President Obama’s decision to be the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima attracted plenty of chatter even before the final decision was announced.
Once Secretary of State John Kerry paid his respects during an April meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Japan, it seemed inevitable that Obama would do the same during this month’s G7 summit.
The United States remains the only nation to use a nuclear weapon, forcing Japan to surrender, ending World War II. A Smithsonian Institution exhibit to mark the 50th anniversary of the Enola Gay’s mission to drop the first atomic bomb drew widespread criticism for raising questions about the necessity of using such a weapon of mass destruction. President Harry Truman’s decision to do so remains one of the world’s most scrutinized, 71 years later.
Visiting Hiroshima, Obama will have to balance the burden of his predecessor’s decision with acknowledgement of the result — and vision of the future.
The Hiroshima Speech I Hope Obama Gives
Brad Schaeffer – The Blaze
“We have an expression in our country that says ‘hind-sight is 20/20.’ Meaning that it is much easier to analyze events after time has passed and conclude in retrospect what might have been done differently. But it is rather more complicated and even presumptuous to second-guess commanders’ decisions in the fog of war….
…By the summer of 1945, 90 percent of Japan’s cities were in ruins, and over million of its homeland citizens dead, and yet the Japanese militarist leaders showed little inclination towards capitulation, even though Nazi Germany had already surrendered.
“It was estimated that the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands, scheduled for late 1945, could have cost as many as a million Allied lives and many millions more Japanese men, women and children….
“Faced with this grim prospect, President Truman was offered a way to avoid this mutual calamity. In the diabolical mathematics of war, it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice the lives of thousands to save millions.
Why Mr. Obama Should Visit Hiroshima
Editorial Board – The Washington Post
The reality is that nuclear weapons are not going away soon. They are woven into the fabric of the Atlantic alliance and the security umbrella the United States extends to allies Japan and South Korea. But at Hiroshima, Mr. Obama could examine the unfulfilled ambitions of his Prague speech in 2009, a nuclear agenda that brought him the Nobel Peace Prize, and describe how arsenals could be reduced….
Mr. Obama might fear that critics will distort the meaning of a trip to Hiroshima. But his presence and his words would draw attention to the difficult challenges ahead. He also could counter the reckless remarks of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who suggested that Japan and South Korea might consider starting their own nuclear weapons programs. Seven decades without a nuclear weapon being used in combat or terrorism is remarkable; it will take dedication to ensure this record continues.
The First Sitting President to Visit Hiroshima
Ben Rhodes – Medium
May 27, the President will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, a site at the center of the city dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing, where he will share his reflections on the significance of the site and the events that occurred there. He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future.
To be sure, the United States will be eternally proud of our civilian leaders and the men and women of our armed forces who served in World War II for their sacrifice at a time of maximum peril to our country and our world. Their cause was just, and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude, which the President will again commemorate shortly after the visit on Memorial Day. This visit will offer an opportunity to honor the memory of all innocents who were lost during the war.
Obama Should Listen to and Learn from Hiroshima Survivors
Arnie Alpert – Concord Monitor
Despite a promising start, the president has not lived up to his stated commitment. He did complete negotiations and won ratification of the New START Treaty, which achieved modest reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons. He initiated a series of “nuclear security” summits aimed at lessening nuclear dangers. And against serious political odds he reached a deal with Iran that can prevent another country from joining the nuclear “club.”
But instead of continuing on the path toward “a world without nuclear weapons,” his administration is now backing a trillion-dollar plan for an entirely new generation of nuclear warheads, along with new bombers, submarines and missiles that could deliver them to targets across the globe….
And that brings us back to Erin Placey.
Erin wants Obama to have an experience like the one she had in Hiroshima 10 years ago.
“Don’t just visit ground zero,” she wants to tell him. “Spend time with the people. Make time to meet publicly and privately with the A-bomb survivors, the Hibakusha. Allow your soul to be moved by their lifelong, unwavering commitment to ensuring that this level of human atrocity never happens again.
Obama Has Unfinished Business in Hiroshima
Jeff Kingston – Japan Times
Seven decades on, it is high time that the United States addressed this painful and awkward shared history with Japan. An Obama visit would be a symbolically powerful gesture that would enhance the nations’ bilateral relationship, burnish America’s global image and boost Washington’s moral authority on history and disarmament….
He need not offer an apology to enhance the dignity of America and burnish its international stature; the symbolism of just visiting Hiroshima will sanctify and justify Obama’s visit.