I write this on the anniversary of the day that the United States military dropped the first nuclear fission bomb over the city of Hiroshima in Japan, in an attempt to bring an end to the hostilities between the two countries in 1945. The USA dropped a second bomb over Nagasaki three days later. Japan announced its unconditional surrender on the 15th August 1945, nine days after the first bomb was dropped.

I have been reading Tim Millar’s blog posts on the bombings this week. He has researched quotes from various parties involved in the making of the bombs, in the decision to deploy, and the affect the bombs had. In doing so he summarises the main reasons people gave and how these stood up to reality. It is excellent writing and well worth a read and a ponder or two in my opinion.

I think one of the most unsettling opinions presented is that the only consistent position to hold against an aggressor is either completed pacifism or complete war. There is no grey area in between, and if you are a pacifist then one would to need accept the consequences of that position and that is servitude to a dictator no matter what they did. Any act of retaliation against the aggressor will lead to an escalation of warfare because it becomes necessary to pre-empt the enemy to stop them doing to you what you could do to them. At the start of the Second World War, the American president condemned the Nazi’s for firebombing UK cities as an amoral act on innocent civilians completely unjustifiable under any rules of engagement. Towards to end of the war in the Pacific theatre, the Americans deployed the same tactics on multiple Japanese cities to force the Japanese surrender. These firestorms killed more people than the combined explosions of the nuclear bombs, but their apparent failure to halt the war partly led to the nuclear devices being dropped.

Yet this position doesn’t seem to apply to the conflict in Syria on the face of it or does it? I think this black and white position is based on two combatants that have similar resources to throw at each other, the war becomes a race to see who runs out of resources first and lengthy wars are costly so each combatant starts to become desperate to win and so will use more and more powerful weapons to achieve that end. It would seem in Syria the weapons are more one sided, at least at first, with government forces having superiority. The opposition continues to survive though and I assume resources on both sides are being supplied by third parties. It would appear government forces deploy chemical weapons at some point which would indicate an escalation in ferocity but recently it would seem convention weapons are the norm. I don’t know how such a war will be brought to an end, will people just get fed up with it, or will there eventually be nothing left to fight for? Do civil wars follow different courses because they are so much more difficult to divide up the combatant? Perhaps I should look at past wars for a clue, the American Civil War say, or the English Civil War or more recently the Balkans War.

It is easy to forget when writing, that one of the resources mentioned above is that of people. Indeed another of the reasons given for deploying the nuclear bombs was to reduce the overall casualties a conventional invasion would cost to both sides. Recent history would tend to show that invasions are protracted engagements the effects of which will last for generations and may only add to the list of historical grievances held against the foreign invader ready to be used again as motivation for the next war. In the context of the USA and Japan, I really can’t say much how things have changed. I am unfamiliar with Japanese culture before WWII unless you count a filmatic knowledge of Shoguns and Samurai, so have no way of understanding how they became an aggressor. Equally my knowledge post WWII of Japan is limited to massive manufacturing success and technological innovation but I have no knowledge of how that came about. We did have a young Japanese woman from Nagasaki stay in our house for nearly three weeks who came to improve her English speaking, but I learnt little through that exchange beyond her everyday life experiences.

What is apparent is that whatever the regime in Japan leading up to WWII, it is very different today. I have many Germans in my life I call good friends, and despite the Basil Faulty saying, we do talk about the Second World War. The Germans I know are very determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past, and are equally determined not to forget them. I wonder if the Japanese are the same? I shall get the chance to try and find out soon. We have another visitor arriving this month to learn from.