Over the years, there has been increased knowledge on how science and technology can be used to commit mass murder. A study by Spier (2002) reveals that some of this knowledge can result to destructive forces that are capable of threatening the whole biosphere. Nuclear weapons together with other elements for use in chemical and germ fighting are now easily accessible in nearly all developed countries. Some of the ethical questions that have resulted from this situation are: Is it right to use such weapons? If it is right then under which situations can they be used?
In 1945, the United States under the leadership of President Harry S. Truman plunged an atomic bomb in the city of Hiroshima, Japan. After three days, another bomb was plunged in the city of Nagasaki. Very many injuries were incurred as well as loss of many lives and properties.
Alperovitz (1996) explains that Truman justified his decision by saying that it was aimed at protecting the lives of thousands of Americans by quickly ending the war. However, Dower (1987) explains that Truman’s decision came as a result of Japanese activities in China, the Wanton slaughter of U.S. captives by Japanese military in the disreputable 1942 Battan Death March, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and the brutal Japanese conflict on Iwo, Jima and Okinawa.
Ramsey (1961) also reveals that at the time of the attack, there was the racially prejudiced wartime propaganda, distributed in editorial columns, shows, political comic strips and in songs that depicted all Japanese as pests, mice and primates. This meant that the U.S. viewed Japanese citizens as subhuman beings to whom the common values of ethical manners did not apply. In addition, fresh equipment which included: poison gas, aerial bombing, rockets and tanks had immensely increased warfare potential.
An Outline of the Outcome
The conformist bombing led to thousand deaths and loss of properties in the cities of Berlin, Dresden and Tokyo. It is estimated that each of these cities lost more than 100, 000 of their residents whereas London lost over 30, 000 civilians in air attacks. Spier (2002) reveals that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the first case whereby nuclear weapons caused such a great loss. Apart from deaths and loss of property, several people were injured and others left homeless. The impacts of these bombs are still felt today.
An Evaluation of the Outcome
The main underlying principle behind the bombing was that it would save American lives by finishing the war hastily. Some individuals think that, the moment a war has been affirmed, using any way to win the war is morally acceptable. From my point of view, it should not be so. I think that people are different from other creatures in that they can identify with the outcomes of their activities and conclude in advance if an act is ethically acceptable. The procedure of making a moral decision must never be discarded if we, human beings, have to go on to view ourselves as distinct from other animals.
On the same note, Walzer (1992) argues that for values to have credibility, they must be based on moral foundations or in other words, the law. The acknowledgment of the inherent sacredness of life and the responsibility of nations and persons to guard life is a basic attribute of all human cultured values. Such enlightened values are articulated in humanitarian law and practice which has prehistoric roots dated back in thousands of years. Thus, using a nuclear weapon was a violation of moral foundations.
Tucker (1960) also argues that that the being of nuclear armaments as a set of weaponry threatens civilization. He goes on to explain that availability of such weapons can not be consistent with humanity as they endanger the very survival of humanity. The danger of universal extinction engendered by the survival of such armaments and the terror that this has caused amongst the whole post-war cohort is itself a vice, just like the nuclear war itself. This is because this remains at the vanguard of our daily thinking and in our minds. Tucker (1960) explains that the existence of nuclear weapons inundate our feelings regarding the future, regarding our children and regarding human life. These weapons also inundate the feelings of our offspring themselves, who are sincerely concerned about their future in a globe where nuclear weapons exist because they are capable of destroying the whole universe.
Ramsey (1961) reveals that other religious and ethical customs articulate similar ethics, affirming that even for a country waging a lawful war, the ethical law remains in power. Boasting justice on one face does not indicate that triumph by any way possible is ethically justifiable.
Description of a Better Outcome
Tucker (1961) explains that many people have criticized the decency of releasing two atomic bombs ahead of all likelihood of ending the warfare by negotiation had been investigated. In real sense, there is no person who confidently knows whether Japan’s surrender would have been attained in through negotiations. However, this was never given a try. The fact that Japan gave in five days following the Nagasaki bombing, does not mean that other means could not have ended the war. The bombing was just one of the brutal ways of ending it.
The reason as to why the U.S decided to bomb Japan near the end of the Second World War still remains unclear. Many scholars have tried to explain this decision but none of them is wholly convincing. Some ethicists argue that Truman’s plan to drop the bomb was primarily motivated by social, political and military factors. Truman’s defenders on the other hand argue that the bombing was done so as to protect the lives of the Americans.
The outcomes of the bombing were so severe that the impact is still felt today. Thousands of people lost their lives and property, others left homeless while others sustained injuries.
Dower (1987) reveals that over 70,000 Japanese troops and 150,000 Okinawa residents lost their lives in a month’s time. However, this does not mean that the victim estimations were slight. A heated discussion can be made that saving American lives justified the plunging of the bomb, even if it killed several Japanese. Saying that Truman hurried so as to avoid a political disgrace would be unreal. However, considering the memoranda that were swap over among the ranking officials, this force can not be dismissed.
If the bomb was used with the intent of gaining leverage in future negotiations with Soviets, it had quite the opposite effect. Immediately after the Hiroshima incident, Stalin ordered Soviet nuclear scientists to catch up technology with their rival, setting off the race for world dominance. With the Soviet’s successfully testing its first atomic bomb in September 1949, the transition to the atomic age had been made.
A clear analysis on the events of the bombing indicates that the bomb was not an utter need in winning the war. However, the prevailing proposition in both the Truman and Roosevelt government was that the bomb would be used to fight the enemy. However, considering the bomb’s assumed legality as a war armament, all other deliberation for its usage became less important. The bomb played a dual function in swiftly ending the war and founding U.S supremacy universally.
In conclusion, the bombing at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by President Harry Truman in 1945 raised a lot of controversies. Truman said that his decision was aimed at saving the lives of the Americans by finishing the war hastily. However, other people attribute different reasons to the bombing. The bomb led to thousand deaths and loss of properties in the cities of Berlin, Dresden and Tokyo. Since then, many ethicists have criticized the decency of releasing two atomic bombs ahead of all likelihood of ending the warfare by negotiation had been investigated. A clear analysis on the events of the bombing indicates that the bomb was not an utter need in winning the war. However, the prevailing proposition in both the Truman and Roosevelt government was that the bomb would be used to fight the enemy.
Alperovitz, G. (1996) The decision to use the atomic bomb. New York, Vintage.
Dower, W. (1987) War without mercy: race and power in the pacific war. New York, Pantheon Books.
Ramsey, P. (1961) War and the Christian conscience: shall modern war be conducted? Durham, Duke University Press.
Spier, R. (2002) Science and technology ethics. New York, Oxford University Press.
Tucker, R. (1960) The Just war: a study in contemporary American doctrine. Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press.
Walzer, M. (1992) Just and unjust wars: a moral argument with historical illustrations. New York, Basic Books.