“Every American should visit Hiroshima,” said Balbina Hwang, a Northeast Asia specialist and a senior policy advisor during the administration of President George W. Bush. She was addressing reporters after giving a lecture in Tokyo in November following a visit to the Peace Memorial Museum and other locations in Hiroshima. “I was overwhelmed by a sense of humility,” she continued. “I was struck speechless upon seeing (what happened) with my own eyes.”
Still, what Hwang saw was not the actual reality of the atomic bomb. Witnessing an exhibit — which can only offer a hint of the actual barbarity of the bomb — with one’s own eyes will shake any American’s soul to the core. Even today, the starting line toward the elimination of nuclear weapons lies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I don’t know. I didn’t find that Hiroshima shook my soul to the core. It was very sobering. I was sorry it had to exist. I hope it’s never necessary to deploy nuclear warheads again.
But when you read opinion pieces like this one, it’s easy to forget that when we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we were not, say, retaliating against Japan for dumping cheap Sony electronics on our markets. World War II is called that for a reason. Japan thought it could play the USSR against the other Allies and capitalize on our exhaustion. It was wrong. America decided that it was not worth sacrificing more of our people and materiel waiting for Japan’s military command to figure out in its own time that surrender not only was inevitable but had to be immediate.
Besides, the Mainichi editors make an interesting exception to their call for everyone to start beating their nuclear warheads into ploughshares:
A basic international roadmap should be laid out at this year’s conference. Obama has already publicly announced his goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. Though the road to that finish line may be a long one, small, visible steps are necessary along the way. If the countries that possess nuclear weapons fail to demonstrate goodwill in the upcoming meeting, discontentment toward the NPT will be further exacerbated, getting in the way of international cooperation that is crucial to the prevention of nuclear terrorism. What is most important now is the reconstruction of an international consensus toward the goal of nuclear abolishment.
Hwang, whose area of expertise includes North Korea, remains doubtful that the rogue nation’s nuclear arsenal will be completely eliminated. She says this is because North Korea is overwhelmed by insecurity. [!] As a result, says Hwang, North Korea is demanding not only the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from South Korea, but wants the entire U.S. nuclear umbrella to be removed from East Asia, including Japan.
We seek the complete abolition of nuclear weapons from the world, and support President Obama’s efforts toward nuclear disarmament. At the same time, however, we do not see the protection we receive from the U.S. nuclear umbrella as unreasonable as long as the North Korean threat exists, and we will not accept our allies’ admonishments to give up on North Korean nuclear disarmament.
So using nuclear weapons for protection—in fact, outsourcing nuclear protection to another country—is okay if you’re Japan, with North Korea a stone’s throw across the sea.
But only temporarily, you understand.
Just until everyone agrees to disarm.
What’s never explained is how this is supposed to happen. “International consensus” sounds great, but I don’t recall one on any issue that involved agreement by every country on the entire planet. The international community can’t even stamp out age-old rogue behaviors such as piracy in shipping lanes, drug trafficking, and currency counterfeiting. In today’s world of decentralization and advanced telecom and transport technologies, it seems quixotic at best to believe that we can ever return to a state in which we can reliably say that no malefactor has nuclear weapons. It’s a bummer to have to think that way, but as long as human beings are born with human nature, there will be some bummers we have to stare in the face and prepare to deal with forcefully. In the universe we actually inhabit, the weaned child who puts his hand on the cockatrice’s den is going to get bitten.