Monday, August 06, 2012

On this Day in 1945

Today is the day that the Mars rover Curiosity landed. A remarkable American technological achievement. There have been many other technological achievements in the past century and it's wise to remember them

[reposted from August 6, 2009 (slightly modified)]

At 8:15 AM on August 6, 1945 an atomic bomb was detonated over Hiroshima, Japan. Approximately 78,000 civilians were killed on that day. Six months later the death toll had risen to about 140,000 people.

There are many arguments in favor of dropping the bomb, just as there are many arguments against it. What's clear is that in the context of 2012 we are not in a good position to judge the actions of countries that had been at war for many years.

The most important lesson of Hiroshima is that war is hell and many innocent people die. It's all very well to enter into a war with the best of intentions—as the Japanese did on December 7, 1941—but it's foolish to pretend that when you start a war there won't be any suffering. When you do that, you can really say that the victims of Hiroshima will have died in vain.

The killing and maiming of civilians is an inevitable outcome of war, no matter how hard you might try to restrict your targets to military objectives. Before going to war you need to take the consequences into account and decide whether the cost is worth it.

One of the many mistakes in Iraq was the naive assumption that it would be a clean war with few casualties and no long-term consequences for the Iraqi people. Yet today, the numbers of innocent lives lost in Iraq is comparable to the numbers lost in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And what is the benefit for Iraq that outweighs the cost in human lives? Is it "freedom" and "democracy"?

Hiroshima was not a glorious victory. It was ugly, heartbreaking, and avoidable. War is not an end in itself, it is the failure of peace. War is not an instrument of your foreign policy—it is an admission that you don't have a foreign policy.


[The top photograph shows the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945 (Photo from Encyclopedia Britanica: Hiroshima: mushroom cloud over Hiroshima, 1945. [Photograph]. Retrieved August 7, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

The bottom image is taken from a Japanese postcard (Horoshima and Nagassaki 1945). It shows victims of the attack on Hiroshima.]

70 comments :

  1. It's all very well to enter into a war with the best of intentions—as the Japanese did on December 7, 1941

    What were those "best intentions". As best I can tell, the preemptive strike at Pearl Harbor, which by the way Yamamoto considered a failure because it failed to eliminate the three US aircraft carriers stationed in the Pacific, was for the purpose of preventing any American interference in the ongoing Japanese aggression in China. It should also be noted that, on the same day, the Japanese attacked the Philippines. What were their "best intentions" there?

    My view of the use of the nuclear bombs is that Japan sowed the wind at Pearl Harbor and reaped the whirlwind at Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

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    1. So, when America and her allies attacked Iraq it would have been perfectly reasonable for Saddam to have nuked Atlanta and Los Angeles if he had the capability?

      I don't think so.

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    2. SLC, the japanese got a good look at what colonial powers did to their colonies, and they resolved not to be colonized. That was perfectly reasonable of them. They found that to keep from being colonized they needed colonies of their own, and they went out and got them. That was reasonable if less admirable. The Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere might possibly have done some good for the japanese colonies, maybe more than other colonial systems, but they never got prosperous enough to see -- they had to put most of their resources into their military so they could fight off other colonial powers.

      China needed the iron of manchuria and the oil of indonesia. So they took it. They needed cambodian rice and siamese tin, and took that too. It might possibly have been practical for the USA to assist them, but the cultures didn't mesh and our european colonial allies were against them. We stopped selling them oil and iron, and they would inevitably collapse without that. And we threatened them. Our military was not very strong at the time, but we could ramp up quickly. Rather than accept a role as our colony, they took our colony, the philippines. Attacking Hawaii was a bold additional stroke, their hope was that we would be intimidated and would back off. It was their only hope. It failed, but for several years we put most of our efforts into europe and so japan could hold on for awhile.

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    3. When the United States attacked Iraq it would have been reasonable from Saddam's perspective to demonstrate his nuclear capability should he have had one rather than submit to an invasion. Had he nuked some US city, US citizens would have been howling for Iraq's destruction. However, if he chose to destroy something like a naval base in the gulf it may have given the US pause and prevented it from pursuing further military action. The sequence of events here is critical because if Saddam had done this after an invasion the claim of self defense would appear more credible. Would this have been the better outcome for Iraqis? Or Americans? I don't know. This is why history is so difficult to analyze, there's no chance to replay the tape and observe different outcomes.

      I agree completely though that those who decide to go to war far too often underestimate the human toll. It's important we remember events like Hiroshima and discuss them.

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    4. @J Thomas-

      I don't know what you're talking about. Your argument is batty.

      You ignore the Japanese seizure of Manchuria by faking bomb attacks on Japanese railroads, you ignore all the murder and rape committed by the Japanese during the invasion of China. You ignore the testing of chemical weapons on civilians in Manchuria.

      They found that to keep from being colonized they needed colonies of their own

      That's bull; they found no such thing. The Siamese did not get colonized by the West, and did not need to rape China to prevent that from happening.

      The Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere might possibly have done some good for the japanese colonies

      Some good? You mean like massacring all the men in Nanjing and then raping all the women-- was that some good?

      It might possibly have been practical for the USA to assist them

      Assist them in what-- inserting bayonets into the vaginas of the women of Nanking after they were raped by Japanese?

      And we threatened them.

      Yes, we threatened them that they better stop raping China. It's a damn good thing we threatened them.

      Rather than accept a role as our colony, they took our colony, the philippines

      That is bizarre logic. The US had neither the will nor the desire to colonize Japan. Even after we won the war, we did not colonize Japan. Colonization and occupation are not the same.

      I am not defending the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, the real topic of this thread-- I consider those bombings to be war crimes. However, the fact that H and N were war crimes does not mean there is any support for this bizarre rewriting of Japanese, Asian, and US history.

      What do you think Chinese people would say about your re-write of Japanese history? Would you like me to ask some what they think?

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    5. Diogenes is correct. From the perspective of any of the citizens of the countries and territories subject to Japan's barbaric occupation (which, taking into account the Rape of Nanjing and the Unit 731 human experimentation has to count as one of the sickest reigns of terror in human history), the excuses J Thomas makes for Japan are nothing short of outrageous. And to mistakenly write 'China' in place of Japan at the beginning of the second paragraph only adds insult to injury.

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    6. @Diogenes, There is no hope of communication about this, but I will make a good-faith effort at it. I say the Japanese wanted to avod being dominated by colonialists, and the way they found to do that was to become what they feared. I will not try to defend their war crimes except to point out they thought it was necessary. Precisely as Robert Byers below argues that the USA had every right to nuke Japanese women and children -- by supporting the evil side they became fair game, But no japanese had the right to shoot back at any US soldier -- since our boys were right, they were innocent and it would be evil to try to stop them. Same thinking exactly. Once you decide that you are right, then anything you have to do to avoid defeat will also seem right. You point to the rape of Nanking partly because the USA has never done such things as official policy (a few minor exceptions like Operation Phoenix tend to get hidden). Some other nations have done mass rape as policy. If the USA ever does that then it's predictable that people like Byers will decide that it's OK when we do it.

      I'll repeat my answer to your original question. The USA threatened Japan and insisted that they dismantle their empire. They hoped that after a sharp attack we would back down. It was their only hope; their alternative was to lose everything they had fought for. It didn't work. But they didn't know ahead of time that it couldn't work. Their attack on us was reasonable, given their circumstances.

      Their atrocities cannot be defended, but they can be explained. They could not accept defeat, and they did whatever they thought was necessary. The USA justifies our own atrocities the same way. Israel justifies their atrocities likewise. If the Palestinians would just go to Jordan or wherever they want in the vast arab world and renounce all ties to that little postage-stamp of a country, Israelis would not be forced to do what they do. But given that Palestinians hate them, Israelis feel they *have no choice* but to do whatever it takes to keep Palestinians from harming Israeli interests.

      It isn't just Nazis and imperial Japanese. Everybody who fights a war that they might lose does it. The USA does it when we are not threatened. In Fallujah somebody stole an ambulance and used it to attack a US position, so US Marines shot up every ambulance they saw. The "enemy" was in no way organized, being every military-age male that we refused to allow to leave, but they didn't consistently follow any rules of war so we didn't either. We used phosphorus in lethal concentrations because -- well, I don't know -- we thought we had to? We would take unnecessary casualties otherwise?

      You can take a moral stand when it's safe. Particularly about dead enemies. When it's your own nation, what will you do? Did you try taking a nice balanced moral view in the USA on 9/12? In a real war, if you try that you need the authorities to lock you up for your own protection. People will insist that our side is 100% right and whatever we do is justified because we wouldn't do it if we didn't need to. And they won't be polite and civilized when they insist it, either. Of course, Robert Byers says if you don't stand up to your government and say no to the war then you deserve to be nuked.

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    7. Re J Thomas

      The USA justifies our own atrocities the same way. Israel justifies their atrocities likewise. If the Palestinians would just go to Jordan or wherever they want in the vast arab world and renounce all ties to that little postage-stamp of a country, Israelis would not be forced to do what they do. But given that Palestinians hate them, Israelis feel they *have no choice* but to do whatever it takes to keep Palestinians from harming Israeli interests.

      I suppose it is inevitable that the Israel bashers will show up eventually when the subject turns to Hiroshima and Nagasaki but Mr. Thomas outdoes himself. According to Mr. Thomas, the Israelis are a bunch a thugs while the other side is a bunch of pristinely innocent victims. I guess that, to the Thomass of the world, firing Qassems into Sderot and sending homicide bombers to blow up pizza parlors is A OK.

      I think the best riposte for that type of mentality is seen from the following incident. There was, a few weeks ago, a hearing before the Israeli Supreme Court on an action brought by Knesset member Haneen Zoabi, claiming that the Knesset had illegally deprived her of certain privileges available to members. During the arguments, as reported on the Ynet newspaper web site, Ms. Zoabi claimed that she was being oppressed by the government. One of the talkbacks on the article came from someone in Syria, suggesting that Ms. Zoabi consider relocating to Syria where she would discover what oppression really is.

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    8. SLC, I have every reason to think that communication is impossible on this topic, but I will try once more.

      No, when I say that the Israelis as a government or a nation feel that the atrocities they commit are *necessary* and therefore justified, I am not saying that the Palestinians who act as individuals or groups to commit atrocities are justified.

      Look, it's the usual thing for war criminals to say that they are innocent because the "other side" did war crimes first. That's just standard practice.

      If you argue that your side's war crimes are not important because somebody else /did them worse/just as bad/did it first/ then yes, you are an apologist for atrocities -- but you are also pretty much average. Everybody does it. There's only one kind of bozo on this bus.

      If you want to say that Israeli atrocities are just fine because Israel is special and would never do such things and only does them because they have to, and anybody who says otherwise is a bigoted antisemite, that is not at all special. That's par for the course.

      And your talkback friend was right. If somebody thinks they have an alternative to the madness, it only really counts if it can work in Syria.

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    9. Re J Thomas

      It's too bad in some ways that the Government of Israel doesn't behave like the Assads, pere and fils, do in Syria. Then Mr. Thomas would really have something to whine about.

      Let's see, Assad pere murdered some 20,00 people in the City of Hama in 1982. Thus far, Assad fils has murdered an estimated 18,000 people throughout Syria since the rebellion began. When it comes to atrocities, the Israelis play in the minor leagues, class A to be exact. The Assads are major league players.

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    10. SLC, I don't have much of a grudge against Israel. It seems to me that they've dug themselves into a hole they can't dig out of, and they're digging deeper. But lots of people do that. They aren't so much worse than average.

      I follow this up because it's another pretty typical example of how it goes. We like to think that we are the good guys, and our friends are the good guys, and the people we think of as enemies are the bad guys. But when it comes down to details,we wind up arguing that our friends are OK because they are not as bad as the worst war criminals around. And we're not that bad ourselves. When our enemies do evil things, they do them because they're evil. When we do evil things we do them because we have no choice. If we didn't do evil things it would mean that evil wins. We have to be evil because it's the only way to stop evil, and that means we're really still the good guys.

      So, they're stuck in a bad situation where they see no choice but do terrible things. They get used to doing terrible things and even rationalize that it isn't so horrible after all. And the facade necessarily slips. Because you have a fundamental honesty you must go from "Israel is the good guys" to "Not the very worst".

      This is normal. When we used to talk about how the Nazis were unimaginably evil, we were wrong. They got a bit extreme because they were trying to fight nations that outnumbered them 20 to 1, with inadequate resources and a public that was not united, and the main thing they had going for them was advanced science and technology. They did things that were a bit worse than usual because they were more desperate than usual. It was a quantitative difference.

      Israel has not gotten that bad because they are not that desperate yet. Similarly, the USA has not gotten so bad because we are not so desperate.

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    11. This is normal. When we used to talk about how the Nazis were unimaginably evil, we were wrong. They got a bit extreme because they were trying to fight nations that outnumbered them 20 to 1, with inadequate resources and a public that was not united, and the main thing they had going for them was advanced science and technology. They did things that were a bit worse than usual because they were more desperate than usual. It was a quantitative difference.

      It's kind of hard to believe that a grown man like Mr. Thomas could write such piffle and demonstrate such stupidity. The fact is that Frankenberger and his Nazi regime were the worst aggressors and among the greatest mass murderers in the history of the world. A bit extreme? Tell that to the 6 million Jews that were murdered in concentration camps. Tell that to the additional millions of Gypsies who were murdered in concentration camps. This is not to mention the unprovoked aggression against Czechoslovakia and Poland. What was the German slogan, lebensraum! Germans were the master race, according to Frankenberger, and were thus justified in invading their neighbors and enslaving their populations.

      As for the desperate situation that Germany found itself in in 1944, Frankenberger's military incompetence was entire responsible for it. The fact is that Germany could have eliminated Great Britain in 1940 as an opponent and could have defeated the former Soviet Union in 1941, before the entry of the US into the war.

      By the way, we just got a demonstration of why the Government of Israel is less then generous toward its foes.

      http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/08/06/gunmen_attack_egyptian_security_outpost_and_storm_israeli_border

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    12. In reply to SLC, Larry said, “So, when America and her allies attacked Iraq it would have been perfectly reasonable for Saddam to have nuked Atlanta and Los Angeles if he had the capability? I don't think so.” – Larry, I think you are simply pontificating, which is your right as the blogmaster. And I think your pontificating reveals an innate sense (as you experience it) of right or wrong, good and evil. I also think that atheism and natural selection provide you with totally inadequate ways to explain right or wrong, good and evil, and therefore ways to process Hiroshima, Iraq, the killings in Aurora, etc. etc. If human life really has no special meaning or purpose, why do you hold forth, concerning Hiroshima?

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    13. Denny, I do not have an "innate" sense of right and wrong.

      I have a "learned" sense of right and wrong that comes from my parents and the society I grew up in. It's exactly the same source of your sense of right and wrong. The difference is that you have deluded yourself into thinking that some god(s) makes you realize that abortion is evil and opposing evolution is good.

      People have to cooperate in order to live in societies and that's why societies make up rules and guidelines. We all like to think that our rules are rational and that happens to be true for most of them. It's quite rational to have a rule against murdering your fellow citizens, for example.

      Some societies have rules that make no sense at all. Most of those societies are religious. Take the ten commandments, for example. The only ones that are universal are #5 and #6 and even those have exceptions. Commandments #1, #2, and #3 make no sense at all to non-Christians and they aren't even obeyed by most Christians.

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    14. The fact is that Frankenberger and his Nazi regime were the worst aggressors and among the greatest mass murderers in the history of the world. .... What was the German slogan, lebensraum! Germans were the master race, according to Frankenberger, and were thus justified in invading their neighbors and enslaving their populations. ....

      By the way, we just got a demonstration of why the Government of Israel is less then generous toward its foes.

      I have to thank you for being such a perfect example of the problem.

      I think you honestly do not realize that you are evil. It's a creeping, crawling, horrible evil that slithers right into your own brain and you don't notice. And that's how it works.

      It isn't that you are some awful inhuman monster who's so very different from the rest of us. It could happen to anybody. How can we learn to guard against this?

      Yes, the nazis said they needed room. They thought they needed defensible borders. They wanted to keep land that was historically german. They felt that czechs and poles who had taken that land were abusive to germans living there.

      And the Israeli arguments to keep the West Bank? Fundamentally different? Nu? And you present this stuff with a straight face, like you just don't notice.

      It's the traditional argument for evil.

      1. It isn't the worst evil in the world.
      2. And other people were evil to us first.
      3. They hate us so we would be stupid to do anything good for them. ("The floggings will continue until morale improves.")
      4. We have to. We have no choice.
      5. Therefore it isn't our fault. We are innocent of evil ourselves. We are the good guys.

      Robert Byers also presents it clearly, though more in the abstract. He says if the other side is evil, and you are trying to stop them, then that means you are not evil. If they are evil then you can do whatever you want to them and be innocent yourself. It's a free pass for evil, provided you do it to evil people. (He hasn't discussed the question of collateral damage yet.)

      And somehow, despite it all, I believe you do not notice how blatantly evil you present yourself. You can't even see it.

      And so you keep digging yourself deeper.

      You probably believe that you are fundamentally different from the Germans who supported the Nazi regime, who believed they must do whatever was necessary to preserve the german people. They of course didn't know about the death camps. They thought they were regular concentration camps, like the ones the British had in south africa decades before, where 20% of Boer women and children died along with a large number of natives which nobody bothered to count.The Soviet concentration camps were larger, since the USSR was so much larger. We of course didn't care about that at the time, because the Russians were on our side and therefore honorary good guys -- at least until the Germans were defeated.

      It's completely normal for modern humans to wallow in a deep pit of hypocrisy and lies, about their friends and enemies. Zionists are not special when they do it. And it's easier for Americans to see that about our Israeli friends than to notice it about ourselves.

      To have any hope of doing anything useful about this, we must learn how to handle it in ourselves first.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGb9K7n6XSU&feature=relmfu

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    15. Re J Thomas

      1. One would think reading the posts of Mr. Thomas, chief apologist for Frankenberger, that it was Czechoslovakia and Poland who attacked Germany, not the other way around.

      2. How about the attack on the former Soviet Union with which Germany had a non-aggression pact? Frankenberger lied to his generals, claiming that Stalin was preparing to attack Germany. Of course, after Operation Barbarossa got underway, those same generals quickly found out that there was no evidence of preparations for such an attack and, in fact, the Soviets were caught with their pants down.

      3. Is Mr. Thomas seriously comparing the actions of the British in South Africa against the Boers with the Holocaust? That's like comparing a guy who steals some silverware from a restaurant with a guy who holds up a bank at armed gunpoint and shoots the tellers.

      4. I don't see what the Israeli actions on the West Bank, as illegal as they are, have to do with the attack on the Egyptian guard post and the subsequent attempt to drive into a nearby Israeli settlement and detonate a homicide bomb. The fact is that the terrorists in the Sinai Desert appear to consist of Al Qaeda and allied operatives who couldn't care less about Israeli settlements. In fact, those same terrorists have been trying for years to overthrow the Hamas Government in the Gaza Strip so that the area can be used as a base of operations elsewhere in the Middle East. IMHO, this was an attempt by the terrorists to foment further instability in Egypt and possibly goad Israel into reinvading and reoccupying the Sinai Desert. And by the way, I don't support the Israeli actions on the West Bank which I consider counterproductive. However, I would point out that Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip and such withdrawal did not lead to peace. Thus, it is hard to fault Israel for being less then enthusiastic about withdrawals from the West Bank.

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    16. SLC, I don't care to debate the Israeli long war. It does no good. I will concede in advance that in several ways Israel is the least evil nation in the middle east, which is damning with the faintest possible praise.

      One would think reading the posts of Mr. Thomas, chief apologist for Frankenberger, that it was Czechoslovakia and Poland who attacked Germany, not the other way around.

      It doesn't make sense that those countries were military threats, does it? But the USSR was a threat, and Germany wanted defensive positions. Have you heard similar claims about the north Jordan valley? Israel says any West Bank treaty will let Israel build any fortifications they want, and send their army in any time, because it's vital to Israel's defense. No doubt to you that seems completely different.

      How about the attack on the former Soviet Union with which Germany had a non-aggression pact?

      I don't say it's good for any nation to break treaties. I do say it's understandable. Germany and the USSR had an arms race. Germany was losing. So they had to attack soon, because waiting put them further behind. They knew war was coming. When Germany killed their communists and the survivors escaped to the USSR, those survivors were groomed to run a communist german government after the war. Which happened. It was not good for Israel to break their various treaties (though usually they said somebody else broke it first). It was bad for Israel to promise the USA that they would not make nukes, and then make nukes. Etc. But in each case it was understandable that they saw an advantage.

      Is Mr. Thomas seriously comparing the actions of the British in South Africa against the Boers with the Holocaust?

      Only qualitatively. The british wanted to stop boer civilians from supplying boer troops. So they burned the crops, salted the fields, poisoned the wells, and moved the people into concentration camps. They sent the men overseas where they couldn't cause trouble and put the women and children in tents. Part of the hunger etc was because the boers disrupted british supply lines, and the camps were the lowest priority. 25% of the inmates died, including 50% of the children. But by 1902 the british government considered it a scandal and reduced the white death rate in the camps to less than 7%/year.

      Obviously 25% is less than death camps where 100% died. And the numbers are smaller because there just weren't that many Boers to kill. I suppose you will say the germans were evil and the british were not so evil, pretty good really, it was just a minor scandal that didn't matter much....

      I don't see what the Israeli actions on the West Bank, as illegal as they are, have to do with....

      This is not a battle between good and evil, but between evil and evil. I don't care whether evil Israeli actions "caused" evil arab actions. I don't claim that evil arab actions are responses to evil israeli actions. I don't claim that arabs are right to do evil things because israelis did evil things first. Thinking that way will drive you crazy.

      And by the way, I don't support the Israeli actions on the West Bank which I consider counterproductive. However, I would point out that Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip and such withdrawal did not lead to peace.

      Do you have some sort of fantasy that Ariel Sharon intended for withdrawal from Gaza to lead to peace? Do you imagine he hoped it would lead to peace?

      Not to brag, but my imagination is unusually active. And even I find it hard to imagine peace for Israel. I have a way, though. If new climate patterns give Israel enough water to give Palestinians as much per capita as Israelis get, then maybe there could be a deal. Probably not until then.

      Again, I have nothing much against Israel, it's just a perfect example of the problem we all face.

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    17. Re J Thomas

      1. Let me get this straight. According to Mr. Thomas, Germany was entirely justified in invading Czechoslovakia and Poland in order to have a better jumping off point to attack the former Soviet Union. By that argument, the US would have been entirely justified in invading and annexing Canada during the Cold War in order to place its intermediate range missiles in a better forward position to attack the former Soviet Union.

      2. The reason why Germany was losing the arms race against the former Soviet Union was because of several strategic blunders by Frankenberger.

      One was building the two super Dreadnaught battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz, instead of using the resources expended on those obsolete weapon systems to build Uboats. The Bismarck and the Tirpitz contributed zero to the German war effort. Had the resources been used to build Uboats, Germany would have had fifty or sixty ocean going vessels available, instead of less then a dozen after the fall of France in 1940. Given the state of British anti-submarine defenses in 1940, Britain would have been starved out of the war by the winter without the necessity of the bombing campaign.

      Two was the failure to build a fleet of heavy 4 engine bombers for strategic bombing purposes, like Britain and the US did. The medium 2 engine bombers lacked sufficient range, had insufficient anti-aircraft gunnery, and insufficient bomb carrying capacity to carry out a strategic bombing campaign against the former Soviet Union, which had perceptively moved their munition factories East of the Ural mountains where they were out of range of German bombers. In particular, the T34 tank was manufactured in those factories, totally immune from any interference by German bombers.

      These, of course, are in addition to the many blunders Frankenberger made during the war.

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    18. Let me get this straight. According to Mr. Thomas, Germany was entirely justified in invading Czechoslovakia and Poland in order to have a better jumping off point to attack the former Soviet Union.

      I have utterly and completely failed to make my point. It did not get across at all, not the least little bit. I thought that communication was not possible on this, and it looks like I was probably right.

      No. I am not talking about what anybody is justified to do. The justification blame game does not get me anything useful. If I decide "Country X is justified to do war crimes because country Y did war crimes and that makes country Y eeeevil", the result is just one more time around the same old painful merry-go-round.

      None of these guys are justified. They're all evil. They are somewhat predictable, and there can be value in predicting them. If you understand their thinking, that does not justify them.

      The reason why Germany was losing the arms race against the former Soviet Union was because of several strategic blunders by Frankenberger.

      Everybody makes strategic blunders. Some of them are easier to recover from than others.

      Simply as a technical issue, I'm not clear that Germany would have that much use for heavy bombers, particularly after their fuel got limited. But anyway, germany had a limited pool of manpower and various limited resources. They could not hope to win a long war, particularly after their imports got restricted.

      If you want strategic blunders, Hitler's racial supremacy thing was a giant one. If he had instead followed an ideology that got european jews on his side, that would be close to 10 million extra people, not to mention he would have saved the effort of killing them. Similarly, as it turned out everywhere he conquered he had to occupy and then make them produce war materials for him, and they tended to produce defective war materials. If he had gotten them on his side he would have saved a lot of occupation troops. Some of them would provide coalition troops as Italy did. If he could arrange a unified defense of western and central europe, possibly the USSR wouldn't invade at all and germany could survive without a big war. And if he could get an alliance with Britain then the USA would end his resource problem.

      Hitler's stupid ideology left him with no real allies. Mostly Italy and some weak nations near the USSR that were more scared of Stalin than of him. Before he lost, it became basicly Germany against the world, because that's how he imagined it from the first.

      But nobody except communists wanted to be overrun by the Soviet Army. Without Hitler's colossal blunder he might have build a coalition that could fend them off. Or possibly even win against the USSR.

      But noooo, he had to be evil instead.

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    19. Mr. Thomas finally made a cogent argument. Frankenberger treated the inhabitants of the Ukraine as untermenchen, instead of enlisting them to his side. Initially, the German forces were welcomed in the Ukraine, which desired independence from the former Soviet Union. Frankenberger's insane racial theories threw away what could have been a decisive advantage.

      However, despite his blunders in the Ukraine, he still could have defeated the Soviet forces in 1941. Had he eliminated Britain from the war in 1940 via a Uboat campaign, there would have been no Battle of Britain fought in the air, which caused considerable attrition to Luftwaffe material, and more importantly to Luftwaffe pilots, no side shows in Greece, no side shows in Yugoslavia, and most importantly, no side shows in North Africa. Sans the wastage entailed in those operations, he could have launched the full power of the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe against the former Soviet Union and probably taken Moscow and Leningrad. It would have helped if he could have persuaded the Japanese to attack in Siberia to tie down Siberian reinforcements, instead of attacking Pearl Harbor.

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    20. Frankenberger treated the inhabitants of the Ukraine as untermenchen, instead of enlisting them to his side.

      That's an obvious example. Many of the USSR's closest neighbors wanted an anti-Soviet ally. Finland, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary. Some of them were too afraid of the USSR to make overt alliances against it, and others did so.

      Imagine if Germany had treated Poland well enough to get a solid alliance! Assist them against the Soviets, and they hurt the russian army more when it invades, and maybe Germany takes half of Poland and the Poles like it! Similarly France, There were lots of hard feelings but if they could have worked things out well enough to get an alliance or even a friendly neutrality, they would have been much better off. And Britain! If Britain approved, Germany could have gotten the sort of US supply that in our reality Britain and Russia got.



      It's kind of similar for Israel. If they could have worked our friendly relations with the various arabs, think how much better off they would be! Lots of available raw materials including oil. Lots of markets. Lots of people who could be educated to become highly productive. They could make lots of deserts bloom. It might have been a challenge, one that good smart people could overcome. But their ideology didn't even give them the concept. It just was not in the cards.

      So here they are, a tiny nation surrounded by enemies, nuclear accidents contaminating the Negev, working desperately to keep every other middle east nation from getting nukes. Performing industrial sabotage and murdering scientists. It didn't have to be that way.

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  2. Nice post. The Japanese had suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Soviets at the Battle of Khalkhin Gol in 1939. This freed up their resources for attacking the Americans and British colonies in the Pacific from which they hoped to gain resources like rubber and oil. But Yamamoto who had spent some time at Harvard and knew the great resources that the US had also knew that Japan lost the war the moment it turned into a war of attrition.

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  3. There are many arguments in favor of dropping the bomb, just as there are many arguments against it.
    There are many arguments both for and against ID. Or climate change. It sounds as though you're trying to present both sides equally now?

    What's clear is that in the context of 2012 we are not in a good position to judge the actions of countries that had been at war for many years.
    This sounds like apologetics. Are we really too unqualified now to judge whether burning accused-witches, commanding genocide against the Amalekites, and nuking civilian populations, were right or wrong?

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    1. I'm not sure I understand your point.

      Today if I look back on the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (or Desden, or Hamburg) I would condemn those actions. If I were an adult in 1945 I don't know if I would have condemned them. My parents didn't. Did your parents or grandparents?

      It seems clear that the bombing of German cities was ineffective and the cost to civilian lives was high. It's not clear whether the same can be said of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Maybe the invasion of Japan would have cost even more civilian lives.

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    2. Larry, these points are irrelevant.

      Maybe the invasion of Japan would have cost even more civilian lives.

      So what? It's a false dichotomy; the US had more than just two options: invade or nuke. The US could have dropped a nuke on an unoccupied or less-occupied part of Japan, like out in Tokyo Harbor or the top of Mt. Fuji, or Hokkaido. The US could have showed them what the bomb would do before dropping it on women and kids. We knew women and kids could die in huge numbers.

      They could've waited longer between bombing Hiroshima to see what the Japanese junta would do, before bombing Nagasaki.

      Of course, there are some things we didn't know. We didn't know about fallout, or the horrific disfigurations that would be caused by the bomb, or genetic mutations that would be passed onto the next generations. It might be argued that the US can't be held accountable for what we didn't know would happen. We didn't anticipate the long-term suffering, even multi-generational. But we knew women and kids would die in huge numbers, and revenge played a major part in the desire to kill those women and kids, at least in Nagasaki.

      If I were an adult in 1945 I don't know if I would have condemned them. My parents didn't. Did your parents or grandparents?

      But some nuclear physicists, who worked on the bomb, opposed its use against civilian targets. Richard Feynman, who worked on the bomb, said that the scientists had gotten completely focused on solving the physics problem and had lost sight of its human impact, and that that was immoral.

      Anyway, it's strange logic to say that something is not a war crime because it was popular.

      And now, argumentum ad Hiterlum: suppose you had grown up in Germany in the 1920's. The probability is high you'd support the Nazi party. Does that probability mean Nazism is not immoral?

      Does the popularity of an act in its own era affect whether or not it was a war crime? No, we should dispassionately and realistically assess the options that the Americans really had, and the Americans had more than two options.

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    3. Yes, maybe worse outcomes were possible, but that particular dilemma is easily avoidable. Consider for one example, couldn't they have tried starting with a detonation over sea visible from Tokyo?

      My point is that nuking civilian populations without exhausting other options is something we should unambiguously condemn. Not something we should grasp to make excuses for.

      A few years ago the Australian prime minister made an official apology for the harm previous generations inflicted on aboriginal people. Sure, if I had lived earlier then I could have been as racist as my grandparents, but that's no reason for me to try to pass off particularly egregious incidents as if those were all inevitable consequences of colonisation in general.

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    4. Benjimin, no, we were not ready to consider other choices.

      Our logistics were handled by men with typewriters and hand-cranked adding machines. We planned operations months in advance, and we did not have much flexibility. We could not, for example, delay the invasion a couple of months and then pick up where we left off.

      The choices were made by experts, and once a committee of experts decided the best course of action, who was going to tell them they were wrong? Consider Iwo Jima. The air force had asked for that island, but by the time the invasion was ready they didn't need it. The other reasons to do it were not compelling. But we did it anyway, basicly because we couldn't figure out how to stop.


      The experts considered a demonstration at sea. But we had a strictly limited number of bombs. What would we do if they moved US POWs into their cities and told us we'd be bombing our own men? Would we still do it? Would they surrender before we ran out of nukes?

      Since our attack plans were so unwieldy, we could not seriously negotiate with the japanese for surrender. We could not delay the attack without throwing it into chaos. One good thing about the bomb was that it was not an alternative. We could drop our nukes, and if Japan didn't surrender the invasion could proceed on schedule. If they did, we'd land anyway but it would be an occupation force and the logistics would be snarled, but that was worth it.

      We couldn't think seriously about the nuclear choice because it was a secret. Only a few people knew about it. Truman had to make his own choice soon after he heard about the bomb. Not much time to absorb the details.

      We had not given ourselves any alternatives. Maybe we could have. We could have found more flexible ways to handle our logistics. We could have spread the word about the bomb. We could have seriously tried to negotiate with the Japanese government. But instead we followed our training, and we did what we knew how to do. The choices that look good in hindsight were pretty much unimaginable at the time. They were not available to us.

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    5. A number of interesting points have been raised in the comments here.

      1. Diogenes and Boerger are absolutely correct and accurate. The notion that the Japanese had benign plans for China and Southeast Asia are piffle. The attitude in Japan was that the Chinese and the inhabitants of Southeast Asia were subhuman and thus Japan was fully justified in enslaving them.

      2. J. Thomas said, We stopped selling them oil and iron, and they would inevitably collapse without that. Poor old Roosevelt, he gets it coming and going. On the one hand, he is accused of trade aggression against Japan because we stopped selling them scrap iron and oil. On the other hand, he is accused of appeasement because he waited too long to take those actions, which were taken well after the invasion of China.

      3. Prof. Moran is absolutely correct and accurate that the area bombing of German cities was ineffective, and, I would argue, counterproductive. The aircraft, crews, and bombs that were expended in that activity could have been used more productively in bombing munition and industrial plants in Germany.

      Many critics of the strategic bombing campaign against military targets have pointed to the following fact. Production of munitions in 1944 in Germany was greater then it was in 1941 and they have therefore concluded that strategic bombing, even if properly applied, is ineffective. What these critics fail to acknowledge is that the percent of German industrial production dedicated to military purposes was 25% in 1941 and 80% in 1944.

      4. Benjimin said, Yes, maybe worse outcomes were possible, but that particular dilemma is easily avoidable. Consider for one example, couldn't they have tried starting with a detonation over sea visible from Tokyo? The problem with that notion, namely give the Japanese a demonstration of the power of the nuclear bomb, is that, at the time of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US had only 2 bombs available, one of which, the plutonium implosion bomb, had not been tested (the test at Alamogordo used the gun type U235 bomb). Since the government could not be sure that the untested plutonium bomb would work, it would have had to use the gun type U235 bomb for the demonstration. If the Japanese had turned out to be unimpressed by the demonstration, the government would have been forced to use the untested implosion device, which well could have turned out to be a dud.

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    6. @J Thomas-

      Notice how all of J Thomas' post consists of treating the American government and military as if it is a machine.

      J Thomas' logic: since it is a machine, we could not control it. Thus we had no choice in what the machine did, thus absolving us of moral responsibility.

      This is nonsense. Humans built the machine. If humans built it, they could change it. They did not have the will to change it.

      Notice how arguments that are intended to absolve your country/people/tribe of responsibility always consist of dishonestly minimizing the number of choices available. Here J Thomas dishonestly minimizes the number of choices available to America by portraying its military as a machine, thus out of human control.

      Technically this is moral determinism. We're not responsible because it's like a machine.

      But a machine built by humans can be changed by humans. If we don't have the will to change the machine or its operations, then that is a choice.

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    7. "The notion that the Japanese had benign plans for China and Southeast Asia are piffle. The attitude in Japan was that the Chinese and the inhabitants of Southeast Asia were subhuman and thus Japan was fully justified in enslaving them."

      Sure. And how did the british, french, dutch, etc feel about africans? Colonialists do that. There is no evidence how benigh the Japanese Empire might have become, since it never reached that point. But there are still british people to this day who feel that Britain's behavior in Kenya and India etc was benign and that they were a big help to those people.

      "J. Thomas said, We stopped selling them oil and iron, and they would inevitably collapse without that. Poor old Roosevelt, he gets it coming and going."

      I'm not blaming him. Just, he made it very probably that the japenese would attack the USA. There was some sort of chance they would work out a peaceful surrender instead, but I doubt any US decision-makers considered that chance worth thinking about.

      Could we have worked out a deal where Japan reformed without us having to kill so many of them? Probably not. It would have required great understanding of japanese culture, which some US anthropologists may have had but nobody important did. It would have required that we actually try to get them to reform rather than look for an excuse to fight the Germans. No, it probably just was not in the cards at all.

      "Prof. Moran is absolutely correct and accurate that the area bombing of German cities was ineffective, and, I would argue, counterproductive."

      Yes. But we did not have the precision to bomb german munitions plants instead. We could have said we were bombing munitions plants and we could have tried to bomb munitions plants, but the effect would have been area bombing of cities. We did it because we could. "When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." (Compare to our use of flying death robots today -- we think of what we do with them as success against terrorists, because we have nothing else that looks like success.) In germany we eventually settled on bombing oil facilities. They were big and they burned easily. We didn't have to be very precise to do a lot of damage.

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    8. "Notice how all of J Thomas' post consists of treating the American government and military as if it is a machine."

      "J Thomas' logic: since it is a machine, we could not control it. Thus we had no choice in what the machine did, thus absolving us of moral responsibility."

      Diogenes, you have correctly stated my position down to the last sentence, which I disagree with.

      When we build a giant crazy machine that we can't control, and then we don't control it, that does not "absolve us of responsibility".

      My fundamental point is that what this is, is not so much direct immediate evil as a failure of imagination. If we understood the situation well enough, we might find some way out.

      But in the meantime, we have built giant out-of-control machines. Machines that have people as components. And the people don't get all that much choice about their jobs, because the machines interpret moral qualms as damage, and route around it. People who are important to the system but who try to make their own moral choices, tend to become less important to the system.

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    9. Re J Thomas

      Yessir, the Japanese Government proved in the Rape of Nanking what a fine bunch of humanitarians they were.

      I must say that I fail to understand Mr. Thomas's point. Is he claiming that the US was preparing in 1941 to invade Japan? The fact is that Roosevelt and Churchill had already agreed that, if and when the US entered WW2, the emphasis would be against Germany, which was the more dangerous of our opponents. Sans the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Roosevelt Administration would have had no support for entering the war against Japan. He would have had enough trouble turning the sinking of American ships by German Uboats into a causas belli for entering the war against Germany.

      Yes. But we did not have the precision to bomb german munitions plants instead.

      Not true. The bombing of German munition plants was successful enough to force the German Government to place them underground. Again, I point to the fact that the only way the Germans would increase armaments production was to devote 80% of their industrial production to that sphere in 1944 as opposed to 25% in 1941. The strategic bombing campaign carried out by the US was a lot more successful then all too many historians have proclaimed.

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    10. Yes. But we did not have the precision to bomb german munitions plants instead.

      Not true. The bombing of German munition plants was successful enough to force the German Government to place them underground.

      There is an argument that our bombing program hurt our war effort more than it hurt the German war effort. That what the planes and fuel and explosives cost us to produce and transport and consume, hurt us more than the bombing hurt the Germans apart from the oil and a few specific other attacks -- notably a prominent dam and maybe a ball-bearing plant that had disproportionate importance.

      This is necessarily a quantitative argument, and there is room for uncertainty. I haven't looked at the details enough to be truly confident in it. I would have to learn some things to look at it in sufficient detail, and I'm not in any hurry to do that.

      I say the issue should be in some doubt. You sound completely confident that you are right, that the bombing campaign was worth doing in the way we did it. I'm not ready to say you're wrong but I tend to think your confidence is misplaced. The issue isn't whether the bombing did some damage. The issue is whether it did more damage than we could have done with that much more ground and naval supplies, more fighters and ground-support planes, etc.

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    11. Re J Thomas

      There is an argument that our bombing program hurt our war effort more than it hurt the German war effort. That what the planes and fuel and explosives cost us to produce and transport and consume, hurt us more than the bombing hurt the Germans apart from the oil and a few specific other attacks -- notably a prominent dam and maybe a ball-bearing plant that had disproportionate importance.

      Once again, the argument rests on how much damage was done to the German war effort by the strategic bombing campaign. The fact is that 25% of German industrial production was devoted to armaments in 1941 and 80% in 1944. German armament production did not increase by anywhere near a factor of 3. Therefore, by simple arithmetic, a considerable fraction of German industrial production must have been destroyed or driven underground where its productivity was substantially reduced.

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    12. The fact is that 25% of German industrial production was devoted to armaments in 1941 and 80% in 1944. German armament production did not increase by anywhere near a factor of 3. Therefore, by simple arithmetic, a considerable fraction of German industrial production must have been destroyed or driven underground where its productivity was substantially reduced.

      This sort of argument is notoriously slippery. I am not an expert on the topic and I don't expect I could easily find the truth. Still, I notice this:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_armored_fighting_vehicle_production_during_World_War_II
      German production of armored vehicles went from 2,800 in 1940 to 19,000 in 1944. And I don't think you can argue that the 1940 ones were better AVs.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_production_during_World_War_II
      The claim is that german GDP went from $387 billion in 1940 to $437 billion in 1944.

      You can argue that these figures would have been even worse without the bombing campaign. You could even be right. I'm not an expert on this. But I also want to note that Goering claimed their limiting factor was horses. They sent most of their hydrocarbon liquid fuels to the front, and so their home transport was limited to railroads and horses, and so was transport to the front. Wherever they went they confiscated horses, and they could not get enough. If it's true that transportation of raw materials and finished goods was limiting despite the bombing damage, then that bombing damage did not much matter.

      However, the air attacks on oil facilities obviously did matter. That helped to further limit their transport.

      Your original argument was that attacks on civilian populations were not useful and that more attacks on industrial capability would have been better. I argue that the attacks we actually did on factories may have been mostly useless, and it's hard to tell how much more it would have taken to have an effect. I agree that random attacks on cities had little direct value.

      The people who actually studied the problem at the time, decided that attacks on oil were best. But they ran into the problem that when they attacked mostly oil facilities, the germans concentrated their air defenses there and shot down a lot of our bombers. So they, for example, bombed Dresden. Dresden had little military value and bombing it did no direct damage to the german war effort. But the hope was that the german government would then try to protect lots of german cities, and that would make it easier to bomb their oil.

      That was the rationale for attacks on civilians in cities late in the war. If we did stuff that was real, real mean, maybe we could get them to do something stupid like provide token defense to cities and weaken the defense they had to have.

      I agree with you that bombing random german civilians was bad. Early in the war we did it because we could, and because the germans did it first, and because we didn't know what worked. Late in the war it was for strategic reasons and because we wanted to find out whether we could make firestorms etc. Is there something ethical we could have done instead?

      I think attempting a negotiated surrender might have been ethical. It had its dangers. It would have reduced morale in all armies, and probably reduced the tempo of the fighting. It's possible the german government would have taken that as reason to drag out negotiations and press for more concessions. We probably would have had to give up execution of German leaders -- no war crimes trials. And of course our allies were dead set against it.

      So, if somehow we could have arranged a negotiated surrender 6 months to 1 year earlier than the unconditional surrender, and it resulted in 5 million survivals. (There were more than 3.5 million military deaths on the german fronts in 1945, so this is a conservative number.) Would that be worth a degree of compromise with evil?

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    13. Re J Thomas

      So, if somehow we could have arranged a negotiated surrender 6 months to 1 year earlier than the unconditional surrender, and it resulted in 5 million survivals. (There were more than 3.5 million military deaths on the german fronts in 1945, so this is a conservative number.) Would that be worth a degree of compromise with evil?

      The answer is that there is no way the US and Great Britain would have negotiated with Frankenberger,given his track record of violating agreements (e.g. the Munich Agreement on Czechoslovakia and the invasion of the former Soviet Union). Had the 1944 plot to assassinate Frankenberger succeeded, it is possible that, if his successor was a reputable individual (e.g. Erwin Rommel who was the choice of the plotters), there could have been a negotiated settlement.

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    14. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_armored_fighting_vehicle_production_during_World_War_II
      German production of armored vehicles went from 2,800 in 1940 to 19,000 in 1944. And I don't think you can argue that the 1940 ones were better AVs.


      Mr. Thomas moves the goal posts. I specifically stated 1941. There was a big ramp up of munitions production in that year in preparation for Operation Barbarossa.

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    15. Mr. Thomas moves the goal posts. I specifically stated 1941.

      Oops! So you did. I don't expect a quick google search with wikipedia results to be definitive, but OK, that changes the GDP figures from $412 billion in 1941 to $437 billion in 1944, still an increase. And the armored vehicle production went from around 3,600 to 18,900.

      I'm not sure what this proves. Military production went up a lot despite the bombing. Would it have gone up a lot faster without it?

      It didn't take much to cast some doubt on your claims, but you could easily still be right. I don't know enough to make a serious argument. If you do I hope you'll send links to your publications and not try to explain in detail here.

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    16. The answer is that there is no way the US and Great Britain would have negotiated with Frankenberger,given his track record of violating agreements (e.g. the Munich Agreement on Czechoslovakia and the invasion of the former Soviet Union).

      He probably wouldn't agree either. We wouldn't accept him running Germany. He'd be better off with life imprisonment, but he might not agree to that by January 1945, and the later it happens the fewer lives get saved.

      Had the 1944 plot to assassinate Frankenberger succeeded, it is possible that, if his successor was a reputable individual (e.g. Erwin Rommel who was the choice of the plotters), there could have been a negotiated settlement.

      Yes. But then, consider how we treated the plotters who tried to negotiate with us after WWI.... The Germans had reason not to trust a peace treaty also. And yet, when it became obvous that they couldn't stop the russian army, what did they have to lose by trying to surrender? Two million east germans "disappeared in the confusion" of the russian invasion and were never heard from again. It's possible some of them made it to siberia, but likely most of them died within the first few weeks of occupation.

      You correctly point out that we were not willing to try to negotiate. And very likely it would have failed if we did try. But consider -- 3.5 million military casualties. 2 million east german civilians. Some large number of east european civilians killed on the eastern front when the front lines crossed them. Some fraction of the 1945 concentration camp victims could have been saved.

      A big payoff if it succeeded. And we were utterly unwilling to try. Because it did not fit our habits of thought?

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    17. What is this business about calling Hitler Frankenberger? His Dad's name was Schickelgruber.

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    18. Re Diogenes

      Alois' was baptized Alois Schickelgruber, which was his mother's surname. His birth certificate does not name the father. Thus, we don't know if the father was actually the man who she eventually married, whose surname was Heidler, later changed to Hitler. It is alleged that Alois' biological father was actually the 19 year old son of a family with surname Frankenberger, where she was supposedly employed as a maid. After the Anschluss with Austria, all the official records and the church records were destroyed on the order of Frankenberger because of rumors that the Frankenberger family was of Jewish descent.

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    19. Re J Thomas

      Equally important as armored vehicles was the production of aircraft, particularly fighter aircraft. Given the almost non-existent resistance to the Allied bombing campaign leading up to Overlord and after, it would appear that production of fighter planes in 1944 had fallen way off from 1941, although this may have been partly due to a shortage of pilots.

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    20. Re J Thomas

      The men behind the plot to assassinate Frankenberger were in favor of negotiating an end to the war with the Western Powers. This included their proposed chancellor, Erwin Rommel, who opposed the assassination in favor of arresting Frankenberger and putting him on trial for war crimes. A general who was not involved in the plot, Gerd von Rundstedt, who commanded the German armies in the West, was asked for his advice as to what course to pursue after the successful Normandy invasion. His response was, "make peace, what else can you do". Thus, I would argue that the removal of Frankenberger could have led to a negotiated settlement in the West, as the plotters were in favor of negotiations.

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    21. Equally important as armored vehicles was the production of aircraft, particularly fighter aircraft.

      Yes, the problem is very complicated. Aircraft are notorious for gobbling fuel, and germany had a shortage of that too.

      So you quote the factoid that the military production share of GDP increased around 3 times, while you claim actual production could not have increased 3 times. You suppose that the difference was due to allied bombing. This is a tenuous chain of reasoning. An economist would say that diminishing returns is enough to predict a lower return. I pointed out that armored vehicle production increased more than 5 times, with an economy that expanded despite the bombing.

      You are using this vague claim to support your idea that the allies should have bombed factories instead of cities. You could be right that they should have done that. However, I say that the precision of the bombing was low enough that attempting to bomb factories in practice did result in bombing cities. Not counting the german war production that happened in concentration camps and in occupied nations. We could have spent a lot of effort bombing french factories and french cities, or perhaps we could have done some good bombing concentration camps....

      As I understand it, your original point was that it would have been more ethical for us to bomb factories than cities.

      To me that translates to, it would have sounded better if we said we were bombing factories, and that the overwhelming majority of bombs which fell on civilians in cities were accidental collateral damage.

      Yes, that sounds better. I think they realized it sounds better soon after WWII and they've been saying it that way ever since.

      This is just more of the SOS. Same Old S.... When we do evil things we look for ways to make it sound like it isn't so evil.

      Because we want to claim that we are the good guys who have to do evil against our will, while our enemies are bad guys who do evil because they want to.

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    22. hus, I would argue that the removal of Frankenberger could have led to a negotiated settlement in the West, as the plotters were in favor of negotiations.

      I see a big barrier there that the german goal was to surrender to the west and not get invaded and occupied by the vengeful USSR. But the allies were probably not ready to start backstabbing each other. We were not ready to put the US army on Germany's eastern border and stop the russians. We in fact kept our agreement with the USSR to the letter, and we were very reluctant to break it.

      The USSR kept their agreement also to the letter, but they were using a different dictionary. They agreed to set up representative governments in the areas they conquered. They set up one-party communist rule. But Stalin pointed to the central committee members. "This one is a shoemaker. That one is a carpenter. This other one is a fisherman. They are representative of many professions."

      Perhaps we would have negotiated something other than unconditional surrender after the german government and army were in utter disarray. Who knows? It's possible. We didn't do that after WWI when plotters overthrew the Kaiser. We gave them something very different from Wilson's 14 points, and we starved them until they gave in.

      I say it would have been ethical to attempt to negotiate a surrender with Hitler. We had little to lose by trying, and if we succeeded it could have saved millions of lives. But we were utterly unwilling to try it. And of course we did promise Stalin that we would accept nothing but unconditional surrender. It was simpler that way, though extremely bloody.

      There are other examples. If we had made Saddam an offer he could not refuse ... say we offered him $100 million and immunity for past crimes, and $1 million each for his top 100 cronies. He comes to live in LA or perhaps the Riviera, someplace that accepts him, and sells Iraq to us. We could likely have gotten Iraq for $0.2 billion and very little collateral damage. After we inherited his secret police we'd have to decide what to do with them. Lots of problems, but a better class of problems than we actually created for ourselves.

      If we had gotten to the occupation of Iraq without the actual invasion, would that have been worth letting Saddam live? Of course we wanted Justice for Saddam, but was it worth what it cost us?

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  4. Iraq was a wrong war for many reasons. Afghanistan was right for obvious reasons.
    War is about killing or threatening to kill people.
    So it all comes down to whether its moral to kill those people.
    As a christian I only see self defence or judicial punishment as justifying killing people.
    Simple equation that can be used in all cases.

    The atomic bombs were done for self defence of our people.
    These civilians were not more or as innocent as our trops.
    A soldier is a innocent victim if killed even if he has a gun.
    It doesn't make it fair play to kill me because I'm a soldier.
    I'm innocent if i'm the good guy.
    The Japanese woman is not innocent since she consents to killing my people of others.
    If she doesn't then she is innocent. kids likewise.

    then because thay are all involved in the war effort these cities are fair game just as their soldiers are.
    If it helps end the killing of our people.
    these bombs did the trick.
    It saved the innocent men of the allies.
    the lesson is that war is a whole nations responsibility and no one is innocent if they consent to aggressive war/murder.

    Everybody just stop consenting to war.
    like in iraq or Libya or Syria.
    canada supported all these wars.
    Not me. I'm innocent.

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    1. Morally reprehensible bull from Byers.

      The Japanese woman is not innocent since she consents to killing my people of others.
      If she doesn't then she is innocent. kids likewise.


      This person just said that Japanese children are not innocent, because they consented to killing Americans.

      I'm sure Byers applies this to babies as well. Japanese babies are not innocent, because they consented to killing Americans.

      This is morally absurd.

      Let's consider a reverse example. America seized the Phillipines as a colony and the Filipinos fought back. Would it be justifiable for Filipinos to kill American babies, who (by Byers' logic) "consented" to killing their, Filipino, people?

      American funded and armed Suharto to launch an anti-Communist crusade including his invasion of East Timor (a separate country) and the genocide of the Timorese.

      Did American babies "consent" to the killing of Timorese, by Byers' logic? Would the Timorese be morally justified in killing American babies, who "consented" (by Byers' logic) to the killing of their, Timorese, people?

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    2. Your right about babies or any person too young to give/take consent!
      I meant adults or kids old enough to give consent.
      War is about killing people and so consenting or not consenting is the big point.
      Then whether the killing is justified.
      Killing civilians on purpose is wrong as it is killling the cooks in the Nazi army unless it can't be helped.
      Yet the soldiers on the good side and so the allied side are all innocent.
      The civilians on the other side are not innocent if they agree with their army killing people to get their way.
      The good guys in war simply just fight to break the opponents will to fight.
      They don't punish the evil. So the evil get away with it if their army fails too quick.

      My point is that we were innocent and didn't deserve too die just because we had guns in our hands.
      Japanese civilians were not innocent, depending on each persons consent status, and so being non combatants was irrelevant when the alternative was our innocent troops.

      I gave my consent to canada fighting Al Queada and so their allies the taliban.
      I didn't give my consent to Irag or Libya of late where Canadian planes were fighting.
      It was immoral to kill those people however bad they were .

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  5. The always eloquent Christopher Hedges has this to say:
    http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/10722-handmaidens-to-barbarity

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  6. The USA has never considered non-US lives to be as important as US ones. They still don't.

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    1. Is this attitude any different in other nations?

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    2. It certainly seems less extreme in poor countries, though I'd be interested to know if we have hard data on this.

      In the USA my impression is that many (perhaps a majority in both the general public and the media) would consider it a defensible attitude. In South Africa the media consensus is that it is a reprehensible attitude (and I think it is a major contributor to the USA's poor international image) - I would be surprised if this is not also the case throughout most of Africa and South America. (Popular opinion is harder to judge - xenophobia is admittedly widespread.)

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    3. konrad, said, “The USA has never considered non-US lives to be as important as US ones. They still don't.” – konrad, your comment speaks of the USA as though it is (as alluded to earlier) merely a monolithic machine. A more accurate representation would be that it is a human culture that, with all its warts, extends more human compassion (on a non–governmental individual basis) to others in the world than could ever be measured - Even to the “importance” of lives in the womb of mothers all around the world. Assuming you adopt some form of atheism, naturalism, materialism, and scientific evolution as a worldview, why do you care about the USA and your impression of how it treats people? On what basis is the treatment of other people of importance, from an atheistic, naturalistic, materialistic, or evolutionary perspective? Especially, as discussed in this blog many times, the universe and its earthly human occupants are headed to oblivion (quoting Neil deGrasse Tyson)?

      I’m sure to see comments about bad things done by or in the name of the USA. Assuming the USA exhibits behavior similar to all previous cultures under the influence of individual people, I repeat, why are terms like bad even a part of this dialog? Is there an articulate scholarly naturalistic atheistic explanation for the use of qualitative existential terms like good, bad, etc?

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    4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics

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    5. Assuming you adopt some form of atheism, naturalism, materialism, and scientific evolution as a worldview, why do you care about the USA and your impression of how it treats people?

      Oh, what tripe. You're not allowed to care about the country you live in unless you believe that spooks influence human events.

      On what basis is the treatment of other people of importance, from an atheistic, naturalistic, materialistic, or evolutionary perspective?

      On what basis is the treatment of other people of importance, from a theistic, supernaturalistic, anti-materialistic, or creationist perspective? The Bible orders God's people to commit genocide against God's non-people. In Numbers 31, Moses, on God's authority, orders the rape of the Midianite virgins and the killing of the non-virgins. The Bible orders infanticide in several places.

      How can a Biblical theist say that genocide, infancticide and rape are wrong in all cases? In the Bible, they're mandatory if the victims are God's non-people.

      ...why are terms like bad even a part of this dialog? Is there an articulate scholarly naturalistic atheistic explanation for the use of qualitative existential terms like good, bad, etc?

      They're not existential terms--I'm sick of the word "existential" being used incorrectly. Abstract terminology describing relationships does not require the existence of spooks who influence human events.

      Presumably, you mean that "good" can only be defined by the preference of this or that spook, and "bad" defined by the antipathy of a spook.

      Why is OK to define good and bad according to the preferences of spooks, whose existence can't be proven-- but it's not OK to define good and bad according to the preferences of humans, whose existence can be proven?

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    6. Diogenes – Existentialism, as defined by Webster: “a chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad.”

      Diogenes said, “Why is OK to define good and bad according to the preferences of spooks, whose existence can't be proven-- but it's not OK to define good and bad according to the preferences of humans, whose existence can be proven?” - What are the preferences of humans?

      Diogenes said, “The Bible orders …” - When you read a book, do you read it through a straw?

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    7. konrad. If ethics is sufficient, why does Larry use his blog to express his views? If ethics is sufficient, why all the diversity of opinion about Hiroshima? In fact, why Hiroshima?

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    8. If the Bible is sufficient, why do churches use people to express their views? If the Bible is sufficient, why Hiroshima?

      You know the answer: not everyone supports the views in the Bible.

      Likewise, not everyone acts ethically.

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  7. I am most familiar with two poems about wars; they present a completely opposite picture of war: "In Flanders Fields" and "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen. Owen's poem is the most convincing, but "In Flanders Fields" is the one Canadians recite every November 11. "Lest we forget" is the slogan and the poppy is the symbol, but how can we forget: war is everywhere. Now we have The Highway Of Heroes. Are we supposed to be proud of the fact that the dead heroes take their last journey along a stretch of this highway?

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    1. I had no idea what you were talking about. "Highway of Heroes". Once I used a search engine it made sense.

      Until then I had it confused with the Gulf War "Highway of Death".

      I don't know whether they were heroes, but a whole lot of retreating Iraqis took their last journey along a stretch of that highway. We didn't particularly want to let them surrender and we sure didn't want to let them go home. We did such a good job of cremating them on the spot that often there weren't enough pieces left to sweep up with a broom. I didn't hear that the US military ever tried to estimate the casualties, but others estimated tens of thousands of iraqi soldiers, iraqi civilians, and palestinian civilians all trying to flee from Kuwait. They were no particular threat to anyone at that point, and our own casualties were zero, but they could have become a threat if they made it back to Iraq and were issued rifles. At the time we pointed out that they deserved to die since some of them were taking looted Kuwaiti refrigerators with them.

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  8. Wow! Larry said, “It's all very well to enter into a war with the best of intentions—as the Japanese did on December 7, 1941.” “Best of intentions”? - I never cease to be amazed at some of the things I read at Sandwalk. “Best of intentions”? I’m glad someone else noted the "Rape of Nanking"? I’m also glad that some other references in this thread alluded to information like, http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_did_the_Japanese_attack_Pearl_Harbor , - “the Japanese believed that America, as a nation of diverse races of peoples, was a mongoloid mix incapable of acting with a united singular resolve. That perception was fueled by the propaganda of Japan. The Yamato Race were a superior people. America was very alien to the Japanese, and it is not surprising that a homogeneous group of people could not comprehend how such a diverse range of extreme individuals, a prized ideal in America could possibly equate in to a united body. Americans, thought the Japanese, were a collection of trash peoples. Easily dealt with and who should rightly be sub servant to the Yamato Race.”

    From a Christian worldview, the above facts are an example of innate evil (a spiritual, non-natural or non-physical issue), notwithstanding or excusing any and all wrongs committed in the name of America. From a naturalistic, materialistic, evolutionary, atheistic worldview, I have no idea of how to explain man’s inhumanity to man, except to say that nothing really ultimately matters because, well, because. Every Sandwalk fan in this thread is trying to make a case for their personal view of things, and all are obviously incapable of expressing themselves without using language that implies right or wrong, good or bad, even though, as near as I can tell, atheism, naturalism, materialism, and evolutionary natural selection embody no such attributes.

    P.S. P.S. Larry, you also speak of suffering. Why is “suffer” a word in the human lexicon? And, from your (humans have no special meaning or purpose) atheistic and natural selection perspective, why do humans (like yourself) concern themselves with such notions as “suffering?” and its causes - as if it is wrong and to be avoided? Or is suffering to be avoided merely because it’s unpleasant?

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  9. DCoburn said, “This is why history is so difficult to analyze, there's no chance to replay the tape and observe different outcomes.” - True enough. What can be analyzed is human nature. I know it’s hard for Sandwalk fans to put aside their biases and misunderstanding about the Bible. But, analyzing human nature is one of the aspects of the Bible. What bible exists for atheists to help them uniformly look at human nature?

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    1. Why does somebody need a bible to help them look at human nature? Why not just look at human nature? Why not just read history books (with considerable skepticism)?

      Did Confucius need a bible? Did Epictetus? Did Mozi?

      Do you need a quran to look to observe the behavior of honeybees? The confucian analects to observe bonobos?

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    2. Diogenes, – First of all, I am a beekeeper, and I have indeed never consulted the Quran. Second, if humans are nothing more than a bunch of dancing molecules, it’s quite likely that the Bible is not needed. Third, the Bible is a history book. Fourth, skepticism is related to inquiry, what’s the point of inquiry if it doesn’t lead to answers – the Bible contains answers? Fifth, I doubt that there is one person who fails to see that human nature fails in what we innately and maybe naively expect of it sometimes. If you don’t wonder about that, fine. Some do, and find dancing molecules an inadequate explanation. More than that, some have discovered that the world not confined to molecules offers something that molecules do not - Hope, for the fullness of what we expect from human nature.

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    3. Re Denny

      Third, the Bible is a history book.

      Absolute balderdash. It has been proven that much of the scriptures is fiction. For instance, archaeologists have now shown conclusively that the Israelites were not enslaved in Egypt, they did not build the pyramids as slaves, and that the exodus of the Israelites and the 40 years wandering in the desert never happened. That's for openers.

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    4. SLC. Respectfully, you are misinformed.

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  11. Larry said, “Denny, I do not have an "innate" sense of right and wrong.” – Well, Larry, your response fits well within the paradigm of atheistic evolution – We are no different than a group of chimpanzees that adopt a societal set of behaviors. Atheism may have its little victories, but historically (and I predict in the future), atheism will fail to grasp the hearts and minds of most people. Not because of stubborn cultural norms or parental influence, but because cultural norms or parental influence are shaped by the hearts and minds of individual people, not only their physical molecules.

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  12. Larry, you said that I was “deluded.” You can’t get inside my head and know that. You have no way to measure delusion and make such a statement with any semblance of truth, except to use the set of morays you were taught and later accepted by you own free will, combined with your personal interpretation of natural science data. As you said, you and I make our choices the same way. Using the word deluded is a lazy way to dismiss something with which you disagree. The dynamic of people making choices, some influenced by outside forces and some by personal choice, is consistent with biblical principles. Is it consistent with anything you know of in evolution? Is there some aspect of evolution that allows for personal choice? Humans are charged with responsibility for the consequences of their choices. If there is some aspect of evolution that allows for an entity’s personal choice, then is there anything in evolution that assigns responsibility to the entity? Or are the words choice and responsibility miss-assigned to humans, because they are no more than a blade of grass. The Bible, as you know, does assign responsibility to humans, and also consequences.

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