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Was Dropping an Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima Ethical?

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On December 7th, 1941 Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was the target of an unannounced military attack by the Japanese Navy. This resulted in the United States entry into World War II.

After almost 4 years of war, 400,000 US casualties, 6 months of air strikes on Japanese cities and an impending defeat of Japan, an ultimatum was delivered to Japan by the United States: surrender or be destroyed. On August 6th, 1945 the United States military dropped the first atomic bomb as an act of war on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

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3 days later, the second and last to date, atomic bomb was dropped onto Nagasaki, Japan.

Under the direction of President Harry Truman, the atomic bombs were dropped in response to the disregarded ultimatum demanding the surrender of Japan in World War II. 150,000 to 246,000 people died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki due to the blast and in the following months due to injury and radiation sickness. On August 15th, 1945 Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers, thus ending World War II. Cultural differences between the Japanese and Americans also played a part in creating the climate prior to the bombing of Hiroshima.

The Japanese culture gave great respect and honor to Japanese soldiers that killed themselves in Kamikaze attacks that surprised the American’s and struck them barbaric and disturbing. Their collectivist culture made it easier for American soldiers and civilians to hate the Japanese as a whole race. The Japanese also displayed a strong contradiction in cultural values by their refusal to surrender, even in the face of absolute death. The Japanese culture was, and is today, a culture of extreme opposites in many ways to that of the United States.

The United States is known for its Individualist values; putting strong emphasis on personal achievement, independence, entrepreneurship and competitiveness. The Japanese are often the example of what the opposite end of the spectrum values; belonging, group harmony and honor in the name of the collective group. The variance between these two perspectives is so broad that is it genuinely difficult to understand or empathize with someone with such opposing values. The American people saw the Japanese as non-human in many ways because of their seemingly bizarre behaviors.

After World War II, the United States found itself as the only western ally country that was not destroyed in the war. This gave the United States a significant advantage in the global manufacturing market. The United States saw many very prosperous years following World War II, in wealth creation, intellectual capital and patriotism. The United States also established a reputation with the world as a superpower that has the resources and will follow through with their threats. This singular decision to drop the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima has shaped the American and global perspective in countless ways.

Define the Ethical Issues Was it ethical for the United States to drop the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima? This is a very complex question, spanning decades before and after the decision, with a huge amount of information, many stakeholders, numerous options and severe consequences. Through the following analysis we will define an answer and develop and argument to support it. Identify the Stakeholders There were many absolutely invested stakeholders involved in the decision to drop the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima.

For immediate consideration were the citizens of Hiroshima, the country of Japan, its citizens, its government and its military; the American government, its soldiers, its citizens and the scientists that developed the Atomic Bomb. Also considered were the other countries and stakeholders that were also involved in the war including the other Allied Powers of Russia and England, the other Axis Powers of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, and all of the citizens, governments and militaries of their countries.

They were concerned for their integrity, health, quality of life, their lives, the lives of their loved ones. The vested interests in the infrastructure and environment of the targeted cities were also numerous. The property of hundreds of thousands of owners would be destroyed in the dropping of the bomb. Any insured property bore the interest of the company insuring it. The construction companies that would need to rebuild the city have an interest in the potential profits from the work. The environment and all of its plants and animals also have a natural interest in this issue as stakeholders.

The nature of the Atomic Bomb created a global and theoretical set of stakeholders that few other ethical dilemmas reach. In many ways this use of nuclear technology created the Cold War and the global fear of a nuclear Armageddon. At that time every citizen of the globe feared how the use of nuclear weapons would harm them and their world. The future is also a stakeholder in this conversation. The effects of nuclear fallout were not well understood at the time. Nuclear aftermath could last for decades and even longer, effecting the health and livelihood of all living things for generations to come.

The information that could be collected and research opportunities created after a nuclear weapon detonation would be studied for centuries and will change medicine and research forever. Future citizens and scientists were also stakeholders in this decision. The list of stakeholders in the decision to drop the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima is essentially limitless. The earth and all of its inhabitants have a stake in detonating an atomic bomb due to its actual and perceived power of destruction.

Identify the Consequences. The consequences of dropping the Atomic Bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima were very different from various stakeholders’ positions. In the event of an effective atomic bomb detonation, the consequences for the Japanese were the catastrophic loss of life, property and resources. They were also faced with the decision at that point to retaliate or surrender. The United States faced potential consequences of unknown retaliation tactics from the Japanese, an Axis Power or another country or organization. The detonation of the bomb could also achieve its goal to end the war and present the Allied Powers with the victory.

In the event of an ineffective atomic bomb delivery, the United States could face ridicule by other nations, a worldwide loss of respect as a military power, or retaliation by Japan or other countries. The consequences for the Japanese in the event that the bomb failed would be the value of not having one of its large cities destroyed. These 2 parties would share the consequence of losing more soldiers and civilians as the war continued. In the event of a decision to not drop the bomb, the consequences for the United States would be the potential loss of more soldiers in combat, the potential of another attack on US soil as the war continued.

There was also the potential that the intervention of the Russians would end the war. The Cold War may very well have never happened in the event that the Atomic Bomb was not dropped during World War II. The civilians, property and resources of Hiroshima would have avoided destruction but the continuation of the war or a battle with the Russians could have brought more casualties as well. Identify the Obligations Few of the obligations in this case are concrete; especially in war times. The most concrete obligations are the contractual ones.

The President of the United States as Commander in Chief has a constitutional obligation to act in the best interest of the United States Military and help their mission to protect the country. The obligation of the American President to act in the best interest of the American people is also one of the strongest duties identified in this analysis. The Japanese Emperor held similar obligations to his country and military as well. These concrete obligations are supported by a Deontological ethics perspective as well. There were many more theoretical perspectives as to what are the most significant obligations as well.

The Utilitarian perspective gives the greatest obligation to the option that benefits the most people. This viewpoint was citied frequently by President Truman and his cabinet that dropping the Atomic Bomb saved more lives and resources than it sacrificed. The Humanitarian perspective defines the natural to life as the greatest obligation from any human being to another other. The Consequentialist perspective says the rightness of an action is determined by its consequences; regardless of what obligations or duties are defined.

Consider your Character and Integrity The character and integrity of the United States was tested during and after the decision to bomb Hiroshima. The consequences of retaliation and a ruthless reputation on the World’s stage was a very real possibility. President Truman and his administration were making a decision for the country as a whole that when the headline “US Drops Atomic Bomb on Japan” hit newsstands around the world that the United States had the integrity to deal with the consequences.

Dropping the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima proved an absolute point that the United States had the ability, resources and confidence to follow through with a threat. This was a test of character and integrity that worked in the favor of the United States. Think creatively about Potential Actions There were a multitude of alternatives available to President Truman and his administration in place of dropping the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima. A rural location could have been chosen to demonstrate the threat and the destruction capabilities without mass casualties.

A solely military location could have been chosen to avoid civilian casualties. The city of Hiroshima could have been given the opportunity to evacuate, effectively destroying property and resources but sparring human lives. There were options to gather better cultural understanding as to why the Japanese were so persistent and continue to try to negotiate with the Japanese for surrender. This was also an opportunity to continue bombing and combat with non-nuclear weapons. The choice to wait a short time for the Russians assistance in invasion was also an option.

The United States could have discontinued their efforts to invade Japan and assisted another Allied Power in their attempts. The goal of the decision by President Truman to drop the Atomic Bomb is hard to decipher. There are strong political and racial undertones in this case that skew the conversation of what the goal in dropping the bomb really was. However, when focusing on the potential options to end World War II, President Truman and the United States Government did have many alternatives to consider before dropping the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima.

Check your Gut. My personal initial instinct is very Consequentialist. The decision to drop the bomb was the right one for the United States. The bomb served its purpose and ended the war. The US has gone on to be very prosperous and established itself as a military superpower and a political cowboy. These things are essential to my character as an American and have shaped who I am and what motivates me. However, my gut feeling is that the United States and President Truman should not have dropped the Atomic Bomb. That decision was too extreme on the spectrum of options.

There were too many other alternatives that would not kill hundreds of thousands of people at once in such a gruesome manner. I strongly feel that behind every bizarre behavior there is an explanation. With some research the Allied Powers could have come to understand that the Japanese refused to surrender according to the proposed agreement because dethroning their Emperor would have been an irreparable disgrace to their country. With some investment in trying to understand to opposition, there is often a better solution that is less costly for both parties.

Cite this Was Dropping an Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima Ethical?

Was Dropping an Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima Ethical?. (2017, Mar 06). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/was-dropping-an-atomic-bomb-on-hiroshima-ethical/

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