My Brain Upgrade Project continues apace with readings on social and political philosophy. I wrapped up the chapter with a section on the Limits of the State, which included the following Philosophy and Life insert on p. 595 of my Philosophy textbook:
I choked up reading the quote above in the left-hand column attributed to Henry L. Stimson. But what this insert fails to mention is the propaganda inflicted upon the Japanese people by the Empire, convincing them that the Allies (and the Americans in particular) would show no mercy to any of them (civilians included) and instructing them to prepare to defend Japan and sacrifice themselves to the last man, woman and child. Thus, the belief on the part of the Allies that any traditional assault upon the Japanese homeland would result in the incredibly high cost of millions of lives lost on both sides (as referenced by Stimson above).
So, in this case, are the civilians of WWII Japan truly innocent? Upon this hinges the moral dilemma faced by President Truman, one that I shudder to ponder if I place myself in his shoes.
Though it galls me to the core, my answer to question 2 above, if I am completely honest with myself, would be Stimson, even though my answers to questions 1 and 3 are yes, which is completely paradoxical. As always, none of these questions nor answers are cut-and-dried nor black-and-white. The adage “It depends” and “It’s complicated” are huge understatements when applied to weapons of mass destruction.
In the past couple of years, I’ve read or watched the following that directly relate to this topic:
- Two seasons of Manhattan
- The Girls of the Atomic City
- Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure
- The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared (book and movie)
- Unbroken (book and movie)
- The Railway Man
Only two of the above were non-fiction titles, but all of them touched on either the Pacific Theater during WWII or the race to build the first atomic bomb.
I realized I dropped more than just an atomic bomb with this post and I hope you will forgive any offending material I’ve posted in my exploration and study of philosophy.