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An old and necessary debate.

A subject that has provoked regular discussion, at various venues, among WWwtW contributors is the ethical character of the atomic strikes against Japanese cities at the end of the Second World War. Were they justifiable, or were they indelible stains on our national honor?

The month of August witnesses this old debate renewed virtually every year. Often it is a tiresome recitation of old arguments and older outrage: but it must be done. The day the Republic ceases to debate whether her war leaders, in the midst of the greatest crisis of the modern age, should have employed the most destructive weapons ever produced by man, is the day she abandons her solemn duty of self-government.

Our own Bill Luse, now (alas) Contributor emeritus, once wrote one of the finer assays of this terrible subject that I have ever had the honor to read. I recommend a careful and even-tempered perusal. Next, go and read the debate at The New Criterion from several weeks ago (it begins here, and continues here and here). Finally, read Larry Auster’s recent discovery of a new piece of information — one which many of us never knew, and one which, while perhaps not definitive, is not trivial either

My own view of the matter has shifted rather dramatically over the past decade or so. I can remember well a long-running debate with a friend in college, often carried out as we walked to a Social Psychology class, where I played the role of the defender of the atomic strikes, largely on the grounds that they saved lives — particularly American lives — by relieving us of the necessity for a brutal and terrible invasion of the Japanese mainland. My friend was dubious.

Under pressure from writers ranging from Luse to Anscombe to Weaver, I changed my mind. However, recalling the bombast with which I often carried on this debate in the past, I am careful now not to sin against charity. I do not dismiss, with a sanctimonious wave of the hand, the projected destruction that an invasion would entail; I do not dare to judge the men upon whose shoulders these grim decisions rested. But I do insist on moral absolutes; and the deliberate slaughter of innocents is one prohibition we must maintain, if we would maintain any at all.

This debate also has a way of expanding to embrace other, related subjects. This, of course, because its implications are so enormous. Liberals and neoconservatives who are quick to defend the atomic strikes, are also quick to join the chorus of ritual denunciation of, for instance, the Crusades. But if the invasion of France, purposed toward her liberation from a foreign oppressor, was just, how can we not also embrace, as least in theory, the invasion of Asia Minor and Palestine, purposed toward the same, by the Crusaders? The slaughter at Jerusalem by those Frankish adventurers is legendary for its horror (I recall that former President Clinton brought it up right after September 11); but in fairness how does its horror compare to Dresden or Hiroshima? Is the latter’s horror relieved because it was accomplished by fearsome mechanical device, by primordial fire unleashed by man’s ingenuity, as against cold steel and a more common fire?

It is customary, in my experience, for the debate to grind down at this point. The nearness of the Second World War to our memories is strong, the distance of the Crusades (or whatever other parallel one might draw) is great, and no one is happy to confront the more awful implications of some piece of consequentialism. Perhaps someone will quote General Sherman’s letter to the conquered mayor of Atlanta — “war is cruelty, and you cannot refine it” — hoping that will bring things to an end. Then again, Sherman delivered his epigram before burning a city, not its human inhabitants.

Comments (109)

Kimball's last entry says:

Do the ends really justify the means? Alas, like so much about the real world, the melancholy--but also the moral--answer is, "Often, yes."

"Often" is true. Often carries with it the implication that often the answer is yes, and sometimes it is no. The latter is simply left dangling in an ironic fog, forever unresolved in order to preserve consequentialist license. "Conservative" commentary on the population bombings of WWII (not just the nuclear attacks) has become postmodern, forever postponing any conclusive answer to the question "what would you not do to save the Republic?"

I have a great deal of empathy for the men who suffered under the weight of these terrible decisions. But I have far, far less empathy for naked postmodern consequentialists of the sort Kimball has revealed himself to be through his comments.

I do notice that Anscombe specifically cites the absence of warning, the opportunity to escape, or the chance to take shelter. So she would have had to change that if she'd known of the leaflet dropping. On the other hand, the quotations from Truman at the meeting between the bombings show that he realized one way or another that this was a civilian-directed weapon. Whether this was because he thought the people would not listen to the leaflets and escape, or whether the list of cities as possible targets was so long that people would not have known where to go or which ones really had to fear, or whether their leaders wouldn't let them go, I don't know. But he never seems to have mentioned the leaflets anywhere. I can't help wondering why. It seems so odd, as it's so obviously relevant to the whole moral evaluation.

I suspect that leaflets would have been ineffective in any case. Local authorities in the target area would treat the notices as propaganda aiming to provoke a disruptive evacuation.

"But if the invasion of France, purposed toward her liberation from a foreign oppressor, was just, how can we not also embrace, as least in theory, the invasion of Asia Minor and Palestine, purposed toward the same, by the Crusaders?"

For one, there was a lapse of centuries between the time of the Arab conquest and the first crusade. The so-called foreigners had been ruling for generations. Though the crusade was made at the request of the Byzantine emperor, it is difficult to justify the emperor's right to the land, or even the right of the native Christians, without recognizing, say, the rights of indigenous peoples in the Americas to reconquer their ancestral lands and expel the colonists who have ruled for centuries.

"Local authorities in the target area would treat the notices as propaganda aiming to provoke a disruptive evacuation."

No doubt. But did that mean that they had some way of preventing the ordinary Joe from packing up his wife and family and fleeing on foot? Perhaps they did. I just don't know enough about it.

I am tempted by the following argument:

(P.1) If Christianity cannot countenance what we did at Hiroshima, than Christianity cannot long survive.

(P.2) Christianity cannot countenance what we did at Hiroshima.

(C) Christianity cannot long survive.

On the other hand, I suppose my 8th Century equivalent might have argued:

(P.1) If Christianity cannot countenance the career of Charles Martel, than Christianity cannot long survive.

(P.2) Christianity cannot countenance the career of Charles Martel.

(C) Christianity cannot long survive.

...and he would have been wrong.

Zippy, I also like Kimball's hackneyed appeal to the demands of the "real world," a place in which we simply cannot be expected to heed unreal moral norms, such as a prohibition against murdering the innocent.

Kevin's probably right about the reaction to the leaflets, but even if it were otherwise, it wouldn't be enough. We had a further responsibility to make sure the cities were evacuated. It's not as though you can tell a man to get his family out of the house because we're going to blow it up, and if he refuses to budge then we can blow it up anyway.

This leaflet business is just another grab at a cliffside branch. Such as the reaction of one of Larry Auster's readers who wrote to say that "It pretty much absolves the U.S. of guilt for bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki without warning, and absolves our country forever of the accusation that we 'deliberately sought to kill civilians in Japan.' We did our best to save Japanese civilians. Statements to the contrary are lies. The defense rests ..."

Oh, so before he knew about the leaflets, the defense was all conflicted about it. Hogwash. Those who support the bombings always have, leaflets or no.

Furthermore, bombing strategies designed to obliterate entire cities is barbaric, whether people are in them or not.

Kevin is of course right that a much longer period of time elapsed between conquest and reconquest in the case of the Crusade; but I'm not sure how this is a decisive factor. We must at least weigh it against the plain fact that the lands of the Near East had been, before the Islamic Revolution, Christian for centuries; indeed, as everyone here surely knows, many of the cities of these had been among the founding cities of the Christian world.

I suppose this does open up quite a can of worms, by implying that any unjust aggression may be overthrown, no matter how much time has passed. But the alternative seems equally dubious: namely that time justifies an unjust aggression.

I'm not sure I follow Steve comparison. How does Martel parallel the atomic strikes?

Yes, I think we do all want to say (by way of response to Steve) that we're not pacifists in the slightest. As for Christian civilization's surviving without the atomic bomb, we seem to have done pretty well since then with conventional weaponry. It can itself, of course, be used against civilians, and was in WWII in carpet-bombings and the like. But for myself, I'm more hopeful that just war procedures can preserve the West, if we'll only not be dumb. Heck, I think racial profiling can go a long way towards preserving the West, and it doesn't hurt anybody!

With this, "Furthermore, bombing strategies designed to obliterate entire cities is barbaric, whether people are in them or not" I'm inclined to disagree. Or, at least, in that case being "barbaric" is not nearly such a big deal to me all by itself. The real problem here is that it's highly likely we knew full-well that there were many, many civilians still in Hiroshima and Nagasaki when we obliterated them. But I'm not about to start constraining just war actions by pity on buildings and infrastructure qua buildings and infrastructure, or we really will start having unnecessary trouble defending ourselves! Murder is the central issue here, not destruction of real estate.

William Luse writes:

"Furthermore, bombing strategies designed to obliterate entire cities is barbaric, whether people are in them or not."

Would Mr. Luse please tell us what actions he would have taken toward Japan, if he had been the president of the United States in 1945?

Would Mr. Luse please tell us what actions he would have taken toward Japan, if he had been the president of the United States in 1945?

It is an interesting question, but it is important to frame it properly. (And of course I am not Mr. Luse). That is, it is important to acknowledge ahead of time that the only moral answer might well be "nothing". There is little point in proceeding with the discussion until this basic premise is in place, because at bottom it is this basic premise which is at issue and lies hidden beneath the discussion of the morality of practical options.

The Sherlock principle doesn't work when it comes to the morality of acts: that is, it does not follow that once we've gone down some list of possible acts and rejected them as incapable of achieving our goal, that whatever acts remain on the list which will achieve our goal are necessarily morally licit options. Incinerating a city of civilians isn't a morally licit option, period, no matter what other options are or are not available.

I disagree with Zippy that the premise that the U.S. should have done nothing, is hidden. I think that that position is clearly implied in Mr. Ruse's amazing statement that even to destroy an emptied-out city would be barbaric. I asked the question I asked, in order to get him to be explicit about his position, which is, evidently, a radical pacifism that would have left the Japanese military regime intact and in place.

Mr. Auster,

I asked the question I asked, in order to get him to be explicit about his position, which is, evidently, a radical pacifism that would have left the Japanese military regime intact and in place.
There's a great distance between radical pacifism and the judgement that if unconditional surrender could only be achieved through patently unjust means it could not be pursued. I rather doubt Mr. Luse, or "Zippy," would say, as a pacifist might, that the Battle of Midway was an atrocity, too. They merely seem to be saying that there are limits to what one may do, even in pursuit of a just cause. Razing cities full of noncombatants is so far, and so obviously, beyond the pale of jus in bello that it ought not even be open to discussion. Acknowledging that does not make one a radical pacifist.

Yes, the premise was that sometimes there is in point of fact nothing morally legitimate to do that will bring about one's military goals, or all of one's military goals. The premise wasn't that the U.S. should have done nothing to fight Japan.

I like Zippy's reference to the Sherlock principle. Very good.

I disagree with Zippy that the premise that the U.S. should have done nothing, is hidden.

That isn't quite what I am saying though. What I am saying is that the discussion isn't even valid, has not even been properly engaged, unless it is admitted at the outset by all parties that when presented with a particular list of options "none of the above" may be the only moral one.

I don't in fact think that was the case in WWII: I think that a list of morally acceptable options meeting jus in bello could probably be assembled, and we could probably prudentially weigh those options and choose the best one. But "incinerate a city of civilians" wouldn't be on the list. It would be excluded on the same grounds that "torture a school bus of kindergartners to death" would be excluded: on the grounds that civilized men don't do wicked things, no matter what the consequences happen to be of refraining from doing wicked things.

I share Lydia's scepticism when it comes to destroying empty cities, BTW and FWIW. It seems to me that it is possible for it to be immoral to destroy property, but that it is necessarily a prudential evaluation and rests largely on intentions. (E.g., if the intention was to leave the terrorized population homeless so they would starve to death that would be morally illicit). But it is kind of a moot point, because I don't think any modern city has ever actually been empty. Even Hiroshima wasn't empty after the bombing.

Atlanta was empty when Sherman burned it.

Ah, very good Paul! ([...backpedaling...] But was it a modern city?) Touche.

In any case, the moral evaluation is different. That doesn't mean it favors Sherman's act; just that evaluating Sherman's act is a different matter from evaluating Truman's formal cooperation with Tibbets-and-company's act.

"But the alternative seems equally dubious: namely that time justifies an unjust aggression."

Time doesn't necessarily justify an unjust aggression, but simply the resulting post-war settlement. Invasions, usurpations, murder and theft have all benefited some peoples at the expense of others. But the great-great grandson of William the Conqueror has more of a right to his position than his invading ancestor did, or the invader of the moment. Punishing a descendant for his long-dead ancestor's misdeeds reeks of injustice as well as impracticality.

Or, at least, in that case being "barbaric" is not nearly such a big deal to me all by itself.

Of course there's a different level of barbarity between killing civilians and destroying buildings. Carpet bombing and A-bombs are used with utter disregard for a people's entire culture - their museums, hospitals, schools, places of worship, etc. Once we have so benevolently evacuated the city, what's say we leave them with no homes to return to? If that doesn't strike you as barbaric, then we'll just stick to our different definitions.

Zippy answered Mr. Auster quite well for me, his question presuming, as is so typical of those who support the bombings, that if no happy alternative seems readily available, then it becomes all right to MURDER THE INNOCENT. Certain things are NEVER PERMISSIBLE. Is that explicit enough? The accusation of pacifism it also typical. If I won't kill women and children then I musn't be willing to kill anybody. To borrow from Zippy on another thread, if you want to find out if I'm a pacifist, attack me.

Thank you Cyrus and Paul.

Bill, all I meant was that it isn't intrinsically immoral to destroy empty buildings. If someone tried to get me by saying, "Suppose the whole world is going to be destroyed if you don't deliberately blow up a museum (hospital building, home) empty of human habitation," I'd probably tell him that I'd at least consider doing it. The same can't be said of deliberately blowing up an innocent human being. At that point, as Zippy says, the devil is in the details.

And of course I am not Mr. Luse

I have for certain that I met "Bill and I" around here somewhere. Mr. Allcaps has been here before, too.

The central issue is, when is a homicide licit?

Yes, killing the innocent is wrong and forbidden. Yet those who deny the charge of pacifism cannot deny that there are casualties of innocent people in war. Obviously the death of innocents and the destruction of property was the purpose of bombing in Japan and Dresden. A wholly different scenario would be having to prevent a nuclear holocaust or the destruction of one's national buildings in self-defense.

Paul: the thought is that the career of Charles Martel parallels the atomic strikes in two respects:

(1) both contributed significantly to the preservation of Western civilization.

(2) neither was consistent with the doctrine of Jesus of Nazareth, as enunciated in the canonical gospels.

Both claims are, of course, eminently disputable. But I do think one has to tread a *very* fine line to come up with a plausible Christian defense for a *lot* of stuff that went on in the more-or-less Christian middle ages without, in the process, justifying Hiroshima.

The same can't be said of deliberately blowing up an innocent human being.

No kidding. You could at least just admit it in the sense I offered it, which was that it is a barbaric thing to do if you don't have to do it, and in this case it wasn't.

Yet those who deny the charge of pacifism cannot deny that there are casualties of innocent people in war.

Consider it acknowledged. There are casualties of innocent people on the highways too, and yet we drive our cars: I am also not categorically against driving. And we manage to distinguish morally between intentionally running over a bunch of innocent people on the sidewalk and getting into an accident.

Well, Steve, you probably have a better handle on Martel's full career than I, so I'll defer to you. But we're talking about discrete acts here. When Martel defeated Abdderrahman at Tours, he did not (so far as I know) massacre innocents. So the Christian is free to endorse his career in that decisive moment, while perhaps remaining skeptical (or even hostile) toward his other campaigns.

Similarly, I have no hesitation about endorsing the great bulk of American war-fighting in the Second World War, especially the ground campaigns. It is only the terror bombings, atomic or conventional, that rend the heart of the Christian.

Zippy:

Sherman's march, which laid waste to property aplenty, but did not issue in wholesale slaughter, seems more justifiable to me than the atomic strikes. There can be little doubt as to the importance of the interior of Georgia to the Confederate capacity to continue fighting.

Paul: Don't get me wrong. By all accounts, Charles Martel was a genuine hero of his time: brilliant in military tactics, (relatively) humane in conquest.

And I agree: he never (so far as I know) massacred innocents, strictly speaking.

The question is, does the doctrine of the gospels even allow for the massacre of the *guilty?*

Much as I may sympathize with the advocates of traditional "just war" theory, It's not at all clear to me that their position is as well grounded in scripture as that of Christian pacifists.

does the doctrine of the gospels even allow for the massacre of the *guilty?*

It certainly does. Consider the abundant imagery of the "wailing and gnashing of teeth" and the outer darkness. Consider the fierce words Christ reserves from the Pharisees. Or the shocking statements about the Final Judgment, where Christ will declare to the guilty, "depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." There are harsh words for the guilty aplenty in the Gospels.

I think the part that would bother you is that judgment is left to the Lord.

The Apostle Paul expressly states that the ruler bears the sword for the punishment of evil doers. And we aren't talking about the _flat_ of the sword, either. Nor do I see that on this point there is some tension between Jesus and Paul. Jesus simply never addressed the point (capital punishment, that is), except perhaps obliquely when he told Pontius Pilate that he could have no power but from above and that therefore those who delivered Jesus to Pilate had the greater sin. The thief on the cross says to the other thief that they suffer justly for their crimes. The evangelist records these words in the narrative in a way that could reasonably be taken for endorsement, especially as it points up Jesus' innocence and the unjustness of his death.

But for the most part, matters of the form of just government and, by extension, of just war are simply never addressed in the New Testament at all. And why should we expect it? Jesus and the apostles speak and write for the most part to people who are subjects, not rulers, and most of their advice concerns putting up patiently with the disadvantages of subject status in the Roman world. And the apostles were concerned to make it clear that they were _not_ what their enemies claimed they were--rabble-rousers trying to start a revolt against Rome. Hence they advise people to pay their taxes, obey the rulers, and the like. When the New Testament Christian authorities do address rulers (as Jesus before Pilate or Paul before Festus) their concern is with the drama of salvation, with sin, the resurrection of Jesus Christ (in Paul's speeches), and redemption of the soul. Jesus expressly says that his kingdom is not of this world. What does any of this have to do with just war or the rightness of capital punishment carried out by those in due authority? Precisely nothing, either good or bad.

There is also the consideration that creeds and sacred texts are always adumbrations or concretions of the living, existential tradition of faith, and never exhaustive embodiments of the atmosphere of faith. Sola Scriptura, that is to say, is internally incoherent and incapable of practical realization, so, for example, there is no necessity of Just War being deducible from a particular sacred text.

Paul - yes: "vengeance is mine, saith the lord."

Divine punishment in the afterlife, where their fire is not quenched, and their worm dieth not, is one thing. Human attempts at "just war" are quite another.

True Steve, but the vengeance of the Lord need not be limited to the afterlife. Scripture is chock full of judgment even in mortal life.

Lydia - But the Apostle Paul presumably assumes that the ruler is not a Christian.

Whether a Christian ruler could permissibly act as he expects a non-Christian ruler to act, or whether a genuine Christian could ever even *be* a ruler, in this world, remains, to me, very unclear.

I tend to think not.

I'm sure the Apostle Paul would have said that a Christian ruler certainly _can_ act as he imagines the non-Christian ruler to act. After all, he attributes to him (almost too idealistically) the job of punishing evil-doers and praising those that do well. Why shouldn't a Christian take on that job? You may disagree with St. Paul, Steve, but to say that all Christians must do so is, it seems to me, to make a fairly weakly-supported assertion based, presumably, on places where Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, etc., the relevance of which to the job of ruler is exceedingly questionable.

As for Tiny Muskens (here I think I'm bringing in the other thread where you made a similar argument), he is quoted to have said that "God doesn't care what we call him," which just goes to show that Bp. Muskens is _very_ uneducated when it comes to the canonical texts! To try to argue that he represents true and original Christianity over against those of us who would resist the Islamic threat is, I think, to build on sand.

Paul - judgment? yes. But this-worldly punishment?

I think there's a big disjunction between the old and new testaments, on this point.

I had thought this website was one of Christian traditionalists.

The comments by Zippy, Cyrus, Mr. Luse, are not those of Christian traditionalists, but of some new kind of Christian antinomians (or is it antinomians in reverse?) who conceive of "morality" unconnected with real world consequences. It's similar to the way many Christian evangelicals believe in a pure relationship with Christ unconnected with the multileveled universe in which we actually live including their own nation.

A "morality" that would result in an endless unwinnable war against an undefeated remorseless enemy and millions more deaths and untold more destruction than the actual "immoral" act that is being rejected is not a position of rational or moral men, but of fanatics, even if they describe themselves as "Christians" or "traditional Christians." Perhaps they are Catholics following the virtually pacificist teachings of the late pope.

Since the mid 1990s I have noted the break-up of conservatism into separate ideologies, each of which makes one aspect of reality all important, and ignores all other aspects of reality. (See article: http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/003303.html.) The economic reductionists make economics the only part of reality that matters. The racial reductionists make race the only part of reality that matters. The neocons make a universal idea of equal rights the only part of reality that matters. And now we have the Christian-moral reductionists, who make "morality" the only part of reality that matters. But such an abstracted morality is not moral.

Also, a correspondent shared some thoughts with me about the participants in this thread which are worth quoting:

"Actually, they state that violence against the enemy is fine but it must never involve the harm of the innocent except by accident. So, while they are not explicit pacifists, they are implicit pacifists by their moral position. If they had been in charge and the Japanese had put a civilian in every plane and on every ship, we would have been required not to fire because we would have been committing murder.

"Luse’s moral stance would have made a demonstration of the atomic bomb worthless. We could not use the bomb where it would knowingly kill civilians. Therefore, all the Japanese would have to do is locate civilians at every strategic location and we could have never used the bomb.

"I agree that it is a loss of rationality. One area where I believe they are blind is that the actions of the other party can dictate what actions are moral for us to perform. If the enemy puts civilians at military locations, then we are not morally culpable for any harm that comes to them even if we know they are there."

My correspondent's point is well taken and worth repeating. If America adopted the view of Z. C., and L., all that the Nazis and Japanese would have needed to do was place innocent civilians among their combat units. The Americans would not be able to fire at them because that would be "immoral." And the Nazis and Japanese would have conqurered the world. This is the the view that Z., C., and L. think is moral. Their position is not moral, but insane. Just as many of the positions of John Paul II were insane.

If the view of Z., C., and L. were Christianity (which fortunately it is not, it is a form of lunacy), then the John Derbyshires of the world would be right to see Christianity as a menace to our civilization.

Finally, if the view of Z, C. and L. is not the dominant view of this website, I'm sure not seeing any decisive and strong voices from the other regulars at this website being raised against them.

But this-worldly punishment?

I admit to a bit of bafflement as to what more one might want, from a text otherwise remarkably silent on politics, beyond:

"1 Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. 2 Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation. 3 For princes are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good: and thou shalt have praise from the same. 4 For he is God's minister to thee, for good. But if thou do that which is evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God's minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. 5 Wherefore be subject of necessity, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake."

But then, I'm in the camp that thinks trying to extract determinate Christian doctrines from the Bible as some stand-alone authority is a fool's errand. Doesn't a certain reading also predict the assassination of Itzhak Rabin?

One other point. I remember many years ago becoming aware of the "moral" standard that liberals would use for the enforcement of our immigration laws, such as the employer sanctions passed in 1986. If enforcing the immigration laws resulted in a "single act of discrimination" against an individual anywhere in our country, that would be a total disgrace on our country and totally unacceptable. Meaning, there must be no enforcement of the immigration laws. That was the attitude you heard over and over.

Some of the participants in this discussion have a similarly extremist liberal view about war. If winning a war requires the knowing killing of one innocent civilian, then our side must not win, but lose.

And these hyperliberals call themselves conservatives.

Mr. Auster, there is one difference. Discrimination isn't evil. Killing innocent human beings is.

But we might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. While you're outraged at all of our opinions on this topic, you might as well see the grand-daddy discussion here:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2007/07/the_right_call.html#more

Really, it ought to be possible to disagree with people without calling them "liberals."

A "morality" that would result in an endless unwinnable war against an undefeated remorseless enemy and millions more deaths and untold more destruction than the actual "immoral" act that is being rejected is not a position of rational or moral men,...

Sorry, Mr. Auster, but morality which rests solely on this-worldly consequences is not a part of the Christian tradition. You cannot invoke only consequences in rejecting a certain result you don't like and still claim to be within the Christian tradition. This-worldly consequences are important, but they do not trump all other considerations: what would it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul?

In fairness to you I should point out that I know you, and consider you my friend, though you don't know me under this pseudonym and we haven't spoken in some time. (The pseudonym is a long story). Perhaps you recall dinner with Jim Kalb at Le Cirque? Your keeping of my identity in confidence is appreciated in advance. Anyway, I appreciate a great deal of what you write, and I like you even when you think I'm nuts. But I am not a moral consequentialist, and Christian tradition consistently stands opposed to moral consequentialism. Aquinas (for example) said that it is always wrong to kill the innocent. If it is insane to reject the wholesale indiscriminate slaughter of the innocent then feel free to count me among the insane.

Hello to Zippy, it's good to hear from you again.

In Zippy's previous incarnation, he always admirably remained in--though I think he was sorely tempted to abandon it at times--the Platonic in-between, mediating between the pure claims of spirit and the exigencies of protecting and preserving an actual society, badly flawed though it is from his point of view. I fear that, in the couple of years since we last communicated, he has let go of one the two poles of the Platonic tension and now holds on to only one.

To verify where Zippy and his fellow followers of non-consequential morality are coming from, let me ask them a question.

An airliner hijacked by Muslim terrorists, with 40 passengers on board and a A-bomb, is flying west over the Atlantic approaching Washington D.C. You're the president.

Would you shoot the plane down over the Atlantic, and save Washington?

Or, because you can never take an innocent human life and therefore cannot shoot the plane down, would you let it complete its flight and explode over Washington, destroying much of the city and killing tens of thousands of people? Of course, the people in the plane are doomed either way. But that consideration is irrelevant to your morality. The only principle guiding you in this situation is that you cannot commit murder. And for you to shoot down the plane, even though it would save an entire city, and even though all the people on the plane are going to die anyway, would be murder.

So what would you do? Inquiring minds would like to know.

Would you shoot the plane down over the Atlantic, and save Washington?

Not simpliciter. As with an ectopic pregnancy, the moral distinction between licit procedures and illicit depends on the details. One thing I would not do is simply destroy the plane and everyone in it, with (say) a sidewinder. I would probably make an attempt - which might fail and accidentally destroy the plane - to disable the plane, so that I was not directly killing the passengers. I might jam its GPS and VOR signals to send it off course. (The latter is technically rather easy; the former can be done by having the DOD shut the sattelite signal off). I would use smoke, planes, and other countermeasures to make visual navigation difficult or impossible.

The devil is in the details. A salpingectomy is, since not a direct attack on the child, not generally thought to be murder. A salpingotomy is murder without doubt. In such a dire and hopeless situation I would probably go with the doubt and perform a salpingectomy. But even so I wouldn't do it untroubled.

Auster asked a simple question:
"Would you shoot the plane down over the Atlantic, and save Washington?"

It took Zippy about 100 words (not) to answer the question.

Zippy would "disable" the plane, knowing full well that it is as good as shooting plane down.

But that little ruse will keep Zippy pure and self-righteous and so much better than other people. And that is objective isn't it?

Of course that strange "disabling" of plane will expose US pilots to additional risks, some of them might even die during that "disabling".

But that is a very small price to pay to keep Zippy so pure and self-satisfied.

One thing little discussed here is the alternatives to using nuclear weapons against Japan. We could have continued the incendiary raids against Japanese cities which were also horrific and about as destructive as using the nuclear weapons. Or should we have simply not bombed any cities at all and proceeded with an all out ground invasion? Be clear that Japan had dispersed its war industry so it was impossible to eliminate its war-making capacity without causing civilian causalities. Without the bombing raids a US invading force would have faced a formidable and implacable enemy. Even with conventional bombing, Japan had lots of capacity left to inflict severe causalities on invading American army. Should we have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of Japanese instead? We could also have simply not invaded Japan at all and left a stalemate in place as we did in Korea. That could easily have given us World War III 20 years later with a nuclear armed Japan. I think that little by little the objectors to using nuclear weapons against Japan are forced into a pacifist position. General Groves was keenly aware that had they invaded Japan at a great cost in American lives when the possibly existed of ending war more quickly, the American people would have crucified the decision makers. Would you like to have had to explain to the families of dead soldiers that they died because we were afraid to use our full power? I’m sorry a government’s primary responsibility is to the welfare of its own citizens.

Paul Cella:

“Finally, read Larry Auster’s recent discovery of a new piece of information…”

There’s nothing “new” about that information as it had been readily available for the last 60 years.

Zippy:

How many planes have you disabled? Your scenario is ridiculous. In such a situation you have to act fast and decisively. Even if the military could shut down the GPS system, they wouldn’t do it because that in itself would kill people. Moreover even a plane without electronic navigational aids can still fly. It can still reach other targets if it can’t find Washington. Such a policy would virtually invite terrorists to continue to hijack planes. Don’t you think a policy of shooting down a hijacked plane has a deterrent effect?

I don't think Zippy said he wouldn't do it; seems to me he was implying that he would do it A) only as a last resort and B) with considerable trouble of conscience.

The arguments here for targeting non-combatants are the same ones that Lincoln, Sherman and Sheridan used during the Civil War, albeit with resultant devastation on a much smaller scale. I don't accept those arguments for that period of time, why should I accept them for the Dresden fire bombings, the Tokyo bombings, or the A-Bomb drops simply because they were on a larger scale and the stakes were higher? If anything they are worse, not just in the number of civilian deaths but in the attitude of dehumanization that accompanied them.

A. Zarkov, making the same point here that he has in e-mails to me, remains stubbornly resistant to the mysterious fact that I have repeatedly pointed out out to him, that many people who are quite knowledgeable about World War II and the dropping of the A-bomb never heard about the leaflets until VFR published the information about them last week. Here is a sampling of comments posted at VFR on this:

Mark Jaws:

I am the guy at work who periodically sends out military history quizzes on Friday mornings to test people’s knowledge on such vital military trivia. I have read military history encyclopedias through and did not know that the US dropped leaflets on the Japanese prior to the big one going off. I wonder why this is not common knowledge.

RG writes from Dearborn-istan:

I did not know about the leaflet dropping and I consider myself to be very well read on WW2 history—a lifelong hobby of mine. What also gets left out when teaching young people today is the decision was to bomb or invade Japan in the autumn of 1945, which would have easily caused huge casualties on both sides, given Japanese militaristic and bushido beliefs.

Tom S. (who found the article on the leaflets that led to the recent VFR discussions, who knows a lot about the A-bomb issue and whose father is a WWII veteran who is also interested in the A-bomb issue) writes:

No, I did not know. I had heard that leaflets were dropped over Japan, but I thought that they were just general warnings—"surrender or be destroyed" etc. I didn't know that specific cities were listed, that they specifically recommended evacuation, or that they were dropped over the atomic target cities.

Randall J. writes:

No, I did not know either, and WWII history has been a passion of mine since I was twelve (more than 25 years now).

A reader writes:

I've published in a scholarly way on some aspects of the Hiroshima attack, and do not recall ever reading about the leaflets.

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/008619.html
http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/008629.html

Let me add this. The reason some people such as A. Zarkov do not see the significance of the uncovering of this issue, is that they confuse "sort of" knowing about something with really knowing about it. Thus Tom S. and others "sort of" knew there were leaflets that warned people they must surrender or be killed. Thinking that they already knew all there was to know about the issue, they didn't look into it further. But "sort of" knowing about the leaflets is not the same as reading the actual text of the leaflets, and knowing that the leaflets (at least 30,000 on each city by my estimation) were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the week preceding the bombings, and so on.

In other words, "sort of" knowing about something shields people from really knowing about it. And unless someone had looked this up himself, nothing in our culture took people from the "sort of" knowing condition to the really knowing condition.

In relation to Zippy's idea of a governing moral calculus that is abstracted from consequences and thus from the totality of reality (which he says comes from Aquinas, though I'm sure Aquinas would have put more qualifications around it than Zippy and his colleagues are doing), I recommend my brief essay, "What is transcendence and why does it matter?" (http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/004328.html). In a comment following the essay I write:

My main purpose in this discussion is to get at the root of why we our letting our culture be destroyed. I’m saying it’s because we have lost the experience of the transcendent as it is related to our specific culture, and therefore we don’t have the will to preserve or defend our culture. The transcendent needs to be understood not only in relation to the idea of God, but in relation to culture. If the transcendent is only experienced in relation to universal morality or God, then we end up with modern conservatism, which worships universal ideas of democracy and puts 99 percent of its moral energy into opposing abortion, but which fails to defend our culture as a culture from the innumerable ills that threaten it from without and within. It is no coincidence that both neoconservatives and evangelical Christians favor mass non-European immigration. It is because they lack a sense of the transcendent quality of our particular culture and nation.


How many planes have you disabled?

None, though I've flown quite a few. My objective when flying them is usually to see to it that they aren't disabled, though that has made me aware of the many ways things can go wrong when nineteen amateurs take one over. I've never performed a salpingotomy or salpingectomy either, never seen a fallopian tube exposed to surgical instrumentation, and yet I can see a moral difference between the two.

But that is a very small price to pay to keep Zippy so pure and self-satisfied.

The devil is in the details of the acts committed. Shooting an enemy soldier on the battlefield is morally different from shooting him in the back of the head after he has surrendered and been taken into captivity mere minutes later. This has nothing to do with self-satisfaction and everything to do with whether there is any such thing as an absolute right and wrong. On many issues conservatives are moral absolutists; when it comes to this one many of them become postmoderns and insist on a situational ethics.

In relation to Zippy's idea of a governing moral calculus that is abstracted from consequences and thus from the totality of reality...

Virtually everyone agrees that in some cases the moral calculus of an act is autonomous; that (e.g.) it is wrong to sodomize and murder a kindergartner, no matter what totality of reality surrounds the act. What is odd about Hiroshima (and the population bombings -- there isn't anything about the nuke-qua-nuke which makes it different) -- is that rather than simply arguing that Hiroshima isn't such a case, it gets conservatives to argue against the very idea of moral absolutes. That in itself is suggestive that something else is going on: when natural moral absolutists abandon ship and start arguing against moral absolutism per se because of a particular issue, there is something about that particular issue that they don't want to subject to the cold uncompromising light of day.

I understand - and agree with - Mr. Auster's many observations about the suicidal tendencies of our modern culture. But abandoning moral absolutism -qua- moral absolutism (even if one disagrees w.r.t. a particular issue) is of a piece with that suicide, in my view.

I asked Zippy a direct question and he answered evasively, even using obscure vocabulary I've never seen. However, after hemming and hawing for a while he seems to admit that, yes, he would shoot down the plane to prevent the nuclear destruction of Washington, D.C.

But how can he justify this? By his own lights, to shoot down the plane with the 40 innocent passengers on board is murder, and one must never murder, no matter what the consequences. Why is Zippy making an exception here? It sounds like an unprincipled exception, which is a standard liberal device. Liberals have principled beliefs (e.g., thou shalt never discriminate) that run counter to life on this earth; therefore in order to have a life, but remain a good liberals, liberals must constantly make exceptions to their own liberalism that are not backed up by any principle.

It seems to me that Zippy is doing the same thing here. He has a principle (thou shalt never knowingly cause the death of an innocent, NO MATTER WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES), which is incompatible with the safety and survival of actual societies existing on this earth. When I gave him a hypothetical in which he had had to order the shooting down of a plane causing the death of 40 innocent (and doomed) passengers in order to prevent a nuclear attack on a U.S. city, he hesitated then finally admitted he would order the plane shot down. If he made the exception here, what is left of his supposed absolute principle that one must never cause the death of an innocent regardless of the consequences?

Zippy and Mr. Cella insist they are not liberals and give examples of how right-wing they are. But the core of their thought in this debate, both in its substance and in its resort to the unprincipled exception, is, if not liberal, then very like liberalism.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2007/08/and_old_and_necessary_debate.html#comment-3957

I don't think Zippy said he wouldn't do it; seems to me he was implying that he would do it A) only as a last resort and B) with considerable trouble of conscience.

Well, and that "it" is a different thing. In a hostage situation when you are the sniper, there is a not insignificant moral difference between attempting to shoot the terrorist and attempting to shoot through the hostage to get the terrorist. People who say "Zippy wouldn't shoot the terrorist" are simply ignorant about what Zippy would do. Some are even celebratory of their ignorance, saying things like:

But that little ruse will keep Zippy pure and self-righteous and so much better than other people. And that is objective isn't it?

No, mik_infidelos. The objective is to do the right thing. Doing the right thing used to be a conservative imperative; but Hiroshima has become the conservative sacrament of situational ethics. Disagree with me about the particular act if you will, but reject moral absolutism tout court and you are no better than the left liberals you despise.

I asked Zippy a direct question and he answered evasively, even using obscure vocabulary I've never seen.

If you want to "do" moral casuistry there is a whole vocabulary and set of archetypical cases that goes along with it. If answering in the language of the subject is "evasive" then nothing can be discussed. I can't tell you about protein folding without using some of the language of molecular biology either. In general I can't resolve other peoples' ignorance in a blog comment, and there is a rather formidable amount of ignorance to resolve here. I can however recommend some reading: Proportionalism and the Natural Law Tradition by Kaczor isn't a bad place to start. Pick out and read several books by Grisez, Finnis, or pick some names you like. Read Intention by Elizabeth Anscomb. Read Etienne Gilson's summary of Aquinas. Then read the papal encyclical veritatis splendour after immersing yourself in that literature for a good while and letting it steep, so that you'll understand what the heck it is saying; because otherwise you'll just react with a clueless jerk of the knee. That is my advice to anyone who really wants to know, as opposed to those who really don't want to know.

Mr. Auster, a direct question for you: what would you personally not do to save Western civilzation? Can you make me a list?

thou shalt never knowingly cause the death of an innocent, NO MATTER WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES

Zippy may think otherwise, but for myself I would revise Mr. Auster's summary thusly: "thou shalt never deliberately ..." It's a matter of intent, not knowledge. Fighting a pitched gun-battle in the streets of a city (a la Black Hawk Down) will cause the deaths of innocents, and everyone knows it, but the soldier defending himself and his comrades does not deliberately will those deaths.

These hypotheticals can grow tiresome very quickly. The airplane one Mr. Auster presents us with contains several pieces of certain information that, in real life, can never be certain. For instance, we cannot know with certainty that the 40 innocents are indeed doomed. In the case of Flight 93, the innocents moved against their attackers, and by all accounts nearly succeeded in taking control of the plane. The plane could be shot down with the terrorists already incapacitated.

I tend to share Zippy's perplexity at the idea that abandoning moral absolutes on circumstantial grounds is a piece of Liberalism.

The notion that moral absolutism = liberalism (or "functional liberalism") is so bizarre that the fact that it is raised at all says something significant about the subject matter which gave rise to it.

Zippy writes: "Hiroshima has become the conservative sacrament of situational ethics."

Clever phraseology but specious thinking. I certainly am not abandoning absolute morality. But absolute and universal morality cannot be understood and applied apart from actual, particular situations. Zippy himself did that when he admitted he would shoot down the nuclear armed airliner.

Here's the difference between Zippy's position and mine.

Zippy says there is an absolute morality which has nothing to do with consquences. But, because this idea of morality leads to totally unacceptable results even by Zippy's lights, he must make exceptions to it. His exceptions destroy his notion that he adhere's to absolute morality, leaving him in a profoundly confused state.

I say there is absolute morality, but this morality cannot be applied apart from actual situations. Therefore the bombing of Hiroshima, though an infinitely horrible act, was not a violation of absolute morality. The men who ordered and carried out that act were helping END EVIL—an evil that would have gone on destroying millions of lives, indeed causing the death of every Japanese person in the name of "honor," if it had not been defeated. THAT'S the real moral quality of the American government and military leaders and the crew of the Enola Gay, to which Zippy appears to be blind.

Thus, my notion of absolute morality which takes in particular context and consequences can adjust to circumstances without losing its hold on absolute morality. But Zippy's notion of absolute morality which rejects consequences is forced into unprincipled exceptions which undercut absolute morality.

The conclusion: the supporters of the Hiroshima bombing, far from being relativists, are standing on firmer philosophical and moral ground than Zippy and his colleagues.

Zippy himself did that when he admitted he would shoot down the nuclear armed airliner.

Please re-read what I said. There may be morally licit things that can be done. Blowing up the plane with the hostages in it isn't one of them, in my view. But even if one disagrees with my view on that imaginary scenario, the Hiroshima bombing is of a whole different order.

Zippy says there is an absolute morality which has nothing to do with consquences.

Yep. Exactly right. There are certain species of act which we should never commit, no matter what intentions or circumstances obtain. There are some means which no end justifies.

I say there is absolute morality, but this morality cannot be applied apart from actual situations.

OK. And this isn't situational ethics?

The men who ordered and carried out that act were helping END EVIL

Is there anything, Mr. Auster, that you wouldn't do with the end goal of ending evil? Is the means always justified when the end is to END EVIL?

"Mr. Auster, a direct question for you: what would you personally not do to save Western civilzation? Can you make me a list?"

The question is too general. I gave Zippy a very specific and entirely plausible scenario, and he tells me I have to read a whole library of books on moral philosophy to grasp the issue sufficiently. This is b.s., by which truths comprehensible by reasonable persons are obscured. I frankly think that President Truman had a sounder grasp of moral issues than Zippy and his learned colleagues. The issues here do not require the equivalent of a master's degree.

However, while Zippy's question is too general to reply to, I will mention that I have repeatedly expressed my horror at the conservatives who speak of wiping out the whole Muslim world. This is why I propose Separationism, meaning the isolation of Muslims from the rest of the world through reverse immigration policies and military and political containment.

At the same time, I support Tancredo's idea that we should tell the Muslims that if there is a major terrorist attack on America, we will wipe out Mecca and Medina.

And by the way, it was MAD--Mutual Assured Destruction--as immoral an idea as one could think of from Zippy's point of view, that kept the Soviets from spreading their evil power even further over the world. The New Testament guides individual Christians in their relations; it is not a guide to statesmen running governments. Churchill understood that. Several people in this discussion do not understand it.

"There are certain species of act which we should never commit, no matter what intentions or circumstances obtain. There are some means which no end justifies."

Remember Dostoevsky's question? If you could end all future suffering in the world -- war, sickness, famine, etc., by torturing to death one small child, would you agree to it? (I had a liberal friend tell me that she would agree to it, provided she wasn't the one who would actually have to carry it out. She got angry when I told her that that answers nothing.)

Is there anything, that you wouldn't do with the end goal of ending evil?

What about sacrificing your only daughter? (Jgs 11:29-39a). That's been bugging me all morning.

Let us also take note of the assumptions packed into Mr. Auster's consequentialist argument: "The men who ordered and carried out that act were helping END EVIL — an evil that would have gone on destroying millions of lives, indeed causing the death of every Japanese person in the name of 'honor,' if it had not been defeated." And elsewhere: Failing to drop the atomic bombs "would have caused infinitely more death and destruction, indeed the destruction of the entire country and people of Japan, since the military leaders wanted, for honor's sake, that every Japanese person die rather than surrender to the Americans."

I don't say these are unreasonable counterfactuals, but they are counterfactuals -- that is, not facts, but projections or predictions.

Would Mr. Auster endorse Gen. Patton's famous view, which got him in so much trouble, that the enormous US Army, fully mobilized by the end of the war, ought to have marched right through Germany to liberate the Communist puppet states that Stalin was setting up, or even go ahead and smash up the Soviet Union itself? But why sacrifice so many American boys to do this? Why not launch atomic strikes on Moscow and Leningrad, before the Communists got hold of their own weapons? We do not have to pursue counterfactuals to discover the unspeakable misery visited upon the world by 40 years of Communist domination in Russia, China, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere.

I have heard men make this very argument, that we should have turned our atomic weapons on the Communists, thereby ending the Cold War before it began.

The New Testament guides individual Christians in their relations; it is not a guide to statesmen running governments.

Are statesmen not individual Christians, or are governments not relationships?

I and others have been saying that Zippy's reply to my question was obscure. Well, it turns out to be even more obscure than I thought, since his final answer seemed to be yes but now he's saying that it's no. Zippy's refusal to give a straight answer to a non-ambiguous question makes discussion difficult.

"Is there anything, Mr. Auster, that you wouldn't do with the end goal of ending evil? Is the means always justified when the end is to END EVIL?"

When I spoke of ending evil, I was not using it in the Perl-Frum-Bush sense of ending evil in the world. I meant the ending of a specific evil. And of course there are limits. And they are known through the use of moral reasoning, which applies absolute standards to specific circumstances. Zippy with his library of books on moral philosophy somehow imagines that because I support the destruction of Japanese military cities to bring about the quick surrender of Japan, therefore there is no act of killing that I would not subscribe to if it brought about some good. There's no reason for him to assume that. That he would even think that of me, is a further example of the hot-house reasoning which has driven this discussion, and which, with all due respect for Zippy's brilliant mind, I think has been brought about by the reading of too many books.

I don't think Zippy is assuming anything, Mr. Auster. He is asking you for a description or recitation of things which you would prohibit absolutely; that is to say, actions so wicked that no end can justify them. This seems a relevant question.

Zippy's refusal to give a straight answer to a non-ambiguous question makes discussion difficult.

What part of "I would not blow up the plane with a sidewinder" did you not understand?

The issues here do not require the equivalent of a master's degree.

OK. So explain to me without further research or thought on your part the moral difference between a salpingotomy and a salpingectomy, and how they relate as human acts to the absolute moral prohibition of abortion.

Zippy's dialogue breaches fairness now and then, but he's correct on this: "But even if one disagrees with my view on that imaginary scenario, the Hiroshima bombing is of a whole different order."

One of the differences is that the bombing of Hiroshima was not necessary to end the war. There are tragic situations where choice come down to " damned if you do, damned if you don't." That is not the case with Hiroshima or Dresden.

"He is asking you for a description or recitation of things which you would prohibit absolutely; that is to say, actions so wicked that no end can justify them. This seems a relevant question."

Which is why I brought Dostoevsky's question up: would we all agree that it is NEVER morally right to torture a child, regardless of the end? If so, we have agreed on at least one moral absolute, and that is indeed relevant.

I don't think Zippy is assuming anything, Mr. Auster. He is asking you for a description or recitation of things which you would prohibit absolutely; that is to say, actions so wicked that no end can justify them. This seems a relevant question.

Exactly. Perhaps it would help Mr. Auster to focus on the specific end goal under discussion, and the means he sees as morally licensed to achieve it. What specific acts would you have prohibited the US to do with the goal of bringing about the surrender of Japan and the end of the war? What means, intended and directed toward bringing about the end of the war and with some causal connection to doing so, would have been absolutely prohibited by the moral law?

The scenario is, an adynaton, Rob, and the devil's in the works. Only fiction can present such unreal, other-worldly scenarios.

Zippy's question leaps beyond the specific and relevant circumstances with which I was dealing and presumes a generality which is in no way justified by anything I said. "Is there anything, Mr. Auster, that you wouldn't do with the end goal of ending evil?" The very form of his question shows an abstraction from reality, the same kind of abstraction that leads to the kinds of ethical dilemmas that are discussed in "ethics classes" in today's schools, e.g., "If murdering a child in front of you would save a million people on the other side of the world, would you do it?" Or, "If you could end world poverty by cutting off your father's arms would you do it?" Real moral questions of the kind that real human beings and statemen are presented with are not of this nature.

I've gotten value out of this discussion, because I had not previously encountered this idea of "morality divorced from consquences." Thank you all.

Larry: isn't it evasive not to answer the specific question of what means you as Truman would not have chosen to end the war, even if not choosing that means meant losing? That is after all the precise, particular situation under discussion.

Note: In my last comment, I was replying to Mr. Cella's question to me of 11:01 a.m. concerning Zippy's earlier question to me. I was not referring to Zippy's more recent question.

However, even his more recent question, dealing with Japan, shows his excessive abstraction: what would I not have done to bring about the surrender of Japan? Answer: The question is unanswerable and irrelevant. I don't have a head full of alternative imaginary scenaries concerning the war against Japan. Rather, I am looking at the same situation that President Truman was looking at.

Signing off for now.

So, looking at the same situation Truman was looking at, what acts directed at ending the war would you have considered morally off-limits?

"The scenario is, an adynaton, Rob, and the devil's in the works. Only fiction can present such unreal, other-worldly scenarios."

But Dosty's point is valid: if we would not torture a child to death to rid the world of all suffering, we certainly wouldn't torture one for a lesser reason, correct? If this is so, then there is at least one moral absolute that can be agreed upon, and again, this becomes relevant.

Much of the discussion here is on an abstract level which bears little relation to the historical facts of the summer of 1945. I note the absence of references to the many scholarly works on the subject, such as Richard B. Franks's Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire and Robert Maddox's Weapons for Victory, to name just two.

Every day the war continued, many thousands of innocent civilians in China and other Asian countries still occupied by the barbaric Japanese would have died at enemy hands. Every day the war continued thousands of Allied POWs would have continued to be tortured and would have died at the hands of their barbaric Japanese captors. A table with estimates of the numbers is found in Franks's book; it comes from Robert Newman's Truman and the Hiroshima Cult.

Further, the evidence that the enemy was not ready to surrender till after the Nagasaki bomb is overwhelming. Again, consult the history books (not the distorted radical left books like Gar Alperovitz's)for the facts. The supposed alternatives to the atomic bombs -- continued conventional bombing and blockade -- would have caused more US and British casualties, would have resulted in at least as many enemy casualties as the numbers from the atomic bombings, and could have led to mass starvation inside Japan. (Gen. LeMay was readying a new bombing strategy to destroy the country's transport system with new scientific advances to improve precision accuracy; the impact on food distribution is obvious.)

Also, in the summer of 1945 U.S. war weariness at home was beginning to take hold. Had this continued, it might have prevented our obtaining the total, unconditional surrender of the enemy, which has been the foundation of sixty years of a peaceful Japan to this day.

In the absence of reference to the historical facts (and there is much more than I note here), this discussion, in my opinion, is of limited value. As the vale of years separating us from the war grows, it is more incumbent on us than ever to be immersed in the historical reality of the period, and not to filter the truth through contemporary, after-the-fact sensibilities.

Further, the evidence that the enemy was not ready to surrender till after the Nagasaki bomb is overwhelming.

It is also irrelevant - along with all other circumstantial facts - if the Hiroshima bombing falls under a species of acts which are always morally prohibited.


Auster:

“… remains stubbornly resistant to the mysterious fact that I have repeatedly pointed out [out] to him, that many people who are quite knowledgeable about World War II and the dropping of the A-bomb never heard about the leaflets until VFR published the information about them last week.”

I pointed out to Auster that this information has been available for many decades, and there is nothing new or secretive about it. Information about the leaflets has been repeatedly published and broadcast over the years. For example, the 1983 book by Paul Johnson Modern Times makes explicit reference on page 425 to the leaflet warnings about the impending bombings. Johnson’s book is aimed at a general readership. The 1995 Smithsonian exhibit on the Enola Gay stated that leaflets were dropped warning of a bombing attack. The BBC program Surviving Hiroshima has testimony by Yutaka Nakagawa (who was in Hiroshima) described leaflets dropped on August 5 warning of an air raid. This interview was from the series ‘August 1945’ on BBC Radio 4. Most biographies on Curtis LeMay will discuss the leafleting campaign.

But be let’s clear. The leaflets dropped before August 6 did not warn of an atomic attack or an attack with a new and more potent weapon. Leaflets referencing the atomic bomb only appeared after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Army Sergeant Major Herbert A. Friedman has written many articles [available on the web] on the psychological operations against Japan, which includes images of the actual leaflets dropped in July and August 1945.

Finally Auster’s sampling of commentators from his readership proves nothing about how widespread is the ignorance of the WWII leafleting campaign. His sample is not a representative random sample from any general population of interest. Not students, or historians or the general public. It’s not even necessarily representative of his readership because the respondents are self-selected. Yet he persists in thinking he has discovered something significant. Moreover the critics of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings are not all that impressed because the leaflets did not specifically warn that these cities were going to become victims of a special new devastating weapon. Of course there were good military reasons for not doing so, but the critics don’t care.


The passage A. Zarkov cites on p. 425 of Modern Times consists of two sentences:

"Some 720,000 leaflets warning that the city would be 'obliterated' had been dropped two days before. No notice was taken, partly because it was rumoured Truman's mother had once lived nearby, and it was thought that the city, being pretty, would be used by the American as an occupation centre."

Now, I read Modern Times from start to finish when it was published in the 1980s. So I read those two sentences. But they didn't leave any memory or impression. They didn't lead to any further thoughts about the meaning and morality of the Hiroshima attack. It was not until I read the actual text of OWI notice #2601 (which I did not discover or claim to discover, it was VFR reader Tom S. who found it) that its impact and meaning struck me. And, if you read the readers' comments at VFR, many other people have had the same experience. As a result of reading the leaflet and the facts of its delivery, people understand the event differently than they did before.

A. Zarkov's failure to appreciate the significance of this, and his repeated dismissal of it in e-mails to me and now here, stems from the same attitude I talked about earlier, namely people's inability to see the difference between "sort of knowing" something, and really knowing it.

"If murdering a child in front of you would save a million people on the other side of the world, would you do it?" Or, "If you could end world poverty by cutting off your father's arms would you do it?" Real moral questions of the kind that real human beings and statemen are presented with are not of this nature.

I, myself, find it quite astounding that Mr. Auster would brush off "hypothetical alternatives" such as cutting off the arms of an innocent, and claim that such alternatives are never presented to us, when the *actual*, non-hypothetical nature of the act under discussion incinerated whole, melted the flesh, tore the flesh, cooked the flesh, and maimed the bodies of many, many thousands of people. (And this is only a small subset of the *actual* horrors of the act.)

It may be the mercy of God that prevents some of these scenarios from happening, but they certainly are not impossible. For example, it is a very real possibility for a particularly evil individual to run the timer of a bomb off of a little girl's heartbeat. (This is not science fiction--the technology exists.) This particularly heinous individual could strap this little-girl-bomb-timer to a nuclear bomb, and place them in an inaccessible place in a major city--but a place that exposes the head of a girl to a gunshot. You, therefore, have an option to shoot the girl in the head to stop her heart, which stops the timer and prevents the nuke from exploding saving thousands of lives and many more from unimaginable misery. And--by the way--you have very few beats left. So, Mr. Auster--do you shoot the girl in the head?

I don't have a head full of alternative imaginary scenaries concerning the war against Japan.

It seems to me that *one* thing would be sufficient for the sake of argument. You could come up with one thing, couldn't you? But then you would be faced with the comparison to the act of killing, melting, and bludgeoning thousands of innocent people--and you would be hard pressed to come up with an absolute thing that you would not do that would stack up against the slaughter, cooking, and shredding of thousands of actual people. Even heinous crimes done to a child (or shooting a child in the head) could not be measured in such a trade-off. They are objectively evil things.

I think what S.I. says points to something rather important: When acts of directly harming innocents take place at a bit of a distance (from an airplane to the ground, from one airplane to another), it becomes easier for their apologists to say that the "intent" wasn't to kill, maim, melt, etc., the innocent(s). When we ask whether the apologist for the act would, then, shoot a little girl directly in the head for "sufficient reasons," we're told we're making up unrealistic and pointless hypotheticals. This fact makes me see more clearly than before some problems with modern warfare--it sanitizes human acts emotionally and makes specious claims of double effect easier.

One might, in fact, characterize the problem as the difference between "sort of knowing" that this act involves deliberately killing an innocent child and _really_ knowing that the act involves deliberately killing an innocent child.

Silly Interloper:

In your hypothetical the little girl dies anyway in the nuclear blast. So what difference does it make if she dies a little sooner and you save a million other lives? Isn’t this similar to medical triage? If you decide you can’t ever sacrifice an innocent person then we can’t vaccinate against smallpox because about one in every million people with have a fatal reaction. The failure to do something is an also an act with real consequences.

I think this means A. Zarkov answers, "Yes, I would shoot the little girl in the head."

It's kind of interesting how hard it is to get people to say those words out loud, isn't it?

A. Zarkov: I find it difficult to take your comments seriously. Do we deliberately kill a small percentage of people to save others from small pox? When I climb in my car, do I deliberately kill the small percentage of people who will die in car accidents? Do I deliberately kill one tier of a triage in order to save others?

No...no...no.

Would someone deliberately kill the girl in the hypothetical?

Yes.

Were thousands and thousands of innocent people deliberately incinerated, melted, maimed, and torn by the bombing of Hiroshima?

Yes.

The difference it makes is that you either choose to commit an evil act, or you don't. The difference to me is--when the devil ups the ante, I'm still not willing to make a trade with him. What's the price on *your* soul?

Mr. Zarkov, I tend to agree with you. I had heard of the leaflet drops many, many years ago, though I can't remember where. And that's an honest answer. I don't think the fact that many have not heard of it is the result of anyone trying to hide anything, but rather that in the immediate decades after the bombings, the parties to the argument were honest enough to admit that the legitimacy of the act did not depend on the presence of leaflets.

I thought Zippy answered Auster's hypothetical quite clearly, the confusion arising only from the bombing supporters' typical inability (or refusal) to admit the difference between accidental civilian deaths and those resulting from an act that took them as the target. But I am beginning to see how a dialogue with Mr. Auster works. You have to answer his questions, but he doesn't have to answer yours. He claims to cling to a principle of absolute morality, but that its absoluteness depends on an appeal (a la Kimball) to the 'real world', the facts on the ground, the actual situation, which might involve terrible consequences, which in turn renders his absoluteness suddenly relative. If he will surrender the prohibition against killing the innocent in this situation, there is no reason in principle why he should not surrender it in others. I don't even see why the consequences have to be particularly heinous in order to do so. And so I likewise await an answer to Zippy's question: is there anything that Christian morality absolutely forbids, apart from consequences, and would murder of the innocent happen to be among them?

Rob Grano - I thought your torturing the child hypothetical as relevant as Auster's, and though I don't know that everyone here would agree that you can't do it, I do.

Mr. Interloper - you answer was not nearly so silly as your handle. Quite good, I thought. It powerfully encapsulates my objection to this "real world" nonsense.

I got the impression that Steve Burton thinks that to be a Christian one must also be a pacifist. Who'd a thunk it, blogging as he does under the banner of Martel. I think I'll just leave him something from Anscombe:

"To think that society's coercive authority is evil is akin to thinking the flesh evil and family life evil. These things belong to the present constitution of mankind; and if the exercise of coercive power is a manifestation of evil, and not the just means of restraining it, then human nature is totally depraved in a manner never taught by Christianity. For society is essential to human good; and society without coercive power is generally impossible."

One might, in fact, characterize the problem as the difference between "sort of knowing" that this act involves deliberately killing an innocent child and _really_ knowing...

Sorry, Lydia, but I just have to say: that's good.

Mr. Zarkov, would it make sense to you if I said that the death of that one child in a million was accidental rather than purposeful? And that I would have difficulty making this claim by putting a gun to that child's head in the other scenario?

It's kind of interesting how hard it is to get people to say those words out loud, isn't it?


Yes, of course. One needs courage in self-defense as well. Remember also that with your distance argument, the thousands of melting eyes, of babies, their mothers, and brothers are right there in focus.

I have never said that the discovery of the leaflets legitimizes the bombing which was not legitimized before. I supported the bombing before. My point is simply that the leaflets cast the bombing in a less negative light than before, and if these facts including the text of the leaflets were widely known, the negative view of the bombing which is prevalent on the left as well as some sectors of the right would be lessened.

Zippy - Romans 13 is certainly an interesting text. But it reminds me of those notorious passages in the New Testament where slaves are told to obey their masters.

Just because Christian scripture instructs slaves to obey their masters, must we conclude that owning or trafficing in slaves is, in the end, consistent with the spirit of the gospels? I hope not.

Similarly, just because Christian scripture instructs subjects to obey their princes, must we conclude that being a prince, and doing all the usual princely things, was consistent with the spirit of the gospels?

Again, I hope not.

Though the apostle Paul may have regarded the princes of his time as, in some sense, "God's ministers," he cannot very well have thought that any of them were headed for anywhere but gehenna, can he have? 'Cause none of them were Christians. In fact, the very idea of a Christian prince must have been all but unimaginable, in his time.

The participants in this discussion are in a world of their own. Most Americans would understand it as a matter of course that a hijacked airliner containing innocent passengers headed for the U.S. Capitol or about to crash into a city exploding a nuclear bomb would need to be shot down. The metaphysical opposition to the use of force against innocents shared by the posters here—a view that, though they deny it, is tantamount to absolute pacifism--simply disqualifies them from any public discussion on national defense matters. Their views are relevant only to their own tiny sect, speaking its own hot-house language.

Bill (if I may) - I am not even remotely competent
to decide whether "to be a Christian one must also be a pacifist."

But one doesn't have to be an expert theologian to notice that institutional Christianity seems to have been moving in that direction for many years, now. *The pacifists seem to be winning.*

And it's not at all obvious to an amateur like me that they lack strong scriptural support for their views.

Believe me: I consider it an honor to blog under the banner of Charles Martel. I only wish that more Christians today felt the same way.

Just because Christian scripture instructs slaves to obey their masters, must we conclude that owning or trafficing in slaves is, in the end, consistent with the spirit of the gospels?

I am far more sanguine and less apologetic about those particular passages than most modern Christians, when the notion of property is properly understood. That is, I think the concepts "property" and "slave" have undergone significant change over millenial time, or more accurately that the use of the labels has shifted to refer to somewhat different concepts.** But most everyone thinks I'm a nut.

You continue to address me as though I grant some significant quiddity to the notion of deducing doctrines through some stand-alone hermeneutic from Scripture, though. And I don't. As I understand Christianity, trying to understand Christianity apart from the Church founded by Christ as keeper of the Deposit of the Faith is unworkable. So presenting me with an example attempt that doesn't work is simply more evidence, not necessarily that my own conception of Christianity is true, but that I am right at least that sola scriptura conceptions of Christianity are false.

Similarly, just because Christian scripture instructs subjects to obey their princes, must we conclude that being a prince, and doing all the usual princely things, was consistent with the spirit of the gospels?

I would say yes to the latter, with some qualification depending on the referent of "all", but not just because of the former. (Again, I find appeals to Scripture as some stand-alone doctrinal proof text, um, uninspiring, independent of what doctrine one is attempting to prove). I consider St. Louis IX something of a personal patron, for example (though perhaps not as much so as St. Joseph of Cupertino, St. John the Beloved, and my newest sanctified friend St. George Preca).

** (This doesn't mean that I reject the notion that doctrine has developed on the matter, nor that more generally the development of doctrine gives me epistemological fits).

...view that, though they deny it, is tantamount to absolute pacifism ...

Yep. Pacifists who will kill you if you attack us.

If we elect to inoculate 200 million people against smallpox, we know for certain that about 20-200 people will suffer a fatal reaction. But we don’t know which specific people will suffer the reaction. Somehow the anonymity of the victims seems to make it more palatable. On the other hand, suppose we had to kill 20-200 specific people, or even just one person to avoid a smallpox epidemic. Is the former really any different from the latter? Emotionally the answer is yes, but I’m not sure the distinction is really justified. I think the problem comes from an artificial distinction between doing an act and not doing another act where both have the same consequences.

Thus the answer to the question, “Do we deliberately kill a small percentage of people to save others from small pox [sic]?” is yes. A smallpox epidemic in a vulnerable population (people who were never inoculated) would be truly horrendous, and if I had to kill a very small number of people to stop it I would, especially if it were “weaponized” smallpox. While we don’t have definitive proof, we have suggestive evidence that the Soviet Union produced a variation of the smallpox virus that would be highly durable and capable of surviving great distances.

Is the former really any different from the latter?

Of course it is. Knowing that X people will die accidentally in traffic accidents is entirely different from going out and killing X people with a car. (If you don't believe me, take one day and go out driving. The next day, go out driving and kill someone with your car on purpose. On your junior high entry application, write a report on the different way society treats you in those two cases.)

Thus the answer to the question, “Do we deliberately kill a small percentage of people to save others from small pox [sic]?” is yes.

Nonsense. Do we deliberately kill some number of people in order to drive, in a way that is morally equivalent to picking out and lining up that number of people and shooting them?

Only to the morally feeble-minded. Or to those who have some motivation to obscure the obvious.

Mr. Auster, my friend: you are making all kinds of rhetorical hay (at least you appear to think you are) on my direct and honest answer to your question. Do you plan on answering mine as forthrightly? My question to you, after all, involves an actual concrete situation which really occurred, whereas yours is an invented one you designed in order to try to marginalize my point of view. (Don't worry about it: unlike most Internet commentators I am fully aware of the fact that my views are marginal, and it doesn't trouble me. I'm not trying to win a popularity contest, I am trying to understand the truth).

I'll ask my question again:

If you were Harry Truman in July, before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, what options for defeating Japan and ending the war (you need not be comprehensive; one or two would be enlightening) would you have ruled out on moral grounds? What options would you have ruled out as things we would not do, even though they might significantly help the war effort, because doing them would be immoral?

I repeat how surprised I am that Zippy, who in his former Web incarnation kept his sometimes highly abstract thought processes anchored to political reality, keeps insisting that the current discussion somehow hinges on my answering a question that is so theoretical and so abstract that it hasn't even been asked!! Zippy wants me to declare which fictional and imaginary military measures I would have said were immoral prior to Hiroshima. For the nth time, I have no idea what Z. is talking about, I have no such examples in mind, and if I could think of such examples I still would decline to entertain such a discussion because such discussions are unreal and perverse (such as "Would you shoot a girl in the head if that would stop a nuclear bomb going off?," or "Would you chop your father's arms off if it would save a million people on the other side of the world?") and only further the intellectual hot-house atmosphere of this website.

Anyone following this debate would realize that my discussion of Hiroshima offers a pretty clear picture of my thinking about the morality of using mass violence. That discussion is deeply rooted in the particulars of the actual situation faced by American leaders in 1945. Yet Zippy doesn't want to deal with my thinking about that actual situation. He wants me to analyze some fantasy scenario having nothing to do with the world of reality. Why does he want this? A reasonable guess is that he has despaired of the world of reality, as so many people have done today, prior to their fleeing into a world of unreality.

In any case, Zippy by his statement that he would refuse to shoot down a plane that was about to destroy Washington, D.C. even though the passengers on that plane were all imminently doomed anyway (very close to a situation that we almost faced on 9/11) has, along with other posters here, placed himself outside any rational and useful discussion of self-defense and national security matters. The 4W folks are free to continue their discussion about a moral code that is unconnected with real-world consequences, but it is irrelevant to the common world of commonly shared understandings.

Zippy wants me to declare which fictional and imaginary military measures I would have said were immoral prior to Hiroshima.

Not fictional and imaginary. What real options should Truman have excluded from consideration as immoral?

The accusation of abstraction and fantasy is more than a little bizarre given that you asked me to answer a question about a fictional scenario you made up with an eye toward marginalizing my position, whereas the one I am asking you involves a real situation which actually occured. Truman faced a real situation, and had real options. Of all of his actual possible options to further the war effort against Japan, which ones do you think he should have excluded on moral grounds?

Oh, and really Larry, "Zippy has placed himself outside of rational discussion" is a cheap ad hominem, and you know it. Whether I am rational or not isn't relevant to the specific question I asked you and which you continue to refuse to answer.

And by the way, "none" would constitute an answer. If your answer really is "none" - that Truman would not have been doing moral wrong no matter what he did as long as it actually furthered the war effort - then by all means just say so. Then we'll all know where we stand.

“Of course it is. Knowing that X people will die accidentally in traffic accidents is entirely different from going out and killing X people with a car.”

Your example is inappropriate because they don’t compare acts and consequences. Passively knowing X people will be killed is not a decision, but not inoculating people is.

What real options should Truman have excluded from consideration as immoral?

I will tell you the answer. I would have first ruled out terror bombings of purely civilian targets. If a city had no military significance, then as a matter of policy it would not get attacked. I would also have ruled out the use of biological weapons because they are too unpredictable and too indiscriminate, and there is also the chance of triggering a worldwide epidemic in some cases. I would rule out the wanton torture and execution of POWs, including medical experiments. Finally I would not have subjected a defeated enemy to massive population transfers. Unfortunately the Allies did that to ethnic Germans in Europe after the war.

Japan of course did all of the above. The Japanese “bombed” Ningbo China with plague-infected fleas in 1940 and at least 109 people died from bubonic plague. They also executed, starved, tortured and did medical experiments on American POWs in contravention of the laws of war.

Passively knowing X people will be killed is not a decision, but not inoculating people is.

Choosing to drive a car is every bit as much a decision - a choice to behave in a certain way with statistical certainty that a number of people will die - as choosing to innoculate.

With all due respect for St. Thomas, I question whether it is always evil to kill the innocent.

Soldiers, for instance, are innocent unless they have committed some specific crime; killing an enemy soldier is not, under normal battlefield circumstances, a crime. (If someone wants to say that soldiers are guilty, then I would like them to say what crime they are guilty of.) When we capture them, we are restraining them, not punishing them. The Geneva Conventions treat soldiers as innocent unless they violate specific laws. Enemy soldiers who kill our soldiers in battle are treated differently from those who kill our soldiers in POW camps.

Yet we kill enemy soldiers, because they are the killing arm of a nation that is trying to harm our nation. (I find it surprising that the only person who has touched on the issue of transcendance -- normally a keystone of traditionalist thought -- is Mr. Auster.)

If you ignore the transcendent, you will get into the same trouble that liberals get into all the time. A family is more than a man and a woman and some children; a nation is more than a collection of individuals; an army is more than a collection of soldiers. Unless our analysis of Hiroshima and Nagasaki includes an understanding that the Nation of Japan was at war with the Nation of the United States, it's sure to be off-base.

And I think that's the resolution to Mr. Auster's problems with consequentialism. The killing ("murder" means "unlawful killing" and thus begs the question) of the innocent citizens of the Nation of Japan should be weighed against the killing of the innocent citizens of the Nation of the United States. (Note, again, that both civilians and soldiers are innocent: no individual member of either category inherently deserves death.) This is not consequentialist thinking: if Truman intended to kill the innocent in Hiroshima, then what he did was clearly evil; if he intended to prevent the deaths of the soldiers of the US Army, then what he did should be weighed on its merits to that end.

I am not saying that the bombings were right; but I know that a discussion that doesn't recognize the transcendence of the nations is incomplete.

Regards,
Jake

Steve, I'm posting my comment on pacifism and Christianity under the Derbyshire thread.

Soldiers, for instance, are innocent unless they have committed some specific crime...

You aren't using "innocent" the way St. Thomas uses it. "Innocent" in this case means something like "not directly attacking or preparing to attack and do harm in chosen acts". It is not a description of the state of the soul of the attacker, etc. When you describe enemy soldiers as "the killing arm of a nation that is trying to harm our nation" you are taking them out of the category of the innocent in the pertinent sense.

The women and children in H&N were not directly attacking us in chosen acts. They are only part of "the killing arm of a nation that is trying to harm our nation" if we have decided that words can no longer carry meaning. As an additional data point, though it won't do much for non-Catholics, the Catholic Church directly condemns population bombing in Gaudium et Spes: "Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation."

Unequivocal and unhesitating.

Invoking the fact that a nation is a thing in itself (Thomists would talk about it in terms of commutative and distributive justice by the way), a position with which I agree, does not imply that the nation as a thing-in-itself is licenced to commit intrinsically immoral acts. And directly killing the innocent - as distinguished from accidental killing of the innocent - is an intrinsically immoral act.

Jake,

Have you read the other pertinent threads? Lydia posted a link. Here's another one You draw attention to two important issues: suicide / self-sacrifice and the nation. You may address these issues, as others have, but the disputatious rhetoric exhibited in these threads has flagged my interest.


What you mention in your last full paragraph is good. This is the stuff of tragic choice, which Kimball mentions at the very end of his piece (also linked above). Similar to you, I'm not saying Kimball is right on Hiroshima by refering to him, but around here you are not allowed to suspend judgment. The case is closed.

Thanks for writing, Jake.

And directly killing the innocent - as distinguished from accidental killing of the innocent - is an intrinsically immoral act.

You can hammer this all you want, but doing so is fallacious: it won't help us distinguish one from the other. And it kills further discussion.

I understand the self-preservation of a nation to involve self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice is also the "direct killing of the innocent."

I also note FYI that in, Shiokari Pass a novel by Ayako Miura, a Christian demonstrates his love by stopping a train with his body. Wiki has this entry:

"She became an elementary school teacher when she was seventeen. It was during World War II, and she faithfully carried out the educational policies of the wartime government without the smallest of doubts.

Ayako left the teaching profession upon Japan's defeat in WWII, when she became convinced that her own confusion regarding right, wrong, truth and deception disqualified her to teach children anything of value. Soon afterwards, she contracted tuberculosis, then caries of the spine, which confined her to bed for thirteen years, seven of them in a body cast that restricted all movement. She became a confirmed Nihilist until she was converted to the (Protestant) Christian faith. She was baptised in 1952 and soon thereafter, married Miura Mitsuyo."


...but around here you are not allowed to suspend judgment. The case is closed.

If you made a convincing case that my judgement should be suspended I would suspend it. What you do with your own judgement is your own affair.

Zippy said, The women and children in H&N were not directly attacking us in chosen acts. They are only part of "the killing arm of a nation that is trying to harm our nation" if we have decided that words can no longer carry meaning.

I didn't say that women and children are the killing arm of a nation.

I'm saying that looking at the people of H&N as individuals ignores the fact that they are part of the transcendent entity, the Nation of Japan. We weren't at war with the individuals. For that matter, we weren't at war with the individual soldiers, either. We were at war with Japan.

A soldier is more than a collection of organs. I don't just shoot soldiers just in the arm, or in the hand, or in the trigger finger. I shoot to kill. I shoot what I need to -- the head or the heart, preferably -- in order to stop that entity from trying to kill me.

Japan was more than a collection of individuals. The question we are discussing is, which actions taken against the Nation of Japan would stop Japan from trying to kill the US? And which of those options are immoral, and why?

It's possible that Truman couldn't do anything to win the war with Japan, and that dropping the bomb was immoral. But if you're only looking at the citizens of H&N as individuals, you're not getting enough of the picture to conclusively say so.

On another note, it's possible to support the Bomb and still have things that you wouldn't do to win the war. For example, although I'm not too sure about the Bomb, I know that it wouldn't be reasonable to kidnap the emporer's son and torture him until his father relented, nor to cut off the heads of Japanese POWs and drop their heads onto Hiroshima to demoralize them.

Regards,
Jake

I'm saying that looking at the people of H&N as individuals ignores the fact that they are part of the transcendent entity, the Nation of Japan.

That doesn't take them out of the category "innocent". The innocent are those who are not choosing attacking behaviors; attacking behaviors against which defensive violence is directed.

It isn't sufficient to say (not that you did; I am being preemptive) that someone is likely to choose an attacking behavior at some time in the future. You can't licitly kill a civilian just because you think he is going to join the enemy army at some point. Licit violence is always and exclusively directed at persons engaged in attacking behaviors: that is, never against the innocent, properly understood.

Now, there are still issues with how one goes about understanding what is and is not an attacking behavior. But the notion that babies in their carriages and women barefoot and pregnant in their kitchens are inter alia choosing attacking behaviors in a war simply because they are members of a transcendent entity engaged in that war is just nonsense on stilts. (Again, not saying you said it, but rather saying it preemptively as an argument I've heard hundreds of times from apologists for the Bomb.)

Hi, Zippy, I didn't realize that you responded here. I don't get the "New Comment Posted Here" notices...

You can't licitly kill a civilian just because you think he is going to join the enemy army at some point.

That's not what I'm thinking.

But the notion that babies in their carriages and women barefoot and pregnant in their kitchens are inter alia choosing attacking behaviors in a war simply because they are members of a transcendent entity engaged in that war is just nonsense on stilts. (Again, not saying you said it,

This is closer, but still not it.

I'm suggesting that the Nation of Japan chose attacking behaviors against the Nation of the US; the individuals didn't choose those attacking behaviors, but Japan did. The assault by the US against the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki could be seen as a strategic blow against that Nation, which was in no sense innocent.

You seem to be willing to say that nations are transcendent, but in your actual analysis you still make all depend on the individuals. I'm not convinced that that's the right thing to do.

Jake, I just addressed this question in the other thread here.

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