I mentioned that I went to a friend’s fathers’ funeral a couple weekends ago. While there, I had a pleasant time reminiscing with three old friends from my musical group days.
At one point, one of them said, “You know we (the three other guys) talked about this the last time we were together. All three of us had fathers who served in the Pacific, and who would have had to be part of the invasion of Japan, if it had happened. So three out of four of us here might not have ever been born, if the atomic bomb hadn’t been dropped.”
I said, “You’re one short. My dad served in the Occupation forces, but he trained for the invasion.”
So it was all four of us. I think it’s pretty well established that if we’d had to invade and conquer the island of Japan, it would have been a bloodbath of unprecedented proportions. There’s a good chance all four of us might not have been born, if that had happened. And what stopped it was the atomic bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Do I feel guilty that I may be alive because a lot of people died in the atomic attacks?
I’m reading a book right now (I’ll report on it when I’m done), which seems to me to combine considerable virtues with a lot of what I’d call reflexive liberalism. The development of atomic weapons is discussed as if it were an unalloyed evil, about which no discussion is possible.
There’s plenty of scope for discussion, it seems to me. It wasn’t just American soldiers’ lives that were saved by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the lives of countless Japanese men (who would have been rallied to defend the island with whatever means they had), and of women and children (who would have been caught in the crossfire). The death toll would almost certainly have been far greater than that of the bombing victims.
Also, you can make the case that the fear of the bomb has kept Europe at peace ever since 1945.
The atomic bomb is certainly terrible in its effects, and I would not wish those effects on anyone. It breaks my heart to think of the innocents who died (the idea of bombing civilian targets is something about which I continue to have deep reservations).
But I have even greater trouble with the idea that more people dead would be preferable to fewer people dead.