It was a solemn walk down the promenade for President Barack Obama with Japan’s Prime Minister. With every step, Hiroshima’s Atomic Dome came into focus, the Pond of Peace shimmering brightly thanks to the Eternal Flame licking the sky.
After delicately placing a wreath at the foot of the Memorial Cenotaph, Obama moved to the podium. He took a few extra seconds to begin to honor the moment: the first President of the United States to visit the city that a predecessor bombed with the deadliest weapon known to man.
Obama acknowledged the magnitude of that decision without apology. He appealed to all nuclear nations, including the United States, “to have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”
He mourned the innocent from all of the world’s wars, saying “we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.”
Hindsight, they say, is 20-20. And the farther away we get from a historical event, the more clarity we seem to gain.
The U.S. President Who Finally Went to Hiroshima
Jeffrey Lewis – Foreign Policy
Making good-faith efforts to negotiate “general and complete disarmament under … international control,” as we are obligated to do under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, might seem fanciful. But is disarmament as fanciful as the idea that the threat of nuclear holocaust will keep the peace forever? Or as fanciful as the idea that we need never stop resorting to war to settle international disputes, because political leaders will always recoil at the horror of nuclear war before things spin out of control? Hiroshima might stand as a testament to the power of nuclear weapons, but it also testifies to the darkest possibilities in our institutions and in ourselves….
Wandering around the streets of Hiroshima, you might see a family pushing a stroller or someone rushing to work. If you do so at 8:15 in the morning, you might look up at the sky and imagine a lone bomber. And then look around. At that moment, you share a fate with all the people around you, because you share a place. That is the sense of place I am talking about — that sense of a shared fate, for all human beings, that makes the hostility and bigotry of the American debate over the bombing seem pathetic.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Moral Necessity
George Friedman – Geopolitical Futures
It is forgotten that Japan continued to occupy vast areas of China, administering it with brutality at least equal to the Nazis. Critics of Hiroshima tend not to remember the ongoing war in China, and that with each month the war continued, the Japanese killed more Chinese citizens. They assume that waiting for Japan to capitulate did not have a human cost. From the standpoint of the Chinese, every day the war went on cost thousands of Chinese lives. I am not arguing that China was uppermost in the minds of American planners, but the urgency of the Americans was felt many times over in China….
It must also be remembered that Hiroshima did not by itself compel the Japanese to surrender. Even after the bomb was dropped, Japanese military leaders were unwilling to surrender. If the Japanese had thought the U.S. had only one nuclear bomb, Japan’s Kyushu strategy would have still been strategically viable. It was essential for the U.S. to demonstrate that it had more, and that Hiroshima was not unique. Therefore, Nagasaki was as important as Hiroshima. In reality, the U.S. was bluffing because it only had two atomic bombs that were ready to use, and it would be a month before it could get any more.
Hiroshima and the Politics of Apologizing
Uri Friedman – The Atlantic
[W]hy is expressing remorse such a big deal in the first place? Setting aside the arguments for and against the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, what makes apologizing different for countries than for people? When I put this question to Jennifer Lind, a professor of government at Dartmouth College who has studiedthese issues extensively, she gave me a one-word answer: “politics.”…
“Liberals have this idea that the way to be a strong nation is to be transparent about the past, and to be self-critical, and to constantly question your leaders, and constantly ask, ‘Are we living up to our own values?’
Conservatives, meanwhile, “say that national strength comes from national unity, and national unity is best served by instilling pride in people, and pride comes from remembering the really great things that we’ve done, and remembering what’s different and great about America. … And so they would say, ‘What are you doing talking about all the people we killed? Why aren’t you celebrating that we brought democracy to Japan? Why aren’t you celebrating all the people that we freed from Japanese tyranny and Japanese torture and atrocities?’”
Obama’s Hiroshima Visit Was Hugely Momentous — and Bitterly Ironic
Taku Tamaki – The Conversation
For now, Japan is celebrating Obama’s decision to visit at all, rather than complaining about the precise wording of his address. In his remarks following Obama’s, Abe thanked the president for his “courage” to visit, and expressed his wish that the friendship between Japan and the US become “a light for hope” for all the world.
But given the extrovert, militaristic turn of his government, many people in the rest of East Asia will interpret Abe’s message sceptically indeed. And given reports that the US’s reduction of its nuclear arsenal has in fact slowed under Obama’s rule, his renewed call for a world free from nuclear weapons doesn’t ring as true as it once did.