Monday, August 10, 2015

"Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Iran, the Bomb and Our Military"

                      Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Iran, the Bomb and Our Military”
August 10, 2015

The War in the Pacific raged for fourteen years. It began when the Imperial Army of the Empire of Japan invaded Manchuria on September 18, 1931 and ended on September 2, 1945 when Japan accepted the Potsdam Conference terms of unconditional surrender. While the end had been in sight for several months, it came into focus on August 6, 1945 when ‘Little Boy,’ an American-produced uranium-based Atomic bomb was detonated over Hiroshima. With no response from Japanese authorities, ‘Fat Boy,’ a plutonium-based Atomic bomb was exploded over Nagasaki a little after 11:00AM, on Thursday August 9. That was enough for the Emperor. By War’s end millions were dead, including 1.6 million Japanese.

In his 1946 book Hiroshima, John Hersey wrote of the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima. His descriptions helped keep the Cold War “cold,” but the damage those bombs caused should be measured in relation to the carnage Japan’s Imperial Army inflicted on Asia, especially China. The 340,000 people who died as a consequence of those two bombs is a lot, but pales when compared to the 4,000,000 Chinese who died during the Japanese occupation and to the more than 400,000 Allied casualties (mostly Americans) in the Pacific and on its islands.

Truman’s decision to drop the bomb is still debated. But, in my opinion he was right. War is not pretty. It carries no romance. Operation Downfall – the proposed invasion of Japan – was scheduled for the fall of 1945. My father, who had turned 35 two days before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, was on a ship returning to the U.S. from Italy. Despite his age and the fact he had four children, he did not have enough points to be discharged. After a one month’s home leave, he was to be ordered to the Pacific to train for the planned invasion of Japan. Instead he was sent to Colorado to be mustered out. Listening to his comrades’ rehash their experiences, my father wrote my mother on October 19: “There would have been very few of us left if it had lasted much longer.” It was a chilling admission, when I read the letter fifty years after it was written. The invasion would have cost, according to estimates at the time, half a million American lives and at least twice as many wounded. Would my father have made it home? There is no way to know, but thank God (and Harry Truman and the Atom bomb) he didn’t have to find out.

This is worth considering when we look at the nuclear deal the Obama Administration negotiated with Iran. The agreement was, to borrow Niall Ferguson’s term, based on conjecture – “buying time would improve the relative strategic position.” But will it? Would not strengthening sanctions have worked? Could conventional weapons destroy Iran’s nuclear program? We will never know. What we do know is that in ten or fifteen years Iran will have nuclear weapons.

The reason we have a military is not to conquer peoples or countries. The reason is to preserve peace, ward off aggressors, and defend allies. It may be ironic, but a strong military is necessary to maintain peace. Fortune has made us – a democracy – the singular power. Our role means we must act as the world’s policeman, and that requires a significant military presence. Without police, anarchy would prevail. We can have allies as partners, but there is no one else who can lead. We certainly have faults, but the world has never known a nation so rich, strong and diverse, yet with such a moral sense. We cannot pretend there is no evil, that there are not those who would do us and others harm. We cannot pretend that if we shut our eyes bad guys will morph into good guys. There will always be evil, and the strong will always be tested. We must be resolute and prepared. If we are, the less damage will be done to ourselves and our friends.

“The deal with Iran,” said President Obama defending the nuclear agreement negotiated by John Kerry, “is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior.” Yet that is exactly what it is; for Mr. Obama also said that his “hope is that building on this deal, we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently…” To agree to the deal just concluded, Mr. Obama must feel that the Iranians will change their behavior. But on what basis? The Mullahs, after thirty-six years in power, have given no hint that their behavior will change. “Death to America” persists as a slogan, just as the annihilation of Israel continues as policy.

The world remains dangerous. The International Institute of Strategic Studies notes that fatalities due to armed conflict have increased four fold between 2010 and 2014. The number of terrorist attacks quadrupled between 2006 and 2013, with 93% of them attributable to Muslim groups. Iran has been the principal sponsor of Islamic terrorism. The deal just concluded frees up between $100 and $150 billion that can be used to continue to foment terrorism. It surely will be.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote a sobering op-ed in last Friday’s Financial Times. He wrote of the marvel that was seventy years without another Hiroshima, and wonders whether the world will be able to go another seventy years without unleashing a nuclear holocaust. During the Cold War fear of MAD (mutually assured destruction) kept the Soviet Union and the United States at bay – neither one willing to risk decimation, and each able to keep respective allies in line. Today, possessors of nuclear weapons are cut from a different cloth – think Pakistan and North Korea. Mr. Haass writes of the deal with Iran, a deal that allows the country to “keep most of the prerequisites of a large nuclear weapons program, and to add to its inventory of centrifuges and supplies of enriched uranium in ten or fifteen years respectively.” Nuclear proliferation in the region seems almost a certainty.

The world did not stand up to Japan in 1931 and it did not stand up to Hitler’s Germany in 1938. Had it, things would have been different. Would they have been better? We can never know, but it’s hard to imagine how they could have been worse.

Today, we have let victory in Iraq deteriorate into chaos. The same is happening in Afghanistan. We did not stand up to Syria. We have not stood up to ISIS. In offering Iran a way off sanctions, is President Obama bringing “peace in our time?” Perhaps for the nonce, but we risk proceeding down the path we trod in the 1930s. Appeasement of dictators does not bring peace and, while it is tempting to retreat within our comfortable borders, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to world peace. We may not always succeed, but we must try. That means maintaining a strong military, not for the purpose of conquest, but to thwart those who would make war. It may seem counter intuitive, but peace is the mission of a democracy’s military.

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