Sunday, July 31, 2005

Hiroshima: The Critics Are Wrong

Yesterday, I highlighted a piece by Max Hastings examining the pros and cons of the decision to drop the atomic bomb. Today (with the hat tip to RealClearPolitics) I want to bring a long, well-reasoned piece by Richard Frank, writing in the Weekly Standard, to your attention. Using communications intercepts to examine the situation from the viewpoint of what we can surmise of the prevailing knowledge at the time, Frank argues that the three main premises that the critics of Truman rest their case on are all flawed:
The critics share three fundamental premises. The first is that Japan's situation in 1945 was catastrophically hopeless. The second is that Japan's leaders recognized that fact and were seeking to surrender in the summer of 1945. The third is that thanks to decoded Japanese diplomatic messages, American leaders knew that Japan was about to surrender when they unleashed needless nuclear devastation...

...It is clear that all three of the critics' central premises are wrong. The Japanese did not see their situation as catastrophically hopeless. They were not seeking to surrender, but pursuing a negotiated end to the war that preserved the old order in Japan, not just a figurehead emperor. Finally, thanks to radio intelligence, American leaders, far from knowing that peace was at hand, understood--as one analytical piece in the "Magic" Far East Summary stated in July 1945, after a review of both the military and diplomatic intercepts--that "until the Japanese leaders realize that an invasion can not be repelled, there is little likelihood that they will accept any peace terms satisfactory to the Allies." This cannot be improved upon as a succinct and accurate summary of the military and diplomatic realities of the summer of 1945.
No doubt we'll be hearing much more on this issue as this 60th anniversary week progresses...

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