Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Moral Hazard of Hiroshima & Nagasaki

"Government is force, and politics is the process of deciding who gets to use it on whom. This is not the best way to solve problems." – Richard Grant

Every year at this time the world recognizes the horror of the nuclear destruction of the inhabited cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Time will not heal this wound. As time wears on the political costs of burning 140,000 non-combatants will continue to pile up - irrespective of the fact that 140,000 people are killed every 44 months or so on U.S. highways in car accidents, or per month smoking cigarettes. The only reason more people were not killed had to do with population density - it could have easily been millions.

The justification is ALWAYS the same:

"By nuking these cities LIVES were saved. American lives." (Of course, if my son were on a ship about to invade a place like imperial Japan I might be willing to nuke a hundred cities to bring him home alive... but we are speaking objectively here). It then follows that any nation-state - China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Japan, Israel... - may use nuclear weapons to murder countless non-combatants by detonating a nuclear device over a city IF it will force the hand of the opposing government to the desired policy - especially if it will save the lives of the nuclear initiating nation-state's military personnel. Do I have that reasoning right?

Think about that for a minute. That means that Israel is justified in nuking Tehran at any moment, doesn't it? China can nuke Taiwan. Russia can nuke Washington, D.C., New York, and L.A. I mean, come on... how close did the Soviet Union and the U.S. come to blowing each other up during the Cuban Missile Crisis? Am I the only person to connect this incident with Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Do you really think the Russians didn't look over at the smoldering ruins of Hiroshima when dealing with their counterparts in the U.S.? You really don't think that that made them much more likely to launch a first strike in a dispute like that? REALLY??!!

Truman left the U.S. in the cross hairs for a subsequent nuclear strike by claiming the use of these weapons against cities was a legitimate tactic to gain a desired policy response. A threat we shall live under forever more. Harry Truman as Tony Soprano.

Truman should have been hanged as a war criminal (just making a point; I reject the death penalty) here in the U.S. By not doing so, and showing the rest of the world that international murderers will not be tolerated, the U.S. has left itself permanently at risk for nuclear attack. Did Truman really save American lives? Tim will tell.

Oh, there were other justifications:

"The Japanese would never have surrendered. They thought their emperor was G-d for pity's sake!!" You mean to tell me that the Shinto Japanese believe a mortal man is the living G-d? And Christian's don't? (On another note... I am pretty sure that if Jesus of Nazareth was on hand, he would take a very, very dim view of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.) Oh, and by the way.... over 1/3 of the Japanese population is Buddhist... and they do not believe the emperor was a god, nor were they persecuted for this by emperor or his minions.... in fact, the Japanese marry across this religious line with great ease.


"The Japanese had it coming. They pilloried China and Korea for years... and bombed Pearl Harbor. They murdered prisoners of war. They were a warlike culture and needed to be pacified." All true, and the perpetrators should have been punished. What does that have to do with a 3 year old girl and a five year old boy playing in front of their house in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945?

Regular commentator "Publius" had this to say in my second post on this subject:

"Libertarians and even many non-libertarians believe that individuals have rights that are separate from the actions and crimes of their governments."
Let us use a recent incident... The U.S. government does something horrible (horrible is in the eye of the beholder) to a family, village, ethnic group, country... you get the idea. That group then flies 747's into the Trade Towers on 9/11 in retaliation, murdering nearly 3,000 people.


We were outraged - and rightfully so! The victims of 9/11 had nothing to do with policies implemented by the U.S. government. In fact, nearly half of them might have voted against the proponents of any particular policy that motivated the attackers. These were innocent, non-combatants, murdered while going about their business and trying to provide for their families... as were the young mothers of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If you see a difference, read my forthcoming book.

I will be posting chapter 2 of my book here on the AEC Blog this week.


DaShui said...

Hey Jeffers, isn't that Picasso 1930's painting Guernica about how wrong it is to bomb cities from the air? Impersonal and non heroic I think is Picasso's point. Next thing you know we and the Brits are doing it. A man I know was 17 went through the bombing of Dresden. He said first the American bombers would come in the daytime, break everything up like kindling, then at night the Brits would come and drop incendiary devices. He said that his friend and him were running for a shelter when an American bomb split his friend in 2 pieces. He said British Commander Harris is burning in hell. I assume he feels the same about Lemay.
One funny thing is that Einstein was a pacifist during World War I,however he was all for nuking Germany.
Anyway, I like your "archaic" moral consistency.

PioneerPreppy said...

Sorry but your reasoning here is much like a lefty activist. He who drops the biggest bomb is the bad guy? Regardless of what happened before or after.

Let's all cheer for the underdog. The difference in your scenarios is simple who attacked whom?

There are those throughout the world who will use any excuse whether the bombs were dropped or not to attack the US. There are those who suffered under the Japanese boot who think it was justice.

I just don't see how using a nuclear weapon after years of war and death which the US did not start can be compared to a desire for first strike reasoning today.

Bottom line regardless of perceived individual rights war is won or lost by the will of the people fighting it by modern day standards at least. Unless that will is broken the war will continue.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


Lefty activist? ME!??

Is it acceptable for Israel to nuke Tehran? For India to Nuke Islamabad?

I guess there are instances where I come down on the same side as the proverbial "Lefty Activist"... but you hurt me to the quick by comparing my reasoning to a "Lefty Activist"(happy face).

I have been researching nuclear risks for my book... this is what I have come away with... that doesn't make me a bad person...

PioneerPreppy said...

Not trying to hurt your feelings :)

What I am saying is that you cannot compare China first striking Taiwan or even Israel hitting Iran to the WWII bombs.

The Israel/Iran thing maybe close if Iran continues attacking Israel but since it's all small and second party it's iffy.

Even your child playing example was kinda lefty (Its for the children ya know) and makes one forget that those "citizens" were warned and only a die hard believer (IE the will of war) would have left their children there to play.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

I think it fair to point out that in reality every nuclear armed nation-state on the planet seems to agree with me... they have been involved in a number of conflicts in which lives where lost... and NONE of them decided to drop a nuclear bomb on a city.

Dextred1 said...

I understand your contempt of the weapon, but correlation is not causation. It would be impossible to prove or show one way or the other whether this leads to a more likely nuclear scenario. I even agree partly with the idea of blowback. I would argue the exact opposite in this case though considering the weapons have not been used again in warfare; the Russians high tailed it out of Cuba when they saw that young president was not going to be intimidated and knew we had already used the weapon. More and more nations have developed the weapons and they will one day be used, it is just inevitable. But to me this is the where your case has a weakness. All governments are made up of compacts that delineate some duties and responsibilities based on the vote of the people or in the case of Japan lineage; in this case it is the most solemn duty of government which they are called to use “force”. You might not like it and I might not like it, but in the world we live in the men in governments make the decisions. The founders saw this and gave the president great deference in his ability to wage war.
The problem in my view is not that the government did this or that, but that men are failed creatures. We are fallen and hence will usually never make choice that is perfect because all choices have consequences. As you say sometimes life is just not fair. I find it hard to believe that most radical Islamic sects would not use a nuke the second they get it, they will and we will probably see this in the not too distant future. This will not be the result of us using it, but of it being a really good option for blowing away the interior of a major city.
Nobody is for killing little girls or boys, or women, or young men, or old women, or old men. At least rational people. It is a rhetorical question.

Dextred1 said...

when talking about blowback I see it more as resulting in a philosophy of striking back at perceived aggressor, agitator etc. The Muslim world looks at us as the Great Satan or whatever and it matters not how they harm us, just that they inflict maximum damage.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Hey Dex:

The funny thing (or not so funny) is that I think nuclear weapons are why we have the peace that we do... and that without them, in my opinion, there would have been much, much more industrial slaughter in the second half of the 20th century... and in some bizarre fashion the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki contributed to that... but killing paul to influence peter is hardly defensible...

Guys, I am just airing out some of my thoughts after doing my research... these things happened before our lives began... nothing to be done now... apologies are unnecessary and irrelevant...

One things is for absolute sure... we won't know the truth of who did what and why the NEXT time a nuclear bomb goes off in a city... but that will absolutely be the end of everything - international trade, the financial system, fiat currency, fractional reserve banking... POOF!!! Gone.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


Dresden was terror bombing, pure and simple. Some how I don't think that the Dresden was a presidential or prime minister level decision and was probably overreach on the part of the field commanders, who were by that time likely near madness.

War is hell.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


The Muslim world does NOT "hate us for our freedoms". That is BS. The truth is, we have really, really pissed them off.

When the oil runs out, and that's not long now, it will all be moot.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


Where did you read that these cities were warned?

They were NOT warned.

Dextred1 said...

jeffers, never said that. That hate us for Isreal and because we give them worthless peices of paper for barrels of oil. It is that simple. Come to think of it, they are kinda dumb for that trade.

"but killing paul to influence peter is hardly defensible..."

I agree, my point in the whole thing is that it already happened and as such how do we deal with the world we live in.

Not attacking jeffers, but just grinding swords. As they say it makes both sharper.

Dextred1 said...

not to change subject but I am

"Today, let’s talk about one of the world’s biggest piles of funny money — the $2.54 trillion Social Security trust fund. It matters now because Social Security revealed plans last week to tap the fund for $41 billion this year and will begin tapping it on a regular basis in less than five years.
This year’s cash deficit, the first since the early 1980s and the biggest ever, means the government will have to borrow money to redeem some of the Treasury securities in the trust fund. Even at a time when Uncle Sam is borrowing $1.5 trillion a year to keep his checks from bouncing, $41 billion is real money."

The big problem

"Neither the redemption of trust fund bonds, nor interest paid on those bonds, provides any new net income to the Treasury, which must finance redemptions and interest payments through some combination of increased taxation, reductions in other government spending, or additional borrowing from the public."

Your right jeffers scrap the ship, cuz it is going down, down, down. I think bur is wrong about payouts to. Why do I say this, my dad is in line for SS disability and the crazy thing is there are 800,000 others with him. Did you hear that, these are early benefits payout. I think this recession/depression (the long emergency :) is pushing a lot of people into the system and the SSA trustees are being very, well (optimistic)

PioneerPreppy said...


I was under the impression (which means I could be wrong) that the US did warn at least one of the targets ahead of time.

Again I cannot point to a specific reference so maybe I am mis-remembering something or maybe it was a warning to the powers that be and the average Joe-nawa didnt have a clue.

Dextred1 said...

So just so every knows ssa says they are not a ponzi scheme.


See you dumbasses they are not a ponzi scheme they only act like one. DUH ;)

Anonymous said...

Having spoken with relatives of the survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki I can say that neither city were warned about the impending bombing.

A LOT of money was spent researching and developing the bomb and you can be damn sure we'd be pissed as hell if we didn't get to field test our new toys. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was an uranium based bomb whereas the bomb dropped on Nagasaki was plutonium based. The people from these two cities were merely lab rats for our new weapon.

PioneerPreppy said...

So After wracking my brain trying to figure out why I had thought there was warning I remembered it came from a WWII display at my state capitol some 20 years ago.

On further digging I discovered that the Smithsonian also reported warning leaflets being dropped from their 1995 display of the subject.

Apparently there is some debate but it appears most writers say there were in fact no leaflets dropped prior but there were some dropped after. There are also some that claim leaflets were dropped mentioning 35 target cities for bombing of which Hiroshima and Nagasaki were mentioned although no mention was made of a nuclear weapon prior to the actual drops. Not that a normal Japanese citizen would have understood what nuclear meant anyway.

The potsdam ultimatum did not mention nuclear weapons either but did at least let the powers that be know there would be significant bombing with civilian casualties.

Although there does seem to be some question on the subject I do not feel strongly enough or knowledgeable enough about the era to champion it either way.

tweell said...

The Japanese happily use the nuclear guilt that you and so many others push so that they do not have to look at (let alone apologize for) what they did during WWII. I was told that by a friend of the family - she was a teenager during WWII who lived in Hiroshima and walked across ground zero twice less than 48 hours after detonation. She married a serviceman, had 4 healthy children and lives in Hawaii.
Armageddon will not occur if another nuclear weapon is used. The shock will wear off, and people will continue in their patterns. Life goes on.
As retired military, I look at atomic bombs as just another weapon. Ever seen or heard of an Atomic Annie? The M65 280mm howitzer was made to fire an atom bomb, it had a 20 mile range. It was replaced with theater nuclear missiles. The US Navy has nuclear ASROCs - think guided depth charge. Then there's the bombers and ICBMs. Yes, we have nukes in all sizes, from .1kt to megaton MIRV's, and with multiple delivery options (gift-wrapping extra). They're much cleaner as well, we've learned a lot since WWII.
Your argument conveniently leaves out those laws of war. Remember, going after civilians is a no-no, shows that nation as a rogue state, and opens it up to more than just retaliation. FAIL.

Anonymous said...


I think what happened in World War 2 was that we proved to ourselves that full on war with modern technology will leave little left to live for. There seem to be little moral difference between firebombing, or blockades to starve the populace, or nuking. I can't see a moral difference between late term abortion and whacking a one day old baby's head on the corner of a table, either. Innocents die.

The moral dilemma never starts at the time when the ugly decision has to be made. It is always the product of a series of bad decisions. By 1945, Truman had three bad choices. Withdraw from hostilities, and let Tojo have his way in the Far East. Continue a conventional war with millions of dead soldiers on both sides and millions of Japanese starved to death, or end the war with a nuclear strike. Between then and today, Truman's decision did save millions. It cut the misery and loss of life on both sides.

My feeling on the issue is that the world did truly see the horror and magnitude of nuclear weapons. The bombings in Japan probably prevented nuclear exchanges later, when there was more than one side to pull the trigger. I don't count much on morality to prevent horrific actions on the world stage. It just isn't indicated by history. As sick as it is, mutually assured destruction has been the far greater deterrent.

While someone may justify a nuclear attack on the basis of what Truman did, it will not be the reason. That justification will be no better than any other, just more convenient. Decisions are made first, the justification always follows.


Coal Guy

Greg T. Jeffers said...


You might make an excellent point... Imperial Japan's guilt as an pariah state is BEYOND question. Culturally, they were pathologic and absolutely needed to be pacified.

I don't think mine is an expression of guilt. I see these bombings as morally indefensible, of questionable military value, and having put our nation at risk going forward in the nation-state chess game. I have laid out my reasoning, and you are welcome, as the thinking man you clearly are, to disagree with my conclusions.


I am happy to grind swords with you. I never said I was EVER completely confident in any of my conclusions on just about anything (with the exception that I will confidently refuse to play G-d). When you are in my business you get used to being wrong and eating your words... so you try to soften them before hand.


There were no warnings made. Why Nagasaki? With only 3 days? Why didn't the U.S. bomb Tokyo, where the power establishment responsible for the war was? Bombing Hiroshima is like China bombing Cleveland to influence Washington. It is simply indefensible to annihilate an entire city of people.

Japan was defeated. Truman was trying to keep the Soviets out of Japan.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Coal Guy:

What can one say?

An excellent interpretation of events and human nature.

tweell said...

Mr. Jeffers, you bring up the Soviet Union and MAD. The A is very important there, and not only for being a vowel. The Soviets believed that we would indeed use our nuclear weapons if need be. They had proof that we would - Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If we had not done so, or had impeached and convicted Truman for so doing, the Assured part of MAD would have been much weaker. For fifty years we were in a metaphorical standoff with the Soviet Union, nuclear shotguns at five paces. I submit that a big part of the reason that stayed a standoff is that prior use. "You can't pull the trigger - you don't have the guts" was not something you they could say (at least then). So... really really.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


On the subject of MAD.

I don't think there would be any doubt in anyone's mind that any nation possessing nuclear weapons would, in fact, use those weapons in a retaliatory strike... but your larger point is noted.

PioneerPreppy said...


I say this with a shrug....

Just a quick search showed that the subject of leaflet warning has or had some debate.

Since I don't have your conviction about it lets assume there wasn't any direct warning within a few days prior to the drop(s).

Nagasaki was in fact the secondary target which was bombed after Kyoto (sp) was clouded over and the crew redirected. So direct warning would be iffy. Give a city 2 days notice it would be bombed and perhaps the last few anti-aircraft or planes left could have been shuttled there. Or perhaps the warning would not have come to mean anything if the city was clouded over for days.

There is no debate however over the Potsdam Ultimatum. It was given, the powers that be were warned what would happen and they chose the course the war took from that point on. It was fair warning in my book even if it wasn't detailed with secret weapon info.

How many other countries would extend that kind of other option to an obviously beaten foe before going in for the last few punches?

Greg T. Jeffers said...


I am not saying we were not the good guys... but I do reject the decision to nuke cities.

PioneerPreppy said...


while I would agree with you in part, the only way any city (before the Korean war anyway) ever managed to not get bombed, looted, over-ran what have you was to surrender. Period. Sometimes that choice was not given either.

You cannot fight a war with borders and off limits zones for one side and not the other.

tweell said...

My apologies, Mr. Jeffers. I had not realized that your conclusions were based on emotions rather than logic. I have as much chance changing your mind on this subject as I did arguing with my wife about the cute little used Porsche she wanted. (Thank God a construction truck totaled it in a parking lot, talk about a money pit.)
Good luck with your book!

Dan said...

The problem with attempting to make war more humane is it will also tend to make war more prevalent and war is anything but humane. What restrains Israel from nuking Tehran is the consequences of doing so- most likely the end of Israel; not some set of lofty ideals, though they do provide a handy rational for not doing so. China will not nuke Taiwan because they want the real estate; however the US is another matter entirely. Surely one of the big things tempering China’s dealings with the US is the consequences of moving beyond diplomacy. They have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to invade and brutally squash the aspirations of other peoples. However, our demonstrated willingness to fire off our entire nuclear arsenal in a homicidal rage, once sufficiently worked up, is surly not lost on them.
“It is well that war is so terrible - otherwise we would grow too fond of it.”-Robert E. Lee. Totalitarians love to impose their will on others and the only real restraint we have is the consequences of the attempt, not some lofty ideals. I don’t see Truman as having left us in the crosshairs because I think the lofty justifications are pure BS in practice, though they certainly make you feel better when they are on your side.