War is hell. Unoffending civilians are killed. Irreplaceable treasures are destroyed. That is the nature of war. That is why we try avoid it if possible. But unless you are the aggressor, you don’t go back afterwards and apologize for defending yourself and your allies when attacked.
Tokyo has praised the decision to send U.S. Ambassador John Roos to the Hiroshima anniversary on Friday, though some survivors of the attack, which is seen by many in Japan as an unjustified use of excessive force against a civilian population, say they have mixed feelings.
Whatever is Obama doing this for?
Sending American officials to Hiroshima is a potent gesture. Maybe someday, in some situation, it might even be appropriate. But to do so randomly, in no special context, is wasteful and morally reprehensible. It can and will only be received as a gesture of apology — perhaps weak, perhaps hypocritical, but apologetic nonetheless.
Morally speaking, bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was absolutely the right thing to do. Victory was achieved instantly. Countless thousands of American lives were saved. That is the proper goal of a military operation in wartime. Period.
One might, mistakenly, believe that there is some element in attending the Hiroshima ceremony of sympathy or respect for either the nation of Japan or its people. Not so.
The fact is that the use of the atomic bomb was a blessing for Japan as well. America’s alternative at that time was a widespread conventional bombing campaign and a full scale ground invasion. Not only would there have been general devastation across Japan, but hundreds of thousands more Japanese would have died than died in the atomic blast.
Cold comfort? Perhaps. But one cannot claim concern or respect for Japan without objectively acknowledging that the alternatives to the bomb would have been worse.
There is absolutely nothing for which to apologize. And there is absolutely no justification for morally murky, ambiguous gestures.
It would have been classier, and far more respectful toward America, Japan and the grim, solemn realities of WWII for Obama to have abstained from representation at Hiroshima — as has been our customary practice. But then, class and respect are not Obama’s strong suit.