Sunday, June 02, 2002

Betts & The Bomb

John Betts has weighed in on the Bomb Discussion, arguing that civilian casualties are an unfortunate side effect of war. While I certainly agree that when civilians die as an unintentional side effect of a military operation, there is no moral dilemma (all things being equal), that was not the case with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As both sides acknowledge, neither city had any substantial military value; if our goal was to attack some aspect of Japan's military structure, other cities would have been hit. But they weren't, because our goal was not to attack the military, but to force the leadership to surrender by wiping out major population centers.

Our purpose was to get Japanese leadership to surrender. The means we used was to kill thousands of non-combatants. Unlike our War on Terrorism, Japanese civilian death was not an unintentional side effect of dropping the bomb... it was the direct intention, it was the means. And as such, it is inexcusable, at the objective level (see my initial post on this below regarding the mitigated culpability of those involved).

John asks my thoughts on the Cold War doctrine of MAD (Mutual-Assured Destruction)... with Reagan, I thought it was a ridiculous and morally-repugnant doctrine, and I'm glad it's out the door. It's like threatening to kill my neighbor's family if they kill mine... does it work? Maybe. Is it right? I doubt it. Better to develop defensive weapons systems and simultaneously scale back offensive firepower (as we are doing now) than to threaten mutual annihilation.

Anyway, that's my $.02. I'd love to hear any rebuttals/other comments.

By the way, see Disputations for some comments that concur with my assessment and disagree with the other view.

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