May 11, 2016

Not In Our Name

President Obama will become the first sitting American president to visit Hiroshima, Japan, as he makes a 'symbolic' stop this month at the site where the U.S. first used an atomic bomb at the end of World War II.

According to his "foreign policy guru", Ben Rhodes, Obama "will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future."

However, journalist Max Boot (see below) believes that, while Obama should not apologize for Truman's decision to drop the atom bomb, there are appropriate matters to speak of at Hiroshima, and Obama should use “his deft rhetorical touch to make clear both America’s commitment to the democratic Japan of today and also the commitment of our forefathers to defeating the militaristic Japan of yesteryear.”

Maybe, although we (NSR) believe that asking Mr. Obama to use “his deft rhetorical touch” is not only unnecessary, but a recipe for failure. Not necessary because Japan and the rest of the world have already seen the shallowness of “America’s commitment” (under Obama) to its allies. And a recipe for failure because Mr. Obama has a tendency, when traveling abroad, to apologize for America and resort to moral equivalencies (e.g., Yes, your country may have started a war or committed atrocities, but America has its own list of historical injustices it must apologize for).

So the only thing we would say to Mr. Obama is, IF you intend to apologize at Hiroshima for any of America’s actions in WWII, please make sure to note that you are doing so NOT in the name of the American people.

Commentary Magazine  |  May 10, 2016

Old Friends And Hard Truths

By Max Boot

Hiroshima visit
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center left, puts his arm around Japan's foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, after they and fellow G-7 foreign ministers laid wreaths at the cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima, Japan. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuter)

In preparation for his visit to Hiroshima, President Obama – and of course his amanuensis, Ben Rhodes – would be well-advised to re-read the brilliant essay that the brilliant literary critic Paul Fussell published in The New Republic in 1981. It was called “Thank God for the Atom Bomb.”

Fussell wrote with the mindset not of a distinguished professor of English, which he then was, but of a 21-year-old second lieutenant of infantry who in 1945 had gone through the European campaign and was in a staging area in Germany, preparing to be shipped back to the United States and then to the Philippines, in order to take part in an invasion of the Japanese island of Honshu. Estimates were that hundreds of thousands of Americans — and even more Japanese — would die in the final showdown on the Japanese home islands. This was no exaggeration given that the recently concluded battle on Okinawa had cost the U.S. 12,000 dead and 36,000 wounded while the Japanese had lost more than 100,000 people

Thus, it was hardly surprising what happened among Fussell and the other troops when they heard that an atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima:

When the atom bombs were dropped and news began to circulate that “Operation Olympic” would not, after all, be necessary, when we learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live. We were going to grow to adulthood after all. The killing was all going to be over, and peace was actually going to be the state of things.

That was a perspective almost universally shared among soldiers and civilians in 1945 who, for all its terrible power, saw the atomic bomb as a force for peace. That perspective has been lost over the years, which is why Fussell felt compelled to write his essay. In more recent decades, “revisionist” historians have claimed that it was not really necessary to drop the atomic bombs to end the war — that it was sheer racism on the part of the United States to nuke Japan but not Germany, or that it was motivated by undue fear of the Soviet Union because President Truman did not want the Soviets to enter the war against Japan.

Fussell makes short work of such assertions. In fact even after the dropping of two A-bombs, there were still Japanese army die-hards who tried to stage a coup to prevent Emperor Hirohito from surrendering. Awful as the A-bombs were — and there is no getting around the fact that 130,000 died in Hiroshima and 60,000 in Nagasaki, mostly civilians — the alternative, of a prolonged and bloody invasion, was even worse.

There is another fact that was obvious to the World War II generation, but that conveniently has been forgotten by some Japanese today who visit the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which presents Japan as a victim of American aggression. The fact is that Japan started the war with unprovoked attacks on China, America, and other countries. Moral responsibility for the war lies entirely with Tojo and the other militarists who created the conflict. There was not blame to go around: All the blame for the Pacific War lays in Tokyo.

These are appropriate matters to speak of in Hiroshima — not stupidly, not callously, not insensitively, as a Donald Trump might do, but with nuance and sophistication and integrity. Obama will be making a mistake if, as Ben Rhodes says, “He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II.” He should revisit the decision in order to affirm the rightness of President Truman’s decision — which made it possible not only to save lots of lives on both sides but also to build a new Japan out of the ashes.

By now, the U.S. and Japan are old friends, and we can speak the truth to one another. To remind Japan of its crimes in World War II — and to defend what the United States did to defeat the Japanese Empire — is simply to cast in ever-greater relief how far Japan has come. It is now a bulwark of freedom of Asia — one that we cannot possibly abandon, as Trump proposes. Obama would be well-advised to use his deft rhetorical touch to make clear both America’s commitment to the democratic Japan of today and also the commitment of our forefathers to defeating the militaristic Japan of yesteryear.

Original article here.


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