We spent a day last week discussing whether we should have dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. The author of the essay, “The Biggest Decision: Why We Had to Drop the Atomic Bomb”, Robert James Maddox said that there were a variety of reasons why we had to drop the bomb. You discussed the reasons, and I’m sure you came to your own conclusions. However, it’s a done deal. There is no time machine. Truman ordered two bombs dropped, and they were dropped. The war ended, the Japanese surrendered, and a horrific invasion of the Japanese mainland was avoided. But the question remains: where do go from here w/ our relationship with Japan?
“I will never apologize for the United States – I don’t care what the facts are.”
George H.W. Bush
President Obama went to Hiroshima back in 2016, and some people were clamoring for an apology to the city or the Japanese people for the dropping of the atomic bomb(s) in August 1945. An individual quoted in the New York Times written before the visit was quoted as saying that “an apology by the president ‘would set the tone of reconciliation that all nations can respond to.’”
In the same article, another person said that Obama could “lament the damage caused by the atomic bombs without apologizing for their use.” A third person said that the president shouldn’t apologize for the bombs because the bombs “saved lives by avoiding a [total war] military invasion of Japan.”
A fourth opinion suggested that Obama use his speech to get the Japanese to confront their troubled legacy from World War 2 and their atrocities in Korea and China. A fifth person suggested that since Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for advocating the reduction of nuclear weapons, he should announce his veto of a previously approved plan to spend $1 trillion on improving our nuclear arsenal.
When Obama gave his speech at Hiroshima, he said about the victims:
“Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become… How often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to the [truth that science allows us to bend nature to our will]? How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause… Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well… Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering [as at Hiroshima]. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.”
Please read the whole speech here: Click here.
Some things to think about:
– Does America have a moral obligation to lead the way with nuclear weapons since we were the only country to use them on a population?
– Would an apology open up the door to Japan asking for reparations for the bombing?
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for his country’s treatment of Native Canadians in the past. An apology “doesn’t cost anything… Has no effect on policy. It was just the nice thing to do.”
– America has apologized to Japanese Americans for their internment, to Rwanda for not getting involved in their genocide, for slavery, and for the treatment of Native Americans. But there are many, many things that America (the president, Congress) has NOT apologized for.
– Americans have been worshipping our war heroes, but the nuclear bombs makes it seem like they might have done something wrong.
– Japan hasn’t apologized for Pearl Harbor, but are the two acts comparable?
– It seems that liberals want to be transparent, self-critical, and ask “are we living up to our values?” Conservatives stress national strength and unity, they want to instill pride, and remember the great things that we have done as a country.
1. Read over Obama’s speech. Do you think he apologized for the atomic bombings? Why or why not?
2. Using the “things to think about” section, which of these comments resonates with you the most? Explain.
3. Which of the five opinions from the New York Times article fits best with your own views on this issue? Why?