Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Thursday, August 06, 2015

"Call the names....call the names....call the names....."--Marc Blitzstein


I'm not a fan of the use of the atomic bomb on Japan.  I once held to the argument it was easier to use on Japanese than on Germans, in Asia rather than in Europe; and that it really wasn't necessary to end the war.

Then again, I was born 10 years after that war ended.  Hindsight always critiques history.

Over time, I've come to realize war is an inhumane practice.  I've seen the piles of rubble left in Munich as a reminder of war.  Munich is an old, old city; but its buildings are all new (at least in memory).  The rubble from bombs and war were pushed into piles, grass covered mounds 30 years after the war; memorials, of a kind.  Kurt Vonnegut reminded us all of the fire-bombing of Dresden.  Seldom do we remember the firebombing of Tokyo, "World War II's deadliest day."  And then there was the London Blitz.

So I'm less and less inclined to consider Hiroshima and Nagasaki as ultimate horrors, even after reading John Hersey.  He put a human face on the nightmare, on the ability to kill so many and destroy so much with one plane and one bomb.

Perhaps we did it to prove to Russia we were not to be trifled with.  Perhaps Nagasaki was to prove it wasn't a one-off, a fluke; that we could repeat it at will.  Perhaps there were better ways to end what was already a bloody and merciless war in the Pacific.  We won every battle after Midway.  We paid for every victory in blood.

I can't speak to why we did it, or whether it was justified.  But I remember as recently as  30 years ago the fear that we still could face a nuclear war against what was then still the USSR.  The most frightening argument was that never in human history had a weapon existed which hadn't finally found use in war.  Swift had Gulliver explain war to the Houyhnhnms, and it was so horrible they sent him back to England.  What Swift described was nothing compared to war in the 20th century, or the capabilities unleashed on Japan.  Nothing was ever so horrible it stopped humanity from using it in war, or from conducting war again, and again, and again.

But no one has used a nuclear weapon in war since Nagasaki.  We've even banned the above ground testing of nuclear weapons.  I think John Hersey had a lot to do with that, especially after watching the films of above ground tests after World War II.  Which means Japan had a lot to do with that.

Were we right to bomb Japan with such weapons?  What act in war is "right," outside the context of war?  But consider:  no country since has used nuclear weapons against another country.  Yes, we went nuclear mad, developing bazookas that could fire nuclear warheads, proposing even (so I've heard) nuclear hand grenades (the only problem was finding someone stupid enough to throw it).

But we held them, and to some degree we've put them away:  because we saw what it did in Japan, and we decided nothing could justify that again.  Not because Hiroshima and Nagasaki were so particularly terrible in work history; but because this time there would be a nuclear response, and where would that stop?

We bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki to prove we had the most devastating weapon on the planet.  But when other countries got it, Hiroshima and Nagasaki stood as reminders and lessons that they cannot be used in war again, that no one has the advantage with nuclear weapons.

The only proof to my thesis is that they never have been used again.  How long will that last?

Long enough, is all we can hope.


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