Mark Tooley: Welcome to this conversation hosted by Providence: A Journal of Christianity and American Foreign Policy about the events of August and September 1945, the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan’s surrender on September 2. Our two distinguished speakers are our own Marc LiVecche of Providence, who is also attached to the Stockdale Center at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, and Joseph Capizzi at Catholic University, who heads the Institute on Human Ecology. So, both Marc and Joe are regular contributors to Providence. They also are just war scholars and Christian ethicists with strong opinions on the morality of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They are not in agreement on that issue, but I think that we will start with their disagreements, and then work our way to their agreements in terms of the dignity and decorum of the surrender, and the subsequent seven decades of peace and alliance between Japan and the United States. So, I should alert you that before the pandemic, Providence hosted a monthly social hour that typically included remarks plus drinks and food. We have decided to divorce the two so that from here on, each month we will have a strictly social hour, and then a more strictly distinct event devoted to somber conversation, as we are this evening.
Joseph Capizzi: Which is this one? [Laughter]
Tooley: We are not somber yet. This somber conversation will also have food and drinks. So, the conversation—conversations—in the future will be here in the office, and the more strictly social hours will be off-site, typically in the rooftop of the Hyatt Hotel on K Street, where we tried to have sometimes abbreviated somber conversations, but that was very frustrating amid the drinking and socializing and the traffic of K Street alone. So, Marc LiVecche, perhaps we’ll start with you and your comments. Marc will speak for eight to ten minutes, so Capizzi will speak for eight to ten minutes. I may have questions and comments for them for a few minutes afterwards. Then we’ll open it up to all of you, and we hope to conclude formally by 7:30, but of course, all of you are welcome to linger as long as you would like afterwards. So, Marc.
Marc LiVecche: Alright, thank you very much for… Can everybody in the back hear me okay if I talk like this? Sound check. I appreciate that […] often, when we’ve talked about this, we’ve talked really only about the atomic blast, and I’m maybe heartened that we’re talking about the surrender and peace that followed as well, partly because I like… I now have come to a point where I like to talk about this almost in reverse order, that it was the surrender and the kind of peace that we desired. And here I have a caveat: the kind of peace that I think we ought to have desired. I’m not trying to get inside Truman’s head. This isn’t necessarily a defense of Truman’s position. This is me looking retrospectively back and trying to analyze as a Christian ethicist whether or not the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were moral. I think for the most part, I align with the administration’s decisions, but not necessarily. But because of the kind of peace we wanted, because of the surrender that we demanded, I’m going to argue that the atomic bomb is both necessary, and far more importantly, moral, and maybe more provocatively, to not have done so would have actually, given the options at hand, been immoral. Alright?
So, if that doesn’t provoke questions and something, well. The surrender. It’s now well known and often criticized that we didn’t simply want a surrender. We wanted an unconditional surrender—no negotiations, no contracts. Our position is very simple. It was a demand that you surrender or die, alright? Is that justifiable? I argue that there is a line that can be drawn from Versailles, World War I, to Hiroshima. I think World War I taught us that in some cases, in order for any kind of global peace to be possible, one side or the other needs to know that they […] one side needs to know that they’ve been licked, right, they have to be sick of fighting. I think in World War I, the German people did not know that they had been licked; they had no reason to. They surrendered on enemy occupied territory. Their commanders told their troops: we’re standing down in enemy occupied territory. The German people, for the most part, never saw war visited upon their homeland. And this gave rise to all sorts of things, that we were betrayed, stabbed in the back, all of that, but also simply this notion that the fight has not been taken out of us.
And really all World War I sought to do is to—or the peace of World War I—simply seemed to give us a pause to bring a new generation of boys to be killed in World War II. So, I think Versailles taught us that the enemy really does need to know that they have been licked, that a decisive victory is a moral aspiration. I think that plays a role here. In the case of Japan, moreover, I think the acceptance of defeat had to be accompanied by a Japanese renunciation of nationalistic militarism, and I’ll get more into this in a moment. I think it’s only through this acceptance that durable peace had any real chance. So, because we demanded an unconditional surrender, the atomic bomb was both moral and necessary. Now—this is an aside—the surrender could have been achieved in some other way. The land invasion. Eventually we would have overthrown the Japanese if we invaded by land. There was a proposition on the table that we simply continue the naval blockade. In other words, beseige the island of Japan; starve them out. That would have required continued Allied bombing of their factories that were producing kamikaze planes to continue harassing our navy. But we could have done those two things, and that would have brought about, more than likely, an unconditional surrender. So, why not those things? Why the atomic bomb? There’s many things to be said.
The only thing I’ll say for now is timing. Any other option other than the atomic bomb would have taken more time, and this is going to become important in a moment. So, not only did we demand unconditional surrender, but it was crucial that this unconditional surrender come about in the shortest possible time. Why? Again, many things can be said about this. I’ll touch on one. We recently had a meeting at which the historian Richard Frank spoke. Richard Frank has written a book called Downfall, the Tower of Skulls. He does a lot of analysis predicated on what he sees as a duty to count, as he says, all the dead. Now, from December 1944, January 1945 onward, Richard Frank estimates that approximately 8,000 civilians, innocent non-combatants, died under Japanese occupation every single day. Alright, it’s a lowball estimate, so about 240,000 innocent non-combatants every day. This is somewhat incidental, but that already in one month eclipses the total dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I don’t want to get into a numbers game necessarily, but that’s interesting. Given the morally appropriate demand for unconditional surrender in the shortest possible amount of time, I argue that the atomic bombing was militarily necessary, and it was proportionate. A proportionalism, or proportionality, is a just war constraint. I think it’s often misunderstood. Sometimes it’s meant simply to say that if you do something with an incredible amount of destructive power, that’s disproportionate, but disproportionate, or proportionality, has to be measured as a good against two other measures. So, you measure the good to be achieved against two measures of harm.
Of course, the harm that the action will itself entail, but also importantly, the harms that will come about from not doing the particular action in question. So, if we want to gauge the proportionality of the atomic bomb, you weigh both the measure of harm that the atomic bomb will do, but you also weigh—it’s a moral requirement to weigh the harms that will come from not doing the atomic bomb, so if you turn to your other options. I’ve already touched on the argument that all the other options to induce Japanese surrender would have taken time and would have resulted in vastly greater casualties among innocent non-combatants under Japanese occupation. Just to stress the point a little bit, the land invasion was proposed for November of 1945. So, that would have been, what, two, three months after the atomic bombing, so you multiply two or three months by 240,000; it starts to get ghastly. The attack on the main island of Japan wasn’t going to happen until May of 1946, so that’s another eight months, right? So, again, the counting of all the dead becomes a fairly grisly thing. But, let’s not turn only to those under Japanese occupation. Let’s look at the Japanese themselves, right? So, the naval blockades starving out the Japanese would have been ghastly. One Japanese historian plots the death toll to be expected from that. It’s something like 20 million Japanese. Again, combination of combatants as well as non-combatants. The land invasion of Japan, I think indisputably, would have resulted in more innocent non-combatant death than occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You know, that’s a hypothetical, right, but you can turn to Okinawa and the death toll on Okinawa as an example of the kind of ferocity with which the Japanese would have fought to preserve their homeland.
Okinawa was ghastly. And one general cautioned Truman that they could expect, I think it was dozens of bloody Okinawas should they launch the land invasion. So, it wasn’t just innocent non-combatants under Japanese lands, the Japanese themselves. So my sort of provocative opening salvo for this kind of argument is very often to say that if you want to save lives, both innocent and non-combatant, you drop that bomb. To me, that seems indisputable. That doesn’t resolve the question at hand. But that fact, I think, is indisputable. Last point on this. The atomic bomb… The atomic bomb in itself was necessary because though the Japanese knew that they were defeated, they were not willing to surrender. So, Richard Frank and others make the argument that from the summer of 1944 onward, it was plain to the Japanese that they had lost the war. They knew it. They were defeated; they knew they were defeated. That does not translate into a willingness to surrender. Now that the archives are open, we have all sorts of data on the intelligence intercepts from the Magic program, multi-program onward. We know from the communications between the Japanese Foreign Minister and the representative, the ambassador in Moscow, that the Japanese were nowhere close to surrender.
A little bit of background on this: the War Council in Japan, known as the Big Six, had to make a unanimous decision about really any major decision before the empire would follow its dictates. From 1944 onward, the Magic intercepts tell us that they were at best split on the decision of whether or not to surrender. It was three to three. Without the unanimity, they could not produce a surrender. We can get into this in the Q&A, but there’s the idea that, oh, all they were holding out for was the preservation of the emperor. Nowhere in the Magic intercepts does that appear to be the case. The Big Six, they wanted territorial concessions. They wanted no war crimes, or if there were crime—were war crime—tribunals then we would administer them ourselves. If there’s a military stand down, we will oversee that. There will be no occupation. These demands shifted, but they were never only about the preservation of the emperor. And then as an aside, I would say even if it were only about the preservation of the emperor, my question is, why on God’s green earth would we necessarily […] allow the maintenance of the imperial system? The emperor himself was a part of the war machine. If you look from… It goes all the way back to 1868 when—people in the St. William period said he’s a refrigerator, right? So, Matthew Perry—I just dated myself there probably—but Commodore Matthew Perry in 1868 moved to the Japanese harbor. There began the relationship between the Japanese and the West. And the Japanese had a question at hand of how do we allow the West to come in without us losing who we are. And they did many things to preserve this important question, but they ended up fusing Shintoism and nationalism with bushido and created a way of being nationalistic while still bringing in Western technologies.
They began almost an imperial fetish where the emperor became a deity, connected all the way back to the Sun God from early Japan. All of this, this new bushido code, predicated on loyalty and self-sacrifice, and all of this, up into 1945, had ghastly consequences. And the recognition was that this has to be driven out of the Japanese people if we’re to have any kind of a durable peace. They need to know they’ve been licked. They need to be tired of fighting. We can get here, I suspect, but I don’t know if it’s entirely true that we probably agree on most of these facts. But at the end of the day, this is going to come down to a question of how do we… What does moral action look like? Despite the facts, or in light of the facts, how do we behave morally in the world? While we can get into some of that, I’m going to skip it because I just want to talk about the history, and I’m going to try to conclude because I’m sure I’m probably almost out of time. Alright. I’m gonna jump to the occupation. MacArthur, General MacArthur, was responsible for the occupation of Japan. He had a strategy of not only military disarmament, but moral and psychological disarmament as well. I’ve already touched on this a little bit. This moral and psychological disarmament was balanced by a positive project of institutional reforms, but MacArthur was clear that the Japanese themselves would make no demands. They were defeated people, and they had to know that they were defeated people.
One historian wrote it like this: “MacArthur’s strategy was that the Japanese had to experience a defeat so shattering, they surrender so unconditionally, a disgrace of militarism so complete, and to experience the misery of their holy war at so personal a level that reconstruction would be recognized as involving much more than fixing broken buildings. It would mean rethinking what it means to speak of the good life and the good society.” And, the kind of surrender we demanded of them, and then the occupation we enforced upon them, brought this about in ways shocking given today’s news cycle. I think the American administration of postwar Japan was remarkably nuanced, culturally savvy, strategically capable, were very careful to distinguish state Shintoism from personal Shintoism. We allowed the personal fidelity to their faith to continue, but we upreared it from the education system. We gave them essentially a new constitution that I think is correct to say they have never since changed. But, even from the beginning, they needed to know that nothing was owed to them. This was MacArthur’s stance. And then hard on the heels of that, an amazing amount of aid came pouring into the country. But again, it’s one of an… And this was essential because in January, the rice crop failed, and had the war continued, the crisis in Japan, just in terms of food supply, would have been ghastly. We brought in rice, we brought in food, we fed and rebuilt Japan. As one observer said, this, the peace that we now enjoy with Japan, first came about from the dropping of napalm and atom bombs, not rice. I’ll close with just an anecdote. Just eight years after the end of World War II, Theodor Geisel, also known as… Pretty good.
Dr. Seuss visited Japan, and he met with a whole bunch of Japanese schoolchildren. And he asked the Japanese school children to draw pictures of what they wanted to be when they grew up. And the Japanese schoolchildren, eight years after World War II, on eight years after no longer being in a school system which drove them to an emperor worship, self-sacrifice for the good of the emperor, and the acquisition of territories worthy of such an empire—eight years after all of that, the Japanese children drew pictures of doctors and statesmen and teachers, even wrestlers, right? Only one student drew a picture of a soldier and he wanted to be General MacArthur. I think that’s related to the atomic bomb.
Capizzi: Alright, great. Thank you. Thank you, Mark, for inviting me to be here. I had comments, but I’m gonna basically scrap them and just respond to more or less what I heard, and partly because I think that’d be more fun, you know, for you if you hear us engage on all these things. And because Marc’s comments, I think, are quite provocative, and, sort of to get to the punch line, I think they’re largely wrong. So, in a way, the first question would be something like, what is the relationship of the facts, right, to thinking through moral questions? You may have seen, I wrote a piece on Public Discourse that was on this in a way that was responsive to these kinds of arguments that just line up certain kinds of fact, or what you take to be facts, right, they’re not… the Japanese were not really ready to surrender, that they were a particular kind of fighting people, and that, you know, as Marc said, you count up all the other numbers, that once you add those things up and you look at them, you realize, geez, we’re gonna have to drop the bomb; we’re gonna have to do something that seems particularly horrific, at least in the course of human history, right, unprecedented to that point. And, as Marc knows already, and, in a way, there’s not really been any sort of moral pro—there’s not been any progress intellectually on this kind of question. For many of us, that’s just not how you do moral analysis, right, that there are certain kinds of things that you can’t do even if I see all of these facts, right? You still can’t do certain things that we might want to do, that we might think are necessary to do, and so on. So, I mean, that’s one area, I think, where we just, you know, kind of strongly disagree. I want to make a point about what I think Marc’s analysis does well, and where we agree, and that is, he’s doing what seems to be like he’s making a careful attempt to keep politics and war connected.
And this is something that I think is deeply embedded in the just war theory of the Catholic version or, you know, Protestant version 2.0, or whatever, right, like the original. From our perspective, war waging is an extension of political activity. Another way to put it is, it’s not a departure from politics, right? So, war needs to serve the goods that are served by political activity, and therefore also it needs to be bound by the morality that binds political activity. And you’re all probably thinking, well, geez, we don’t typically use, you know, bombers, you know, when we do… when we try to achieve domestic political aims, unless you’re, maybe you’re Mayor Wilson Goode from Philadelphia or something, right? But that’s an old example that maybe proves the point. And that, while it’s true, right, we don’t. What we can do […] but I think we all recognize we can do is we can take human lives in the pursuit of some political goods even domestically. And you don’t even think about capital punishment, right, because that’s, you know, its own contested thing, and so one of them’s often not necessary, right, in order to preserve, you know, the good of peace in a society once you’ve apprehended somebody, or just think of rioting, right?
We recognize that sometimes in riots if they’re of a severe enough kind, countries are within their rights in using lethal force against rioters who are bringing force against the state, right? That’s a common view in politics, that domestically you can do this, and, by analogy, and it’s a common analogy that’s made in just war analysis, or really probably in any kind of political analysis, that’s the kind of thing that happens internationally, or among states, when they have certain kinds of disagreements. They recognize that they can bring force against each other in order to vindicate some wrong, but the key here is that a wrong is done, right, that somebody is doing something that is, in fact, wrong. It’s been judged as wrong by those who are in political authority. And now, political authority is acting in a manner to right that wrong, or to secure goods against that wrong. So, I like that Marc is connecting the waging of the war, the going to the war and so on, to political goals that he’s identifying, the good of peace that comes as a consequence of Japanese surrender and so on.
The problem from my perspective, right, and not merely my perspective, is not simply that, of course, he’s going to justify something that is immoral in, you know, classical morality, right, which is the intentional killing of innocent people as a means to security, that end, right, of peace. It’s not merely that. That’s in a sense more symptomatic, right? It’s that he does so by defining facts in very sort of ironclad ways when they’re not clearly facts, right, that they’re speculative. So, the peace that comes as a consequence of what happens could only have happened if we dropped the bomb. Well, that doesn’t seem to me to be a fact; that seems to be a speculation about what happens, you know, again, once you assume certain kinds of things are in motion. One key element of his assumption, and he was clear about this, which is, you know, again, to his credit, is the language of unconditional surrender, right, that we have to force the Japanese into an unconditional surrender. It’s unclear why we have to do that. But, nonetheless, that is a commitment that Marc makes, and he gives us this wonderful language that we, you know… the Japanese have to be humiliated, right? They have to be humiliated. You know, it seems to me like it’s a fair question…
LiVecche: I’d say the militarists have to be humiliated.
Capizzi: Maybe you did; I don’t know. I wrote down the Japanese had to be humiliated. So, they have to be humiliated. They needed to know they could make no demands, right, so there’s no room for any concessions, which, again, we think of as kind of typical politics. I mean, one of the other aspects of politics is that there is give and take; there is negotiation, right? And it’s pretty clear that in this case, Marc and those who argue this way have excluded that as a possibility, where we’re just going to assume that the way forward… It presupposes unconditional surrender, their humiliation in a way that was not the case in Germany, you know, after the First World War, which, again, is a way of reading what happens after the First World War and then reading that onto the Japanese situation and then saying that because of that fact and this fact, right now, we can do nothing other than humiliate these people, completely demoralize them to the—I think he said morally defeated and now I can’t remember what the other […] term was.
Capizzi: Right, psychologically and morally defeat them. Well, these to me seem contrary to the kinds of goods that ought to be pursued by those who are engaging in negotiations, engaging in the pursuit of peace with a partner. The Japanese remain a partner in—ought to remain a partner in—this process of pursuing a peace. And it’s clear that from this perspective, that is not the case. Once you have committed to that, then you’ve more or less committed yourself to a position where you could do anything you wanted to to humiliate them, to demoralize them, to psychologically defeat them, and so on. So, you can’t allow them to go on, I think Marc said, you know, with their emperor worship, but you can allow us to impose conditions on them that lead to them worshiping MacArthur, right, or lead to them, you know, revering certain kinds of, you know, goods of ours. Why that’s the case, again, why we’re backing in ourselves and them into these positions is not clear. Why we accept those facts is not clear.
That’s why I think, generally speaking, just war analysis has refused to condone unconditional surrender because it backs you, again, into situations where you imagine—or you cut off the imaginative possibilities that you remain in a place that would allow you to make peace with an adversary, right, who also has peace as its own good. Peace is an arrangement of order between peoples, right, and that’s… Anyway, so, these are my concerns with that kind of analysis, that they accept certain things as facts that are not clearly facts, and there… there remain lots of disputes about elements of Marc’s account or the history about, you know, for instance, how the Russians may have affected the outcome and so on, but I know Marc and I probably disagree about the… But, there remain lots of disputes about these kinds of things, but they’re accepted as facts in order to vindicate what is essentially ultimately a consequential analysis. If we add up the numbers, right, if we add up all the numbers, including numbers for which we are not responsible, right, you know, when somebody is doing some harm to somebody else, right now that counts, you know, on the ledger sheet against us if we don’t act in a timely way, right? Why that’s the case is unclear, but if we add up all these numbers, and even I think at one time, I can’t remember if it was Marc or somebody else, projected forward. They started counting all of the missing people that would have been born, right, as a consequence of not having been killed. Was it you? I can’t remember.
LiVecche: I don’t think that’s me.
Capizzi: Right, but… Maybe it was at the […] of the conversation we were having. Right, all of these numbers are now going to be counted up, you know, as part of an analysis. So, even though we’re told the numbers don’t matter, they clearly do matter, right? They do matter because they’re used to justify doing something that, generally speaking, classical morality agrees is wrong: intentionally killing people who are innocent. I’ll stop there. You know, I think there’s a lot more we can discuss. But, I just wanted to respond to what Marc brought to the table today.
LiVecche: If I could just have two points—I had three, I completely forgot what the first, second, or third one was—of maybe clarification. The first one is already beginning to fall away. So…
Capizzi: You’re down to one?
LiVecche: I think it’s down to just the one, but maybe the other one will come back. Oh, no, two points.
Capizzi: Another one is back?
LiVecche: The first one’s back. I do do this dogmatically, right. These are the facts. And I can see happily that we don’t have omniscience. We didn’t have omniscience in 1945; we don’t have it now. But, I do assert, and this is self-evident, that the best we can do at any one moment is to marshal the facts as we can understand them, the details as we can comprehend them, and to respond to those, always with the caveat that, yeah, sure, maybe because of the contingencies of history, we’re wrong about this. But, when we use reason, authority, or experience as carefully as possible, we give ourselves the best chance at making the moral choice. And I would argue, from Okinawa, to Saipan, Iwajima, the Japanese taught us how the Japanese will fight on their homeland, from knowing that they were defeated from 1944 onward and yet not accepting the idea of surrender—
Capizzi: Unconditional surrender.
LiVecche: What’s that?
Capizzi: Unconditional surrender.
LiVecche: Uncondi—uh, the surrender that was being proposed had to be unacceptable: territorial acquisitions and disputed little lands that they had conquered, you know, on and on. We can get into those facts; I don’t want to get totally sidetracked. I just want to say that […] Of course, we didn’t have rock solid facts, but we do the best we can with the information at hand. That’s the first step of Christian ethics, is to try to get as accurate a description of the facts on the ground as you can, and then to begin responding to them. Because of those… because of reason, authority, and experience, I think we had good reasons to think what I have described as facts were in fact facts. The second thing is, I don’t mean to suggest that we could therefore do anything to bring about unconditional surrender, and my qualification isn’t going to heal the breach. We can only do things that were constrained by just cause, right intention, military necessity, discrimination and proportionality. I think the atomic bomb fit that bill.
Unknown Speaker: It was constraint by discrimination.
LiVecche: Yeah. Which is an expansion of the idea of discrimination.
Capizzi: He said it’s an expansion of the idea of discrimination. It’s an abuse of the idea of discrimination. Mark, you wanted to ask questions first, I think? There are hands behind you.
Tooley: Well, let’s just go straight to the audience. Who has a question?
Capizzi: That fellow who was shaking his head at everything I said in the back.
Caleb Johnson: I didn’t hear Marc assert as fact that it was unconditional surrender that led to the peace that we’ve had with Japan. But I think it’s pretty reasonable speculation. I mean, in all the myriad conflicts that we’ve had since the end of the Civil War, only two of them have really ended in a situation of basically unconditional surrender, and only two have really ended in unambiguous victory: the Civil War and World War II. So, I don’t think that was totally unreasonable speculation, but that’s a separate conversation. But when we talk about unconditional surrender being something that’s at odds with traditional morality, isn’t that situational? Like, doesn’t that depend on who is imposing those conditions or lack thereof? I mean, I could see that being immoral if it was the Soviet Union dictating to Japan that they could not have any negotiations or conditions, but it’s not if it was the United States, and it wasn’t that the Japanese were […]. In fact, it was the opposite. We were liberating them from a death cult where they were worshipping a tyrant, and we were freeing them to be in a situation where they could actually be peaceful partners with us that they could not have been had we allowed them to negotiate with us while they were still under the shackles of a tyrannical death cult that they were in. It seems to me that it would have been at odds with traditional morality to have allowed them to remain in such a state.
Capizzi: Yeah, look, I… So, obviously, you’re importing these facts, certain kinds of claims, right? The traditional death cult, right?
Johnson: They pledged 100 million deaths of honor. That sounds like a pretty […] death cult. That’s not speculative.
Capizzi: But many of them loved their emperor, right? Many of them revered their emperor, right? I mean, this… We’re talking about…
Johnson: Hence the cult part of my point.
Capizzi: […] People worship different things, right? This is… It’s a powerful claim, right, and, you know, arguably an arrogant claim, to override, right, the Japanese people’s own self-understanding of their relationship with their emperor. So, I just think we have to be […] about the kinds of claims that we make on behalf of other cultures, right? So…
Johnson: That’s how they described it. That’s not some Westerner…
Capizzi: They described it as we’re shackled by our emperor?
Johnson: They described that as worshiping.
Capizzi: I understand, right. I understand that they’re not the first… they’re not the first people to worship another person, right, or to worship, particularly people, as… or to revere them as their leaders and so on, right? I don’t […] say they were hypnotized by, or, you know, in a cult, an entire people for over a century, right? That seems arrogant. And that’s the kind of arrogance… that’s the kind of arrogance, I think, that fuels into certain understanding which, I think, relates the comment, you know, the question about discrimination, that they’re not innocent, right? These people are not innocent because they have this particular regard for this emperor that inclines them to, you know, fight differently, that inclines them to behave differently than Americans do or would, right?
Johnson: No, I actually view them perhaps even more innocently than you do, but I think that dropping the bomb on them was a tragic action that their emperor necessitated, and that those deaths are at the hands of the emperor, and unfortunately, you know, that was his responsibility. I mean, liberating someone from a cult who was […] fight to the death doesn’t seem like… I don’t understand what moral analysis puts responsibility for those deaths on the hands of their liberators.
Capizzi: Who would put the responsibility for the deaths on the people who dropped the bombs on them?
Capizzi: In terms of action analysis?
Capizzi: Yeah, okay. Well, that’s where again I think we would depart, right, that what that presupposes is that we were by necessity forced into doing something; we were not agents—we were not free agents as Americans, right? We did not act freely in choosing to do this, and you’re describing them as innocent, right? And so, in killing them, this was just a kind of historical necessity, which is, you know, I think, how… what was what I reacted to in my essay, and I think what Marc has in the past, you know, argued, right, that it was a kind of, you know, tragic situation as you put it, but that’s not how I think, again, classical morality would understand our actions. We are free, right? We could have chosen other than to do that, right? We could have fought differently. We could have made different kinds of demands in terms of the surrender, right? We could have done other things. These are things that, as we said the last time we were talking about this, that Niebuhr and others, right, other people said there were other alternatives than to do. We chose, right, we chose to do this, and we can provide a rationale for why we chose to do this, but we chose out of freedom to do it, and when you choose out of freedom to kill innocent people—intentionally to kill innocent people, right—when you choose potentially to kill innocent people, you’ve chosen murder as a means to certain ends.
Tooley: Alright, next question. Steve?
Steve: You said potentially a number of times, and maybe I’m looking at too much of a legal lens. I would argue it was knowing rather than intentional. I guess, do you agree with that distinction, and if you do, and it’s not just workmanship on my part, wouldn’t continuing the land invasion or the siege or whatever also lead to knowing, if not intentional, attempts? We knew what was going to happen. We didn’t intend for that to happen. There’s a natural and logical consequences of it, but not something we hoped or wanted to happen.
Capizzi: So, the distinction between knowing that something is going to be an outcome of your action, right, and intending something as the outcome of your action, is also classical morality, right? I agree; there’s a distinction to be made between knowing something is going to happen as a consequence of my action, or knowing two things, or two or more things will happen as a consequence of my action, and then also saying that I intend one of those things, but I don’t intend this other outcome, right? So, I like to talk about punishment, right, so, you know, in punishment, right, I intend something, like I can intend to send my child, you know, to bed without dinner, right, as a punishment, and I’m doing this in order to punish them. I know as a consequence of that, it’s going to bring suffering on them, right? Or, it’s going to cause my son, you know… Maybe even I know, with a certain kind of parental confidence, right, that my son will react in a particular way, right? He’ll start screaming and break a toy or something like this. So, which of those things can I say I intended, right, as an act, as a consequence, of my action? I didn’t intend even something I knew was going to happen, right? He’s going to break his toy, or he’s going to yell at me, right, use a bad word. Even though I had a really good sense this was going to happen, I intended to punish. I intended to cause the suffering associated with punishment. So, absolutely, right, that’s a distinction that’s critical to all of our analysis, right? Now, if I beat my children, right, if I punish my child, right, and I beat him, you know, and I hurt him, right, you know, I hit him hard enough that I hurt him, and afterwards, I say, look, I knew I was going to hit him, but I didn’t intend, right, I didn’t really intend to hurt him, you could say to me, well Joe, look, you hit a kid like that you’re gonna hurt him. He’s 12, you’re whatever you are, right? You’re going to hurt him, right? You can’t tell me, right, that you didn’t intend this. Because that can happen, right, like, where even though I choose an action and do something, right, that I think I’m not intending some outcome, somebody else can say, actually, you know, you did. You know, you did intend. I can tell who’s… There was a football player, right, who beat his child a few years back.
Unknown Speaker: Adrian Peterson
Capizzi: What was that?
Unknown Speaker: Adrian Peterson
Capizzi: Right, right, and the law basically said to him, you know, because I think Peterson basically being […] it was punishment, right, I was punishing my child. I was intending to punish him. I’m not responsible for, you know—I didn’t mean to hurt him. And the law basically made a judgment. Well, no, you did, like you can’t… Right. So we can acknowledge that that can be true, too, right? And so where Marc and I depart, right, I think is in seeing a situation like this, right, where—and I don’t know which part of the intentionality and knowing you’re just, you know, where the disagreement comes, but as Ramsey said, right, you can’t drop the bombs, right, and withhold your intention. When you’re dropping an atomic weapon on a city, right, on Nagasaki, you’re intending to kill the innocent people. You don’t merely know you’re going to kill innocent people; you’re intending to kill innocent people at that point. And how do we know that? Because you didn’t do other things you might have been able to do, right? There’s something about this weapon; there’s something about, right, the options that you allow yourself to consider that you removed, right, and you jumped in with… and we really can’t adequately say that you didn’t intend this, and I’m on the side of those who think it’s crystal clear that we intended to kill innocent people, in part to do the kinds of things Marc said: to demoralize them, to humiliate them, right, to psychologically damage them, right? And obviously, it has an effect. This is not like dropping fire bombs, which are also morally problematic, right, where people can run to air shelters and so on. This is bomb hits and, right, everything gets leveled relatively instantaneously. It’s a different thing than that, which also, anyway, it’s hard to argue wasn’t intended to… might be a different kind of war waging than we were doing earlier in the war—than anybody was doing earlier. We weren’t the only ones doing these things. So, I think it’s pretty clear that that is a situation where not merely that we know that we’re going to kill innocents, right, which we knew in other places, we intended to kill innocents, and again, along the lines that fit Marc’s analysis, we did it because we wanted to. I can’t remember the kinds of things you said, but we wanted to, we want to lick them. We wanted to lick them. We want them to know they’re licked, right, and not merely licked, that they’re psychologically hobbled by this confidence. And, to that extent, maybe that was, maybe that did happen. I mean […] Sorry, it’s a long response.
Steve: Yeah, thank you. So at the risk of putting words in your mouth—
Steve: —and I use the term […] number of casualties, but you don’t view the many, many civilian deaths from the bombings as mere collateral damage, and you think it was, I guess, part of the strategy, part of the intent to humiliate and devastate by killing civilians?
Capizzi: Right, so you can distinguish that kind of bombing at that point in the war—again, either the fire bombing, or the atomic bombing—at that point in the war, we are actually trying to kill civilians, right, because we’re trying to bring about the end of the war in a timely way, and also a sufficiently demoralizing way or however you want to describe it. So, their deaths are actually part of the means towards these ends that you’re pursuing. That’s right. Collateral damage would be like, you know, we’re going to bomb, you know, a shipyard, right, and we’re going to send, you know, whatever, you know, by whatever means of bombing it, and but we also factor into it that some, right, bombs are imprecise, and some of them are going to go the wrong way, or we can’t see as well as we can or whatever, we’re going to factor into it a certain percentage of… Well, death, you’re gonna view it from the perspective of proportionality. How many of those kinds of deaths, right, before we say it’s disproportionate? So yeah, I think, yes.
LiVecche: If I can just touch on a couple of […]
Capizzi: Right, because we disagree on this.
LiVecche: We do. All sorts of things that I want to say, but just a couple things. You know, there was at one point, we had whittled down the target list to about 10 different cities and Hiroshima and Nagasaki were never at any point the most densely populated. So to say… We also at least have to say, we weren’t simply out to kill as many innocent non-combatants as possible because we could have hit a bigger city. Hiroshima was chosen, in part, because the city was essentially untouched from conventional bombing, and for a demonstration blast to be effective, we wanted to level the city, which is going to be full of people, yes. But, we were targeting an untouched city so as to best demonstrate the destructive nature of the bomb, so as to best drive home the fact that we do not have to invade you. So your plan of having us invade and fighting so ferociously that we will eventually weary of the bloodletting and sue for terms more acceptable to you is obsolete. So, a lot of people who agree with me say, oh, is it just, you know, it was a land invasion or the atomic bombing. Make no mistake, we never had to invade Japan. You could have stood offshore with the naval blockade. You could have conventionally bombed them with […]. You could have done other things. I don’t know why this idea keeps carrying forward. We did not have to invade. We dropped leaflets on crowded cities saying what cities are targetable. I don’t know where we expected the people to go, right, so, you know, that’s a little bit disingenuous, but there is that, and it does matter to a degree but I don’t want to rest on this. That Hiroshima is the hold of the Second Army. The Second Army, one of their express purposes was to manage the Ketsu-Go program, the insurgency. So, the universal conscription that the emperor of Japan forced upon all women and men from—I can’t remember the exact ages but early teens […]. There was universal conscription, and the Second Army stationed in Hiroshima was in charge of that. So, there was a viable military target. That’s a little bit of… A lot of people say, oh, it’s a legitimate military target. Okay, but, you know, that’s pushing the parameters of that. I want to look at… Nagasaki is more problematic. A lot of my stuff stops on Hiroshima. I have questions about Nagasaki. At the end of the day, I still say fine, should have done it. I think it’s a little bit more problematic. But I do think this question of intentionality also has a lot to do, not just with intention, like we know these people will die and we mean it, but is there also—Nigel […] does this and I know a lot of people don’t like it—but you can even split intention into those things that you desire in and of themselves, and I think at no point would it be right to say we desired in and of itself the annihilation of the people in Hiroshima. We knew it was going to happen. Maybe it was salutary, that along with the city we wiped out, you know, 80,000 human beings in a flash. It drove home the shock and awe. You know, that broke the will of the Japanese to continue fighting. But I think it’s important to say, even after Nagasaki, the Big Six was split three to three. They still did not want to give up after Nagasaki, which was after Hiroshima, after Nagasaki, and after the Soviets declared war. The Big Six were still split, and the emperor had to break the tie. I think all of that factors in.
Tooley: Before we get to concluding remarks, anyone want to try to take down Marc LiVecche?
Capizzi: And this guy did have his hand up for a while. Maybe take two more?
Unknown Speaker: My original question was actually somewhere in the notes. Well, I had two, so I’ll skip that one. The other one is actually […] and that is one thing I hear you kind of say maybe as a fact to you… Sorry, what’s your name?
Capizzi: This is Marc.
Unknown Speaker: Marc, yes. It’s true, we are trying to effectuate their surrender. I buy that. But it seems to me the way we’re talking about it was sort of more like, okay, this we knew, we did this for the surrender. I mean, it wasn’t inevitable it was going to work, right?
Unknown Speaker: I mean, they still could have killed, you know, however many, 100,000 people, and they still not surrender. […] And so, and it was really a very odd situation. It seems to me like the incredibly good outcome we had that is perhaps historically unprecedented in so far as in a sense we made their god cry. Does the fact that it wasn’t inevitable that the god was going to cry… How much does that change your confidence that you didn’t know it was going to work, and that you really, in one sense, kind of have an audience of one person in what you were trying to do?
LiVecche: It’s a great question. Maybe I didn’t say this, so what I’ll say is, I think the atomic bomb had the best chance of bringing about the unconditional surrender in as short a time as possible, the best chance of doing that. No guarantees. Yes, my calculus doesn’t change at all. I think no other option would have had any chance of bringing about… I mean, we’ve been working on it since 1944, Potsdam forward, working on surrender for long hours. So, this is the best chance and given the costs of not having a timely, quick surrender, our calculus doesn’t change.
Tooley: In conclusion, and… Oh, is there another question? Oh, three more. Lots of questions.
Capizzi: That’s just not fair at that point. The fellow with the open collar.
Ramon Perea: Oh, yeah, Mark. So, I’ll give a shout out to the pro-bomb side. So, two questions. First, I’m guessing you—or, how would you answer the Soviet question? I’ve been told confidently by an academic historian that, you know, the thing that influenced Japan to surrender to the US was the, you know, encouragement of the Soviets. But the second thing also vaguely related to the Soviets, but with just war in particular, is right intent is an important aspect of dropping the bomb. That’s part of the justification […] But there are other factors that we know that existed behind the motivation of the dropping of the bomb, one being, I mean, you couldn’t use it in Germany, and there’s a bit of institutional inertia of spending however many millions of dollars, a billion dollars we spent. We have this weapon, we have to find out what it does before it’s too late. And second, you know, we want to make an example to the Soviets. Those are two other factors that were in the water. So, I guess my question is, what degree of influence would those corrupting intentions… At what point does it concern you that the bomb is no longer justified if those are encroaching on the correct intention of…
LiVecche: So if I thought that the reason we dropped it was to fire the first shot of the Cold War, it would have been ghastly and inhumane, and we shouldn’t have done it. But I don’t think the historic record in the pushback against […] all those guys—I think the historic record pushing against that is so strong that to my mind is absolutely convincing. I find it interesting that the Emperor of Japan in his radio address never mentioned the entry of the Soviet Union in his decision to surrender. He blamed the surrender on, and I can’t remember the exact language, but on the enemy having a tool or a device or a weapon, maybe, that we can do nothing against. He never mentioned the entry of the Soviet Union. Did it help? I’m sure it helped. I mean, it was certainly a one-two punch, but I think how it helped the most was because the Japanese were hoping that the Soviets would be willing to broker some sort of negotiated peace. That’s the Magic intercepts between the Japanese Foreign Minister and the Japanese ambassador in Moscow, was all predicated on that, like what can you get them to agree to? And some historians even say the Japanese, you know, carried a vague hope that maybe the Soviets would join their side, right, so I think that was the shock that, you know, the last grasp we have that brokered and negotiated peace so that we can have some of the terms that are dear to us has just been lost, but the emperor never mentions the entry of the Soviet Union into his declaration to the people of Japan that we’ve lost. And I think that’s telling because we, as far as I know, and I’ve seen no suggestion otherwise, we had no ability to influence his radio address whatsoever. He only mentioned the bomb.
Unknown Speaker: Jim.
Jim: So, as you say, if that had entered into our calculus, it would make it unjust, our use of the bomb, but shouldn’t we have also considered the moral cost of using it in the future? So, it’s… The points that you made and pointed out where you said it would have been immoral to use it, should we have at least considered the what ifs moving into foreign policy beyond the war, or just the fact that we were simply looking to end the war meant that it was moral and we didn’t have to consider post-1945?
LiVecche: Yeah, I’m not sure I get the weight of the question, but for sure, we should always consider the secondary effects of anything we do. For certain. I don’t know what else to say beyond that, but yeah, that should factor into the calculus. If I punch Joe now for whatever he just did, you know, what does that do to actions of the future, sure.
Capizzi: Well, I think the force of the question to be something like, there’s a calculation being made, right, and the calculation you’re doing, again, like I said, what’s good about it to me is that it’s striving to keep connected political outcomes, right, political lens, like legitimate political lens, to the activity of war, right? But where it depart from what I think is classical, you know, morality is that it allows to be calculated into this the doing of things that you understand to be immoral as kind of a prioris. And, in order to do the kind of analysis you’re doing to allow you to do that, override these moral a prioris, you’re kind of entering into the calculation a lot of things, right, things that like, you know, that I pointed out you said were facts that I think, again, are questionable. So, it’s again, whether, in fact, the emperor will surrender as a consequence of the shape or the response of the Japanese people to it. The consequences for the coming conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union at that point, should that have been also factored into this or not, and if it had been in what way might it have affected the calculation you’re making, and that’s part of the difficulty, right, for analyses that allow you to sort of undo certain moral commitments because of the calculation is that it becomes very difficult to understand when we stop, when we stop calculating, right, and as I said—I think it was in conversation with a group of us—that one partner of the conversation included the deaths of people who were not born. Those need to be calculated in, and that’s not unintelligible, right, once you start counting, you know, sort of bodies all over Southeast Asia, right? But, again, it’s all about a calculation that is serving to try to override some really valuable moral prohibition, which is we don’t punish people who are not party to certain wrongs, right? I mean, that’s the commitment of not merely like, classical morality, but more particularly the Christian tradition. We don’t harm people who are not involved in doing harms to other people or harms to us. So, I think…
Unknown Speaker: That’s part of what you’re trying to […]
Capizzi: How do we just stop this calculation? You know, can this be included as well?
Unknown Speaker: Yeah, that’s far better stated.
LiVecche: And I guess, you know, and I won’t defend this but if you want to talk about it over juice or something that’ll be fine. This idea of not doing harm to people who don’t deserve it, like…
Capizzi: Who haven’t harmed you.
LiVecche: Who haven’t harmed you. We can whittle those numbers down in Hiroshima, right? It was 20,000 soldiers that died. We could do all that. We could talk about the Tetsu-Go and how many were universally conscripted. At the end of the day, there were still babies and infirm and elderly that had no opportunity, no capability of fighting us. So we still have to account for them. So, I don’t want to be one of those who say, oh, you know, the whole military target thing. At the end of the day, you know, I wrote about this scene in Afghanistan today, that when enough people have made enough bad decisions that pile up one upon the other, at some point, there are no good decisions, purely good decisions that can be made. The surrender should have happened months prior to the atomic bombing, and then we wouldn’t have dropped this bomb no matter what the inertia was. Had they stood down, we would have said, oh, haha, we’re going to drop it anyway to see if the damn thing works. We wouldn’t have done that, right? In August in 1945, we had clusters of innocent people who, maybe through no fault of their own, were in conflict: innocent people in China, innocent American conscripts potentially about to invade Japan, innocent Japanese in Japan. Not all of these innocent people are going to survive to the end of August 1945, and I think we had cause for preferring the lives of other innocent people to the lives of those innocent Japanese because we were forced to make that kind of preferential judgment, and that’s ghastly, and horrific, a source of grief, but it’s not a source of moral […]
Tooley: How many questions do we have left? One? Will that be our final question? Go ahead.
Unknown Speaker: This is for Marc. Marc, are you… In your decision calculus, it sounds like you’re necessarily saying we expect the Japanese leadership to surrender based on inclusively these deaths of civilians versus just like trying to bomb somewhere that’s has less civilians or make some type of demonstration of power, etc. So, do I understand it right that that’s a necess—that’s a part of your argument. Like, we… For example, we didn’t want to target some other location that didn’t have as many people because we believed that they would not make a decision to surrender based on a lower amount of deaths.
LiVecche: So, there’s two ways that I could answer that. I’ll just try to get in the heads of people in the 1945 with what I have read and anybody can correct me if I’m obviously wrong on this. I don’t know that that calculation played a role. For sure people were saying, oh, look, we could bomb the isalnd of Truk. It’s a purely military target. Let’s do that. Let’s blow the top off of Mount Fuji, right, there were arguments for a demonstration blast. Some of the reasons they said no to the demonstration blast, you know, were very specific to the location. Richard Frank talked about the deep harbor at Truk, that if we missed—if the bomb missed its mark, it might have fallen into the deep water not detonated, not broken, the Japanese could have grabbed it, they could have perfected the bomb. Now they have the bomb. Truk is far away from—not far away, but further away from Japan than Hiroshima is. The ability of the Japanese to absorb exactly what happened on Truk is diminished. If you drop the bomb in Japan itself, you know, they can feel the weight of what’s just transpired more purely. It’s just a better demonstration. If we drop it on Mount Fuji or an unpopulated place, might that suggest to the Japanese that, aha, so the Americans have the bomb which they denied forever. Okay, they have bomb, but they don’t have the will to use the bomb on a populated center. And so, there were all these factors that did go into it. So, I don’t know if at any point they said, we got to bomb some people! But they did say, look, any of these other possibilities don’t make sense. They’re too risky, they might give false impressions. In fact, the language of the Potsdam Declaration were softened in certain areas, and we now have records of meetings of the Big Six where they said, oh look, the Americans are weakening, right? So, it seemed like anything we did, carried the risk—risks—of being misinterpreted as being soft. Hiroshima did not.
Capizzi: But what that all makes clear, right, is that, you know, you’re treating the risks of missing, right, you know, something, and having the bomb detonate under water—you’re treating that risk as almost commensurable, right, if not completely commensurable with the risks of killing innocent people, right? It’s all just getting factored into, right, an analysis, a calculation that’s treating the deaths, the intentional deaths of innocent people as just, you know, an element of a calculation that’s no different from maybe not having the bomb blow up the way you want to maybe not having the impact you want it to have, and so on. And that’s exactly what, again, the classical just war theory would say is, you know, inappropriate, immoral, right, is murderous. We’re not supposed to treat that as just another thing that can be factored into an analysis, and one of the things I think you see from an analysis like Marc’s is that it becomes like, you know, in the conversation I had earlier, a kind of deterministic, right, that—I think you’d use the language of, you know—the choices just sort of reduce to well, we have to do this, right, so it’s tragic, right, it’s horrific, right, but it’s determined. We have to do it, and not to do it, right, I think he began by saying, right, would be the wrong thing, right?
Unknown Speaker: Isn’t that for most moral decisions, though? Deciding to go to war is the last resort, whereas if you’re already ruling out all these other possibilities and making the decision, you’re saying not war is less ethical […]
LiVecche: I want to end my bit with making very clear that I do not want to argue that the Americans felt that our hands were tied. We did make a constrained decision. We made a free decision, which means it was a moral decision. So, you can make it rightly, that’s true. But it was, you know… Morality requires the freedom to choose, meaning moral choice. I think we made the right one set against the costs of not making the choice we made, which wasn’t simply utility, but it was, you know, the ghastly numbers of other innocent people that were dying every day, so that’s absolutely moral. […]
Capizzi: And by the analysis that, right, that I think animates just war tradition, the free choice to kill innocent people, intentionally—
LiVecche: And therefore, save other innocent people
Capizzi: —remains murderous. It remains murder. Economic pregnancies and murders, and all that, on and on and on.
Tooley: Alright, ending on a positive note, could both of you say at least a few words on 75 years, 76 years of peace since 1945, the exceptional nature of the relationship between Japan and the US given the history before 1945
LiVecche: The moment when Obama, all criticisms understood, embraced the survivor of Hiroshima demonstrates to me that the aim of peace with the Japanese was a great good, and that the occupation was done well. It is, and I mean this literally—this is not me cursing—it is a goddamn shame that we’re not going to have that moment with the Taliban in 75 years, right, so that was a great moment where the victor was able to go into a defeated city and embrace a former enemy as friends, and it’s a great grief that we do not enjoy those moments postwar very often.
Capizzi: Peace is a great good. Of course, as we know, as Christians, the peace that we have is always imperfect. And, you know, we hope that it’s the same. There’s a lot we don’t know about why we become peaceful with people or why we don’t, and that’s where we also have to thank providence, in the sense that, you know, in essence, right, as Christians, that there are things operating here that exceed our capacity to control. And that’s part of what is built, you know, is baked into this analysis too, that we don’t know the outcomes of many of our actions, and we should be grateful for the peace that we have between the Japanese people and the Americans.
LiVecche: You mean God’s providence has a negative?
Capizzi: Well, sometimes. Right now, you know.
Tooley: Well, thank you all for participating in this very instructive conversation, especially our distinguished speakers. We’ll post the video online as quickly as Kennedy can do so for us, so look forward to that. We are planning an event for commemorating 9/11, which will probably take place on 9/9 or 9/10, so stay tuned for that event. And I’m also thinking we need to do something on Afghanistan, possibly next week, possibly next Thursday, so stay tuned for that announcement as well. Please stick around for what’s left of the drinks. So, again, thank you so much.