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    My, reporters can be uncritical. The Asahi reports that this year, the mayor of Nagasaki will cite the opinions of prominent Americans in calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons:

    In calling for peace at the memorial ceremony, Taue will discuss proposals by Kissinger and three other key U.S. figures who, concerned by nuclear proliferation, have done an about-turn and called for the abolition of the (world’s) “deadliest weapons.”

    “In the United States, the largest nuclear power, those who formerly led nuclear policies are speaking out (against such weapons),” Taue says. “I have decided to take it up so I can more strongly appeal to the United States for what Nagasaki has long sought.”

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world’s only cities to experience atomic bombing, are trying to press the nuclear powers more aggressively for action to eliminate their arsenals.

    Okay, fine. But then there’s this:

    The Bush administration has refused to ratify the CTBT.

    But the two men vying to replace him have both made clear they have different goals.

    “We’ll make the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons a central element in our nuclear policy,” Democratic Sen. Barack Obama said July 16.

    Earlier on May 27, Republican Sen. John McCain said former President Ronald Reagan’s dream of seeing nuclear weapons banished from the Earth “is my dream, too.”

    You remember Ronald Reagan, right? He helped hasten the collapse of the U.S.S.R. by dramatically cutting back the U.S. defense program.

    I mean, yeah, sure, a world without nuclear weapons was Reagan’s dream. I’m sure it’s McCain’s. It’s mine, too. We all have plenty of dreams. But reality is where we live, and the McCain speech referred to by the Asahi reporters does not indicate that the mayors can expect much from him:

    Our highest priority must be to reduce the danger that nuclear weapons will ever be used. Such weapons, while still important to deter an attack with weapons of mass destruction against us and our allies, represent the most abhorrent and indiscriminate form of warfare known to man. We do, quite literally, possess the means to destroy all of mankind. We must seek to do all we can to ensure that nuclear weapons will never again be used.

    While working closely with allies who rely on our nuclear umbrella for their security, I would ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff to engage in a comprehensive review of all aspects of our nuclear strategy and policy. I would keep an open mind on all responsible proposals. At the same time, we must continue to deploy a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent, robust missile defenses and superior conventional forces that are capable of defending the United States and our allies. But I will seek to reduce the size of our nuclear arsenal to the lowest number possible consistent with our security requirements and global commitments. Today we deploy thousands of nuclear warheads. It is my hope to move as rapidly as possible to a significantly smaller force.

    I’m sure Obama recognizes this, too, BTW–I’m just not focusing on him because no one tried to demonstrate that he was a nuclear abolitionist by comparing him with Ronald Reagan. Sheesh.

    The fact is that nuclear weapons now exist, and we need to maintain them as one of our options in case we again encounter an enemy that’s like, well, the Japanese Empire.

    Yes, Japan knew that it could no longer win the war by August; but it had flouted the Potsdam Declaration and continued to figure that, if it held out, it would be allowed to retain some of the territories it occupied (and perhaps avoid being occupied itself). Who knows how many more Allied personnel would have died if it had come down to a ground invasion? Japan is now a peaceable society; back then it was not.

    The anniversaries are a good opportunity to think about the unprecedented destruction the bombings caused and the agonizing ethical and moral decisions that led up to them. Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered horribly–but that doesn’t make Japan the victim in the war; nor does it make complete nuclear disarmament practicable.

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