War, as people who have experienced it, is hell. ?War is cruelty andyou cannot refine it, ?wrote General William T. Sherman of the Union Army upon making his decision burndown Atlanta during the Civil War. One principle reason why war is said to behell is the impact it has on innocent civilians. In addition to ruin the livesof armed combatants, war also consumes the lives of those who are not participatingin the fighting. For example, for many major wars, half of the casualtieshappen to be from civilians.
But is it ever right to targeting citizens isimmoral during war? The humanitarian answer wouldbe no, but there are some arguments leading to conclusion of killing citizens. Wesee this ethical issue specifically during World War II, when the United Statesdecided to drop two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The bombingcaused many deaths but also clearly marked the end of the long war.
But was the use of theatomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, right?Nearing the end of World War II, President Trumanhad to make an ethical decision regarding whether to use his newest atomicbombs. “The general rule of war is that only people fighting you are legitimatetargets of attack, so whoever is not fighting should not be attacked for thisviolates their human rights” (Downes). According to the Principles of the JustWar, “it us unjust to fire upon non-combatants and you shouldavoid them at all costs” (Principles of the Just War). Along with Truman, his militaryleaders such as Generals George Marshall and Henry L. Stimson were trusted byAmerican people to end the war as quickly as possible before more lives arelost. As he witnessed the dropping of the nuclear bomb, J.
Robert Oppenheimercould only think about a Hindu scripture when he said in his speech, “Now Ihave become death, the destroyer of worlds”. For the past three centuries, war has taken aturn and has been involving citizens especially in the past century. During World War I, the British’s blockade onCentral Powers caused much starvation and disease which eventually led to thedeath of one million of innocent civilians. In World War II, Germany killedover 6 million Jews and millions of others. But nothing can compare to themassive death toll that was caused by the two atomic bombs. On August 6, 1945 and August 9,1945, the first and second bomb was dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshimaand Nagasaki. A day after, the Japanese had surrendered. We see the extremeeffects of the bombs and the killing of innocent lives that it disgusts thescientists who created the bomb.
Albert Einstein stated in 1996, “I madeone great mistake in my life – when I signed the letter to President Rooseveltrecommending that atom bombs be made, but there was some justification – thedanger that the Germans would make them”. After World War II, actions were taken at the Geneva Conventions that developed internationaltreaties that contains the most important rules that limit the barbarity ofwar. The governments only choose to target civilianpopulations for two main reasons: in desperation to end the chance of losingmore military casualties, or a desire to seize an enemy territory. Franklin D. Rooseveltwas the president for majority of the war before his passing and knew the powerof the atomic bomb behind Albert Einstein’s letter to him, “A single bomb ofthis type, might as well destroy a whole port together with some of thesurrounding territories.” With Germany now out of the war and everyone seekingthe end of the war, Truman’s decision to use the bomb on Japan was moreconsidered.
It may have ended the war faster, but if he went with other optionsit may have saved many civilian lives. President Truman’s options all had therisk of losing more American lives. The options involved either a full invasionof the Japanese mainland or the full blockade of the island that would forcethe unconditional surrender of Japan. Hisdecision was mainly based on the estimate of half a million Allied casualtieslikely to be caused by invading the home islands of Japan. There was also thelikely death rate from starvation for Allied prisoners of war and civilians asthe war dragged on well into 1946. He was doing what was best for Americanlives. Citizens have ethical responsibilitybecause they can vote for whoever they want to represent them. Moral actorssuch as President Truman and his generals were elected to their position to thejob of ending the war quickly and to establish peace.
When choosing hisdecision, he knew he had to deal with the consequences of people who wereagainst his decision. He was under pressurefrom the government and the people of America, he feared that if he didn’t dropthe bombs, he would jeopardise him winning the election so he had to justifyspending so much on the atomic project and giving America its revenge for PearlHarbor. Also, there was a political motive in dropping the bombs because of thepower of the Russians, Truman wanted to prevent any spreading of communism fromStalin and stop him from expanding into Asia.
However, the main reason was tosave the lives of Americans. The world hadconcluded that Truman did the right things. In my opinion, he did do the rightthing because you would’ve never knew how the future would have been if theydid not drop it. Thelife lost on those two days is unbelievable, but if we had invaded instead, theconsequences would have been devastating. Many Japanese and American lives weresaved. In essence, the atomic bombs used in World War II against Japan did notonly destroy lives, but it saved them.
The use of nuclear weapons is a horriblecrime against humanity.