Minnesota's Worst Writer™ turns in a completely innocuous column today and to spare LMB's gentle sense of fair play I will not mock KK's hideous visage, her barren love life, or her classification by the Hennepin County Humane Society as an unsuitable person for the adoption of a recently abandoned iguana. (Reptiles, being exothermic, require an owner capable of generating at least a small amount of warmth in order for them to maintain body temperature.)
Well, Jambo, from a historian's perspective, I didn't find her column innocuous.
Yowling from the Fencepost: We have not become life, the preserver of worlds.
Worst. writer. ever... indeed.
By innocuous I mean anything glaringly stupid or outright false. This is an old debate and KK adds nothing new to it (surprise surprise). It is also a debate in which people can in good faith come down on either side. I read and enjoyed your post on the subject and while I (as some one with a history degree) tend to lean somewhat in your direction I don't think the case is a slam dunk for either side. I find KK's writing today to be as dull and one sided as always but all I had in reply was a choice between a ten page research paper or a couple sentences of snark. Have I mentioned that I find KK to be personally unappealing?
very funny. I've always thought that if you insult someone, you should either do it with style or just swear at them. You, my friend, have done it with style.
By 7:47 PM, at
Sorry Jambo. I took it as "not harmful or offensive."
Kersten tapped my MA program's Cold War emphasis button by muscling into the debate with the "Hiroshima saved lives" thesis. I got all growly and had to go long in my response to it.
I guess since she can't be a 'metro columnist," she must have decided to become a historian.
When the history of the Cold War era is fleshed out better than it currently is, I think many of us will be amazed at the depths and nuances we had not noticed before.
I think people would be amazed how little thought was given to the dropping of the bomb at the time of its employment. We made the decision to drop it when we made the decision to build it. Truman took it as a given and there was very little discussion about its morality at the time of the drop.
By 8:28 AM, at
how little thought was given to the dropping of the bomb
I heard Stephen Walker yesterday on NPR's Talk of the Nation. He's written a book (Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima) on the topic, and I gathered that Walker is of the opinion that there was significant discussion, if not dissent. Secretary of War Henry Stimpson in particular attempted to find a way to avoid dropping the bomb.
It says here that he eventually supported it.
Seems to me too big a topic for a newspaper column.
I find the column misleading in a few ways. KK writes "After 12 days of desperate bayonet charges and hand-to-hand combat, U.S. forces had advanced less than 2 miles.". That implies (to me) that the U.S. forces were conducting bayonet charges. They weren't. Mass Japanese suicide assaults against U.S. forces was one reason why the Japanese lost roughly 10 times as many soliders on Okinawa. (The ratio is higher than that if you exclude Navy casualties and focus solely on ground troops.)
KK quotes one soldier: "The estimated cost was 1 million American lives," Lindman says. "After Okinawa, we could only look forward to death." I don't think that's true, either. The estimated cost was 1 million casualties -- casualties would include deaths and soldiers wounded in combat.
It was a horribly difficult choice to make and we will never know whether it was the "right" choice -- whether the Japanese would have surrendered absent the bombings. If you think the Japanese would not have surrendered, the bombings saved millions of lives. It will always be hard to imagine that the carnage of Hiroshima and Nagaski was a humanitarian act.
I've heard Mr. Walker talk before. I'm unfamiliar with his book (it's going right on the list). I have heard and read different things on the subject. Here is a snippet from a recent Time Magazine by Stanford historian David Kennedy:
"His left hand resting on an inexpensive Gideon Bible, Harry S Truman took the presidential oath of office on April 12, 1945. It was an extra 13 days before he received his first substantial briefing on the U.S. effort to develop an atomic weapon--a process fast approaching its climactic stage after more than three years of colossal expense, toil and urgency. Neither Secretary of War Henry Stimson nor Leslie Groves, overseer of the vast atomic project, was in a particular hurry to get the new President's ear because they knew that all the important choices about the Bomb had already been settled. Their conversation with the President on April 25 proceeded accordingly. "Within four months we shall in all probability have completed the most terrifying weapon ever known in human history," Stimson told Truman. The meeting lasted just 45 minutes. None of the men questioned the assumption that the weapon would be used as soon as it was ready, and the sooner the better.
That assumption had animated the creation of the Manhattan Engineering District in the first place. It energized the near manic pace at which Groves ramrodded the project forward. It suffused all thinking about the Bomb's purpose, development and eventual detonation. It was never seriously challenged."
As it happened, the war in Europe ended before the bomb was built. Stimson appointed the so-called Interim Committee on May 1, 1945, to give advice on the Bomb's use against Japan. Scholars have probed the record of the committee's month-long existence in vain for evidence of the kind of deliberative decision-making process that the resort to nuclear weaponry might seem to have warranted. Stimson asked the committee primarily for recommendations about how, not whether, to use the new weapon. Members spent only about 10 minutes of a lunch break discussing a possible demonstration of the Bomb's effect in an unpopulated area. No other alternatives were brought forward. Without qualifications, the committee recommended "that the bomb should be used against Japan as soon as possible."
I'd really like to find out how these two different accounts square off against one another. I will definitely read the book.
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