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Friday, July 6, 2007

What Really Ended the Pacific War?

(Video from NHK Japan)

The Japanese defense minister has resigned his position after causing an uproar by remarking that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had "ended the war," and adding, "I think that it couldn't be helped."

Robert Joseph, the American special envoy for nuclear nonproliferation, added fuel to the fire by saying "I think most historians would agree that the use of an atomic bomb brought to a close a war that would have cost millions more lives, not just hundreds of thousands of Allied lives but literally millions of Japanese lives."

As Japan approaches the 62nd anniversary of the bombings next month, these remarks have hit a nerve with a nation that has, since the end of the war, dedicated itself to fighting for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Although the conventional wisdom of many historians is that the twin atomic bombings were the decisive factor in ending the war, a fascinating new study titled "The Winning Weapon"" in the journal International Security (published by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University), makes the case that the Soviet decision to enter the Pacific war was the true reason that Japan surrendered.

Although Japan had stated that the bombings were the reason they surrendered, the study concludes that this was a face-saving gesture on their part. "Who could blame them, after all, if they had lost the war not because they were not brave enough or smart enough, but because they failed to anticipate an unimaginable scientific breakthrough?"

The study concludes by taking a look at the question of the military usefulness of nuclear weapons in light of these new findings. It states, "If nuclear weapons played no role in the surrender of Japan, perhaps it is time to conduct a serious, far-reaching review of the general usefulness of nuclear weapons."

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