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Author Topic:   Was the Use of Atomic Bombs Against Japan Justified?
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Message 12 of 140 (623169)
07-08-2011 12:53 PM

Missing considerations
There are an awful lot of other considerations missing when discussing justification for the use of nuclear weapons. The casualties actually inflicted were unanticipated even by the American military and were the result of a "perfect storm" of specific conditions.
The first question that should have been asked when speaking about the justification of an action is "why did they do it in the first place?" None of the items listed in the OP deal with why the decision to drop the first and second nuclear devices on Japan was made in the first place.
The reason, quite simply, is the threat of an actual invasion of Japan. Remember, the American military had suffered heavy losses while "island hopping;" the Japanese didn't tend to surrender even when defeat was inevitable, and even civilians would join combat with whatever lay at hand. The casualties on both sides were immense.
An invasion of the main Japanese island was projected to cost far more lives, both American and Japanese, both military and civilian, than nuclear weapons were predicted to cause. US military leadership was very afraid of the cost in lives and equipment that would be required for a Japanese invasion; Normandy was still fresh in everyone's minds, remember - imagine Normandy and the invasion of Europe, except that instead of greeting the Allies as liberators, the civilians would grab a rifle or knife or sword or pitchfork and attack Allied troops on site, where suicide attacks were not unlikely, and where "surrender" was a foreign concept.
WWII had already involved mass-bombings. The only difference between the firebombing of German cities and the use of a nuclear weapon is the specific number of planes (and thus casualties) and bombs required to do the job. Nuclear weapons are more scary because a single device can do the work of thousands of conventional bombs, but the results are similar. Bear in mind also that nobody knew at the time about the casualties due to radiation that would be caused.
As for dropping two...the American military was concerned that using only one device so late in the war would give the impression that we only had a single weapon, and so would fail to convince the Japanese leadership of their inevitable destruction if an unconditional surrender was not offered. A second device was then used over Nagasaki shortly after the first to show that the American military could continue to annihilate Japanese cities with impunity, and that surrender was now the only option available. This is not at all an unreasonable position.
And of course, as has already been mentioned, there was talk of surrender, but no surrender had been offered. Military actions would of course continue until a real surrender occurred, and to say "well, they shouldn't have continued to pursue military options 'cause the Japanese were ready to surrender" is patently absurd knowing that the Japanese could have surrendered at any time but did not, even in the few days after the first nuclear device was used and before the second. Everyone knows how to end a war - one side surrenders. Until there's a surrender, the war keeps going, end of story.
So just to summarize, nuclear weapons were not significantly worse than the carpet-bombing techniques already in use during the war; nuclear weapons were thought to be able to force a surrender without an actual invasion, which was projected to be far less costly in both Japanese and American lives; and the Japanese had not yet actually surrendered.
(Also, as a quick rebuttal, the Americans did not accept the terms of surrender that Japan had wanted; rather, Emperor Hirohito intervened and accepted the terms of surrender required by the Americans:
On August 6, the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Late in the evening of August 8, in accordance with Yalta agreements but in violation of the Soviet—Japanese Neutrality Pact, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, and soon after midnight on August 9, it invaded the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. Later that day the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The combined shock of these events caused Emperor Hirohito to intervene and order the Big Six to accept the terms for ending the war that the Allies had set down in the Potsdam Declaration.
The decision to use nuclear weapons, therefore, was not unjustified at all. American and Japan were still in a state of war. Carpet bombing resulting in the destruction of entire cities was not unheard of during WWII. The projected casualties from using nuclear weapons was significantly less on both the American and Japanese side than the projected casualties of an invasion. Simply from a utilitarian standpoint, choosing to invade instead of using nuclear weapons would have been the immoral choice as it would have resulted in far more death. Surrender was not in the hands of the Americans; only the Japanese could offer surrender. One of the two options had to be taken, and so the Americans chose the option that would have ended the war more quickly and will less loss of life.
As for the actual casualties caused by the use of two nuclear weapons...
They turned out to be a lot higher than anyone anticipated, and this was largely avoidable.
In the time leading up to Hiroshima, American planes would fly over the Japanese mainland in flights of only three planes and drop small explosives that did little to no real damage. The purpose was to lull the Japanese military into largely disregarding these small flights as non-threatening; the fear was that a full air-raid response would result in the plane carrying the nuclear devices being shot down and failing in its mission. The plan worked - when Hiroshima was attacked, they didn't even sound the air raid alarm.
Unfortunately the plan worked too well. The Japanese had already constructed mass bomb shelters in case of a bombing attack. These shelters were concrete and would have protected the vast majority of the population from harm (both from the primary and secondary effects of a nuclear initiation) had they been used. But since the small flights of American planes were largely disregarded, nobody bothered to seek shelter at all. The results, of course, were horrific - many thousands of people were killed who did not need to die.
Nagasaki's story was similar. Nobody yet really believed what had happened in Hiroshima; we weren't in the age of cell phone cameras and instant communication. A small flight of American planes was "not a threat." Nobody used the bomb shelters. Casualties were far higher than the could have, and should have, been.
As to the points actually brought up in the OP...
1. america intercepted messages from Japan to Russia indicating JAPAN WANTED to SURRENDER.
Japan did not want to accept the terms of surrender set down by the Americans, which was the entire issue. If you want to debate whether the Americans should have accepted the Japanese terms for their surrender, that's an entirely separate debate, because it involves whether continuing to prosecute the war at all was justified, and has little to do with the specific manner of hostilities.
2. Japan had already considered surrendering if america would just allow Japan's Emperor to keep his seat on the throne. america said no, but AFTER bombing Negasaki and Hiroshima, america gave into Japan's request.
Wrong. The Japanese accepted the American terms of surrender. The terms were as follows:
On July 26, the United States, Britain and China released the Potsdam Declaration announcing the terms for Japan's surrender, with the warning, "We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay." For Japan, the terms of the declaration specified:
the elimination "for all time [of] the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest"
the occupation of "points in Japanese territory to be designated by the Allies"
"Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine." As had been announced in the Cairo Declaration in 1943.[1]
"The Japanese military forces shall be completely disarmed"
"stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners"
On the other hand, the declaration offered that:
"We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation, ... The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established."
"Japan shall be permitted to maintain such industries as will sustain her economy and permit the exaction of just reparations in kind, ... Japanese participation in world trade relations shall be permitted."
"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 only mention of "unconditional surrender" came at the end of the declaration:
"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." Contrary to what had been intended at its conception, the declaration made no mention of the Emperor at all. Allied intentions on issues of utmost importance to the Japanese, including whether Hirohito was to be regarded as one of those who had "misled the people of Japan" or even a war criminal, or alternatively whether the Emperor might potentially become part of a "peacefully inclined and responsible government" were thus left unstated.
The "prompt and utter destruction" clause has been interpreted as a veiled warning about American possession of the atomic bomb (which had been successfully tested on the first day of the conference for future use).
The Japanese refused to accept the specific terms that were set down as the only acceptable terms for their surrender...until after nuclear weapons were utilized. Shortly after Nagasaki, Emperor Hirohito forced the leadership of Japan to accept these terms. The US didn't budge at all, contrary to what the OP states. After the unconditional surrender was offered, then talks began regarding the future of Japan.
Again, we can debate whether the US should have taken such a hard-line stance in demanding specific nonnegotiable terms for surrender, but that's a debate on whether the war should have continued at all, not a debate on whether nuclear weapons were justified.
3. america knew japan would surrender unconditionally when Japan found out that Russia would join the fight. So, america hastened the two bombings BEFORE Japan COULD surrender for an american show of power toward Russia.
Bullshit. I reiterate what I've already quoted:
On August 6, the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Late in the evening of August 8, in accordance with Yalta agreements but in violation of the Soviet—Japanese Neutrality Pact, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, and soon after midnight on August 9, it invaded the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. Later that day the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
There were two days between the first nuclear weapon and the Russian declaration of war. Another day passed before the Russians invaded a Japanese-controlled territory and the second bomb was dropped. The US used two nuclear weapons in relatively short order to convince the Japanese that more such devices existed and that the absolute destruction would continue if surrender was not offered. The Russians had already joined the war by the time the second device was used. Three full days lapsed between the first and second nuclear weapons - ample time for a declaration of surrender, which was not offered.
When you're at war, and you don't surrender, it's expected that the enemy will continue to attack!
4. if ANY regards towards human life was any factor at all, america could have detonated the first bomb over water as a deterent/warning.
We had two. Two nuclear weapons after the first device was tested. It was just Fat Man and Little Boy; we used them close together to provide the illusion that we had many, but we only had two.
You don't waste a weapon by detonating it over water. You take out a military target to eliminate the opponent's ability and will to continue to resist. The ability to annihilate cities in bombing attacks was already very well established in WWII; that we could now do it with a single weapon rather than thousands in a coordinated strike is merely a detail. The Japanese were amply warned that the US intended to utterly destroy cities if surrender was not offered, through leaflets dropped over Japan by American bombers.
5. The second, even more unnecessary, bomb was completely and utterly criminal. All communication was broken in Japan and america gave no time for the Japanese to assess the first bomb's damage before detonating the second.
Three days. The Japanese had three days to realize that Hiroshima was gone. You don't need to do much assessment to determine that one of your cities is a blasted wasteland! The US didn't use both nuclear weapons on the same day; they didn't use them within 24 or 48 hours; they waited three full days before using the second nuclear weapon, sufficient time for Japan to accept the terms of their surrender, and little enough time to fully establish the perception that more such weapons existed.
Moreover, as I've already explained, the reason behind using the second weapon so close to the first was to provide the illusion that many nuclear devices were primed and ready for use on Japan should surrender not be offered immediately. The Japanese offered no surrender in the meantime despite having the means to do so, and so the war was continued.
Now again, we can debate whether the US and its allies should have been so hard-line in demanding Japan's unconditional surrender. We can debate whether the US should have been more eager to seek a diplomatic end to hostilities.
But in the absence of a surrender or negotiations, the military had two choices: nuclear weapons or invasion.
Nuclear weapons cost no American lives, and were projected to cost fewer Japanese lives than an invasion. Nuclear weapons would end the war quickly, rather than a drawn out campaign of additional island-hopping and an eventual invasion of the main island, followed by continuing to fight in mainland Japan until the Japanese leadership surrendered. Nuclear weapons would minimize (yes, minimize) civilian deaths because bomb shelters were readily available, and because civilians had been shown to attack Allied troops in previous battles in the Pacific, forcing Allied soldiers to kill them and painting a grim picture for civilians in an invasion.
Simple utilitarian ethics make the usage of nuclear weapons the obviously more moral choice if hostilities were to be continued at all.

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by dronestar, posted 07-08-2011 1:27 PM Rahvin has replied
 Message 17 by Itinerant Lurker, posted 07-08-2011 2:17 PM Rahvin has not replied

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Message 18 of 140 (623187)
07-08-2011 2:22 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by dronestar
07-08-2011 1:27 PM

Re: Missing considerations
Mister Rhavin,
How sad. I usually expect so much more from YOU regarding humanitarian aspects.
What happened?
Utilitarian decisions are not always so obvious. One must look past the horror of the specific event and actually compare the results of each alternative and choose the one that causes the least harm or most benefit.
Nuclear weapons are terrible. Their use was terrible. But an actual boots-on-the-ground invasion of Japan would have been far worse, for Americans and Japanese, including civilians.
If a soldier has his foot on the neck of an infant, and the infant refuses to declare "surrender", would it be Ok for the soldier to step on the infant's neck and crack it?
What sort of absurdity is this? Do you not understand the word "war?" This is exactly why war should be declared in only the most dire need; a war is an attempt through force of arms to sufficiently eliminate the means and will of an enemy to resist that a surrender acceptable to the "winning" party is offered.
Japan's ability to make war on the US and its allies were significantly degraded by the August of their surrender, yes. But in war, hostilities may continue, and arguably must continue, until one party surrenders. That's the whole point of a war - to force certain concessions through surrender to force of arms.
Japan was a defeated nation before the bombs, fact. america ran out of bombing sites as the sites had been leveled repeatedly over.
Yet they didn't surrender.
The invasion numbers were exaggerated out of thin air (now i'll need to find that excellent article I read many months ago about this for support).
True or false: Japanese civilians frequently engaged American military forces during the campaign in the Pacific.
If this is true, it would be reasonable to conclude that Japanese civilians would similarly become combatants during an invasion of the mainland, and that they would arguably do so in greater numbers to defend their home from invasion, as well as defending their Emperor, who had religious significance at the time. This would result in significant civilian casualties, on top of what would obviously be extremely high military casualties on both sides.
How many died during the invasion of Normandy? Why would an invasion of Japan be significantly less deadly?
Your long post didn't sufficiently address the fact the bombs murdered/targeted MOSTLY CIVILIANS. When is targeting and murdering DEFENSELESS civilians part of war?
The nuclear weapons targeted military and construction facilities in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
During World War II, the Second Army and Chugoku Regional Army were headquartered in Hiroshima, and the Army Marine Headquarters was located at Ujina port. The city also had large depots of military supplies, and was a key center for shipping.
The city of Nagasaki had been one of the largest sea ports in southern Japan and was of great wartime importance because of its wide-ranging industrial activity, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials.
The cities were targeted for their military significance, not just to murder a bunch of civilians. Your assertion that civilians were deliberately targeted is baseless and ridiculous; collateral damage, while terrible, is inevitable when targeting military assets in a city, especially in WWII when "precision guided munitions" meant "drop a whole lot of bombs to make sure you hit it." Or in this case "drop a really BIG bomb to make sure you hit it."
The civilian deaths were the result of massive overkill, not deliberate targeting; and in fact as I stated the civilian deaths were far higher than anticipated by the US because the Japanese bomb shelters were underutilized, having not even sounded an air raid alarm at the sight of an "insignificant" threat.
Far more importantly, how many civilians would have died during an invasion? This is what it all comes down to: a utilitarian comparison of the alternatives and their costs and benefits. We can both very obviously agree that the use of nuclear weapons was horrible, but given the projected casualty numbers at the time of decision and without the benefit of hindsight, we should also be able to agree that the alternative to the use of nuclear weapons, invasion, would have been worse.
Just as a bit of reality, allow me to remind you if Iwo Jima:
The battle was the first U.S. attack on the Japanese Home Islands and the Imperial soldiers defended their positions tenaciously. Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers present at the beginning of the battle, over 20,000 were killed and only 1,083 taken prisoner.
That's around 5% of the Japanese soldiers who actually surrendered. 95% were killed. And this isn't even mainland Japan, where resistance would arguably have been more fierce.
And some of the other Pacific battles:
According to The official Navy Department Library website (Error - Page Not Found) The 36-day (Iwo Jima) assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead. To put that into context, the 82-day Battle of Okinawa lasted from early April until mid-June 1945 and U.S. (5 Army and 2 Marine Corps Divisions) casualties were over 62,000 of whom over 12,000 were killed or missing, while the Battle of the Bulge lasted 40 days (16 Dec 44 — 25 Jan 45) with almost 90,000 U.S. casualties of; 19,000 killed, 47,500 wounded, and 23,000 captured or missing.
Those were not pulled out of the air; they are real numbers of dead, injured, and missing Americans. ONLY THE AMERICANS! It doesn't even mention the Japanese casualties, or the civilians!
I asked before, what is the definition of war crimes and terrorism?
It would seem that your definition requires that all acts of war are war crimes. That's just not so.
Wars are not fought exclusively by military personnel. Wars are not fought "over there," in some vast undefined desert where civilians won't get hurt. Civilians manufacture war materiel; civilians provide the economic backbone that supplies the war effort. And while targeting civilians simply to cause death would certainly be a war crime, it is acceptable in war, if still abhorrent, that civilians will be killed when the militarily significant assets they work in or live near are targeted. Destroying a major shipping harbor and weapons manufacturing center is a major military target, and is fully legitimate. If the weapons technology of the time reduced options to "drop a lot of bombs to make sure it's destroyed" or "drop a really big bomb to make sure it's destroyed," the civilian casualties are inevitable; and while regrettable, it's not a war crime.
Specifically targeting civilians is a war crime. Killing civilians, even many civilians, while targeting a military asset is not a war crime. The weapons technology of the 1940's was incapable of reducing civilian casualties to a minimum while targeting military assets in population centers.
What happened to your humanity dude? I am sad for you.
I'm a utilitarian. I researched for a paper on this exact subject some years ago in school for a history class. I remember the relative casualty projections - hundreds of thousands of Americans dead alone in an invasion, plus Japanese military (with a well-supported 90%+ casualty rate), plus Japanese civilians. I remember the projected casualties for the nuclear weapons - some 50-75,000 dead for each weapon. If I knew exactly what Truman knew at the moment of decision, the utilitarian choice would be the use of nuclear weapons.
That the casualties due to not sounding air raid alarms, not using bomb shelters, and radiation (an unknown until after the fact) proved to be far higher than those projected has nothing at all to do with whether the decision was justified at the time it was made. People can be wrong, even with terrible consequences, and still have made the right choice given what they knew at the time.
Now again - we could instead debate whether continuing to insist on the Allied terms rather than simply accepting the Japanese terms for surrender was justified. We can debate whether hostilities should have continued at all at that point, and we would likely even agree that the war should have ended in talks rather than nuclear initiations.
But that's not a discussion about whether the use of nuclear weapons was justified. That's a discussion of whether hostilities in any form should have continued.
Given that hostilities were going to continue, there were two options: invasion, or nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons were projected to cause significantly fewer casualties for everyone involved, and thus end the war quickly and with the minimum loss of life possible for all sides.
Given those two choices, Truman made the correct utilitarian decision.

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 Message 14 by dronestar, posted 07-08-2011 1:27 PM dronestar has replied

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Message 20 of 140 (623195)
07-08-2011 3:05 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by dronestar
07-08-2011 2:58 PM

Re: Missing considerations
dronester, I'm going to reply only by stating that you're not being very convincing. Your level of debate thus far has exclusively consisted of mockery and personal incredulity.
Show me that the casualties from an invasion were projected at the time to be lower than the projected casualties of using nuclear weapons.
I'm a utilitarian. Show me that the alternative would have been less harmful, and I'll change my tune - but they had to have that knowledge at the point of decision, not after the fact.
Until then, all you've done is say "nu uh" and "that's ridiculous." I don't care about your opinions or beliefs; back your shit up with numbers and data or concede that you have no idea what you're talking about.

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Message 21 of 140 (623196)
07-08-2011 3:07 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by dronestar
07-08-2011 2:58 PM

Re: Missing considerations
Do you not understand the word "war?"
Do you not understand the word "war crime?" (and, thanks for publicly stating that you are pro-collateral damage. It's all starting to make sense to me now)
Also - what, did you leave your brain at home today?
"Pro-collateral damage?"
Recognizing that something is inevitable and not necessarily a crime is rather different from supporting it.
Collateral damage is, in fact, largely why I'm anti-war. The rest being that I'm against wasting money on military budgets and losing the lives of military personnel as well.

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 Message 22 by dronestar, posted 07-08-2011 3:19 PM Rahvin has not replied
 Message 23 by frako, posted 07-08-2011 3:21 PM Rahvin has replied

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Message 25 of 140 (623206)
07-08-2011 3:44 PM
Reply to: Message 23 by frako
07-08-2011 3:21 PM

Re: Missing considerations
When yo drop a bomb, you will likely damage more than your target. Collateral damage is inevitable.
Frako, provide some evidence of "1001" alternatives to the use of nuclear weapons. The two options seriously considered by Truman were invasion or nukes. Explain which other options there were, don;t just refer to undefined alternatives. If you dont say what those alternatives were, then the rest of us don't know about them.
Destroying major shipping ports and manufacturing facilities is not and was not a war crime. Killing civilians in the course of destroying those military targets is not and was not a war crime. Unnecessarily killing more civilians than necessary would be a war crime, and you'd need to present evidence that, using WWII technology, those military assets could have been destroyed with a lower casualty rate than the projected, not actual, casualties from nuclear weapons (since hindsight is irrelevant, we can only judge a decision based on what was or should have been known at the time).
So far all I see is yet more incredulity and no fact.

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 Message 26 by frako, posted 07-08-2011 4:57 PM Rahvin has replied

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Message 27 of 140 (623221)
07-08-2011 5:49 PM
Reply to: Message 26 by frako
07-08-2011 4:57 PM

Re: Missing considerations
Carpet bombing would have yielded much fewer casualties then an A bomb
And the primary targets in Nagasaki the port and the steal works where already destroyed by regular bombs
Nagasaki had never been subjected to large-scale bombing prior to the explosion of a nuclear weapon there. On August 1, 1945, however, a number of conventional high-explosive bombs were dropped on the city. A few hit in the shipyards and dock areas in the southwest portion of the city, several hit the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms Works, and six bombs landed at the Nagasaki Medical School and Hospital, with three direct hits on buildings there. While the damage from these bombs was relatively small, it created considerable concern in Nagasaki and many peopleprincipally school childrenwere evacuated to rural areas for safety, thus reducing the population in the city at the time of the nuclear attack.
There was a small-scale bombing, part of the plan to make the Japanese disregard the small flights of bombers as a minor threat. The facilities were not destroyed - damage was minor.
And as for how informed the Japanese where about the A bomb the air raid siren was called off because they believed that the plane they see is only on a reconnaissance mission.
Which I specifically mentioned as the reason the nuclear weapons caused so much more death than was projected before their actual use - nobody was in the bomb shelters.
One would be that you drop the bomb in to explode above the ocean for the emperor to see
That's a foolish use of a military weapon as powerful and expensive as a nuclear weapon. You don't just show what you can do in war. You use weapons to damage the enemy's will and ability to continue to resist, full stop. The Allies never bombed an uninhabited forest and said "see what we did there? surrender or we'll do that to a city;" they just bombed the damned city, because otherwise the "example" would have been a waste of expensive and powerful weapons. WWII was a war of absolute survival, not any of the idiotic games we've been playing in the 21st century. The Axis powers were a real existential threat to the Allies, and the word "attrition" had real meaning. We didn't have a mountain of nuclear warheads ready to go - we had two. You don;t waste a limited supply of a powerful weapon in an existential war by throwing it into the damned ocean.
then accept his surrender that had the condition he remains in power.
Irrelevant. If negotiation on terms of surrender had been allowed, even a demonstration of a nuclear weapon would have been unnecessary. Read what I post again, Frako - given that the Japanese did not surrender, among the options under consideration, nuclear weapons were projected to cause fewer casualties on both sides than an actual invasion. I can agree that the Allies should have been more interested in negotiating surrender rather than their hardline "unconditional" position, but that's a completely separate debate from whether or not nuclear weapons should have been used given that hostilities were going to continue in some form or another.
Do you relay think after seeing a mushroom cloud for himself that he would not surrender?
Well, they didn't surrender after Hiroshima, did they. They had three days before Nagasaki, they could have easily sent a message of surrender after seeing a mushroom cloud for themselves, and they didn't do it. SO I think your demonstration would have done shit-all except waste one of two nuclear weapons in existence without destroying a single enemy military asset.
So, "1001" alternatives, and all you provide is a shitty one that we know wouldn't have worked because a "demonstration" on an actual city wasn't enough to force a surrender.
Have anything else?

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Message 35 of 140 (623234)
07-08-2011 7:29 PM
Reply to: Message 31 by frako
07-08-2011 7:00 PM

Re: Missing considerations
The al kaida did not commit any ware crime when it attacked the WTC with those planes the goal was not to kill civilians but to shock America into surrender. Would you agree with this statement?
Why would anyone agree with that statement? It's ridiculous on its face.
Surrender? America? Over the loss of a couple buildings? To who? What the hell are you even talking about?
9/11 was an act of terrorism. Literally, the intent was not at all to eliminate the US' military means or will to make war on Al Qaeda, but rather to just kill as many Americans as possible and make us feel really scared.
Only an absolute idiot would ever think for even a moment that the US would "surrender" over the loss of a couple of buildings.
The point of such a mass-murder attack was blatantly obvious, as were its reasons. Al Qaeda, being a small, loose organization of fanatics who hate the West in general and America in particular for varying reasons, most of them religious in nature, is not a state. Neither does it have the resources of a state, let alone the military assets to prosecute a war against a superpower. Instead of futilely trying to force capitulation through small-scale military action, they resorted to mass-murder on a scale as large as they could manage in an effort to "terrorize" the American public.
They wanted us scared. They wanted us afraid. They wanted us worried that we could be next, that they could get their hands on a nuke, or a dirty bomb, or another plane, or who knows what, and that they'd set it off in out back yard. They wanted us to become our own enemy, changing our way of life out of fear of additional attacks on civilians. And they succeeded, at least that part.
But 9/11 was not an act of war. An act of war can only be committed by a state. A nation. Al Qaeda is no such thing; it can no more commit a "war crime" than a bunch of soccer hooligans in England can do so. They can commit "crimes against humanity," but they aren't a legally recognized state with a legal military - they can;t declare war, you cant declare war on them, etc. They're just criminals, murderers with a cause, not soldiers.

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Message 44 of 140 (623550)
07-11-2011 1:34 PM
Reply to: Message 43 by AZPaul3
07-11-2011 1:13 PM

Re: Nice Bomb
Japan's immanent surrender is a post-war myth. A demonstration would have meant nothing.
We need to stop pretending that a demonstration didn't occur.
A demonstration occurred at Hiroshima. The Japanese then had three days to surrender. With radio technology, there is absolutely no excuse for a delay. Three days is more than enough time for the Japanese leadership to acknowledge that a major city had just been annihilated by an American weapon. The circumstance is no different whatsoever from a demonstration at sea, or in a desert, or any other location where loss of life would be prevented in terms of demonstrating the power of nuclear weapons.
It's not just that "a demonstration would have done nothing."
There was a demonstration. The Japanese did not surrender after the demonstration, and so another weapon was used. Relocating the initial demonstration would only have had a greater effect if it was done over Tokyo and annihilated the entire Japanese leadership...which would have disabled Japan's ability to surrender.

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 Message 43 by AZPaul3, posted 07-11-2011 1:13 PM AZPaul3 has replied

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Message 77 of 140 (623952)
07-14-2011 8:09 PM
Reply to: Message 76 by Modulous
07-14-2011 7:17 PM

Re: my unstudied view of the situation
If, for instance, the nation is teetering on the edge of surrender and are just looking for a suitable exit strategy, that might not be the time for strategic nuking, unless you want to send a message to other potential enemies.
1) the discussion of whether hostilities should have continued at all in anticipation of a possible immanent Japanese surrender is a separate discussion from whether nuclear weapons should have been used. Immanent surrender is equally a justification to forestall an invasion just as much as it is against the use of nuclear weapons.
2) The available actual evidence, that is the casualty vs capture rates of the Japanese military forces at Iwo Jima and other islands as well as the civilian deaths in those battles is more than just suggestive of massive civilian and military casualties in an invasion of the actual main Japanese island. Those numbers are not projections, they are actual casualty rates. I'd like to remind you of what I posted earlier:
Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers present at the beginning of the battle, over 20,000 were killed and only 1,083 taken prisoner.[11]
That's a little greater than a 95% casualty rate. More than 95% of the Japanese soldiers on that island died rather than surrender or be captured.
I'll add a bit about Okinawa, just to show that Iwo Jima wasn;t a fluke:
Of the 117,000 Japanese troops defending Okinawa, 94 percent died.[79]
Both from Wiki.
Not a projection. Not a prediction. Actual already-happened-and-we-counted fact. If that data is used as a prediction for the results of an invasion of the Japanese main island, how many Japanese military dead would we have seen? According to Wiki:
By August, they had 14 divisions and various smaller formations, including three tank brigades, for a total of 900,000 men.
95% casualties would have resulted in 855,000 deaths. The Japanese military was at the time in full awareness of the inevitability of defeat, and was simply ordering men and civilians to take out as many invaders as they could before they died (or, in the case of the thousands of Kamikaze pilots, as they died).
In the case of civilians, at Okinawa alone, there were an
Estimated 42,000—150,000 civilians killed
That was around a third of the total population of the island, most of them suicides.
What exactly would count as convincing evidence, Mod, that the Japanese military and civilians were so fanatically devoted to fighting and then committing suicide when further victory became impossible? If not the actual events at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, what would be convincing?
From what I see, an invasion of the Japanese mainland would have involved many hundreds of thousands of dead Japanese soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of dead Japanese civilians, as well as an extremely high casualty rate for the invading forces. This would have been preceded by additional airstrikes (which were going on already; a bombing on Tokyo caused a firestorm that killed around 100,000 people, and nobody seems to bat an eyelash).
The situation as I see it (assuming that hostilities continued at all; again, the debate on whether the Japanese were "teetering on the edge of surrender" is an entirely separate debate from how to proceed with hostilities if they should continue) is that the US needed to either horrify the Japanese with an attack so utterly devastating that it would shock them into a surrender, or go through with an invasion. Destroying cities and high death tolls was not convincing to the Japanese. The annihilation of their military and civilian populations while island hopping was not convincing. The destruction of their entire navy as a viable fighting force was not convincing. Civilians were going to fight or commit suicide in the case of an invasion.
War is, by definition, an environment with no good choices; there are only choices that are less terrible than the alternatives. I think that the evidence provided by Iwo Jima and Okinawa solidly proves beyond a reasonable doubt that an invasion would have been worse than the two nuclear weapons used in terms of death caused.
As to whether or not the Japanese were about to surrender anyway and we should have stopped all hostilities, including conventional bombing, mining their harbors by air, and so on...that's en entirely separate discussion, one I'd be glad to have, and one we might actually reach quick agreement on. The final strikes of WW2 were enormous tragedies.

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 Message 76 by Modulous, posted 07-14-2011 7:17 PM Modulous has replied

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Message 83 of 140 (624016)
07-15-2011 12:05 PM
Reply to: Message 81 by dronestar
07-15-2011 11:06 AM

Re: my unstudied view of the situation
It's as if I didn't show any supporting evidence that "In fact, the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not forestall an invasion of Japan because no invasion was necessary."
You didn't.
Rather, you showed that some high-profile leaders were concerned that an invasion may not have been necessary.
You may recall, however, that evidence has been posted which clearly shows a pattern of literal death-before-surrender on the part of the Japanese, where both civilians and military alike would engage in suicidal charges, kamikaze attacks, or simply throw themselves from great heights to avoid remaining alive in the face of an Allied victory.
It was a very clearly established doctrine among the Japanese leadership that surrender was not to be truly considered. There were some individuals who dissented, but even after the first nuclear weapon was used against Hiroshima, the "Big Six" still did not decide to surrender; they maintained that it was literally better for the entire Japanese population to die rather than accept the Allied terms of surrender (or, indeed, any terms in the case of some members).
Surrender was not going to happen until Hirohito himself forced the matter...and even then some members of the "Big Six" attempted a coup to avoid even Hirohito's express instruction that surrender be offered.
Japan was defeated, yes. Their Navy was a shambles and had long since ceased to be a viable fighting force. THis meant they could no longer project military power outside of their remaining territory, or effectively defend it. THey had some thousands of planes, but these were largely Kamikaze, as they had a shortage of skilled pilots. Their economy was ruined, as the Allies had blockaded the islands and mined their coastal waters from the air. While anti-air defense was still possible to a degree, the Allies were able to continue a conventional air-bombing campaign that included attacks that created higher death tolls than the nuclear weapons themselves. Japan was nearly out of oil entirely, and could not resupply their military or even effectively feed their civilians. In short, Japan was toothless, unable to attack or even effectively defend itself against the Allies.
Yet Japan still would not surrender. You mention the difference between American and non-American attitudes, but you seem incapable of comprehending the basic facts of 1940s Japanese culture. The Emperor was literally considered a living deity. "Saving face" was not just a matter of avoiding the unpleasantness of embarrassment. "Honor" was a flawed concept clung to with religious zeal, even when it required suicide rather than defeat. The civilians, even, were ready to throw their bodies and even the bodies of their children at invading forces in suicidal attacks that would have resulted in the annihilation of the Japanese culture in its entirety.
"They didn't know when to quit" doesn't even begin to cover this.
Firebombing Tokyo and killing 100,000 people didn't shock the Japanese leadership sufficiently to surrender. The threat of imminent invasion wasn't enough. Blockading the island and stopping all trade or even fishing wasn't enough. Nuking Hiroshima wasn't enough. If it weren't for Hirohito himself, even nuking Nagasaki still wouldn't have been enough, as it's clear the "Big Six" as a unit (despite some dissenters) had no interest in surrender even then.
Even a cessation of hostilities and simply maintaining the naval and aerial blockade to wait out an eventual surrender, a nation-wide siege, would have resulted in thousands of deaths or more just due to starvation and the utter halt of the Japanese economy (without imports, they'd lose all access to oil, medicine, etc.; without fish, they'd run out of food).
Again, there were no good choices here. War is terrible, even when you're trying to end it. Invasion results in unspeakable death. Blockade without invasion results in death. Nuclear weapons result in death.
The only solution was surrender on the part of the Japanese...and the ball was entirely in their court. The Japanese leadership continually, even after all of these things, to not take the reasonable option and surrender. Instead they continued to wage a propaganda war painting Allied soldiers as murdering, raping, torturing, thieving barbarians. We know from Japanese soldiers and citizens who survived Iwo Jima and Okinawa that both were terrified of the Americans, not only as a matter of honor but because they were actually convinced that the Americans would brutally torture and murder them anyway. They expressed shocked relief when they were treated well after capture.
Essentially, your position confuses me. We know for an absolute fact that the Japanese did not surrender even after a nuclear weapon was used on Hiroshima, and that even after Nagasaki and an Imperial command to surrender, the military leaders of the "Big Six" resisted and had every intention of fighting to the last man, woman, and child.
We know this for absolute certainty because it's what actually happened, not simply a matter of speculation.
Why, then, knowing that even after being completely de-clawed and the use of nuclear weapons the Japanese leadership was still so reluctant to surrender, are you so convinced that surrender was forthcoming?

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 Message 81 by dronestar, posted 07-15-2011 11:06 AM dronestar has replied

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 Message 84 by dronestar, posted 07-15-2011 12:21 PM Rahvin has replied
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Message 85 of 140 (624023)
07-15-2011 12:45 PM
Reply to: Message 84 by dronestar
07-15-2011 12:21 PM

Re: my unstudied view of the situation
dronester, you're appealing to the beliefs of non-Japanese authorities.
An appeal to authority is still a logical fallacy. Show me that the Japanese were about to surrender, not that some Allied big names thought they were going to surrender.

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Message 88 of 140 (624041)
07-15-2011 2:45 PM
Reply to: Message 87 by Itinerant Lurker
07-15-2011 2:23 PM

Re: my unstudied view of the situation
True, but only because the order was perceived as coming from a legitimate authority as well as because it was recognized that the U.S. could destroy Japan without invading. Without both of these factors I doubt that would have happened - and neither of these factors would have come into play during a prolonged period of blockade & diplomacy.
Not just a legitimate authority.
The Emperor. He made a national radio address specifically stating that the reason for surrender was that the only alternative was the complete and total destruction of Japanese culture and the Japanese people. To the Japanese at the time, Hirohito was a living god. The suicidal fanaticism was over protecting the Emperor and his honor in the first place. If the Emperor says to surrender and preserve Japan, then the citizenry will do it.
Well...for the average citizen and soldier anyway. The military leadership was willing to stage a coup to stop that address, after all. Fortunately they were unsuccessful.

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 Message 87 by Itinerant Lurker, posted 07-15-2011 2:23 PM Itinerant Lurker has replied

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Message 95 of 140 (624512)
07-18-2011 12:08 PM
Reply to: Message 94 by Modulous
07-17-2011 1:31 PM

Re: my unstudied view of the situation
And so on. There is evidence that an invasion, in the absence of surrender from the Emperor, would have caused death tolls comparable to dropping the atomic bombs.
Inaccurate. There is significant evidence that the death toll would have been significantly higher than the use of nuclear weapons.
Even doing nothing, simply continuing to blockade the island while stopping all bombing and holding off on invasion, would have quickly resulted in famine as trade and fishing were cut off, and disease and death as access to medical supplies and industrial infrastructure became unavailable.
I refer you again to what I've posted thus far in the thread - battles where Japanese military forces suffered 94-95% casualties, where civilians attacked US forces and committed suicide in droves. Roughly a third of the civilian population of Okinawa died, not due to carpet bombing or getting caught in crossfires, but because they killed themselves or threw themselves at soldiers armed with swords and tools.
But my view is that there is sufficient doubt over the Japanese's continued commitment to the war and that they were looking for an exit strategy and that therefore a bloody invasion or strategic nuking would both have been premature actions. The plus side to an invasion is that an invasion isn't quite so instant mass-deaths, giving the Emperor opportunity to surrender before hundreds of thousands had died.
I'm curious about this doubt, Mod. The Japanese leadership was not a monolithic entity - there were elements of the Japanese "Big Six" who were ready to surrender (or at least talk about it), but the Emperor and the military were committed to repeating Okinawa and Iwo Jima on the main Japanese island. They were giving school girls leatherworking tools and telling them to attack American soldiers by "aiming for the abdomen." They trained thousands of Kamikaze pilots and suicide boats.
They didn't surrender after tens of thousands died on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. They didn't surrender after Tokyo was firebombed and ~100,000 people died. They didn't surrender as their military lost the ability to make more than a costly token defense that everyone knew would inevitably end in defeat. They didn't surrender when their coastal waters were mined and blockaded, preventing trade or even fishing, and thus guaranteeing that their economy and even their food supply would fail. They didn't surrender after Hiroshima was annihilated.
If you say you have sufficient reason to doubt the Japanese commitment to continue the war, I have to ask why on Earth, when faced with all these historical facts, you still believe there is sufficient cause to hold a reasonable belief that the Japanese were "ready" to surrender?
More directly: what evidence is there, at all, that the Japanese were in fact ready to surrender? In order for such a belief to be reasonable, there must be at least sufficient evidence to justify even a small amount of confidence. Where is it?
Equally important: what would convince you that the use of nuclear weapons would have been justified? If there is no instance where you believe they should ever be used in any circumstance, we can simply end the discussion now; but if there is, what would be adequate justification, particularly in the case of Japan? What bit of evidence should you see or not see to convince you that their use was justified?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 94 by Modulous, posted 07-17-2011 1:31 PM Modulous has replied

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 Message 98 by Modulous, posted 07-19-2011 2:54 AM Rahvin has replied

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Message 99 of 140 (624700)
07-19-2011 1:14 PM
Reply to: Message 98 by Modulous
07-19-2011 2:54 AM

Re: my unstudied view of the situation
Hi Rahvin,
I think it worth pointing out, in case it had gone unnoticed, that my view is 'unstudied'. If you want to get into the nitty gritty details I point you back at dronester who has done a better job than I at defending the notion that the Japanese were on the brink of surrender and that two nuclear weapons might have been overkill towards attaining that goal.
I really don't think he has. I took a second look at his posts in this thread, and he hasn't posted a shred of evidence supporting his position. Instead, he's posted a series of appeals to the authority of Americans from the time period - he's referring to the opinions of what are essentially celebrities, some of them part of the American military, some of them (like Einstein) completely irrelevant, and not a single one was an actual Japanese authority that could settle whether the Japanese leadership was actually considering surrender.
My view is that we had best be very very certain that surrender was not going to occur without the need to drop nuclear bombs, and it seems there is sufficient evidence that a surrender might have been on the cards to justify holding off on the nuking. Again, I refer you to dronester who has provided more than I can as far as supporting that notion.
And again, he's provided nothing at all, which is why I find your position curious.
I agree that a degree of certainty would have been required prior to the authorization of any continued hostilities, particularly the use of nuclear weapons. However, I believe I have very well supported the position that the Japanese leadership as a whole (and the military in particular) had absolutely no intention to surrender to the Allies.
Is it your view that there is absolutely no evidence supporting the notion that the Japanese were considering surrender? I appreciate that earlier in the war they were not acting like surrender was an option.
Ive certainly never seen such evidence, including what dronester has posted. All I see are assertions, arguments from incredulity, and appeals to authority.
The Battle of Iwo Jima, in which 95% of the Japanese forces were killed, ended in March 1945, just 5 months before the use of nuclear weapons and the end of the war. Okinawa, in which between 25 and 30% of the civilians were killed as they attacked US soldiers or simply committed suicide, ended in June of 1945, just a scant two months before the end. I don't think that qualifies as "earlier," Mod - rather this appears to be solid evidence that the "no surrender" attitude was dominant even at the end of the war.
I suppose evidence to change my mind would not be evidence that the Japanese had previously been loathe to surrender, but that the rumblings of surrender that do seem to be evidenced are somehow in error.
Where is the evidence of these rumblings? I haven't seen a single bit of evidence showing any such thing in this thread. Again, I;ve seen plenty of assertions, and plenty of appeals to the authority of persons unrelated to the actual Japanese leadership, with not even a single quote from any of the Big Six or other Japanese personnel. I;ve seen plenty of arguments from incredulity, that the Japanese forces had already been declawed and were defeated and thus had to be ready to surrender because to not surrender in those circumstances seems inconceivable.
But the simple facts show the truth - they didn't surrender. Not after their military was defeated. Not after Okinawa. Not after Iwo Jima. Not after the firebombing of Tokyo. Not even after Hiroshima.
Instead they continued to circulate propaganda painting the US forces as monsters, and even went so far as to train children, even teenage girls, to attack American invaders with "weapons" like leatherworking awls. They prepared a massive Kamikaze force to take out as many invaders as possible in the final invasion. They knew they were beaten, they knew they had no way to win, but their cultural differences caused them to consider surrender to not be an option, even though such a position is completely irrational to you and me. They clearly held this position right up to the end of the war.
And even then, I cannot comprehend what the case might have to be to justify nuking two cities within days of each other.
And so to you there is no possible justification? In that case the discussion is moot, but I'd like to see your reasoning for why using a pair of nukes is somehow different than WWII conventional warfare that caused similar damage to infrastructure and civilian death. Is your issue only that we waited three days between Hiroshima and Nagasaki? If so, how long would have been appropriate? The Japanese were in possession of radios, their infrastructure remained sufficiently intact for Hirohito to address the nation via radio after Nagasaki (contrary, of course, to dronester's unsupported assertion that the Japanese lacked the infrastructure to even be capable of surrender; they surrendered after Nagasaki, so clearly they had the infrastructure prior to the use of nuclear weapons); it doesn't take three days to signal to the Allies that the Japanese intended to surrender.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 98 by Modulous, posted 07-19-2011 2:54 AM Modulous has replied

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Message 103 of 140 (624714)
07-19-2011 2:19 PM
Reply to: Message 101 by Modulous
07-19-2011 1:52 PM

Re: dichotomy?
I am not free of insight into the possibility of a tough invasion, with high casualty rates. Are you seriously suggesting that the only two options were to engage in total war invasion or strategic nuclear bombs?
There were other alternatives. The option other than nuclear weapons and invasion was an extended naval blockade with aerial bombardment - basically what had been happening so far anyway. And of course famine and disease from the blockade and death from the bombing would have killed hundreds of thousands if not millions...the Tokyo firebombing had already cost ~100,000 lives alone.
There were no options that did not result in more dead Japanese other than a Japanese surrender. The Japanese leadership could have surrendered at any time, and did not. The ball was in their court, and they decided to take the option that involved sending basically unarmed civilians in human wave attacks against invaders on the mainland instead of surrender.

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