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The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did NOT save lives and shorten World War 2

This article disputes the “Stimson narrative”, – the story that the atomic bombing was necessary, and therefore acceptable.

What Europeans believe about Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and why it matters , Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists   Benoît Pelopidas  Benoît Pelopidas is the founder of the Nuclear Knowledges program at the Center for International Studies at Sciences Po in Paris (formerly chair of excellence in security studies).  Kjølv Egeland, Kjølv Egeland is Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow in Security Studies at Sciences Po, focusing on strategic narratives and global nuclear order. 

By Benoît PelopidasKjølv Egeland, August 3, 2020   Did the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki shorten the war, and were they necessary to force the Japanese surrender? Many people believe the answer to both questions is yes: In dropping the Bomb, America chose the lesser of two evils.

Although historians have long challenged this narrative as wrong or misleading, a significant number of Europeans still believe it. That is the primary result of a recent survey of European views on nuclear affairs generally and the atomic bombings of Japan specifically. The survey, carried out in October 2019, involved approximately 7,000 respondents aged 18 and upward, carefully selected to ensure representative samples from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

The survey also shows that those who believe the bombings were necessary and effective at significantly shortening the war are more likely to harbor skepticism toward nuclear disarmament than those who do not. That being said, European publics remain on the whole staunch in their support for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Even in nuclear-armed France and the United Kingdom, large majorities reject the idea that nuclear weapons could ever be used morally. Although others across the world may hold similar views, to date there has been no broad survey posing these questions in the United States or elsewhere. Future surveys could investigate whether the same pattern exists beyond Europe…………

it does not appear that the US executive spent much time deliberating whether atomic weapons should be used or not.  Discussions instead focused on how, when, and where they would be employed. ………….

According to declassified documents, the US military estimated in June 1945 that a full-scale invasion of the Japanese home islands, in the worst-case scenario, could be expected to incur up to 220,000 casualties—quite far from Stimson’s “over a million.” Moreover, of the 220,000 casualties, only 46,000 were projected as fatalities. The number of people killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on the other hand, was probably at least twice as high as the “over a hundred thousand Japanese” reported by Stimson in 1947………

the idea that the US government was faced with only two options in August 1945—full invasion or atomic bombing of Japanese population centers—has little basis in reality. Alternative courses of action, not mutually exclusive, would have included negotiations, a demonstration of the atomic bomb in an uninhabited area, continued strategic bombing short of the use of atomic weapons, continued economic blockade, and waiting for the Soviets to declare war against the Japanese empire. 

it is not clear that the atomic bombs were in fact responsible for the Japanese surrender. The Japanese war cabinet had over an extended period of time been divided between a “peace party,” which argued that Japan should seek an end to the war as quickly as possible, and a “war party,” which argued the war should be continued as Japan sought good offices from the Soviet Union to negotiate a peace deal with the United States and Britain. In the view of the acclaimed historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, who consulted primary sources in Japanese, it was the Soviet Union’s breach of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact and attack against Japan on August 9, 1945 that tipped the scale and forced the emperor’s decision to surrender the very next day (the final decision was formalized a few days later, following discussions within the Japanese executive). In the absence of the Soviet invasion, Hasegawa concludes, the two atomic bombs would “most likely not have prompted the Japanese to surrender, so long as they still had hope that Moscow would mediate.”

The historian John Dower concurs: The Soviet entry into war was more important than the atomic bombing in producing Japanese surrender. Once the Soviets intervened, the Japanese appear to have favored surrendering to Washington over allowing Moscow to conquer their country. At the same time, from the perspective of the Japanese government, the atomic bombings provided an opportunity to frame the Japanese military’s shattering defeat as a result not of its own incompetence, but as an outcome of the introduction of a new and revolutionary weapon by the enemy. In Dower’s words, the atomic bombings allowed the Japanese emperor to spin the capitulation as “nothing less than a magnanimous act that might save humanity itself from annihilation by an atrocious adversary.”

In fact, according to the US Air Force’s own review, finalized not long after the end of the war, Japan would likely have surrendered that same autumn even in the absence of atomic bombings or an invasion. Similarly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed skepticism about the use of atomic bombs both before and after the fact.

In summary, many of the central claims on which the official story about Hiroshima and Nagasaki is founded—that the atomic bombings were necessary to end the war, that they ended a conflict that otherwise would have slogged on, and that they saved a large number of American soldiers’ lives—appear to rest on shaky ground. While certain aspects of the story stand up to scrutiny, others have been proven plain wrong, and others remain contested by scholarship. But have people caught up with the historiography? 

European views on the atomic bombings of Japan. Asked to note their agreement or disagreement with the statement that “the atomic bombings of Japan in World War II shortened the war significantly,” 23 percent of respondents to the October 2019 survey “strongly” agreed, 29 percent “somewhat” agreed, 31 percent reported no opinion, 9 percent “somewhat” disagreed, and 8 percent “strongly” disagreed. In other words, while 52 percent of respondents expressed support for the idea that the war was significantly shortened by the atomic bombings, only 17 percent pushed back against that idea.

Regarding the question of whether “the atomic bombings of Japan in World War II were necessary to bring Japan to surrender,” the survey results were more balanced. 12 percent of respondents “strongly” agreed, 19 percent “somewhat” agreed, 33 percent reported no opinion, 15 percent “somewhat” disagreed, and 21 percent “strongly” disagreed.

On the statement, “The atomic bombings of Japan in World War II saved American soldiers’ lives,” 14 percent of respondents expressed that they “strongly” agreed, 25 percent that they “somewhat” agreed, 38 percent reported no opinion, 11 percent expressed that they “somewhat” disagreed, and 13 percent expressed that they “strongly” disagreed.

Finally, asked to note their agreement or disagreement with the statement that “the atomic bombings of Japan in World War II killed innocent civilians,” 71 percent of respondents to the 2019 survey “strongly” agreed, 14 percent “somewhat” agreed, 12 percent expressed no opinion, and less than 5 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” disagreed.

The results suggest that the Stimson narrative still holds sway among Europeans, but that support might be weakening over time. On each statement, older respondents were slightly more likely than younger respondents to express agreement with Stimson’s interpretation of the atomic bombings.

Finally, it bears mentioning that British respondents stand out among the nine European populations sampled as the greatest believers in the Stimson narrative. The results unfortunately do not give further insight into the causes of this tendency, but three mutually reinforcing hypotheses are plausible. First, the shared language of the United States and the United Kingdom allows narratives and talking points to travel relatively frictionless across borders. Second, the United Kingdom was directly involved in the building of the atomic bomb through the Manhattan Project and, by extension, partly responsible for the fates of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki……..

Attitudes toward nuclear disarmament. European publics have long offered strong support for arms control and the elimination of nuclear weapons. This pattern is further corroborated by the survey data, which show consistent support for nuclear disarmament.  ……..

The support for disarmament is robust and consistent: 81 percent of respondents who strongly agreed with the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons within 25 years also offered strong support for an agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons.  …….

However, there is clear relationship between degree of faith in the Stimson narrative and support for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Respondents who said the atomic bombings shortened the war significantly, were necessary to bring about the Japanese surrender, or saved American soldiers’ lives were significantly more likely to believe that the abolition of nuclear weapons would “make the world less safe” compared to those who did not express such views. ………..

However, there is clear relationship between degree of faith in the Stimson narrative and support for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Respondents who said the atomic bombings shortened the war significantly, were necessary to bring about the Japanese surrender, or saved American soldiers’ lives were significantly more likely to believe that the abolition of nuclear weapons would “make the world less safe” compared to those who did not express such views. ……….

It is the responsibility of scholars and educators to work against such epistemic vulnerability to expose citizens to the latest advances of knowledge so that they can independently form their political views.  https://thebulletin.org/2020/08/what-europeans-believe-about-hiroshima-and-nagasaki-and-why-it-matters/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=MondayNewsletter08032020&utm_content=NuclearRisk_WhatEuropeansBelieve_08032020#

 

August 4, 2020 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, spinbuster, weapons and war

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