Prof. Wagstaff wrote:C'mon, Igor -- how about elucidating a little more than that.
Just saying, "WWII was different" isnt much of an answer.
I mean, if The Bomb was the best solution to the war with Japan, why was it not in Korea? Or Viet Nam? Or Afghanistan? Or Iraq?
This isn't intended as a "gotcha!" question, I'm seriously interested in hearing views about why the use of atomic weapons was justified and/or not immoral in Japan but has never been so again in the nearly 7 decades since. Is it simply the threat of possible nuclear retaliation? Or is there more to it than that?
Personally, I've always been pretty torn about whether nuking Japan was right or wrong, so I make no judgment on those who have arrived at their own conclusion. I really do see both sides. My curiosity in posing this question is genuine.
A number of reasons:
Both Japan and Germany clearly needed to surrender, not just negotiate a truce that restored their pre-war borders and left existing regimes in tact. Germany's plan to wipe out most of the Poles, Serbs, and Belorussians (or more accurately, work them to death) makes that clear.
Once they determined that we would only accept surrender, both Germany and Japan clearly were resolved to fight to the bitter end.
In the case of Germany, they were demonstrably killing large numbers of non-combatants daily. I don't know if the extermination camps were running faster at the end of the war, but if you take the average for the whole war, Germany made up for Dresden in a week.
In the case of Japan, they were demonstrably willing to send their own civilians to their deaths in the case of an invasion of their home islands. I think there was enough data from places like Okinawa to indicate that they had no qualms about sending women and children to their deaths if it took out a couple US soldiers.
Also quite clearly, there was no chance of an expanded nuclear war.
So, if you are going to do the grim math, there needs to be a combatant nation who:
- Has a significant military force.
- Is killing large number of non-combatants or is likely to do so.
- Where there is no chance of an expanded nuclear war.
I can't think of any war that fits all three. The ones that come to mind for #2 are Rwanda and Cambodia under Pol Pot, but they don't fit #1 at all, since they could clearly have been subdued by any military nation that desired. Of course, Korea, Vietnam, and others had a large risk of #3, so yes, the threat of retaliation was a real concern.