Would the U.S. Drop the Bomb Again?
More after the break.
"In the decades since World War II, U.S. public approval of Truman’s decision to use nuclear weapons has declined significantly. In July 2015, just before the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings, we asked YouGov, a leading survey firm, to replicate the 1945 Roper poll, using a representative sample of 840 U.S. citizens.
This time, only 28% of respondents agreed that dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been the right choice, while 32% indicated support for a nuclear demonstration strike. More than three times as many Americans—almost 15% in 2015 compared with 4% in 1945—now said that the U.S. shouldn’t have dropped any nuclear weapons on Japan. And just 3% regretted that the U.S. hadn’t dropped “many more” atomic bombs before Japan surrendered."
It is very difficult to capture the feeling of a period like the end days of WWII. The idea that we can ask a question like this today and actually know how we would respond when faced with the existential crisis, and death of Americans we faced at the end of WWII is wrong. To understand the reality of this statement just look at the difference in public opinion regarding war with terrorists today versus immediately post 9/11.
"Traditional polls do not force the public to contemplate the kind of trade-off that President Truman faced in 1945: between using nuclear weapons on enemy cities, with high civilian casualties, and launching an all-out invasion that could mean the deaths of thousands of U.S. troops.
To explore how the U.S. public might react today to such choices, we asked YouGov last July to survey a representative sample of 620 Americans about a scenario evoking a 21st-century Pearl Harbor. To echo the dilemma the U.S. faced in August 1945, participants read a mock news article in which the U.S. places severe sanctions on Iran over allegations that Tehran has been caught violating the 2015 nuclear deal. In response, Iran attacks a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, killing 2,403 military personnel (the same number killed by Japan at Pearl Harbor in 1941).
Congress then declares war on Iran, and the president demands that Iran’s leadership accept “unconditional surrender.” U.S. generals give the president two options: mount a land invasion to reach Tehran and force the Iranian government to capitulate (at an estimated cost of 20,000 American fatalities), or shock Iran into unconditional surrender by dropping a single nuclear weapon on a major city near Tehran, killing an estimated 100,000 Iranian civilians (similar to the immediate death toll in Hiroshima). The poll’s participants were reminded that Iran doesn’t yet have an atomic weapon of its own."
Perhaps the American death toll should have been more accurately compared with the likely WWII death toll. This has been calculated at between 280,000 and 4 million, and the Japanese death toll would have exceeded that by either 2 or 3 orders of magnitude. The Japanese had technically lost the war by the time the atomic bomb was contemplated, but the Japanese were still planning to arm citizens with bamboo spears if necessary to repel the invaders. The idea was to wear down the Americans and force them to offer an armistice short of surrender. The deaths from this sort of fighting would have been horrendous. No one can believe that leaving the old Japanese Empire intact would have been a good outcome. This was the path of Germany after WWI.
Americans are a moral people who understood at the time the deep problems with the Japanese Empire, and who realized that killing fewer people to obtain an outcome (fewer Japanese as well as Americans) was the moral course of action. Today Americans remain a moral people, however, recreating the existentially of the end days of WWII is all but impossible. And so, today fewer people are willing to agree that dropping the atom bomb was the correct course of action.
This is the Jodie Foster Effect writ large.
"How do these people have all the time to know the things that they know?” She searched for the answer to her own question, and smiled. “I think I’m just not . . . I’m not a fact person. I don’t really care about facts. I don’t even really retain them and I find them anxious-making. I like ideas.”
Megan McArdle takes on the long and unnecessary TSA lines, and ends up body slamming government in the process . . .
The facts, especially when disturbing, are hard to absorb for many people. Instead they simply decide based on what makes them feel good. But when are driven to extremes as Americans were during the last days of WWII, they do absorb the facts, and they make moral decisions based on those facts, even the Jodie Fosters.
If the Atomic Bomb Had Not Been Used
The Nuking Of Japan Was A Tactical And Moral Imperative
The real question: Is it moral to fight a conventional war when a nuclear strike would result in far fewer deaths and casualties?