The Ethics of War
The Ethics of War
The Ethics of War
America’s decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki remains one of the most sensitive yet controversial topics today. Many people oppose this decision, especially because it resulted to the death of many civilians. The principle of utilitarianism is concerned with the consequences of an action. Morally correct actions result to significant consequences. Bad consequences show that the decision taken was not morally correct. In view of this, the bombings of the cities were not morally correct because of their consequences. The people experienced death and disease, and among those affected were women and children, who were not fighting in the war. The cities were completely destroyed, and the people were left with no homes or other means of survival. The bombings caused severe devastation in Japan, in addition to the loss of property and life. America’s decision to use the bombs marked the first use of nuclear bombs in the war. Even after seeing the devastation caused when it dropped the first bomb, the US proceeded to drop the second bomb. It did not regard the damage that had already been done.
The issue of the bombardment is a moral question. More than one hundred thousand civilians were killed because of the bomb, yet the country only had about 40, 000 soldiers. This is a vast disparity in numbers, and it did not warrant the use of the bombs. America had many allies in the war, and the soldiers fighting against Japan were more than the Japanese soldiers were. Many of the people who did not die because of the immediate impact of the bomb died from radiation sickness. Better military techniques that did not involve the use of nuclear bombs could have led to an end to the war. In addition, the different parties fighting in the war could have made a greater effort towards finding a better way to end the war. The principle of utilitarianism also posits that the consequences should not only be beneficial for the individual involved but should be for the good of all. Hence, the decision to destroy the cities using the bombs was not a morally correct option because it affected many people negatively.
One of the rules of utilitarianism as proposed is that one should not do something if he or she does not imagine it as a rule for everybody. A rule that does not apply to everyone or that which does not suit everybody does not have any overall good. The rest of the world watched as the Japanese suffered from nuclear weapons. They watched as the people disintegrated and died because of radiation. After the bombings of the cities, many people no longer considered it worthwhile to use nuclear weapons as a way of resolving conflicts and ending wars. Countries in possession of nuclear weapons laid down rules that would limit their use. America did not imagine using nuclear weapons as a way of ending a conflict, although it continued developing them. It was a rule that did not apply to everybody; hence, the decision was not good overall. America decided to use the nuclear weapons without examining the effects they would have on the people. They may have justified the use of their first weapon, but it was irresponsible of them to drop a second bomb when the people were still suffering the consequences of the first one.
The bombs were capable of destroying entire populations in a country. The people exposed to the nuclear weapons suffered tremendously. Children born during the time suffered mental retardation, and had other birth abnormalities. They experienced severe fatigue, and were not as productive as those who had not been exposed to the bomb. This led to them being discriminated at their workplaces. Some people felt that America had not been justified in using the nuclear weapons as Japan was in the brink of surrendering. The country had suffered considerably since the war began, and it had to endure embargos on oil and weapons. The war had devastated its economy, and the people were ready to surrender. Therefore, America did not have to use any forceful measure to end the war.
Any meaningful impact would have happened when the war was at an intense stage, and not when most countries had already decided to end their struggles. The decision to use the weapons was America’s way of showing its power and might to the rest of the world, but especially to the Soviet Union, which was a rising world power at the time. Some time after America dropped the bombs in Japan, it would engage in a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. This was the beginning of the cold war (Bodden, 2007). The continual development of nuclear and other weapons in general showed that America had not been keen on ending the Second World War, and in stopping the loss of lives.
Some people support America’s bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They cite that the use of the bombs was necessary, as it was the only way that Japan could agree to end the war. Kant argues that the presence of goodwill makes a decision moral regardless of the consequences of the actions. He assumes that people are rational and will therefore, come to the same conclusion. In this sense, the US was justified in its use of nuclear weapons because it aimed to do good by ending the war. The Second World War had gone on for some time, and many people had already died because of it. There seemed to be no end for it. Continuing with the war could have led to the death of more people, civilians included. The bombing made Japan surrender, and this ended the Second World War.
It seems logical that the US would try to do anything to end the war. Those who support the use of the nuclear weapons further argue that people would consider it increasingly rational to look for a way to end the war entirely rather than continue with bloodshed. As such, they do not see why anybody would be against America’s decision to use the bombs. Their argument is further augmented by the fact that Japan did surrender after the second bomb, and there was no more need for war, at least in the Asian countries. Those who support the use of the bombings could also argue their case using the principle of utilitarianism, by arguing that their intent was to minimize pain for as many people as possible. Many people would end up suffering if the war never stopped.
Despite the arguments proposed in favor of using the bombs, the fact remains that it was neither necessary, nor moral for America to use the bombs. Many of the people who support the use of the bombs by arguing that it led to the end to the Second World War, do so as an excuse to justify and salve their conscience. The bombs did not mean an end to war. Instead, it contributed to the beginning of the nuclear arms race between America and the Soviet Union, and it led to the development of more weapons. Japan was already on the verge of collapse, having exhausted all its resources in the war, and having faced embargos and other restrictions. Some may want to justify the dropping of the first bomb as an initial step to scare the leaders into surrendering. However, there seems to be no plausible reason to have used the second bomb. Not only was it irresponsible, but it was also morally wrong. The bombs targeted women and children, people who could not fight back or even defend themselves from the attacks, thus it constituted a war crime.
Bodden, V. (2007). The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Mankato, MN: The Creative Company
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