you pay for, I guess.
A job is a job at the end of the day. I don’t know how the peasants/’unlucky’ individuals were made worse off. They are lucky to get something they didn’t have before. But whatever, it was added in for contrast sake as that’s a popular criticism of the Industrial Revolution.
C.W. “Did living standards improve during Industrial Revolution?”. The Economist: Blog. 2013. Web. 16 July 2014.
Fitzgerald, R. D. “The Social Impact of the Industrial Revolution.” Science and Its Times: Understanding the Social Significance of Scientific Discovery. Ed. Josh Lauer and Neil Schlager. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2000. 376-381. Global Issues In Context. Web. 16 July 2014.