I guess President Barack Obama didn’t take any history classes when he was in school.
Nor did he have a teleprompter available to refer to when queried about the historical significance of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States in August of 1945.
The Community Organizer and Chief has embarrassed his country once again and made himself look the uneducated, uninformed and tactless rube when he was questioned by Japanese media during the joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Japan.
The reporter asked the President about his desire to visit those two cities and what his understanding was of the historical context of the atomic bombings of the cities and weather or not he felt the attacks were justified. Looking like a deer in the headlights, the President began a very disjointed reply about his desire to pursue an active anti-nuclear proliferation policy and how he has begun to cut back America’s nuclear stockpile. He commented on the unique perspective that Japan and her leadership had on the subject of nuclear weapons and their use. Then he commented on his lack of firm travel plans to either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. The Stammerer and Chief then went off on a tangent about North Korea.
What was blatantly clear was that he was unprepared to for the question and equally unprepared to defend the actions of the United States or its leadership who at the time were fighting a war to preserve not only our freedom but the freedoms and the sovereignty of all the free nations of the world against the forces of German and Italian Fascism and rabid Japanese Militarism. In fact, he dodged the subject all together.
I don’t know who he thinks he is fooling by changing the subject. He clearly didn’t want to answer the question and was very uncomfortable with the subject. Uttering platitudes on the subject of non-proliferation is comfortable, appealing, politically correct, but most of all, safe. Defending the reputation and motives of a past administration desperate to quickly end a world war that had cost millions of lives by the most expeditious means possible, seemed beyond his capabilities. He seemed stymied by the prospect in fact.
It is unfathomable to see that over 60 years after the end of the second world war, we, the United States of America, are still having to explain our actions to the very people who attacked us on December 7th, 1941, or that we are made to feel as if we have somehow done something evil in using nuclear weapons to end the greatest war in the history of the world. It is the United States and her nuclear shield that has in fact deterred aggression in the world ever since the end of that war.
What were the alternatives?
Militarily, we could have blockaded Japan and just stood off and bomb them and shelled them and hoped they grew tired or hungry enough to surrender... The odds of this working were small. The fact that allied prisoners of war in their thousands were also being held in the home islands of Japan, suffering untold agonies and miseries meant that they would probably be wiped out as retribution by their desperate and angry captors who were not very humane with prisoners under the best of circumstances. Civilian casualties from an unrestricted bombing campaigns and from the starvation and disease that would have resulted from a prolonged quarantine and from continued military attacks around the clock, day in and day out would have been horrific. Casualties would have certainly been in the millions.
The option of just demonstrating the weapon to the Japanese rather than actually using it on them was not an option as we had so little material to use in actual weapons that we couldn’t risk expending it and it not have a tangible military result. Nor could we risk letting other countries know just how far we had progressed in the development of nuclear weapons, especially the Soviet Union, who we viewed as a potential rival in the future. There was also the altogether not unreasonable belief that even having seen a demonstration that Japan’s leadership would have acquiesced and given up.
That left a conventional amphibious and airborne invasion of the home islands of Japan.
The plans for that eventuality, Operations Olympic and Coronet were being formulated at that time. Previous attacks against Iwo Jima and Okinawa had given war planners some idea what to expect if the U.S. and her allies were to attempt such a venture. The prospects weren’t good at all. Unlike Europe where civilian populations were seen as non-combatants, and for the most part behaved as such, this would not have been the case with Japan. The militarist government there had conditioned and trained the populace over the previous years to take an active role in defending the home islands from invasion. If the civilians had actively resisted and the military elements in Japan proven as stubborn and intractable as they had in previous operations like Okinawa, the projected casualties on both sides would have been astronomical. The Okinawa, Iwo Jima and the Philippine campaigns were the basis used to gauge how a possible amphibious and airborne invasion of the home islands would be resisted. Okinawa had generated 72,000 American casualties in an 82 days action. The liberation of the Philippines took nearly a year, and cost Japan 336,300 dead and the Americans 62.514 dead or wounded. Iwo Jima’s “butcher bill” was nearly 22,000 Americans killed or wounded, with only a little over 1,100 prisoners taken out of a defending garrison of over 22,000 Japanese soldiers, marines and seamen.
In contrast, the planners of the invasion of Japan envisioned a nightmare scenario of over 1.2 million casualties to Allied forces and 5-10 million military and civilian casualties to the Japanese. With those sorts of numbers, it was no small wonder that any responsible, reasonable or humane leader would have looked for other options to that sort of body count.
When viewed objectively, when all the aforementioned options were looked at, even in hindsight, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the best options in a bad situation for all parties concerned. They provided a stark reality check to the leadership of Japan as to what their futures would be if further resistance continued. Were the results horrible? Certainly they were. Were the results desirable? When viewed against the possible loss of life and treasure in a conventional attack, the answer is and unqualified YES.
Too bad President Barack Obama didn’t seem to know any of this and too bad he seemed unable or unwilling to articulate these facts to the world at large.
Maybe he’ll get it right next time....