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above: ruin of the the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, which was destroyed by the atomic blast on Aug. 6, 1945. It is now commonly called the Genbaku Dome, and is part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan (Suicasmo/Wikimedia)

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The Tragedy of the Atomic Bomb

On Oct. 5, 1946, just over one year after the deployment of two atomic bombs in Japan, Senator Robert A. Taft stood in front of an audience at Kenyon College and excoriated his country for dropping the bombs. In doing so, he issued a devastating critique of the developing disconnect between the pursuit of true justice in the American tradition and the actuality of American wartime decisions as mere expediency.

According to Taft, the decision to drop the bombs departed “from the principles of fair and equal treatment which have made America respected throughout the world before this Second World War.” The decision revealed a disturbing, developing mindset with which the United States regarded those whom it considered enemies. This attitude did not have the pursuit of peace and the attainment of a traditional meaning of justice in mind, but rather a cold-headed and bureaucratic utilitarianism that could only undermine the moral and political health of the future of American international policy. Taft argued that war:

[H]as always set back temporarily the ideals of the world. This because of the tremendous scope of the war, the increased barbarism of its methods and the general prevalence of the doctrine of force and expediency even before the war, the effect today is even worse and the duration of the post-war period of disillusionment may be longer.

In contradistinction to Taft’s moral-traditional...

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