Here.

It’s now common knowledge that Japan was looking to surrender before the bombings. The bombings were not necessary to save the lives of American soldiers, nor is it true that that more civilians would have been killed without the bombs than with them.

 

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  • BenBachrach

    What is your definition of common knowledge?

    • reason60

      It is Austen’s Law:
      “It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that persons of wisdom and good manners agree so fully with my premise so as to obviate the need for further explication.”

  • Jim T.

    yeah, this is pretty debatable. If you look at Japan’s casualty losses throughout the Pacific, and consider what Japan was willing to sacrifice, an invasion of Japan would have killed an awful lot of Americans AND Japanese–probably way more than were killed in the two atomic bombings.

    • Murali

      The amount of rationalisation it takes to think what you just said was even remotely plausible astounds me

      • Libertymike

        Americans, if they are to be critical thinkers, i.e., intellectual heavyweights, must dismiss the lifetime of propaganda which has been both spoon fed to them and shoved down their throats. Put another way, they must upchuck all of the American exceptionalism which they have swallowed throughout the course of their lives.
        Applying the foregoing principle to the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of people in August of 1945, an American, if he is a true friend of liberty and an authentic practitioner of First Principles, must reject each and every justification for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

        • j r

          What you are saying is that Americans, if they are critical thinkers, agree with you. That is very convenient.

          • Libertymike

            What you are saying is that it is perfectly acceptable for an American to be okay with incinerating hundreds of thousands of people and yet regard themselves as the one, true guardians of liberty.
            Hello cognitive dissonance.

          • j r

            I said nothing of the sort.

            If you’re going to rebut the view that dropping atom bombs was immoral, then you should deal with the specifics of that case instead of going off about the evils of American Exceptionalism and vague references to first principles.

          • Libertymike

            Reading comprehension?
            Did I rebut the view that dropping atom bombs was immoral?

          • Benkarkis

            nope it’s natural human behavior.

      • Jim T.

        look up Operation Downfall and do some reading about the estimates that were generated at the time. Then try to understand the decision-making that was done, *at that time.*

        • Murali

          The key assumption that was inflating expected casualties was the expectation of widespread resistance among the populace. But Japan has had a very long history of extensive gun control. The civilian populace would have been sitting ducks. Also, it was fairly obvious that the Japanese were on the verge of surrender. There were numerous local guerrilla groups harassing and gathering intel on the Japanese. In fact, if the british had bothered to hold out for 1 more day in Singapore, the whole Japanese empire would have collapsed. The Japanese were over stretched.

          • Jim T

            again I would simply encourage you to read some history about the end of the war, Giangreco’s Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan is probably the best single-volume treatment of the topic. http://www.amazon.com/Hell-Pay-Operation-Downfall-1945-1947/dp/1591143160?tag=bleedheartlib-20 . Gregory’s piece on the other hand seems to be unduly influenced by Alperovitz’s largely discredited work and the equally thin stuff done by Ralph Raico. You are forgetting that an invasion of Japan would likely have involved the Soviet army as well as the Chinese–and they would have made life extremely miserable for all the civilian Japanese they would have encountered.

          • jdkolassa

            Actually, no, the Japanese were NOT on the verge of surrender. They were training civilians to engage in hand to hand combat with American troops using nothing more than bamboo sticks. They would have continued fighting if the Emperor hadn’t wised up after the fall of the bombs.

            Basically, your view of the Japanese endgame is erroneous.

  • Sergio Méndez

    Really good. But I guess this is going to degenerate in some nasty discusion of people defending mass murder ect. I hope I am wrong.

    • Sean II

      Good news, then. You are wrong about many things.

  • Joseph R. Stromberg

    “The war had so brutalized the American leaders that burning vast numbers of civilians no longer posed a real predicament by the spring of 1945.”… “Mechanism prevailed.” [The bomb was] “an economical means of destroying vast numbers of men, women, and children, soldiers and civilians. Well before August 1945 they [US leaders] had reduced this to a routine” “Only its technique was novel – nothing more.” — Gabriel Kolko, The Politics of War, 1943-1945 (New
    York: Vintage, 1970 [1968]), 539, 566-567.

  • Joseph R. Stromberg

    Miscamble seems to be saying that the American leadership locked themselves into a set of assumptions and habits and can’t possibly be blamed for any particular decision made from inside those. Kolko is critiquing their entire approach to war. The two points of view don’t much intersect.

    Most of the defenders of the A-bomb seem to assume that some sort of negotiated peace would have been literally “impossible,” when in fact it was the Americans’ own policy and propaganda (and imperial aspirations of their own) that were blocking an end to the war short of the fabled invasion, greater casualties, etc.

  • j r

    There’s two ways of looking at the issue:

    -You can assess the claim that dropping the bombs saved more life than it took.

    -Or you can argue that killing civilians for the offenses of their government is always immoral and unethical under the norms of war.

    The problem with the Gregory post is that he goes back and forth between the two, not really making a solid argument on either basis. Also you get these sorts of statements (which always raise a red flag):

    It’s sickening that Americans even debate the atomic bombings, as they do every year in early August.

    • shemsky

      Do we really need to debate about whether killing civilians for the offenses of their government is immoral and unethical?

      • j r

        I don’t know how much we need to or not, but in the context of carrying out a war it makes some sense. If you want to start from the position that all war is itself immoral and unethical that’s fine as well. For those of us who are not pacifists, however, the conversation might prove useful.

        • shemsky

          I’m no pacifist, but do you have an argument in favor of killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians for the offenses of their oppressive government? I can’t think of any.

          • j r

            Come on, man. Your reading comprehension can’t be that bad. Try responding to what I actually said and not what you imagine that I said.

          • shemsky

            You said that debating whether or not killing civilians for the offenses of their government makes some sense. Ok, then is there anything that you could offer for the pro killing civilians side of the argument, even if you may not side with it? I can’t imagine any reasonable argument that could be made in favor of killing civilians for the offenses of their government. Maybe I just lack imagination.

          • j r

            Here’s what I mean about reading comprehension. This entire intellectual exercise changes once you start talking about what is ethical or unethical within the context of a declared war.

          • shemsky

            I was always assuming that we were talking within the context of a declared war, and I don’t see that it makes any difference as to whether killing innocent civilians for the offenses of their government is justified.

          • j r

            How exactly do you prosecute a war without killing civilians?

            It is possible that you are a pacifist and just don’t know it yet. And that is a perfectly valid point of view to hold.

          • Libertymike

            It is not a perfectly valid point of view to favor mass murder by a nation state.

          • shemsky

            Killing innocent civilians for the offenses of their government says to me that innocent civilians are being deliberately targeted in order to influence the behavior of their government.

            I believe in using violence when necessary in defense against aggression (but not against innocent parties). That would disqualify me from being a pacifist.

      • Theresa Klein

        What if there is a situation where the only weapon you have to defend yourself is a bazooka. Are you morally obliged to let someone kill you, because you can’t fight back without harming civilians?

        • Libertymike

          What if we wake up tomorrow and see a mushroom cloud?

        • shemsky

          Theresa, I wasn’t addressing that situation. Per my comment above, I was referring to the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians meant to influence the actions of their government or to retaliate for that government’s actions.

        • good_in_theory

          Sure. If defending my own individual life would kill a bunch of other people not trying to kill me, I’d think I’d have a moral duty to die. Why should I expect my moral duties to conform with my own self interest?

          • Theresa Klein

            That’s an interesting reply. Is there a similar moral duty to starve to death, or allow your children to starve to death, if you can’t produce enough to feed them without stealing?

          • shemsky

            I don’t think we should equate stealing with killing. There’s no way to give someone back their life once you have taken it.

            Although, honestly, I don’t think I can answer your original question. There’s too many possible variables, plus I’m not sure if I can judge someone in that situation without standing in their shoes. In any case, I’d have to know all the details.

          • good_in_theory

            It seems a better reply than saying it’s ok to kill other people indiscriminately as long as it saves your own skin.

            And no, I wouldn’t place respect for conventions around propriety over things over one’s bare ability to survive.

  • Irfan Khawaja

    If Japan was looking to surrender before the bombings, why didn’t it surrender after the first bombing? Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, Nagasaki on August 9. Why was there no surrender in the interval?

    • Jonathan Jaech

      It’s because unconditional surrender was being demanded by the Allies. If the Allies had been willing to accept conditional terms not much different from the terms of the unconditional surrender they eventually obtained, the use of both bombs and the resulting indiscriminate slaughter could have been avoided. The point is that is it morally reprehensible to commit an act of murder for a purely political purpose, whether that be to demonstrate the power of a new weapon, obtain an unconditional surrender versus conditional surrender, or whatever.

      • Sean II

        What in warfare isn’t done for a “purely political purpose”?

        • good_in_theory

          Quite a lot, obviously.

        • Jonathan Jaech

          Collective defense.

          • Sean II

            Right. So choosing to remaining in a political unit known as, say, the Unites States, and defending the continued existence of that unit, is somehow not a political purpose?

          • Jonathan Jaech

            If a group of people are under attack or imminent threat of attack, they are justified in collectively defending against it, up to but not beyond extinguishing the threat. The participation of a state is immaterial to the more fundamental question of what constitutes justifiable defense under any given set of circumstances, but does vastly increase the likelihood that war will be waged for damnable reasons. Stephan Molyneaux argues the latter point rather effectively in “Practical Anarchy.”

          • Sean II

            “they are justified in collectively defending against it, up to but not beyond extinguishing the threat”

            And they are to know that point…how? It’s hard enough to know what “necessity” requires in a two-man fist-fight. You act like there is bright line, drawn upon the ground, telling the belligerents: this far, and no farther. There is not.

          • Jonathan Jaech

            Unfortunately there is often no bright line making it sometimes difficult to know where defense stops and aggression begins, I agree. Yet, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not tough calls at least with the benefit of hindsight. Beyond mere aggression, these were acts of wanton terrorism, being unnecessary to defend against any imminent threat and primarily directed at non-combatants.

          • Sean II

            “Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not tough calls at least with the benefit of hindsight”

            Yes, well…I’m no pretty sure no one involved in making the call had that benefit.

            That’s why friends don’t let friends use perfect hindsight to make sweeping moral judgements.

          • Jonathan Jaech

            Far from being afraid to make moral judgments, conscience and rational self-interest should compel us to condemn acts of terrorism whether done by the government we live under, its allies or its enemies. Hiroshima and Nagasaki set such horrible precedents that present-day Americans would do well to clearly renounce and apologize for these acts, if only to seem less hypocritical when complaining about acts of terrorism committed against them. It’s not so hard.

            The FDR/HST administration was at least arguably less collectivist and less evil than its counterparts in the states it was at war with, but that doesn’t make everything it did beyond reproach.

      • Irfan Khawaja

        Your answer isn’t compatible with Brennan’s claim that they wanted to surrender or Gregory’s claim that they were desperate to surrender. If either thing was true, they would have accepted unconditional surrender before the first bomb (i.e., after the issuance of the Potsdam Declaration, July 26). They didn’t. If they wanted to surrender or were desperate to, they surely would have done so after the first bomb (August 6). They didn’t. They didn’t even surrender immediately after the second bomb (which was dropped August 9; the surrender was arguably August 15).

        The bottom line is that nothing you’ve said shows that they wanted to surrender. All you’ve said is that they weren’t willing to surrender unconditionally. Well, “not willing to surrender unconditonally” obviously implies “not willing to surrender.” And “not willing to surrender” is flatly incompatible with “looking to surrender” or “desperate to surrender.” I regard it as “common knowledge” that if you’re really desperate to surrender, then when given a chance to surrender, you actually surrender. You don’t say, “Now wait a minute. How about the dignity of our emperor? Yes, a few hundred thousand, maybe a million, lives are at stake. But the Americans sound as though they’re de-legitimizing our emperor. So all bets are off.”

        I think it’s misleading to describe the Potsdam Declaration as demanding unconditional surrender in any overly demanding way. Yes, it uses that phrase, with respect to the armed forces. But it makes very clear that the terms of “unconditional surrender” would not involve enslavement, etc. In other words, it makes clear that the Japanese would not be treated as the Japanese had treated others during their years of conquest and genocide. What condition of the Potsdam Declaration was so unacceptable as not to have commanded acceptance by the Japanese before August 6? In a decade of listening to libertarians “debate” this issue, I haven’t yet heard a cogent answer to that question. All I’ve heard are excuses for why the sheer presence of the phrase “unconditional surrender” nullifies every other element of the Potsdam Declaration, gave the Japanese a blank check to hang on until August, turns the bombings into “murder,” and then gave the Japanese another blank check to wait until the second bomb to surrender. Meanwhile, they were “desperate to surrender” the whole time. Plausible.

        Beyond all that, there’s an oversimplification involved in saying “Japan” wanted to surrender anyway. The use of “Japan” implies a nation with a single unified civil/military command, each element of which was subordinate to some single unified superordinate commanding authority. Well, if we put the Japanese military command in the superordinate slot, it’s not clear “Japan” wanted to surrender at all. If we put its diplomatic corps in that slot, it probably wanted to surrender with conditions. If you put some other sector in that slot, maybe you’ll get a different answer. The likely truth is just that the nation was divided and unable to make a clear decision one way or the other, but that the first bomb pushed Japan in the direction of surrender and the second one made the decisive difference for surrender.

        I think Robert Maddox’s work deserves a mention here:

        http://www.amazon.com/Hiroshima-History-The-Myths-Revisionism/dp/082621732X/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_1?tag=bleedheartlib-20

        • Jonathan Jaech

          You seem to have missed my point. Admittedly I am not an expert on the period, but are you more expert than Eisenhower? Your argument assumes that galvanizing a more rapid surrender by the Japanese elite would (or did) provide moral justification for the deliberate slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians. I reject such justification for terrorism. I would not want the wholesale murder of my family and loved ones to be justified on such a thin and transparently political basis. How about you?

          • Irfan Khawaja

            My point is the one that’s being missed. The issue under dispute is whether the Japanese were really looking to surrender before the Nagasaki bomb, a claim that Brennan has described as “common knowledge.” My argument began as a question: how does that common knowledge square with obvious facts? No one has answered that question. My subsequent argument merely assumes that when X wants to surrender, then, when you give them a chance to surrender, they will in fact do it. If they’re given a chance and don’t do it, you can safely infer that they didn’t want to surrender. If you give them two chances and they don’t do it, I guess you can infer that they *really* don’t want to surrender. If you drop two atom bombs on them and they still have to think for a week before they surrender, you definitely should not infer: “They wanted to surrender. In fact, they desperately wanted to surrender. They were looking for a way to surrender, and would have surrendered even if no atom bombs had been dropped.”

            What I’ve said clashes in an obvious way with both Brennan’s and Gregory’s claims, and derives from facts that have a much better claim to “common knowledge” than anything Brennan cites.

            Your rhetorical question about Eisenhower is a red herring, as is the rest of your post. I actually didn’t discuss the justifiability of the bomb at all. I just queried the historical claim that the Japanese wanted to surrender. You can’t have a debate about ethical issues if you can’t even settle what happened. It’s characteristic of some people’s approaches to historical controversy that their moral judgments on historical events seem to take precedence to any discussion of what actually happened. Unfortunately, you can’t really debate history that way. You can destroy people’s capacity to debate it. But you can’t debate it.

          • Jonathan Jaech

            Lost in all your arguments that dropping the bombs was politically effective in obtaining surrender is any recognition of my point that political effectiveness cannot justify mass murder. It is still evil. And you contradict Eisenhower, who said “the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” I find him more credible than you.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            I actually haven’t been focused on the effectiveness of the bombs or the justification of dropping them, but on the fact that it is not “common knowledge” that Japan was ready to surrender before dropping them. I can’t be clearer than that, so I’ll leave the matter there.

            Truman had a high position in the US military and was quite proximate to the events, too. And yet he didn’t think Japan was ready to surrender. Many historians continue to agree with him.

            But if I had met Eisenhower on the golf course, I would surely have asked: “Ike, if you were right about the Japanese being ‘ready to surrender’, why didn’t they surrender after the Potsdam Declaration and before Hiroshima? Or at least after Hiroshima? Or at least the day after Nagasaki?” And I would have given his answers due weight, assuming he’d had any.

          • Jonathan Jaech

            A fair question; his answer would have been interesting. Let’s leave it at that.

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    No mention at all by Brennan or Gregory of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Japanese in Manchuria and E. Asia, i.e. the Rape of Nanking conducted on a massive scale. No mention that FDR “provoked” the Japanese into striking Pearl Harbor by denying them the raw materials to carry out this Holocaust. No acknowledgement that the unconditional surrender of Japan, which was refused until the use of the bombs, might have been necessary to the rebuilding of Japan to its current modern/democratic status.
    And, no recognition that it is reasonable to regard the Allied soldiers drafted (or who volunteered) to fight the war also as innocent persons whose welfare counted just as much as the innocent Japanese killed by the atom bombs. If you accept the premise (admittedly controversial in these quarters) that broadly speaking we were engaged in a just war, and the Japanese in a war of naked aggression, then the use of the bombs may not be a simple case of impermissibly sacrificing innocent persons to achieve an end in violation of Kantian respect for persons. Perhaps an invasion could equally be considered an impermissible sacrifice of innocent Allied lives to achieve the end of sparinge Japanese ones.
    This is a thorny and difficult question. It might be niced to hear both sides presented. Otherwise, someone might get the insane idea that there is some anti-American bias at work here. MATT Z.–that would be crazy, right?
    And

    • Libertymike

      I see that you do not mention a few things.
      Prior to Pearl Harbor:
      (1) America prevented Japanese ships to use the Panama Canal.
      (2) America implemented a full scale embargo against the Japanese.
      (3) America inserted itself in the war in southeast asia choosing to ally itself with its imperial buddy, Great Britian.
      (4) The so-called Flying Tigers assisted the RAF in the air war resulting in the loss of over 100 Japanese planes.
      (5) The so-called Flying Tigers also assisted China
      (6) The US, Britian and the Dutch conspired to block oil deliveries to the Japanese.
      All of the above are considered acts of war, in and of themselves. It would appear that one who refuses to acknowledge such facts is not really interested in having a conversation; rather, it would appear, that one is rather happy defending American mass murder, no matter what the facts are.

      • Marcus_V

        Can you clarify in what libertarian sense an oil embargo (referring to point two above) can be considered an act of war?

        You seem to be saying that if America was not willing to trade oil to Japan, that Japan as justified in attacking and killing US armed forces personnel.

        • Libertymike

          First, in the libertarian sense, no collective has the right to use force to prevent A from trading with B. Similarly, no collective has the right to use force to prevent A from traveling to, and residing in, B.
          Second, I am not contending that Japan had the right to make war against the US because the US, alone, refused to trade oil with Japan, notwithstanding the fact that such a policy, i.e., refusing to sell oil to Nippon, necessarily requires the use of force, or threat thereof, against American citizens and companies.
          Third, however, America conspiring with other imperialist nations to cut off trade with Japan, is, in and of itself, considered to be an act of war.

          • Marcus_V

            That is not the claim that you made. You are moving your own goalposts.

            The claim that you made, is that all of those acts, in and of themselves, are considered to be acts of war. The plain text of what you wrote is that the embargo– the simple refusal to trade– was in itself an act of war.

            Note that an embargo is not the same as a blockade and is not generally considered to be an act of war. I find that idea coming from a libertarian to be absurd.

          • Libertymike

            The United States Empire, from a purely libertarian perspective, i.e., an absolute adherence to the NAP, had no right to prevent any individual or association of individuals, including individual Americans and association of Americans, from conducting trade with Japan. No collective, particularly a modern warfare / welfare nation state, has a right to use force in order to achieve its ends.
            Thus, the US had no right to prevent any company from doing business with Japan. Let us employ a fictitious company, which, in 1940 was quite the going concern. Let us name the company, Marcus Shipping, Inc., which, in 1940, owned and operated a shipping fleet, including oil tankers. Let us also posit that you, Marcus, were the principal stockholder of Marcus Shipping, Inc.
            Let us also assume that the company’s trade with Japan constituted a significant portion of its Pacific annual revenues.
            Marcus Shipping, Inc. does business with a number of Japanese companies as well as the government of Japan. All of the Japanese customers of Marcus Shipping, Inc. want to continue to do business with the company at the time the US decided to use force to stop trade.
            However, public sector US hacks have told company officials that the government will seize the corporation’s ships and will confiscate whatever is on board and company employees will be arrested and detained. The government makes good on its promise and seizes one ship.
            Naturally, Japanese customers, expecting delivery, are outraged. The US, the home of the administrative state, the playground of the progressive, the laboratory for lovers of leviathan, has used force to prevent your trading partner from delivering goods for which you bargained and are expecting.
            From a libertarian perspective, the above constitutes an act of force.
            Perhaps you do not grasp the fact that the US government did, indeed, use force to prevent private parties from doing business with Japan.
            I note that you do not touch upon any of the other points set forth in my post.

          • reason60

            This seems a bit overwrought- it sounds like you are asserting that there is no legitimate interest of the people in controlling commerce.

          • Libertymike

            There is no legitimate interest “of the people” to control commerce.

          • reason60

            Is there a legitimate interest of the people to enforce contracts?
            Or to protect property rights?

          • Libertymike

            Who are “the people”? The People’s Republic? The soviet? The collective? A democratically elected legislature? Some armed mob claiming that it has a territorial monopoly on the administration of justice and the use of force? Some armed mob claiming that it has the right to use force to prevent A trading with B?

          • reason60

            When I say people, I mean the citizens, via their elected representatives.
            However much they suck, they are duly elected and empowered to speak on our behalf.

          • reason60

            Is there a legitimate interest in the people enforcing contracts, or defending property rights?
            If the people are going to be called upon to enforce contracts and protect property to the benefit fo Marcus Shipping, shouldn’t we also have the right to negotiate the terms of our engagement?

          • PseudoRegister

            “No collective, particularly a modern warfare / welfare nation state, has a right to use force in order to achieve its ends.”

            Unless, evidently, the collective is called Japan and its ends are the absolute subjection of China.

            Does Marcus Shipping have no moral culpability for fueling Japanese aggression? If Japan contracted with Marcus Shipping to transport slaves from China to Formosa, would “a collective” seeking to liberate those slaves be acting immorally?

            That you cite the Flying Tigers is evidence of the emptiness of your argument: they killed hundreds of Japanese pilots… who were simply trying to bomb Chinese. I suppose we must similarly condemn the US for providing aircraft to the British that were, in 1940, used to shoot down hundreds of German pilots.

          • Libertymike

            Should we condemn the Japanese for their efforts to oust the United States from southeast asia, particularly in light of the brutal oppression and mass murder which the United States government had waged against south east Asians for 70 years prior to Pearl Harbor?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Here is the Wikipedia link to the “Rape of Nanking,” a single incident (in late 1937) during which an estimated 250,000 Chinese civilians were tortured and murdered: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_of_Nanking. Now, please provide a citation for our comprable “mass murders.”

          • Libertymike

            In his work, “We Charge Genocide: A Brief History of the United States in the Phillipines”, E. San Juan, Jr., asseverates that over one million (1,000,000) Filipinos were killed by the United States during the American-Filipino war and the pacification campaign thereafter.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I’m not going to try to defend the U.S. actions in the Phillipines during 1899-1902, but I completely fail to see why you believe this has ANY relevance to the issue of who held the moral high ground during WWII. Japan’s aggression was against Manchuria, China. Korea and all of E. Asia. The U.S. did not occupy these areas, and in fact the Phillipines were already moving to independence from the U.S. at the time of the Japanese invasion. The Filipinos and the U.S. fought together against the Japanese invasion/occupation. Thus, I fail to see how our imperialism in the Phillipines can serve in any way to exonerate the Japanese aggression and mass murder that took place 30+ years later.

          • Libertymike

            It was just not the actions between 1899-1902. The US pacification of the Filipinos following the war lasted more than a decade.
            Note that I did not limit the discussion to the actions of the American imperial forces to the mass murder of the Filipinos. You asked for a cite supporting my assertions that the US government had committed mass murder and had raped and pillaged southeast asia for 70 years prior to Pearl Harbor.
            Note, you continue to avoid condemning what the United States Imperial forces did in southeast asia during the 70 years prior to Pearl Harbor. America had no right to be sticking its nose in Korea or the Phillipines or Japan. It had not business making war upon southeast Asians.
            The failure to include the above in discussing the morality of the US government relative to its use of atomic weapons to incinerate hundreds of thousands of Japanese (and foreigners unfortunately in Japan at the time) is what one should expect from those who want to excuse American mass murder and war crimes.
            Moreover, you justify all of the provocations undertaken by the US against Japan prior to Pearl Harbor. You think it was okay that the US government deliberately engaged in warfare to assist another imperialist aggressor, Great Britian, in order to preserve Great Britian’s imperial holdings in southeast asia. It would appear that it matters not to you that Imperial Great Britian had, itself, waged war aggressive war against the peoples of southeast asia.
            Note, the discussion, as initiated by Jason, was not limited temporally to 1945. What the US did in 1945 to the Japanese should be examined UNDER ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES, including the propensity with which the United States has committed mass murder. The failure to do so, is intellectually indefensible.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            It is an indisputable historical fact that starting in the early 1930s Japan initiated and sustained a war of conquest and mass murder throughout E. Asia, starting in Manchuria. Our sins before then–which were trivial compared to Japan’s–can in no way excuse or justify Japan’s horrible war crimes, nor make it wrong for us to have tried to prevent them. I don’t know why this is so difficult for you to grasp. Even a serial killer has the right to self-defense if unjustly attacked and equally has the right to defend innocent third parties. I can see that this conversation is going nowhere, so I am done with it.

          • Marcus_V

            You may elevate the NAP to the highest (and perhaps only and absolute) principle of libertarianism. I am under no such requirement to agree. Many fine essays on the topic have been published right here on this site.

            More to the point, it is interesting in your example, that you include the Japanese government as one of the parties to trade. Which is to say, you would appear to elevate the NAP to such prominence and with such absolute blindness that you award victim status to the very demonstrably aggressive group then already engaged in wars of conquest and who had already perpetrated the Rape of Nanjing.

            I will not accept moral outrage from such a group because they are denied the means to execute further acts of aggression themselves, and I find any libertarian ethos that is so easily subverted into the support system for such a regime to be itself morally bankrupt.

            Good day, sir.

          • Libertymike

            Of course, those who support mass murder surely have not agreed to be bound by the NAP.
            Absent from your comments is any acknowledgment that the US, long before Japan, in flexing its imperial muscles, had slaughtered hundreds of thousands of southeast Asians. Thus, not one word from you or Mark Friedman about the horrific war crimes committed by the US against Koreans and Philipinos long before World War I.
            Of course, there is absolutely no justification for the United States government for meddling in the affairs of Asian societies, much less toppling their governments and murdering those opposed to the US’s hegemony.
            Long before Japan could be called an imperial aggressor, the United States had been raping and pillaging Asian societies. It is telling that you and Mark Friedman omit this fact in your posts.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        Yes, we were resisting, short of an actual declaration of war, the efforts of the Japanese to commit genocide in E. Asia. Given Japan’s horrific, indenfensible aggression from 1934 through the attack on Pearl Harbor, I am untroubled by any of these things. If we had actually declared war against Japan prior to their attack on us, I believe it would have been morally justified on humanitarian grounds, although perhaps unwise from a practical standpoint.

        • Libertymike

          What about resisting the efforts of the United States to commit genocide in Asia?
          The fact is that the US, long before Japan, had already expanded its mass murdering ways to southeast asia. This is a pesky, irritant fact which happens to conflict with the outrageous narrative spun by the defenders of American mass murder.

          • Sean II

            I’m wondering: as you typed that comment, did you hear the music from the medal ceremony at the end of Episode IV: A New Hope?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            More likely the sounds of whatever Muzak they pipe into the rubber room where he is confined.

      • Benkarkis

        Why were the Flying Tigers in China? Because of 20 years or more of Japanese Imperialism in China. Which the USA could have ignored.

      • j r

        Why are you using the phrase “so-called” in front of a common noun?

    • Sergio Méndez

      “No mention at all by Brennan or Gregory of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Japanese in Manchuria and E. Asia, i.e. the Rape of Nanking
      conducted on a massive scale.”

      So what that has in justify the mass murder of Japanese civilians who did not have anything to do with those crimes?

      ” If you accept the premise (admittedly controversial in these quarters)
      that broadly speaking we were engaged in a just war, and the Japanese in a war of naked aggression, then the use of the bombs may not be a
      simple case of impermissibly sacrificing innocent persons to achieve an
      end in violation of Kantian respect for persons.”

      Nonsense. Accepting that the US was in a just war does not mean that the US had the right to use any means (including mass murder of civilians) to carry on that war. And the whole idea you express in this paragraph simply fails to make the basic distinction between soldiers and civilians, which any theory of just war should take into an account (regardless if the soldiers were drafted or not, which will make an argument against draft, not against making soldiers the equivalent to civilians).

      “This is a thorny and difficult question.”

      Actually it is not. It is quite transparent and obvious. The mass murder of civilians in war is immoral (grossly immoral), but as Gregory points out, many Americans are decided to be blind about such obvious fact when it is their government who commits those actions. That is shameful. It is more shameful when those who engage in such apologetics call themselves libertarians.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        You say, “And the whole idea you express in this paragraph simply fails to make the basic distinction between soldiers and civilians, which any theory of just war should take into an account.” Believe it or not, your assertion that any theory of just war should include “x,” does not make “x” true. What is your philosophical argument for the claim that a U.S. president should count one innocent Japanese child as having greater moral weight than three equally innocent U.S. soldiers?

        • Sergio Méndez

          “What is your philosophical argument for the claim that a U.S. president
          should count one innocent Japanese child as having greater moral weight
          than three equally innocent U.S. soldiers?”

          By your own definition, the child in question is “innocent”. He hasn´t commited any wrong or crime and like any other human being, it has a right to his life. The soldier, in a war context, is a belligerent, a combatant, and by participating in a war he exposes himself to die in combat. The sole fact that you ever ask the question shows how morally disguting your position is. In a moral theory, and in a just war theory, lifes are not aritemetically interchangable, specially the lives of the innocent.

          But even if I accepted the utilitarian premise of your argument, how do you actually know murdering an innocent civilian is going to save 3 soldiers lifes?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I asked for a philosophical argument and, sadly, what I got back was gibberish, plus a little name-calling. Most philosophers, consequentialists and deontologists alike, believe that if an agent can save only one of two groups of innocent persons, he should save the larger group. You seem to think that because you label one group “belligerents” and the other “civilians” that this automatically changes the moral outcome. Maybe, but nothing you said constitutes an argument for this result.

            I don’t need to “know” that the 3 to 1 ratio applies, because I specified it as part of my argument. That’s what philosophers do. Of course, as a practical matter this issue is highly sensitive to one’s empirical assumptions.

          • Libertymike

            You know what else philosophers do?
            They reject propositions premised upon totalitarian mush room cloud thinking masquerading as legitimate questions to consider.

          • Benkarkis

            although philosophers do drive me crazy! with their logic that is not logic because there is no such thing as logic.

          • Sergio Méndez

            Mark:

            ” You seem to think that because you label one group “belligerents” and the other “civilians”"

            Yes,it makes a hell of a difference, specially if you are trying to construct a “Just war theory” (which one of its first accomplishments was precisly to draw such distinctions).

            “Most philosophers, consequentialists and deontologists alike, believe that if an agent can save only one of two groups of innocent persons, he should save the larger group.”

            Yeah, but most of those examples involve were it is absolutely necesary to sacrifice the life of innocents to save other innocents. In this case there was no necessity (for example the US could have decided not to invade Japan) nor the soldiers are equivalent to civilians (again, as any just war theory distinguishes it)

            Finally, I did not call you any names. I called your position disgusting, and I stand by it, since you seem think the lifes of the innocent are interechangable with the life of soldiers during a war time.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I started with the premise that the U.S. was fighting in a just cause and that Japan was guilty of initiating a war of pure aggression. If you combine this with factual assumptions that are reasonably sympathetic to Truman, I asserted that the philosophical issue relating to the use of the atom bombs was not clear cut. For this ambivalence, I am guilty you say of adopting a “morally disgusting” position. So, you must have a decisive argument in your favor. If you think you have delivered it you are very badly mistaken.

            It is not self-evident to me that by volunteering to fight in a just war against a pure aggressor U.S. soldiers did anything that would cause their lives to be counted as less morally important than the lives of innocent Japanese civilians. And, you have supplied no argument to the contrary. Your comment about there being an alternative to invasion, is simply trying to win a philosophical argument by adopting favorable facts. Of course, if Truman thought (for example) that the Japanese would have unconditionally surrendered in a week amyway, then using the bombs was morally indefensible, but this is not what we were debating. In the case at hand, I am assuming that Truman faced a choice between a bloody invasion and the use of the bombs. It was one or the other.

            I do not find this conversation to be very interesting or productive, so I am ending my part of it here.

          • Sergio Méndez

            Mark:

            “I started with the premise that the U.S. was fighting in a just cause and that Japan was guilty of initiating a war of pure aggression. If you combine this with factual assumptions that are reasonably sympathetic to Truman, I asserted that the philosophical issue relating to the use of the atom bombs was not clear cut. For this ambivalence, I am guilty you say of adopting a “morally disgusting” position. So, you must have a decisive argument in your favor. If you think you have delivered it you are very badly mistaken.”

            I think your reasoning is flawed on two aspects:

            1. Assuming that cause the U.S was fighting a “just cause” it makes any action it takes, no matter how evidently and morally repulsive such actions may be (such mass murder of civilians, indiscriminate bombings and estruction of property) a matter of fine philosophical discusion. Well, it doesn´t.

            “It is not self-evident to me that by volunteering to fight in a just war against a pure aggressor U.S. soldiers did anything that would cause their lives to be counted as less morally important than the lives of innocent Japanese civilians.”

            2. Ok. But then stop pretending your arguing from any known “just war” theory. When soldiers go to a war they know they are risking their lifes. That is what war is about, even the “just ones”. And then again, just because a soldier is fighting a just war, that doesn´t authorize him or her to commit any action just in order to preserve his or her life (you know, like murdering innocent people).

            “In the case at hand, I am assuming that Truman faced a choice between a bloody invasion and the use of the bombs. It was one or the other.”

            Yes, and I am rejecting that assumption, because is simply a false dilema.

            Regarding you abandoning the discusion: fine.I stand by the last commentary of Libertymike.

        • Benkarkis

          First get your mind out of philosophical rules that are artificially created by Philosophers.

    • Jonathan Jaech

      One of the major points of Gregory’s article is that the mass bombings of Japanese cities and specifically use of the atomic bombs was militarily unnecessary — and he cites persuasive evidence for this position. Pointing to evils of the Japanese state as justification for the bombings of civilians is not relevant to the question of military necessity. You seem to agree that unnecessarily bombing civilians, even in an otherwise “just” war, is morally reprehensible. That there existed political motivations for the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians cannot excuse it as a morally justifiable act. If the Japanese were ready to surrender, offering a conditional face-saving surrender permitting the ceremonial retention of the emperor would have been a morally superior way to save the lives of American soldiers and Japanese citizens. If you believe that was not possible at the time, please explain why.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        Look, I am not and did not claim to be an expert on the details of our late-war diplomacy with Japan. I suggested merely that as a philosophical issue the matter is not so clear-cut. The “if” you specify is a big one, and might not have been possible. If it was possible, it may well have been a superior outcome. On the other hand, I believe Truman could reasonably have thought that for Japan to be brought back into the world of civilized nations, the Allies would have to have unfettered authority.

        • Jonathan Jaech

          It probably did not seem clear cut to some of those power at the time (although apparently Eisenhower and others recognized the problem despite the blindness of others). With the benefit of hindsight, it was clearly evil to have dropped those bombs.

      • PseudoRegister

        I’ll explain why: the Japanese government did not offer such a surrender until after the bombs were dropped. Even then, a high level clique determined to carry on the war staged a coup that nearly succeeded.

        • Jonathan Jaech

          The premise is that they were ready to surrender, not that they actually did. One far more expert than anyone living today made that observation long ago. http://www.doug-long.com/quotes.htm

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    I’ll add one more thing, for what it’s worth. My understanding is that this site is primarily devoted to philosophical issues. I take it that most of those reading this have at least a rudimentary understanding of what philosophical analysis looks like; what constitutes a philosophical argument, etc. I could find none in Gregory’s rather lengthy essay. Just a catalog of the horrors of American foreign policy. Hence its title: “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the American Terror State,” and this final paragraph:

    The hypocrisy and moral degeneracy in the mouths of America’s celebrated leaders should frighten us more than anything coming out of Iran or North Korea, especially given America’s capacity to kill and willingness to do it. Upon dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, President Truman called the bomb the “greatest achievement of organized science in history” and wondered aloud how “atomic power can become a powerful and forceful influence toward the maintenance of world peace.” Nothing inverts good and evil, progress and regress, as much as the imperial state. In describing the perversion of morality in the history of U.S. wars, Orwell’s “war is peace” doesn’t cut it. “Exterminating civilians by the millions is the highest of all virtues” is perhaps a better tagline for the U.S. terror state.

    So, the point of Brennan’s post (and Gregory’s essay) is not to analyze the first use of atom bombs from a philosophical perspective. This would involve first articulating and defending principles governing the just conduct of war, and then showing that our use of atomic weapons against Japan was morally impermissible, after–of course–considering all reasonable arguments to the contrary. Rather, the purpose seems to be to show that the U.S. is and has always been a terror state.
    Now, we can debate this all day long. But is this discussion really the point of the BHL project?

  • Marcus_V

    I always come away from this sort of thing with the same bad taste in my mouth as when I read libertarians who transform their contempt for the modern federal government into praise for the defeated Confederate South.

    Sometimes it is worth noting that the lesser of two (or several) evils is still the *lesser* evil.

    • Libertymike

      As its worth noting that the lesser of two evils is a false premise, usually advanced by those who seek sanctuary for their conscience.

    • Anthony Gregory

      I have no praise for the Confederacy, or the for the imperial Japanese government that hacked to death distant relatives of mine in Korea. I am not comparing the Japanese state to the American states. I am opposed to mass murder across the board. Just because Truman wasn’t as bad as, say, Hitler, doesn’t mean that we can defend his actions, any more than we can defend Charles Manson’s actions because they weren’t as bad as Truman’s.

  • Joseph R. Stromberg

    The boundary riders of Acceptable Americanism are drawing lines in the sand again. Might as well stop the thread.

  • Theresa Klein

    Do you really think that Truman wouldn’t have accepted a surrender if one had been offered?
    Do you think he nuked Hiroshima and Nagaski for fun, because he was a sadist?

    • Libertymike

      Yeah, why would a mobbed up lifetime public sector hack democrat politician do that?

    • shemsky

      Just my opinion, but I think he nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki to send a message to the Soviets. That message being: I have these terrible weapons and I have shown that I will use them.

  • Sean II

    The problem with Gregory’s thinking here is the same problem that dooms him to have such foolish opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    The key piece of information he’s missing is this: civilians are not innocent, at least not automatically. They have to earn their innocence by opposing the state in favor of something better, and news-flash my libertarian mofos…most never do. Most are guilty in one way or another, either by voting, or cheering, or sharing in the state’s aims, illusions, and values, or simply by failure to resist in any measure of thought or deed.

    If you go through life believing that the Emperor or the Fuhrer or the Pope or the President is infallible, and if you follow his rules, if you make things for him or pay taxes to him, then congratulations little shareholder, you just earned yourself a piece of non-innocence. Even the young aren’t free of blame, since most kids are vicious out-group hating fanatics even when there isn’t a fascist state around to encourage them in that direction.

    None of this is to say that I’m personally a fan of the atomic bombing decisions. I’m simply concerned to make sure no one tries to cheat the question by boiling it down to nothing, with childishly simplistic moralizing.

    • Sergio Méndez

      “The key piece of information he’s missing is this: civilians are not innocent,
      at least not automatically. They have to earn their innocence by
      opposing the state in favor of something better, and news-flash my
      libertarian mofos…most never do.”

      This is as absurd as to claim the witness of an armed robbery is guilty of the crime for not opposing the armed thiefs.

      • Sean II

        A better analogy would be to claim that someone who witnesses an armed robbery every day, day after day, while refusing even to testify afterwards, is guilty of not opposing the thieves. Clearly he is.

        A still better analogy would be to claim that someone who worships Jesse James and denounces private ownership while celebrating violence AND witnessing several armed robberies every day, and lies to protect the criminals before, during, and after the crime, is guilty of not opposing the thieves. Clearly he is.

        But even on your own terms, you’re wrong. A person who witnesses an armed robbery and does nothing is not purely or simply innocent. His options may have been limited, his burden of guilt may be small and indirect, but innocent he is not.

        This is easy enough to see if we switch the case to rape instead of armed robbery. As a man, what would you think of a man who watched a rape happen and did nothing, on the grounds that he couldn’t be sure of intervening successful. I’d call that man a piece of shit coward, and outside the context of this argument, I bet you would too.

        • Sergio Méndez

          Sean II:

          “But even on your own terms, you’re wrong. A person who witnesses an armed robbery and does nothing is not purely or simply innocent. His options may have been limited, his burden of guilt may be small and indirect, but innocent he is not.”

          I think I didn´t express myself clearly. I was not talking simply of a witness of an armed robbery, I was talking about a person who was pointed with a gun at his head (at least) while the thiefs robbed their victims. So, it should be obvious you don´t have any moral obligation to fight the robbers (your life being in inminante risk) nor that not doing anything makes you guilty of anything. That even applies to the rape example to, for the same reasons.

          But EVEN if you had your way, thes upposed “guilty” status of Japaness civilians remains to be determined. How do you know that all the hundreds of thousends of persons incinirated in Nagasaki and Hiroshima (not to talk about the firebombings in other Japaness cities) did nothing to oppose the totalitarian state they lived in? And how do you pretend that children, for example, had even any obligation nor could even understand the moral need to oppose their goverment, so the mighty US air force doesnt carpet bombing their houses and families? Or in your bizarre worldview people are also guilty without a trial?

          • Sean II

            Now you’ve changed the analogy so the gun is right there at your temple, and any resistance equals instant death, but even that doesn’t save your point.

            You could still tell the armed robber that what he’s doing isn’t right. You could still do that. Or, you could at least form an opinion that armed robbery is wrong.

            The so-called by-standers to the violence of the state don’t do either of those things. The won’t say it’s wrong. They won’t even let themselves believe it. That makes them what they are: minor but essential accomplices.

            As for your last paragraph…pretty speech. It takes a lot of courage to speak up for the children in this world, so good work there. Problem: we know the vast majority of people in Japan did nothing to oppose the state, because …the people of Japan did nothing to oppose the state, and left no trace of such doings. Very little coercion was required to keep Japanese soldiers and workers and citizens obeying the rules there. Even compared to its popular authoritarian partners in Italy and Germany, the amount of force required to prop up the regime internally was miniscule. That’s how we know.

          • Sergio Méndez

            “You could still tell the armed robber that what he’s doing isn’t right. You could still do that. Or, you could at least form an opinion that armed robbery is wrong.”

            Many armed robbers react with violence to anyone telling them their acts are wrong. And certainly most totalitarian states and military dictatorships (1945 Japan being a very good example of that) react with deadly violence against any form of criticism. And anyways, since when innaction equalls guilt, especially the kind of guilt punishable by death?

            “Problem: we know the vast majority of people in Japan did nothing to oppose the state, because ..”

            We know? Or you pretend to know? What studies on the political situation of Japan have you read? Ahh…you use some werid logic to deduct it ” Very little coercion was required to keep Japanese soldiers and workers
            and citizens obeying the rules there. Even compared to its popular authoritarian partners in Italy and Germany, the amount of force needed to prop up the regime internally was miniscule. That’s how we know.” Uh? What is THAT supposed to prove? How do you know those things?

            And more importantly, what did the members of the US goverment KNEW in 1945 about such issues to decry that thousends of hundreds of persons ought to be murdered without a trial? On the other side, children certainly ARE innocent since they can´t have any comprehension of the political situation they were living to oppose it the first place. so, I still want to see what rationalization you give us to justify their murder…their mass murder.

          • Sean II

            “We know? Or you pretend to know? What studies on the political situation of Japan have you read? Ahh…you use some werid logic to deduct it ”

            So this is a very funny argument. It takes this form:

            Mr. A says: “There are no flying antelope. We would have heard about them by now, if there were.”

            Mr. B says: “Just HOW do YOU know THAT? What studies have you read, to support such a conclusion?”

            Let’s see if I follow this: The absence of research on something for which evidence is absent allows you to suggests the presence of something without need of evidence. Okay, then!

          • Sergio Méndez

            “Mr. A says: ´There are no flying antelope. We would have heard about them by now, if there were.´ Mr. B says: “Just HOW do YOU know THAT? What studies have you read, to support such a conclusion”

            Let me see if I get it it right. You are pretending that your claims about Japanesse civilians lack of resistence are some sort of analitical truth, instead of something that should be empeirically researched? So you, have decided that “Japaness who resisted or opposed the military dictatorship that ruled their country in 1945″ is a sort of living contradiction? Oh boy…whatever you say.

            On the other side, I see you chose to ignore the issue of the children murdered in American bombings. Yeah yeah, my “childish moralizing”, how dare I oppose the murder of innocent children!

          • Sean II

            Let me help you finish that sentence properly:

            “how dare I oppose the murder of innocent children!”…and act like that’s some sort of bold innovative position that sets aside all the messy consequentialist math of warfare, and plays like a trump card in every aspect of this discussion.

            Yeah. How dare you do that. It’s fucking obnoxious.

          • Sergio Méndez

            I am sorry to be so fucking obnoxious to you and your “consequentialist math in war” I just think it is bullshit masquerading as an argument to justify not only the murder of children, but the mass murder of thousends of hundreds of persons. As bullshit as your asertion that claiming that your claim that Japanesse civilians couldn´t oppose the military dictatorship they lived in, is some sort of analatical truth that cannot be disputed by evidence.

    • shemsky

      Then please go out and redeem yourself, Sean. Refuse to pay your taxes and tell the government that you have taxable income but refuse to pay the tax. Attempt to sell pot to police officers and tell them that you’re doing it because you refuse to follow the government’s rules. Then resist when they start to arrest you.

      I want to read about you in the newspaper. Godspeed, brother.

      • Sean II

        You forgot I have another choice: be complicit in the crimes of my state and admit it.

        I am, and I do. But the mere fact that I choose not to resist, and probably cannot resist effectively, does not make my complicity go away.

        • shemsky

          Not resisting does not make us complicit. Willingly participating in the state’s crimes would make us complicit. It would be a good deed for us to resist the evil the state does, but each of us must weigh resistance against the cost to ourselves.

          • Sean II

            First of all, we certainly are complicit for not resisting an ongoing criminal enterprise that so obviously takes account of our passivity in its design.

            Second and more importantly, you missed my original point, which is that we are all willing participants, except when we’re partially not (e.g., libertarians, anarchists, etc.)

            An old woman with a picture of Hirohito on her mantle, who makes ball bearings in a cottage factory for the imperial state, and who raised a son to believe that serving the IJN is the highest honor he can do his family, and who cheered the victories of 1941…that woman is NOT an unwilling participant.

            Maybe if Roderick Long-san had been hanging around Kyushu during the summer 1945, you’d have yourself a clear case of an unwilling non-participant. But you don’t have that. There was virtually no popular opposition to the state in Japan or Germany, not at the beginning, not in the middle, not even at the end.

          • shemsky

            I would agree with you that someone who votes for or advocates for evil acts performed by the state is complicit, but simply failing to resist does not make one complicit. Although people who are being duped should be given a chance to see their errors and change their ways before they are condemned.

            Aren’t you ashamed for jacking Jason’s thread like this? (I wouldn’t be)

          • Sean II

            Okay, that last line was pretty funny. I’ll give you that.

    • good_in_theory

      We are all fallen in the eyes of the lord therefore don’t worry if someone kills you, you deserved it.

      • Sean II

        This will be difficult for you to understand G.I.T., but you must try…

        A person can be both a) not innocent, and b) not guilty enough to deserve being killed.

        • good_in_theory

          But always guilty enough to be a-bombed just a little bit. Or did your comment actually have nothing to do with the topic post?

          “What Gregory misses is that pretty much everyone has done some degree of bad stuff, therefore…” what? Nothing at all, it seems.

          • Sean II

            This is another thing that usually gives you away as a troll. When pressing your own points, you’re perfectly capable of separating big questions into component parts. When responding to other people, you like to insist that the original question be swallowed whole, without discussion of its pieces.

            For example, in the present case, I am arguing simply that civilians are not innocent as a rule – one component to a much larger question about the justice of killing them in war.

            You insist this can only mean that I am in favor of killing civilians, and even more specifically, in favor of the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You also hint that anything else I might say – such as by dividing the big question into its parts – is somehow off topic. Perhaps you would like this thread better if it was simply a FOR or AGAINST poll, with the comments section closed to avoid any messy abstractions?

            But as usual, I take too much care and show too much patience in picking apart your nonsense, when a simple “shut it” is closer to what you deserve. Of course you understand I do that for the benefit of the lurkers, not for you.

          • oldoddjobs

            Stop congratulating yourself, please! It’s nauseating.

          • Sean II

            If I promise never to mention lurkers again, will you promise to remain one?

          • oldoddjobs

            “shut it”

    • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

      I think this is an important point that complicates what you rightly call the “childishly simplistic moralizing” of Gregory and his pals. Most of the civilians who perished at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not completely innocent. They contributed to Japan’s genocidal war effort in ways great and small: working in plants that made munitions or other materials used by the military; contributing money or goods to the war effort; writing letters to the front encouraging their “boys,” etc. And, as you say, I have seen no evidence that there was an Japanese “underground” or other overt resistance to the war.

      On the other hand, the Allied soldiers who would have died in any invasion had already fought and in many cases bled to liberate Europe from the Nazis and E. Asia from Japan. They had already made great sacrifices for what I regard as a noble cause. How do you wrap all of this up in a nice tidy philosophical package? I don’t know. But I have a hard time accepting it as axiomatic that the lives of Allied soldiers were somehow worth less than those of Japanese civilians.

      • martinbrock

        How do you wrap all of this up in a nice tidy philosophical package?

        I thought you just did.

        I have a hard time accepting it as axiomatic that the lives of Allied soldiers were somehow worth less than those of Japanese civilians.

        That’s a false choice. Outside of endless, counterfactual speculation, there was never any choice between the lives of American soldiers and the lives of Japanese civilians. There was only a choice between conditional surrender and unconditional surrender, and Truman chose to incinerate hundreds of thousands of men, women and even the guilty children to win unconditional surrender.

        • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

          I have said at least twice on this thread that any moral evaluation of Truman’s decision will depend on the facts. If Japan had credibly offered to unconditionally surrender except for retaining the Emperor as a figurehead, Truman’s decision seems wrong. If no such offer was made, or it contained additional conditions that would have rewarded Japan’s aggression or impeded the post-war political and economic reconstruction effort, then Truman’s decision seems much more defensible. I doubt that the former scenario actualy occurred (see Irfan’s detailed comments), but if you disagree, please provide the primary source evidence, not what Gregory asserts without any proof.

          • martinbrock

            How can I possibly know the consequences of rewarding Japan’s aggression or impeding the post-war political and economic reconstruction effort? I know the consequences of rewarding the Soviet Union’s aggression and impeding post-war political and economic reconstruction in the Soviet sphere, because that’s what happened, but I’ll never know the consequences of not rewarding Soviet aggression, and I’ll never know the consequences of rewarding Japan’s aggression. I can’t possibly provide you primary source evidence of a counter-factual.

            I doubt that Japan ever offered to surrender “unconditionally except for retaining the Emperor as a figurehead”, and this precise formulation makes little difference to me. Incinerating children seems a highly debatable proposition regardless of counter-factual speculation.

      • Sean II

        I’m amazed by two things in this thread:

        First, I can’t believe it’s even controversial to say that states which are sustained and supported by people share their guilt with the people who sustain and support them. Blows my mind that anyone, let alone any libertarian, would disagree with that.

        Second, I can’t believe how obvious the other side is in flaunting its prejudices. I mean, it’s not hard to guess what’s going on here. They figure libertarians already do a good enough job talking about Axis or communist atrocities, so why bother with those. Who can imagine this site linking to a sermon about the anniversary of Mukden or Nanking? No way.

        At the same time, they detect a strain of bloody jingoism in the movement, of the America’s-always-right ARI variety. And rightly so, for that strain does exist. So they want to counterbalance that, to make things fair.

        How do they do it? By being unfair and transparently one-sided in the other direction, of course. What’s the dead giveaway? On any other day here, if you hold a hard-line natural rights position you’re a maniac. Now, suddenly, it’s the opposite: to talk of consequentialist math makes you a monster.

        • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

          I actually had a similar thought. Libertarian principles are fine here, except if their application would unduly harm the disadvantaged. On the other hand, non-combatants are absolutely untouchable, without regard to context or consequences.

          • Sean II

            It’s the accidental inconsistencies that tip the hand.

            There another really conspicuous one two threads after this: Brennan, famous for arguing you don’t have to vote right as long as you vote reasonable*, is now saying “it’s not enough to obey a law you think is just, the law must actually be just.”

            What explains the difference? In the first case he was publishing a book, and it wouldn’t do to say “everyone but a libertarian is an unethical voter” – although that is obviously what any libertarian should and usually does believe.

            * – I once asked him directly about this in a thread long ago, and he wrote something like “moral philosophy is hard. We can’t be sure enough of what is right to insist that voters be right.”

            He forgot to mention then what he seems to be saying now: evidently moral philosophy is not hard for soldiers and cops. They’re supposed to always know what is just, and damn ‘em to hell if they’re wrong.

            Hence my newfound cynicism: whenever I try to take BHL seriously as a school of thought, it ends up looking more and more like a branding campaign.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            At this point I would advise caution in what you say. Matt Z. is no doubt listening in and may pull your hard-won BHL membership card and all the goodies that come with it. (MATT Z: this is a joke).

          • shemsky

            Then Sean can just say to Matt Z, with disgust, “I don’t need no stinking BHL membership card to speak my mind here.”

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            What, and face the WRATH OF ZWOLINSKI? Nobody is that brave! (MATT Z: This too is a joke).

        • shemsky

          If you said “states which are sustained and supported by people share their guilt with the people who WILLINGLY sustain and support them”, then I would agree with you. But, for example, people who pay taxes they don’t consent to paying, under the threat of imprisonment, are not willingly supporting the state that forces them to pay the taxes. To say that they are willingly supporting the state by paying the taxes is like saying that the victim of an armed robbery is willingly handing over his money to the robber. No, he is making the best of a choice which has been forced on him, against his will.

          There is no obligation to resist the state, just as there is no obligation to make the world a better place for yourself or for others. There may be a strong incentive to do those things, and it would be nice if more people did them, but there is no obligation to do them.

          • Sean II

            Well, you do realize that post people think the state is just nifty, and therefore belong in the category of willing participants. The fact that we’re nominally talking about the famously obedient and deferential society of imperial Japan only makes that more obvious. But even here, and even now…take away the handful of libertarians, and most American are willing participants in most of their state’s massive crime, adventure, and folly.

            The harder point is: what about us? Are we clean, just because we say “no” to the state and maybe even write about it?

            No, not really. Not when we continue to support it by our actions. We know all our talk isn’t doing much. We also know that our actions – I’ve paid for at least one Hellfire missile in the past year or so – are serving the status quo.

            Now that knowledge may not yield a duty to go out and sacrifice ourselves like Buddhist monks soaked in petrol, but I sure as hell feel a duty to admit, at the very least, that I’m part of this system and not some innocent by- stander to it.

          • shemsky

            I know that a lot of people think that the state is just nifty, but I also suspect that a lot of people just want the state to leave them alone. How many millions don’t ever vote and don’t care?

    • Kurt H

      So, then, I presume you think that the WTC towers were legitimate military targets and agree with Ward Churchill that many of those killed in New York on 9/11 were “little Eichmanns” who were not completely innocent?

      Or does this logic only work when Americans are doing the killing?

  • Joseph R. Stromberg

    Mark Friedman wanted a philosophical discussion. Interested parties might begin with Thomas Nagel, “War and Massacre,” *Philosophy and Public Affairs,* 1 (Winter 1972), 123-144.

    A few samples:

    “If it is not allowable to *do* certain things, such as killing unarmed prisoners or
    civilians, then no argument about what will happen if one doesn’t do them can
    show that doing them would be all right.” (128)

    “Once the door is opened to calculations of utility and national interest, the usual speculations about the future of freedom, peace, and economic prosperity can be brought to bear to ease the consciences of those responsible for a certain number of charred babies.” (129)

    “… moral innocence has very little to do with it, for in the definition of murder ‘innocent’ means ‘currently harmless,’ and it is opposed not to ‘guilty’ but to ‘doing harm.’” (139)

    “The threat presented by an army and its members does not consist merely in the fact that they are men, but in the fact that they are armed and are using their arms in the pursuit of certain objectives. Contributions to their arms and logistics are contributions to this threat; contributions to their mere existence as men are not. It is therefore wrong to direct an attack against those who merely serve the combatants’ needs as human beings, such as farmers and food suppliers, even though survival as a human being is a necessary condition of efficient functioning as a soldier.” (140)

    (…and so on in that vein; and very useful, especially since Nagel doesn’t spend all his time arguing about the nature of argument.)

    There are also John C. Ford, “The Morality of Obliteration Bombing,” *Theological Studies,* 5 (1944), 261-309; Germain G. Grisez, “Moral Objectivity and the Cold War,” *Ethics,* 70 (July 1960), 291-305; Theodore Roszak, “A Just War Analysis of Two Types of Deterrence,” *Ethics,* 73 (January 1963), 100-109; and Robert M. Palter, “The Ethics of Extermination,” *Ethics,* 74 (April 1964), 208-218.

    There is also a very large stack of Encyclicals from 1945 forward that shed light on the problems of modern war, and numerous other Catholic works, some that deal in *strict* Just War Theory and some that deal with war and peace outside the Just War framework — e.g., James W. Douglass, *The Non-Violent Cross* (New York: Macmillan, 1968). Theologians Stanley Hauerwas (Methodist) and John Howard Yoder (Mennonite) deserve mention.

    Yes, these issues seem complicated; and indeed they are, but one may doubt that the busy little seminars on Just War Theory and targeting at CENTCOM in Tampa, or the weekly White House prayer and drone priming sessions, have contributed, or can contribute much to their resolution.

    These discussions at BHL are interesting for one reason and one reason alone: by showing how easily certain assumptions built into liberalism and libertarianism can be hijacked into the service war and empire, they provide good reasons for abandoning liberalism and libertarianism almost entirely.

    • reason60

      Thank you for the links and refrences.
      Yes, they are complicated because human nature and behavior is complicated, when we try to assess guilt or innocence, especially measured against utility and competing goals of security and just behavior.
      Simplistic yardsticks of moral absolutism more often than not result in the worst atrocities of all.

  • Militiary Historian

    This is pretty much the opposite of what most historians who have looked into the issue think.

    • martinbrock

      This is a very brief rejoinder.

  • Benkarkis

    “The Korean War, another Truman Project…….” this writer is all over the place and about as objective as MSNBC and Fox News and Nancy Grace.

  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    A gratuitous assertion with a minimum of evidence behind it.

  • Chris Andrew

    First I’ve heard of it. FWIW, I have an MA in history. It may be true that Japan wanted to surrender, but it’s not proven in this link.

    Also, was it willing to surrender only conditionally – that is, keep its govt, etc?

  • oldoddjobs

    Most people reflexively defend the actions of their government. It’s trickier for Americans because ‘your’ government kills more people (rightly or wrongly) than most other governments.

    Is the mass-murder of innocent civilians sometimes a “necessary evil”? Maybe in some mind-boggling hypothetical case, sure – go on, invent one!

    I wonder how many people would have recommended dropping two a-bombs on Japanese cities BEFORE they went and did it. It’s just too convenient that whatever government does always turns out to have been “necessary” after the fact. What extraordinary men!

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