The reason why the United States was compelled to employ the use of a more lethal weapon in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan has been at the heart of many scholarly writings. The question is, why did the United States decide to engage a deadly attack and yet there was a league of nations charged with conflict resolution?
The idealists came up with an international organization in the name of the League of Nations to address problems of war. The use of atomic bomb therefore was shaped by international variables such as scientific research and discoveries.
Causes to any phenomena are multi-dimensional meaning that they should be studied in a multi-disciplinary way such as geographically, psychologically, politically and economically. It therefore follows that causes to the use of atomic bomb in Japan should be divided into particular and profound causes.
Particular causes are those that are immediate while profound causes are underlying issues. Historians are interested with immediate causes of war while political scientists try to explore long-term causes but both will be dealt with in this study.1
Taylor examined that war is like a road accident because it has the immediate causes such as over speeding as well as long-term causes such as the nature roads. Scholars have been interested in both immediate and underlying causes for application of atomic bomb in Hiroshima.
The application of the strategy did not have a single cause because WWII had roots in the society and the then international system. Quency wright in his works about study of war vol.1 (1942) observed that war has multi-causal factors, arguing that war in reality results from a total situation involving ultimately almost everything that has happened to the human race up to the time war is realized.
Kennedy Wolfs in his works ‘Man, the State and war’ gives three images of war based on assumption that war results from human nature, internal nature of the state and anarchic nature of the international system.2
War is as old as human existence and characterizes the nature of human beings. A clear relationship exists between human nature and conflict. ST Augustine claimed that war is part of society and human life because of sin, man exhibits love for hurtful things and vain which constitutes the source of human conflict.
Benedict de Spinoza observes in a short article called political treatise that war occurs because man is led by passion not reason hence there is a conflict between passion and reason. Rein Niebuhr in his works ‘Beyond Tragedy’ argued that war comes from the dark unconsciousness sources of the human psyche.
Confucius on his part postulated that there is deceit and cunningness among human beings leading to war thus war is an innate factor in human beings. John Stoessinger claimed that people are victims of their own perceptional limitations because they are limited in their comprehension of natural phenomena and hence are bound to make wrong judgments.3
This paper examines the particular and profound causes that made the United States to utilize the atomic bomb in Japan. The leaders’ idiosyncrasies and the nature of societal variables such as natural resources and geographical territories are explored in detail.
End of World War Two
The United States applied atomic bombs on Japan in order to force the Japanese officials to cease-fire. It invaded Japan because of the desire to subdue it and cut short the war. Japan made its own land a battlefield without taking into consideration the social welfare of its citizens.
The U.S. had to put to an end to what Japan was planning because if it went ahead with its plans, more than one million Americans and Britons would have lost their lives. Dropping of atomic bomb in Hiroshima is said to have solved many humanitarian problems because many people could have died could Japan have attacked the U.S.
There has been a heated debate over the American verdict of using a weapons of mass destruction on Hiroshima. President Truman never considered it a big issue.
Losses in an attack of Japan would have been great. Following the dropping of the atomic bombs, American public opinion in Fortune magazine in late 1945 and a 1944 opinion poll was supportive of Truman’s decision.
The Japanese who were referred to as “japs”, were depicted with unsophisticated racial stereotypes, and were seen as devious and definitely not to be trusted.4
Compel Japan to Bow Down
The bomb was meant to soften Japanese stance and make it to abandon war plans. Indeed the bomb-facilitated negotiations among Japanese officials since they noticed that war had more implications on them than any other person. Earlier attempts to put to an end the war by use of nuclear weapons had failed to bear fruits as Japanese military were not willing to back off the fight.
This forced the U.S. to use atomic bombs since it perceived that many lives would be lost if Japan continued with the war. It is believed that, President Harry Truman used atomic bombs on Japan as a way of intimidating Stalin so that he could keep him out of the war. However, the general officers did not approve this move and they denounced their commander-in-chief.5
Takaki, Ronald, in his book “Hurishima: Why American Dropped the Atomic Bomb” noted that by 1944, the war had noticeably turned against the Japanese. In late October, General MacArthur went back to the Philippine island of Layette.
The Japanese started to use kamikaze pilots in an anxious attempt to obliterate Allied ships. Quite a few more bloody battles waited ahead for American forces. Americas recorded more than twenty five thousand fatalities at the mêlée of Iwo Jima and another fifty thousand at the encounter of Okinawa. After these battles, though, nothing was left to stop an Allied invasion of Japan.6
These extremely bloody battles deeply disturbed military officials who were planning for an attack of Japan. Japanese resistance to such an attack would have been fervent. President Truman was informed about the new scientific development in 1944 after the death of Roosevelt in 1945.
Manhattan project was erected in 1942 specifically to develop an atomic bomb. The bomb was manufactured in Los Alamos, New Mexico with J. Robert Oppenheimer as the director. The effectiveness and efficiency of the weapon was first experienced in Mexico desert in 1945.
The bomb did not contribute much to the end of Japanese aggression since it only increased the speed of surrender because the officials had already begun engaging in surrender talks. Long before the dropping of the bombs, Japanese leaders were determined to surrender and were taking steps toward ending the war.
The U.S. leaders knew from marine aptitude interception of Japan’s to-secret codes. The United States secretary of war Stimson was much concerned with deliberations on the use of the bomb due its effects.
In 1947, at the urging of government officials worried about the growing number of people puzzled by the use of the bomb, Stimson wrote an article titled “The decision to use the atomic bomb”.7
He argued that the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was made only after vigilant deliberation by Truman and his advisers of all the courses of action open to them to end the war at the lowest possible cost
However, the question arose as to whether there was anything like a decision to use the bombs, or whether Truman and his advisers were carried along by events. John Lewis Gaddis in his book “The United States and the origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947,” Truman prearranged the dropping of the atomic bombs to give good reason for the cost resources used to build them.8
The bombs cost more than two billion dollars, and required the work of scores of top scientists, thousands of workers and several industrial firms. After all this time and spending, Truman had to use the atomic bombs at one time and the war proved to be the best time to use them.
Upon hearing of the victorious explosion over Hiroshima, Truman appeared relived and noted that, “We have spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history and won.”9
The dropping of the second bomb gave the impression of having its own momentum. Truman’s July 24 strike order authorized the use of the bomb as they were all set, and the technicians on Tinian Island worked agitatedly to drop the second bomb in response to the order.
Prevalent detestation of and vengeance against the Japanese for the bombing of Pearl Harbor may have produced the impetus for dropping the atomic bombs.
To many Americans, including Truman, it warranted almost any act against it in vengeance. Expressing his feeling of revenge, Truman said in a private letter written soon after the bombing of Nagasaki, that nobody was more bothered by the use of the atomic bombs than he was, but he was deeply troubled over the uncalled-for attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor.
Protect U.S dominance
Alperrovitz, Gar, in his book “Atomic Diplomacy: Hurishima and Potsdam: The use of the Atomic Bomb and the American confrontation with Soviet Power” argued that the United States dropped the atomic bombs not to overcome Japan but vigorously to protect U.S. dominance in the already brewing Soviet-American disagreement, which has, of course, prearranged the postwar worldwide order.10
Their analyses of planning for the postwar world, from 1942 forward, underline official description of the Soviet Union as the primary menace to U.S. primacy in world affairs.
Nonetheless, while the U.S. military had shattered Japan,’s capacity to fight violent war beyond her borders, distressed major cities, and blocked access to critical materials; it had neither secured Japan’s give up nor broken the will to battle of the Japanese military11.
There seems to be no motive to choose between analyses that view the bomb as a weapon to force Japan’s surrender and those that emphasize its value as a weapon to threaten the Soviet Union and establish U.S. hegemony, and both were sufficiently served by dropping the atomic bomb.12
The bombings precipitated the end to Second World War because leaders were shocked even though they were still reluctant to surrender. The deaths did not go down well with the emperor who took an extra step of urging political leaders to cease-fire and agree to talk with the rest of the world.
The emperor was respected because he was both a temporal and spiritual leader. He could be reached in the times of crisis to provide advices and directions.
Prestige and Security
Japan was reported to be preparing weapons of mass destruction such as chemical bombs. The weapons were on the wrong hands according to the United States government. Japan was an aggressive state that would use the weapons in unjustifiable ways such as revenging against innocent people.
The United States president, Truman, felt that Americans were going to be affected most and hence there was a reason to intervene before things got worse.
Americans had been casualties of Japanese recklessness and President Truman knew that anything was possible with Japan because they were determined to go on with war. The only way that would guarantee mass happiness in the United States and other allied states was to attack the destroyer before it could strike.
Many Americans had lost their lives and properties and the government was unhappy with that, it was its mandate to ensure that no more destruction could be carried out to its people.13
The American government saw Japan as a threat to its quest for attaining natural resources in the region. The United States wanted to access the region but Japan was a threat because of conflicting interests. The World War II provided an opportunity that saw the United States weaken the competitor.
This was seen as territorial aggrandizement because the United States was unhappy with the way Japan controlled the territory full of natural resources. The only way to scare the enemy was to apply weapons of mass destruction to its citizens.14
The United States was not after making peace because the administrators of Japan were in Tokyo but the bombs were dropped kilometers away. Japan was forced to surrender and promised never to engage in military aggression.
The United States was trying to reduce its opponents in its pursuit to global domination. The Japanese could have worsened things could they have been left to go on with their weapon formation.
Self Determination and Nationalism
The United States is always known to be a self-glorious nation. The war provided a good opportunity for them to demonstrate to the whole world what they had achieved in the world of science. Talking about it alone could not be enough since other states such as Russia and China could not believe.
The war provided a good chance for them to apply practically whatever they had. Other states could believe in their allegations and live according to their wishes lest they experience the same. The bomb could be applied to any aggressor but Japan was chosen because it was a major competitor.
President Truman therefore opted for the bomb to achieve glory for Americans hence fostering nationalism. Americans today view themselves as the most united people mainly because of common history created by leaders such as Truman.
America had other means of stopping the war but they never thought about them since they saw application of the bomb to be serving a number of reasons. Application of the bomb therefore was meant to serve self-interests and wishes not the will of the majority; it only served the appetites of Americans not the whole world as it was thought.15
At this point, long term issues are discussed such as the behavior of leaders both in the American government and Japanese government, the political climates in both states, societal variables such as ethnic composition, institutional structure of governments that is the roles played by various leaders and finally the international system.
We analyze how the variables contributed in the application of the atomic bomb to Hiroshima, Japan. The causes associated with these variables are observed over a particular time since they are not immediate.
Some critics of the application of the bomb argue that United States was sending a message to communist states urging them to beware of what capitalists can do. The arguments are accurate to some extent because during preparation of the bomb, no communist state was involved instead it was only Canada and United Kingdom all of which are capitalists.
The United States could not have applied the bomb to an aggressive capitalist state. Japanese orientation to the economy was incompatible to that of capitalism since the government owned property. This did not go down well with Americans who wanted to build an Americana empire. It was estimated that Japan’s military power could be used to advance communist ideas hence the need to destroy it.
The focus is on behavior of individuals but not all individuals, only those concerned with foreign policy formulation. They are individuals whose behaviors have implications in international relations. We examine how age, physical health, childhood experience, educational level and belief system of leaders influenced the use of atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan.
The United States’ foreign affairs decision makers were associated with: recklessness, adventurism, innovativeness, impatience aggressiveness, experimentalism, revolutionary and were risk takers. The leaders wanted to introduce something new to the world without caring whether it could have more harm than good.16
The United States foreign affairs at the time had hawkish and highly opinionated ideas, which reflected in the country’s foreign relations. The leaders on the Japanese side had strong belief system that never allowed them to relent easily.
The leaders had troubled childhood experiences, which affected their decision-making processes. Japanese leaders at the time had little formal education, they had little knowledge about the nature of the international system hence their level of worldview was limited to Japanese environment.
Physical health played a role in the American-Japanese crisis because President Truman is said to have suffered from a Cardio-Vascular disease, which affected his level of concentration. At times, the president became intolerant to advice driving him to take extreme decisions.
These variables combined with the official positions occupied by leaders to cause profound effects to decisions made. The powers of the president in most cases are not easily challenged. When President Truman ordered the use of atomic bomb, no one dared to challenge him because the office he occupied was unchallengeable.
The powers and resources of the presidency office largely influenced the use of atomic bomb in Japan. The president had to use the prerogative powers provided by the constitution because it was believed that the lives of Americans were in danger.17
The factors looked into in this cause are types of governments and governmental structure. The leaders were more interested in self-interests rather than the wishes of majority. They prepared for war with other states without seeking people’s mandates.
Leaders who adhere to the provisions of the constitution do not practice things contract to the wishes of the majority. It is never the wish of people to engage in war because they fear for their lives and those of their families.
In weak democracies, people are not consulted before major decisions are taken. The United States wanted to contain the influence of Japanese leaders who wanted to take their citizens into unnecessary war.
Factors that led to application of atomic bombs at this level are called systemic variables. They include polarity and the status of international law.
Polarity is distribution of power in the international system whereby it combines military strength, economic power, cultural influence, natural resource endowment and political/diplomatic power. The super power influences events in the world hence the use of atomic power was one way of demonstrating power globally.
The bringing into play of an atomic bomb had many causes, which ranged from socio-economic to political causes. The government of the United States could not sit back and watch Japan rise to becoming one of the world’s super powers. This forced it to come up with ways that could silence Japan.
The best way was to use deadly weapons of mass destruction. This is what has been discusses as profound causes. For the United States to be relevant to its people and the rest of the world, it had to end innocent killings and loss of property.
It had to cut short the Second World War by forcing Japan to surrender. Japan could not have surrendered were it not for the atomic bomb hence the United States is justified to have engage in the war for both personal interests and global interests. The United States achieved its goals because Japan agreed to negotiate and at the same time, it agreed not to be aggressive in future.
Alperrovitz, Gar. Atomic Diplomacy: Hurishima and Potsdam: The use of the Atomic Bomb and the American confrontation with Soviet Power. New York: Penguin, 1985.
Gaddis, Lewis. The United States and the origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972
Glantz, David. The Soviet Invasion of Japan: Quarterly Journal of Military History, vol. 7, no. 3, Spring 1995
Malcolm, McConnell. The Last Mission: The Secret Story of World War II’s Final Battle. New York: Broadway Books, 2002.
Skates, Ray. The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.
Stimson, Henry. “The decision to use the Atomic Bomb”. Harper’, February 1947.
Takaki, Ronald. Hurishima: Why American Dropped the Atomic Bomb. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995.
Wainstock, Dennis. The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996.
1 David, Glantz. The Soviet Invasion of Japan: Quarterly Journal of Military History, vol. 7, no. 3, Spring 1995
2 Ray, Skates. The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1994
3 McConnell, Malcolm. The Last Mission: The Secret Story of World War II’s Final Battle. New York: Broadway Books, 2002.
4 McConnell, Malcolm. The Last Mission: The Secret Story of World War II’s Final Battle. New York: Broadway Books, 2002.
5 Ray, Skates. The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.
6 Ronald, Takaki. Hurishima: Why American Dropped the Atomic Bomb. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995, p. 10
7 Henry, Stimson. “The decision to use the Atomic Bomb”. Harper’, February 1947, 2.
8 Lewis, Gaddis. The United States and the origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.
9 Lewis, Gaddis. The United States and the origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972), 40
10 Gar, Alperrovitz. Atomic Diplomacy: Hurishima and Potsdam: The use of the Atomic Bomb and the American confrontation with Soviet Power. New York: Penguin, 1985.
11 Ibid. p. 385
12 David, Glantz. The Soviet Invasion of Japan: Quarterly Journal of Military History, vol. 7, no. 3, Spring 1995
13 Dennis, Wainstock. The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996.
14 Ray, Skates. The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.
15 Ray, Skates. The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.
16 Dennis, Wainstock. The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996.
17 McConnell, Malcolm. The Last Mission: The Secret Story of World War II’s Final Battle. New York: Broadway Books, 2002.