Remembering When We Were Strong: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Moral Necessity of a Nuclear Strike
In a time when America lacks the strength of will to force an active-duty Army officer (and admitted terrorist) to shave his jihadist beard before appearing at a court-martial, when we wring our hands in guilt over the use of the most precise weapons ever devised against an enemy of unquestioned cruelty and malice, and when we respond to threats with weakness that merely encourages greater violence, it’s worth remembering a time when this nation understood the necessity — the moral necessity — of decisive force.
By July 26, 1945, Imperial Japan was well on its way to defeat, yet it was still capable of great harm. Our navy (with the able and courageous British assistance) had swept the once-fearsome Japanese navy from the seas, and we were slowly destroying Japan’s capacity to wage war. Allied forces were on the move in Southeast Asia, the Soviet Union was poised to enter the conflict with overwhelming force (1.5 million men massed on the border of Japanese-held mainland territory), and the American army was barely a month removed from a decisive victory in the months-long battle for Okinawa. Japan was going to lose the war. It was inevitable.
That was the good news. But that good news was more than tempered by the bad news of the cost of that ultimate victory. It’s tough for us to understand now, as many Americans have spent time in the new Japan, buy Japanese products, and rightly regard Japan as an indispensable ally, but in World War II the Japanese military fought with a ferocity that made al-Qaeda look casual and uncommitted. In Okinawa, the Japanese hurled more than 1,000 kamikaze suicide bombers at the American fleet, and tens of thousands more kamikazes readied to defend the Japanese home islands. Japan still held huge swathes of Chinese territory, where unrelenting war and mass-scale atrocities had already cost more than 10 million Chinese lives.