Monday, August 9, 2010

There are limits

Today is the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. Three days ago was the anniversary of the similar bombing of Hiroshima.

I've reposted, on my personal blog, a post about Nagasaki, which I wrote a few years ago. I would like to repeat here a part of my preface to that post: I am firmly and irrevocably on the side of those who say, without nuance, that our use of these weapons to destroy over a hundred thousand people, most of them civilians, to force Japan to an unconditional surrender (when, in fact, the Japanese had made overtures already for a surrender even on what were called hard terms) was a hideously immoral act, a grave evil.

Even if there had been no talk of surrender on the Japanese side, our use of these bombs was gravely evil. From their legacy come things like "pre-emptive bombing" and "enhanced interrogation" and the other policies of truly unjust warfare that have somehow become acceptable to far too many people.

A nation which thinks that using weapons which killed hugely disproportionate numbers of civilians was somehow justified by circumstances is a nation that will not accept any limits to its power. But there are limits; God places them upon us as a duty, and we are not under any circumstances, however dire, allowed to violate His moral law.


  1. Red Cardigan writes : "there are limits; God places them upon us as a duty"

    I would say God places them upon us by nature. And that that nature in turn places upon us a duty. But nevertheless, a very good point to bring out, especially your elucidation of it via the total wars bombings of Japan.

    Red Cardigan writes : "From their legacy come things like "pre-emptive bombing" and "enhanced interrogation" and the other policies of truly unjust warfare"

    A rather surprising legacy given that torture and pre-emptive bombings are lesser evils. Typically the legacy of vice leads to the committing of greater crimes.


    Why not the March 10, 1945 fire bombing of Tokyo that killed 97,000 with 125,000 wounded? Although I suspect the numbers of casualties were far higher given the population density and the number of sq. miles obliterated by the March 10 firestorm.

    The point is, when looking for a legacy, it's rather difficult to say this or that was the hing event. Just as Northern use of Total War on the South was a development over the course of the war, so likewise was the atomic bombings a development.

  2. Well, ltg, I was speaking somewhat poetically, given the anniversary and all. But you're right--there are many other atrocities to which we can point as the starting point of our moral relativism.

    But if torture and pre-emptive bombings are lesser evils, it's only in the sense that one mortal sin might putatively be "less" than another. It only takes one to kill the life of grace in the soul, though.

    What I'm really arguing here is that our acceptance of Hiroshima/Nagasaki is of the same type as the acceptance of some of pre-emptive bombings or torture or even assassinations. Not too many people get defensive about our firebombing of Tokyo, but I find it disheartening how many Catholics will defend the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as thoroughly moral and righteous actions.

  3. I suspect in the history of warfare, the destruction of Carthage by Rome was an example of total war.

    Such is not an American trait. It is the result of the fall.

  4. Good post and comments here:

  5. God does place limits upon our actions. It's called the natural law. That is one of the issues I discuss in regards to homosexual behaviors. It is against the natural law and every single person who partakes of homosexual relations has to know deep down, that they are going against the natural law. God writes this in our hearts.

  6. Great article on Nagasaki. I did hear, though, that the US actually killed more in regular bombing than with the two nuclear weapons in Japan. Apparently at first, they used non-nuclear bombing raids.