Friday, August 6, 2010

Hiroshima and Nagasaki...we should love "the bomb"?

All the watches found in the ground zero in Hiroshima were stopped at 8:15 am, the time of the explosion.

As you are aware this is the anniversary of the nuclear weapons used to level Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"Ten Reasons to Love the Bomb"


J.R. Dunn

August 6th, 2010

American Thinker

Sixty-five years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we still have not arrived at a true measure of the atomic weapon.

Through a constant drumbeat -- in large part coming from the left -- nuclear weapons have become our culture's dominant symbol of fear. This is understandable. The photos of the atomic bombings were among the most foreboding ever taken. Few who have contemplated them have not paused to think what their own town might look like after such an attack.

But fear of nuclear weapons has shifted to the metaphysical, attaining something of the aura of absolute evil that Satan and his legions held in the medieval mind. They are referred to in the singular, as "The Bomb," as if only one exists, in some awful, majestic, Platonic isolation. They are spoken of as supernatural entities, beyond rational control or comprehension, operating in some mystical twilight on the far side of Mordor. They are given powers and capabilities beyond that of any known device. It often appears as a given that a single explosion could utterly destroy civilization from one pole to the other. For these reasons, consideration of the nuclear question remains clouded by horror and awe.

Amid all this, it has become difficult to grasp the simple fact that nuclear weapons have benefits -- that they may well be, in Ray Bradbury's words, "The most blessed invention ever devised." But such benefits do exist, as the record clearly shows.

1) The A-bomb Shut Down WWII

It's not necessary to reopen the perennial argument as to whether the atomic bombings were necessary to defeat Japan to acknowledge that they brought the war to an abrupt halt. On August 6, it was going strong. By August 14, it was over.

WWII had been in progress for six years (closer to eleven, if you were Chinese). It had killed something on the order of 65 million people, a bloodletting unmatched in recorded history. Killing was still going on throughout the territory still occupied by Japan. As August 1945 began, people were dying at the rate of 20,000 a week.

There was no sign that it would stop any time soon. The Japanese refusal to surrender is a historical fact. Their commitment to fight to the last drop of blood is undeniable. (Anyone who doubts this is advised to read Something Like an Autobiography, the memoirs of the master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, who was told, along with all other Japanese, that when the U.S. invasion came, they were to march to the sea and fling themselves on the advancing troops in the "honorable death of the hundred million." Kurosawa loathed Japanese imperialism. He hated the militarists. He was sick of the war. But still, he said, "I probably would have gone.")

The atomic bombs ended this -- not through destructiveness (the March incendiary raids against Tokyo killed more people than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined), but by shock. The Japanese military was in the midst of explaining to Emperor Hirohito why the U.S. could have built no more than one bomb when word of the Nagasaki strike arrived. "How many bombs did you say there were?" the emperor reportedly asked.

In the stunned silence following the atomic raids, the voice of reason could be heard at last. No other weapon could have accomplished this.

2) Nuclear Weapons Stopped Stalin in his Tracks

"A weapon to frighten schoolteachers." That was Stalin's opinion of the atomic bomb...which must mean that Stalin was a schoolteacher, since it certainly frightened him.

Stalin's postwar plans were clear -- to keep his army intact and in the middle of Western Europe, to wait until the war-weary Western Allies cut their occupation forces to the bone, and then to make his move one deep, dark night, sweeping the rest of the pieces -- Western Germany, Austria, France, the Low Countries -- off the table and into his capacious tunic pockets.

He announced several times that he was seriously cutting Soviet occupation forces. This never happened. The Hungarian takeover, the Czech coup, and the Berlin blockade increased tensions to the breaking point. Stalin was clearly probing to see how far he could go. What stopped him? Not American or British occupation forces, which were derisory. One element alone: that schoolteacher's nightmare, the atomic bomb.

Stalin grew impatient as he got older. According to Russian historians, he had finalized a war plan by the time of his death, scheduled for early 1954. But it is doubtful that the Politburo, along with the Soviet military, would have allowed it to proceed. They knew better, were well aware of the consequences, and knew who would have to live with them. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, "Nothing concentrates a man's mind so wonderfully as the knowledge that he is to be A-bombed in a fortnight."

3) Atomic Bombs Helped Expose Communist Activity in the U.S.

It's unlikely that the Soviets would have risked their carefully constructed U.S. spy network for anything less than the atomic bomb. But cracking the Manhattan Project required use of all resources. The NKVD threw everybody available at the program -- Klaus Fuchs, Bruno Pontecorvo, Theodore Hall, Allen Nunn May, the still unidentified "Perseus," and, of the course, the Rosenberg ring. When this effort began to unravel, it went completely, exposing agents not even directly connected to the atomic effort and leaving very little of use to the Soviets. When espionage efforts were renewed, it was using professional agents, as opposed to the eager Communist Party volunteers of the '30s and '40s.

Nothing revealed the treachery and untrustworthiness of American communists more than their willingness to turn the A-bomb secret over to the Soviets. Previously, Americans had responded to communists with bewildered shrugs. After the Rosenberg revelations, this was transformed to healthy contempt and fear. The American Communist Party never recovered.

4) Nukes Kept the Cold War from going Hot

There were numerous occasions -- the recurrent Berlin confrontations; the wars in Korea and Vietnam; crises in Yugoslavia, Laos, Cuba, and the Taiwan Straits -- when the Cold War could have bubbled over into open conflict. This would have been a conflict that, given only conventional weapons, might have taken on the character of a Thirty Years' War, with dozens of states destroyed and millions of lives consumed.

Nuclear weapons negated any such outcome. Nukes are not dreadnoughts. If you lose a fleet, you still have your country. When the bombs start falling, you have no guarantee of anything. National leaders considered the odds and decided to wait for another day. That day never came.

5) Atomic Weapons Created Doubt about the Scientific Establishment

This was a subtle but far-reaching effect. Prior to the atomic bomb, scientists were widely viewed as a modern priesthood, dedicated to knowledge and truth, beyond any taint of ambition or corruption. The A-bomb cut them down to size. Enamored of the program when it was merely a technical possibility, many scientists turned against the reality, protesting its use against Japan. These actions puzzled and annoyed a public relieved to see an end to the war. When it developed that no small number of these same humanitarians had been involved in the Soviet espionage program, the figure of scientist as high priest vanished forever, replaced by the image of the erratic malcontent who needed to be watched closely.

This is a good thing. In a democracy, no group or profession should be viewed as clerisy, much less as something along the lines of a priesthood. In the 20th century, scientists were beginning to encroach on the social and political spheres, insisting that their techniques of procedural reductionism were superior to such sloppy practices as democracy (a tendency not yet extinct, as global warming and embryonic stem cells clearly reveal). Blinkered arrogance has brought down many a social class. The atomic bomb went a long way toward saving scientists from themselves.

6) Nuclear Weapons Guarantee the Survival of Israel

Like the United States, Israel is an exceptional nation, the only state founded under the aspect of redemption. The Holocaust rendered the establishment of Israel a necessity. As a small state outnumbered both by national entities and in population, Israel required weaponry both unavailable to its enemies and capable of effectively deterring them. Atomic weapons alone met these requirements. The rebirth of virulent anti-Semitism worldwide over the past decade has underlined the necessity of such weapons. As the homeland of the sole people that the modern world attempted to annihilate, Israel has a right to these weapons that no other state possesses.

7) Nuclear Weapons Reveal Left-Wing Hypocrisy

The left loathes all nuclear weapons -- as long as they belong to the United States.

Throughout the lengthy history of left-wing antinuclear activities, which stretches from the late 1950s to our day, a single target has existed -- the United States. All protests and efforts are aimed at the U.S. and no other country.

The Nuclear Freeze movement of the early 1980s can serve as an example. The USSR had fielded two new nuclear missiles, the SS-19, a weapon useful only as a city-destroyer, and the SS-20, a mobile system targeting Western Europe. The Reagan administration planned to deploy the Pershing II mobile system along with ground-launched cruise missiles to Europe, as well as an advanced new silo-based ICBM, the Peacekeeper (known at the time as the "MX").

As was true of virtually every Reagan initiative, the plan sparked massive protests, demanding the implementation of a "nuclear freeze" -- a formal promise not to construct or emplace any further nuclear systems. This was backed by the standard run of college students; politicians such as Les AuCoin, who repeatedly misrepresented the status of Soviet weapons; and Dr. Carl Sagan, a well-known scientist, who constructed an entire bogus theory, "nuclear winter," to back the campaign. It was understood at the time (and even reported by The New York Times) that the entire movement was financed, coordinated, and overseen by the KGB.

Nuclear freeze required absolutely nothing of the Soviets. The SS-19 and SS-20 systems would remain in operation. Only U.S. weapon systems would be affected, giving the USSR a permanent advantage and possibly ending NATO as a meaningful political and military entity.

Fortunately, Reagan let the air out of the nuclear freeze wagon by introducing the Strategic Defense Initiative, better known as "Star Wars," a national defensive system against nuclear attack. The utterly horrified Soviets immediately shifted their resources to meet this new threat. Deprived of Soviet money and guidance, the freeze movement collapsed, its only accomplishment a vastly increased level of mistrust and contempt for left-wing activities among the general public.

The same attitude survives today. While Barack Obama is eager to eliminate the sole nuclear weapons within his power -- those of the U.S. -- his efforts against the infinitely more dangerous threat of an Iranian nuclear force can be defined as futile to nonexistent at best.

8) Nuclear Weapons Underline the Magnanimity of the United States

The U.S. could have become the New Rome after WWII, an unmatched power ruling the globe through force and terror. We could have answered Stalin's belligerence with flights of bombers headed east, and then demanded that the nations of the world behold the wreckage of a blazing, irradiated Russia while awaiting their orders from Washington.

But it would have been no good, because we'd eventually have suffered the fate of Rome as well. We had better things to do -- setting out on an attempt to build something like a truly decent society, with which we remain involved to this day, despite throwbacks like Obama. (Really, his ideas are so 19th century -- he should wear high collars and a pince-nez.) In ages to come, this will not be forgotten. If the decent society eventually becomes universal, it will look back on the U.S. with admiration. If not, if we see a return to international medievalism, it will be regarded with bewilderment. Either way, the U.S. will be known for all time as the nation which held absolute power and refused to use it. I, for one, am proud of this.

9) Nuclear Weapons Are an Oddly Rational Weapon

The curious thing about nuclear weapons is that while the concept is simplicity itself -- just get enough pure U235 or Pu239 and bang them together -- the details are excruciating and difficult to master. Uranium or Plutonium must be located, mined, and refined. Weapons must be designed, built, and tested -- all of which leave signs that are easily traced by an effective intelligence service. It's next to impossible to sneak one through (though Pakistan's A.Q. Khan, with aid from the Clinton administration, came close).

It's easy to imagine a process or device that could be simply designed, easily constructed, and capable of horrendous damage. In fact, we don't have to imagine it; we can simply point to biological and chemical weapons. But neither possesses the potency of nuclear weapons, which inhabit a pinnacle of their own. So no simple deterrent to nukes exists -- they stand alone. This goes a long way toward keeping the peace.

10) They Are an Incredible Human Achievement -- on More Levels Than One

The ability to create such a thing, to actually tap into and utilize one of the basic forces of the universe -- the binding energy of the nucleus -- is astonishing in and of itself.

But even more breathtaking is the undeniable evidence of our wisdom in not using this power. Throughout the Yalta Period, we were inundated with predictions that universal destruction was inevitable, if not imminent -- that humanity would find its apotheosis scrabbling amidst glowing ruins for the last can of baked beans. Books, articles, television shows, and film after film -- Fail-Safe, Dr. Strangelove, A Boy and his Dog, Threads, The Day After, Testament -- all retailed the same despairing vision. (Well, Kubrick at least made it look like fun.)

It never happened. Looking back, we can see that it was never going to happen. Human beings are simply not as perverse, foolish, and self-destructive as the modernist temperament insists. That humanity could harness such a power and then decide not to utilize it says something very profound, and in no small way impressive, about the human animal. It's a curious truth that despite their contraventions, both religious and secular belief systems are gripped by the myth of man's origin as a killer -- the murder of Abel by Cain on the one hand, and other represented by 2001's Moonwatcher, whose first use of a tool is to turn it into a weapon.

But the years since 1945 have shown us that the killer ape is not the alpha and omega of the human story. We have stepped away from our bloody origins; we are no longer slaves of murderous instinct. We learn from our errors and missteps. So hope does exist both for the project of civilization and the human mission in a cold and lonely universe. Without the burden of atomic weapons, we might not know this. Knowledge leads to greater knowledge, and from this process, we occasionally attain wisdom.

[J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Military Thinker.]

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