A Better Lesson From 1945

A Better Lesson From 1945 - Politicus #1,123

67 years after “V.E.-Day” and “V.J.-Day” Germany and Japan
are among America's most reliable allies

by David A. Mittell, Jr.

Much of America now makes more of August 6, 1945 than December 7, 1941, and all but ignores August 14, 1945. For the record, Aug. 6 is the date the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima – we will hear much of that this week. Dec. 7 is the date the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Aug. 14 was V.J.-Day – the end of World War II – celebrated for some years after the war as Victory-in-Japan day, but nowadays noted as “Victory Day” only in Rhode Island.

President Truman came to be reviled by many of the sons and daughters of soldiers and sailors who would not have lived to conceive them, but for the decision that ended the war in eight days, rather than in an unknown number of months or years. Truman had no thought of using the bomb after Japan's surrender, and by the time Stalin got it in 1949 had concluded it must never be used again. That was his fundamental strategic difference with General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War.

In coming to terms with Hiroshima, a question the baby-boom generation never asked is, What kind of world would we live in today if Hitler, Stalin or Tojo had gotten the bomb first? The obvious answer is that any of them would have used it again and again. After 1945, we lived in an imperfect pax Americana. Under their dictatorships, "pax Germania," "pax Rossiya" or "pax Nippon" would have been nuclear winter. The point is inarguable. Civilization's survival may have hung on the British-American Manhattan Project's perfecting this terrible weapon first.

Baby boomers' coming-of-age was complicated. Wartime certitudes no longer held. For many adolescents, their equivalent of war was a war against war -- which also served to challenge parent-figure heroics they could not match. But in contriving evil in the completely decent Harry Truman, much of the generation ignored the evil in plain sight. Understanding how that happened can help us understand what the real risk is should the ruthless, fanatic rulers of Iran acquire what Hitler and Tojo did not.

Any nation's acquiring nuclear weapons is a risk of further proliferation, with many dangers. But it does not necessarily increase the likelihood of the bomb's actually being used. However, given Iran's rulers' plain rhetoric and demonstrated international behavior, the risk of an Iranian bomb's being used against other nations would rise to the level not seen since Hitler, Stalin and Tojo were in power. That is the truth that is not understood, not explained.

We also need to remember that 67 years after “V.E.-Day” and “V.J.-Day” Germany and Japan are among America's most reliable allies. Most of the Iranian people are pro-American. Recklessly instigating a war against their rulers would inevitably turn into a war against them. It would put at risk the mutual advantage of future reconciliation. For that and many other good reasons, an ill-chosen military attack on Iran would be a crime against intelligence.

What is needed is a policy of clear-eyed preparedness. Israeli leaders have good reason for believing their country would be the first victim of an Iranian nuclear attack. But Iranian rulers' own words, their support for foreign terrorism, and their brutal treatment of their own people when their hold on power was threatened, should tell us that no country would be safe if they also had the bomb.

David A. Mittell, Jr. is Senior Editor of The Duxbury Clipper.

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