August 31, 2015

Hiroshima & The Dilemma of Force Protection

Though the observance of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki passed some three weeks ago, the event has continued to garner reflection and debate. In his recent “Truman Was Right to Use the Bomb on Japan”, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen presented a straightforward justification for the attacks and the case against the United States issuing a formal apology. It’s a difficult theme to be sure, but all the while, though he is trenchant, he is never glib, and he’s careful to acknowledge the horror that engulfed the victims. One ought to detect in this an important point: it is not necessarily inconsistent to be sorry even as one ought not to say sorry. Augustine taught us that sorrow can, indeed ought, accompany the prosecution even of just wars; for wars are fought well when they are fought with compassion for the enemy – even as we close with and kill them; with reluctance – after it’s clear nothing else can reestablish justice, order, and peace; and with remorse – that it all had to come to this in the first place. So one can be sorry even when one is not guilty.

That said, Cohen makes a conceptual stumble in his closing paragraph. In it, and against those who say the bomb ought not to have dropped, he wonders what Truman could possibly have said to Americans who lost a loved one in an invasion of the Japanese homeland that he failed to forestall by not using a weapon at his disposal and thereby ending the war. What would he have said to the American dead? Cohen conjectures that to say “I chose Japanese lives over yours” would not have sufficed. Cohen’s point is rhetorically powerful, certainly. But it’s just not as simple as that…

Continue reading at Philos Project


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