Like many historical questions, critical reassessments of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki 75 years ago have moved generally from right to left. In the 1950s and even later, when National Review was unmistakably on the right, challenges to this decision were almost the orthodoxy of the day.
The first time I saw the establishment wisdom about the necessity of the bombs being challenged was while reading National Review as a college student. A telling objection came from Chicago Tribune reporter Walter Trohan, who uncovered the negotiated peace terms between General Douglas MacArthur and the Japanese government in January 1945. The memorandum outlining the terms that the Japanese were willing to accept was given to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt shortly before the Yalta conference in early February. But, from all accounts, the president treated them and MacArthur’s undertaking dismissively.
Except for the retention of the Japanese emperor, the terms that FDR apparently scorned look like the ones the Japanese accepted after the bombs were dropped. They also bear a resemblance to the explicit and implicit terms of surrender that Professor Alan J. Levine locates in the Potsdam Declaration of July 1945.
I mention this road not taken because it was an earlier American right that brought it to my attention. It was the liberal establishment...