Nuclear Weapons: The United States Greatest Moral Issue

The invention and introduction of nuclear weapons into our society was an astronomical find that shaped the way nation states around the world perceived war. Nuclear weapons use the power of the atom to create tremendous explosive force. They also produce radiation, which can cause genetic mutations and be lethal for thousands of years. These weapons of mass destruction allowed states to possess weapons capable of destroying cities along with masses of civilians. The nuclear weapon gave nations to power to eliminate foreign foes and extend fear in the psyche of nations with less military might and weapons of mass destruction. This imminent threat started with the one the most important figures of the nuclear age, the Danish theoretical physicist Niels Bohr. Bohr set the nuclear path by helping to harness atomic power. However the perils presented by the atomic energy deeply troubled him. Bohr could envision the disastrous effect this bomb would have on all facets of life throughout the world and history. “He carried on a personal campaign during the war to alert the leaders of the United States and Great Britain to these perils, and to persuade them to put the new force under national supervision” . Bohr understood if these weapons were put to use by a nation that it would be revolutionary development in which the effect could not be reversed. Nation-states like the United States and Soviet Union did not share his belief and decided to advance their military armaments with the atomic bomb. After the US bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the world had turned in a nuclear arms race as politics and national ideologies sparked the arms race. Many questions arose from the initial bombing of the Japan cities Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The greatest issue facing nuclear weapons was the morality of the bombing by the United States on Japan to end WWII. This paper will explore major issues the United States that affected my position in determining whether it was proper for the United States to use nuclear weapons to end the WWII.

The Dilemma
A great nation such as the United States was faced with a major issue during WWII. The United States, fresh from victory in Europe, was faced with a weakening Japanese military, whose fight until death attitude, prolonged to war. In addition, hatred of Japanese was very high in the United States, particularly because of treatment of Allied prisoners of war and the unexpected Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Brower wrote, “The refusal of Japanese soldiers to stop fighting in the face of hopeless odds further strengthened the decision to eliminate the enemy . The German defeat in May and successful testing of the bomb in July 1945 presented the U.S leaders with a situation.

“A weapon of unprecedented power was available. But its use was no longer to deter the enemy believed to be developing its own nuclear weapons but to destroy an opponent defenseless against air attack and fighting a land war to the death. The U.S. government chose with little hesitation to drop the bomb on Japanese cities…One August 6 one bomb obliterated the city of Hiroshima, killing over 100,000 people; a second destroyed much of Nagasaki on August 9. The world had entered the age of the nuclear war”.

The absolute epitome of war destruction had happen. The question of whether it was proper or moral to execute such as mass killing now has to be addressed by all Americans including myself.

Personal Position
My personal position on the bombing is that it was not proper for the United States to end World War II with a nuclear weapon. Many issues attribute to my position of the bomb First of all, the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was unnecessary in war were Japan was susceptible to countless air attacks and a strong American land presence.

As Thomas Schelling has noted, “With a combination of bombing and blockade, eventually invasion, an if necessary the deliberate spread of disease, the United States could probably have exterminated the population of Japanese islands without nuclear weapon…Against defenseless people there is not much that nuclear weapons can do that cannot be done with an ice pick”.

The bombing could have been avoided if America had been patient enough to continue the air bombing and ground warfare. The decision to save the lives of several hundred American soldiers was far more important than to avoid killing 240, 000 innocent people. Winston Churchill wrote, “The fate of Japan was settled by the atomic bomb”. The bombings had immediately triggered many issues that were to be debated.

These weapons of mass destruction destroyed numerous families and broke off the link between the past and the present. Children who died and received radiation illness may have grown up to become prominent figures in society. The bombings destroyed any links those innocent victims may have had in the future. The bomb, known as ‘Little Boy’, exploded 2,000 feet above Hiroshima destroying everything within its radius.

“A blinding heat flash was followed by the blast, radiating out with devastating effect to a radius of 4,000 yards and flattening 47 square miles of the city” (Mina).

Grotesque pictures showed thousands suffering from appalling injuries and radiation sickness that ruined their lives forever. It is unimaginable to think a nation has the power to provoke such a disaster on another state. A nation has to consider the morality of these killings.

The dropping of bomb proved to have an everlasting effect on the way the American government is viewed. U.S leaders should have considered the chain created once the bomb was dropped. First major powers of the world felt the need to enhance their nuclear technology and arms. The Cold War was accelerated by the arms race as tensions rose between the Soviets and US. Since 1945 the most formidable weapons have been nuclear. Mandelbaum wrote, “States worry about the devastation and sophisticated armaments…but they also worry about what their neighbors will do if they themselves do not have these weapons”. “Even the United States, the world first nuclear proliferator, built the bomb because it feared that Hitler would get one first” (Schell). The United States is directly and indirectly responsible for the 24, 000 nuclear weapons on earth today. Countries such as Pakistan, India, Israel, and recently North Korea and Iran are interesting in acquiring or extending their nuclear arsenal. Johnathan Schell wrote, “the Bush Administration has given up on its goal of preventing North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons and instead will concentrate on stopping the export of weapons”. This country will have to continue to be involved in control of nuclear weapons around the world, as national security remains an issue in the world.

The use of nuclear weapons also can be viewed as a form of terrorism. Terrorists use weapons to kill innocent people. Nations with nuclear weapons point their targets at major cities or populations with heavy civilian occupancy. The nations based their security on threatening to kill millions of innocent people. There is no justification for the bombing of those two cities. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people died. Therefore an act of terrorism was committed. Whether a nation or an individual, one has to question his or her morality when targeting and killing innocent people.

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan has left a lasting impact in the lives of many Americans, Japanese, and millions of people throughout the world. The debate on whether it was proper to drop the atomic bomb to end WWII will continue to be a debated issue for decades and centuries. I believe there is no justification for taking the lives of innocent victims by dropping the 2 bombs. The United States should have considered many things when faced with the dilemma of ending the war with the atomic bomb. First the war was already in favor of Americans. Next, issues such as thousands of innocent killings, destruction of life and property, example that would be set by instituting the bomb, and also how the bomb is linked to terrorism. All of these issues question the morality of the United States. It takes a great nation to spread diplomacy around the world, but it takes a bad nation to drop a weapon of mass destruction on innocent victims and live with that decision.

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