Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Final Thoughts On The Atomic Bombs

I will not waver from the conviction--expressed here, and elsewhere--that dropping the bombs on Japan to effectively end the Second World War was a morally unjust act. It had been a question that, frankly, I had not even considered until recently. I was vaguely aware that the Allies had done other things that didn't seem in accord with us being "the good guys," and that may have been troubling if I had spent a great deal of time reflecting on one thing or another, but I didn't. For most of my life, it was enough to know that Nazis and Imperial Japan (also, Italy and Russia, at the beginning) were evil, and we beat them. It's not just that consequentialism is in our culture; it's embedded in the fabric of our civil religion about the war itself. It's as if the only two criteria for judging the war's morality have been whether we are not as evil as "them" (in some vague, undefined way), and whether we won.

This isn't good enough, in terms of moral reflection, for the Christian. And that is to say the least.

Is it ever acceptable to murder someone for a greater good? The well-formed Christian conscience must answer, "No!" Therefore, even the moral tragedy of collateral damage pales in comparison to the evil of "total war," which obliterates the distinction between combatants and non-combatants; the atomic bomb is the end-point of this thinking as a means, and its end can only be the will to power. The sad reality of this philosophy is exactly what Kirk and Weaver lamented at the time, and I don't think the decades following would find them guilty of melodrama.

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