Reflections on the 69th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
August 9, 2014
This past August 6th marked the 69th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Today is the 69th anniversary of the A-bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki. Japan’s emperor Hirohito (1901-1989) would finally surrender unconditionally on August 15th. To this day, debate rages on over the morality of using the bomb on these two Japanese cities during World War II.
One view argues that by dropping these powerful bombs, we ended the war much sooner than would have been the case, thus saving millions of lives, including innocent Japanese lives; Japan would never have surrendered without this show of force (see e.g., Michael Burleigh, Moral Combat; Wilson D. Miscamble C.S.C., The Most Controversial Decision). The other view holds that by dropping the bombs, we not only committed a war crime by directly killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people, but we set a terrible precedent for the use of weapons of mass destruction in conventional war and/or in terrorism (see e.g., Elizabeth Anscombe, “Mr. Truman’s Degree,”; John Finnis, Joseph Boyle, & Germain Grisez, Nuclear Deterrence, Morality and Realism; cf. Vatican Council II, Gaudium et spes, no. 80). This view also maintains that it is always immoral to even directly target innocent people – whether with nuclear or conventional weapons. Thus, accordingly, our present nuclear deterrence policy is morally bad in this view.
While the former view is based on consequentialist calculations, the latter position rests on the idea that some actions are intrinsically evil and prohibited by moral absolutes.