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This House believes that the use of atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified
This House believes that the use of atomic bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified
On August 6th 1945 the atomic bomb called ‘Little Boy’ was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. 4.7 square miles of the city were levelled and 70,000 to 80,000 killed outright. Three days later, on August 9th, a second bomb, ‘Fat Man’ was dropped on Nagasaki. The damage and casualties were lower, some 1.45 square miles destroyed and 35,000 killed. However both of those casualty figures would double as the effects of radiation took their toll. In Hiroshima 130,000 had died by November and 200,000 by 1950. The Nagasaki death toll similarly rose to 120,000. On August 15th Japan announced its surrender, and so brought to a close the six years of the Second World War and the eight years of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The decision to drop the atomic bombs, the only nuclear weapons ever used, was and still is highly controversial.
 Joanne Silberne, ‘Hiroshima & Nagasaki: Thirty Six Years Later, the Struggle Continues’, Science News Vol. 120, No. 18 (Oct. 31, 1981), pp. 284-285
|Points For||Points Against|
|The use of atomic bombs was the only was to persuade Japan's rulers to surrender||It was not necessary to use atomic weapons on a population centre|
|The continuation of a conventional war would have been much costlier than an atomic attack||A negotiated peace would have been preferable to the dropping of the atomic bombs|
|The United States need to maximise the effectiveness of its atomic weaponry program before it could be compromised||The bombing was immoral and illegal|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
The use of atomic bombs was the only was to persuade Japan's rulers to surrender
From late 1944 Japan’s defeat was certain. The Japanese leadership knew this, but this knowledge did not equate acceptance nor did it translate into action. The Americans felt that some sort of game changer was needed to push the Japanese into surrender.
According to Henry L. Stimson “We, [the administration] felt that to extract a genuine surrender from the Emperor and his military advisors, they must be administered a tremendous shock which would carry convincing proof of our power to destroy the Empire.”
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey reckoned that to cause equivalent damage done by the Atomic Bombs using conventional weapons would require 345 B29’s. However it is not the fact that the Atomic bombs saved hundreds of B29 missions that is the crucial element. That is the sheer terror that the destructive power of the atomic bombs. This made the Atomic bombs of a different order to any number of conventional B29 missions and was a crucial factor in bringing about the Japanese surrender. If the fact that a city could be levelled in a single night could make the Japanese surrender they would have done so many months previously, and many times over. Important members of the Japanese government agreed with Stimson’s assessment of the importance of shock. Prime Minister Suzuki said “The atomic bomb provided an additional reason for surrender as well as an extremely favorable opportunity to commence peace talks. I believed such an opportunity could not be afforded by B-29 bombings alone.”
 Secretary of War, Henry Stimson quoted by Rudolph A. Winnacker, ‘The Debate About Hiroshima’, Military Affairs, vol.11, no.1, Spring 1947, p.27.
 Suzuki Kantaro quoted by Sadao Asada, ‘The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to Surrender - A Reconsideration’ in Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, (Columbia, 2007) p. 35
It can be argued that conventional bombing could have brought about a Japanese surrender without the recourse to the use of the atomic bombs. Compared to conventional bombings the atomic bombs caused disproportionate amounts of civilian casualties. The Strategic Bombing survey estimated that in the 9 months prior to the surrender there were 806,000 Japanese civilian casualties inclusive of A-bombs, of which 330,000 were deaths. Therefore nearly a third of civilian deaths were as a result of the atomic bombings (and that is only counting those who died immediately). In Hiroshima 72% of buildings were destroyed, in Nagasaki 37.5% of buildings were destroyed. However in a conventional raid Yokohama was 47% destroyed in an hours bombing, for the comparatively light cost of 5,000 civilian fatalities. Of course some conventional raids, particularly fireraids caused very heavy casualties, in particular the Tokyo firebombing of March 9th 1945 killed 100,000 and destroyed 15.8 square miles. However that is still three times the area destroyed of Hiroshima. Since the only possible justification for attack on cities is the destruction of infrastructure conventional bombing was similarly effective while being the cause of many fewer civilian deaths.
According to the United States Strategic Bombing Survey “Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” The accuracy of this prediction has since been called into question, after all the allies dropped far more bombs on Nazi Germany without securing surrender. However the fact remains that the conventional bombing campaign was only just starting to get going and might have achieved decisive results.
Possibly even more important for the prospects of a conventional victory, and one not clouded by the stigma of massive bombing campaigns against civilians, was the maritime blockade. By the end of the war Japan had only 700,000 tons of shipping remaining, she had started the war with 6,337,000 tons. Of 122,000 sailors in the merchant marine 27,000 were killed 89,000 wounded. For an island nation reliant on imports not just to run its industry but also to keep its people fed this was devastating. The result was starvation in the Japanese home islands. After the war it was reported that up to 10 million would die of starvation without American food aid, as a post war report to the Diet (Japanese Parliament) put it ‘the greatest cause of defeat was the loss of shipping’.
 United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Summary Report (Pacific War), http://www.anesi.com/ussbs01.htm pp.20, 23-24.
 Gian Peri Gentile, ‘Advocacy or Assessment? The United States Strategic Bombing Survey of Germany and Japan’, in Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, (Columbia, 2007) pp.123-4.
 Joel Ira Holwitt, “Execute against Japan”: The US decision to conduct unrestricted submarine warfare, (College Station TX, 2008) pp.166-9
The continuation of a conventional war would have been much costlier than an atomic attack
The US was planning for a massive invasion of the Japanese Home Islands (Operation Olympic). Nine divisions were to land on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. However the Japanese had ten divisions in southern Kyushu by August, and 600,000 troops on the whole island.
The US army widely disseminated a figure of half a million casualties for the conquest of Japan. This was however only the figure for public consumption and some calculations went much higher. On top of the US losses the same amount and probably considerably more Japanese deaths would have to be added. The estimates of US losses were so bad that atomic bombs were actually considered for use in clearing the landing beaches.
Chief of Staff George C. Marshall argued “We had to visualize very heavy casualties unless we had enough atomic bombs at the time to supplement the troop action.” Invasion was therefore not really an alternative to the A-bomb use at all. Although the use of the bomb in a battlefield situation might be more justifiable that it was considered shows the ignorance of the radiation effects that might well have been a disaster for US forces as well as Japanese.
 Edward J. Drea, ‘Intelligence Forecasting for the Invasion of Japan: previews of Hell, Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, (Columbia, 2007) p.59,71
 D. M. Giangreco, "A score of bloody Okinawas and Iwo Jimas": President Truman and casualty estimates for the invasion of Japan’, Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, (Columbia, 2007), p.88
 Edward J. Drea, ‘Intelligence Forecasting for the Invasion of Japan: previews of Hell’, pp.74-5.
The alternatives to either invasion or atomic bombing are covered in the previous counterpoint. It can only be said that none of them are without a high human cost, though invasion spearheaded by an atomic barrage is surely the worst. The principle of advantage of the conventional bombing option being that it would be easily justifiable as only quantitively different to what the Japanese had already meted out themselves. The blockade similarly has easy justification in not being a deviation from any accepted standards as well as only indirectly attacking the home islands while putting the onus on the Japanese government to avoid starvation. Really in order to find a less costly alternative then diplomacy has to be raised for which refer to the second response argument.Improve this
The United States need to maximise the effectiveness of its atomic weaponry program before it could be compromised
There was no possibility of keeping nuclear weapons under wraps; scientists from several countries had been working on them. They were ripe for discovery. Robert Oppenheimer pointed out “it is a profound and necessary truth, that deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they are found because it was possible to find them” If Atomic bombs were going to be developed anyway there was a compelling reason to be the first to own these weapons, even to be the first to use them. Deterrence, would not work if suspected to be a bluff or a dud, having used the bomb twice it could not be doubted that the US was willing to use it again in extremis.
The cost of building the bomb was enormous. At 2.2 billion dollars the Manhattan project cost about the same as the drive to get to the moon in the sixties, but the comparison is not adjusted for inflation. The vast majority of the cost, and of the 130,000 employed in the project, was not in the development but in the building of the factories to produce the fissile material. The opportunity cost of that 2.2 billion is surely huge, how many more bombers and tanks or how many more medicines and bandages could it have bought? Not using the bomb and squandering that investment would bring that opportunity cost to life; the question is not just how many would die in months more war but how many might not have to build something unused.
[1Robert Oppenheimer quoted by Richard Rhodes, ‘The Atomic Bomb in the Second World War’ in C. C. Kelley (ed.), Remembering the Manhattan Project : Perspectives on the Making of the Atomic Bomb and Its Legacy, (River Edge NJ, 2005), p.18
 ibid p.22
Having a weapon is hardly a good argument for using one, society would fall apart if ‘I have a gun thus I must shoot someone’ became an accepted maxim. Since war is policy by other means the ultimate weapon is one that achieves its policy objectives without the need to be actually be used. As to the cost, the $2.2bn translates to a little below $7,000 for each Japanese life taken.Improve this
It was not necessary to use atomic weapons on a population centre
The first bomb, on Hiroshima was sufficient to achieve the objective of surrender without the use of the second bomb after only a very short period of time. There was only three days between the two bombings, an unpardonably short period. Communications between Hiroshima and Tokyo had unsurprisingly been severed, so the full effect had yet to sink in on some policy makers by the time ‘Fat Man’ was dropped. It had however already convinced Foreign Minister Togo, Prime Minister Suzuki and crucially the Emperor himself. He said upon hearing the news of Hiroshima: “Now that things have come to this impasse, we must bow to the inevitable. ... We should lose no time in ending the war so as not to have another tragedy like this.” The rest of the cabinet was as yet unmoved, but even if they had been it is unlikely they would have been able to actually surrender before the second bomb was dropped.
There were significant other factors in play as well. Before the second bomb was dropped the Japanese had learnt of the Soviet attack which dashed their last hopes of mediation for a favourable settlement and they were not optimistic of their chances in that conflict, even the army’s planners expected Manchukuo’s capital Changchun would fall in two weeks. Although the Cabinet was deadlocked 3 to 3 this was the case both before and after the news of Nagasaki came in, the point of fact that the US had more than one bomb although a shock to those opposed to surrender did not alter their position. Ultimately the Emperor was forced to intervene on the side of the proponents of peace, his mind had been made up even before the first bomb. It is arguable that Hiroshima was necessary to push him into acting, which was unprecedented but the Nagasaki bombing was entirely superfluous. Historian Sadao Asada’s opinion is that the second bomb was unnecessary.
 Emperor Hirohito quoted by Sadao Asada, ‘The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to Surrender - A Reconsideration’ in Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism p.33.
 Sadao Asada, ‘The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to Surrender - A Reconsideration’ in Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, p.36.
 Sadao Asada, ‘The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to Surrender - A Reconsideration’ in Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, pp.38, 41-2.
The justification for the second bomb relies principally upon the argument that Japan would presume there was only one A-bomb if another was not dropped, so the destruction of Nagasaki was a necessary evil to force surrender just as much as that at Hiroshima. Indeed senior Japanese figures did argue that there was only one bomb, and even in one case that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was not atomic at all, simply a very big conventional bomb. The Chief of the Naval General Staff Toyoda Soemu thought “it is questionable whether the United States will be able to use more bombs in rapid succession.” This was a view that Anami Korechika, the army minister, shared until it was shattered by the second bomb although even then he said “The appearance of the atomic bomb does not spell the end of war”
 Admiral Toyoda quoted by Sadao Asada, ‘The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to Surrender - A Reconsideration’ in Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, p.37.
 Army Minister Anami quoted by Sadao Asada, ‘The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to Surrender - A Reconsideration’ in Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, p.40.
A negotiated peace would have been preferable to the dropping of the atomic bombs
It is conventional to argue that Japan was defeated already and so the bombings were unnecessary as Sadao Asada points out this confuses defeat with surrender. However such a position seems equally to confuse surrender with peace. That there had to be an unconditional surrender seems almost unquestioned. Most wars do not end in an unconditional surrender of one side or the other, Japanese defeat was plain so a negotiated peace would normally have been set in motion when the US saw the terrible casualties it might be forced to take in its push for total victory. The Americans learnt of Japanese willingness to negotiate in July, on the 13th Secretary of the Navy Forrestal wrote in his diary “The first real evidence of a Japanese desire to get out of the war came today... Togo said further that the unconditional surrender term of the Allies was about the only thing in the way of termination of the war” Stimson, Grew and Forrestal aimed at persuading president Truman to offer the Japanese promise of the preservation of the monarchy as an alternative to unconditional surrender. Ultimately the Potsdam declaration set the unconditional surrender policy in stone. Offering such a condition would certainly have strengthened the peace party within the Japanese cabinet and allowed them to present further resistance by the generals and admirals as endangering the monarchy. However, on its own this would probably not have lead to peace, the cabinet would still have been split 3-3 with the Army and Navy ministers both opposed and with vetoes on policy. Even the most belligerent of the Japanese Cabinet, Army Minister Anami’s conditions were preservation of the Imperial institution, no military occupation of the home islands, Japanese forces were to demobilize and disarm themselves and war criminals were to be prosecuted by the Japanese themselves. While these conditions are obviously ripe for exploitation, would they really disarm and try war criminals? they are not unreasonable. Just because there was no hope that the US would accept these conditions, they fly in the face of the Potsdam Declaration from which the allies would not deviate, does not mean that another alternative to unconditional surrender should not be considered as an alternative to the dropping of the Nuclear bombs.
 Secretary Forrestal quoted by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the enemy: Stalin, Truman and the surrender of Japan, (Cambridge MA, 2005) p134.
 Campbell Craig and Sergay Radchenko, The Atomic Bomb and the Origins of the Cold War, (New Haven, 2008) p.69
 Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the enemy: Stalin, Truman and the surrender of Japan, (Cambridge, 2005) pp.290-1.
 Sadao Asada, ‘The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to Surrender - A Reconsideration’ in Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism, p. 39.
Offering the preservation of the Monarchy was unlikely to have altered the outcome of the conflict by bringing peace before August 6th. This was the only concession to the Japanese that was even considered by the US government. It was thought that even this would be very hard for the American public to swallow. Truman’s personal feeling was also that nothing short of an unconditional surrender would do to avenge Pearl Harbour.
 Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the enemy: Stalin, Truman and the surrender of Japan, (Cambridge, 2005) p.291.
The bombing was immoral and illegal
The use of the Atomic bomb raised immediate moral questions as to its use.
Albert Einstein argued “The American decision [to use the bomb] may have been a fatal error, for men accustom themselves to thinking a weapon which has been used once can be used again... [on the other hand] Our renunciation of this weapon as too terrible to use would have carried great weight” So far Einstein has been proved wrong and the precedent thus set has not been followed. That the bombs are ‘to terrible to use’ does seem to have sunk in.
The use of the bombs was also illegal as it would have breached the Hague conventions of 1899 and 1907, signed by the US. Of Hague IV The Laws and Customs of War on Land it probably breached articles 23, forbidding the use of weapons that cause ‘unnecessary suffering’, and article 25 forbidding the attack of undefended towns. It would certainly by its indiscriminate nature have breached article 27 “In sieges and bombardments all necessary steps must be taken to spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not being used at the time for military purposes” as well as the attendant declaration forbidding attack from aircraft!
Clearly such sections forbidding attack from aircraft, or balloons in the 1899 version make the Hague convention seem antiquated but the laws of war in general remain even now as they were codified in 1907. The International Court of Justice has referred back to these precedents “In the view of the vast majority of states as well as the writers there can be no doubt as to the applicability of humanitarian law to nuclear weapons. The Court shares that view.” That humanitarian law included the Hague conventions. The court reconfirmed the view that “States must never make civilians the object of attack and must consequently never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets” It is noteworthy that dissensions from a position of banning the use of nuclear weapons entirely focus on the possible use with minimal civilian casualties. Since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings did not attempt to minimize civilian casualties the implication is that their use was illegal based upon the Hague conventions that were already in force.
 Albert Einstein, quoted by Rudolph A. Winnacker, ‘The Debate About Hiroshima’, Military Affairs, vol.11, no.1, Spring 1947, p.25.
 Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV); October 18, 1907 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hague04.asp
 Malcom H. Shaw, International Law (Cambridge, 1997), p.807.
 International Court of Justice advisory opinion of 8 July 1996 Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, paragraphs 85-6. http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/95/7495.pdf?PHPSESSID=61c346606e8c49...
 ibid. para. 78.
 ibid. para. 91.
Before Hiroshima and Nagasaki the use of the Atomic Bomb did not raise profound moral questions with allied policymakers. Civilians had been intentionally targeted from the air since the start of the war and both Japanese and German cities had been already subjected to relentless bombardment. There was no compelling reason for politicians to view the Atomic bomb any differently from the London blitz or the Dresden raid.
The Hague conventions had been systemically honoured only in the breach for the previous six years and so would not have given Truman or his advisors any particular heartache. The radiation effects were as yet unknown and so there was no reason to treat atomic bombs as anything more sinister than a mighty conventional bomb would be. Had the radiation been known about then it might have moved them into a category akin to chemical or biological weapons, which were already frowned upon. Chemical weapons were banned by the Hague convention in 1899. This did not of course prevent their widespread use in WWI but the horrified reaction to the use of mustard gas and other agents lead to the Geneva Protocol which came into force in 1928 although the US was not a signatory. In practice Atomic weapons have not been since treated as equivalent to poison gas or other ‘analogous devices’ and thus the International Court of Justice has said that they do not breach the Hague conventions or the Geneva Protocol. Therefore as these were the only international laws in force at the time of the action the dropping the bombs were not illegal acts.
 Barton J. Bernstein, ‘The Atomic Bombings Reconsidered’, Foreign Affairs, vol.74, no.1, Jan.- Feb., 1995. p.135.
 Declaration on the Use of Projectiles the Object of Which is the Diffusion of Asphyxiating or Deleterious Gases; July 29, 1899; http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/dec99-02.asp
 Geneva Protocol to Hague Convention http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Geneva_Protocol_to_Hague_Convention
 International Court of Justice advisory opinion of 8 July 1996 Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, paragraphs 54-6. http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/95/7495.pdf?PHPSESSID=61c346606e8c49...
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