8 August 2017 — 1908 mdt
On the eve of the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki,
President Trump channels Truman’s threat to vaporize Japan
Seventy-two years ago this week, the United States detonated atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (6 August 1945) and Nagasaki (9 August 1945; left), obliterating large areas, killing tens of thousands, horribly wounding tens of thousands more, and finally impressing upon Japan’s leaders that they had lost the war and must surrender immediately to save what was left of their nation.
Emperor Hirohito, after some fancy footwork to thwart a palace coup, to avoid being assassinated by war-crazed military officers, announced in a wire recording broadcast over national radio on 15 August 1945that Japan had surrendered. The instruments of surrender were signed aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945.
In his 6 August 1945 statement announcing the bombing of Hiroshima, President Harry Truman warned Japan’s leaders of what their refusal to surrender would bring:
We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war.
It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware. [Highlighting added by Flathead Memo.]
No atomic bomb has been detonated in an act of war or terrorism since Nagasaki was bombed. But many nations, some stable, some, like North Korea, loudmouthed gangster regimes, have nuclear weapons. North Korea reported has upward of 20 Hiroshima sized bombs, and missiles that may be able to reach the west coast of the United States.
It’s a moment for calming diplomacy, not for sabre rattling that could goad the beast into loosing a nuclear weapon at his tormenters. Seasoned diplomats understand that, as do most people with common sense.
But not President Trump.
Today, speaking from New Jersey, and apparently trying to frighten North Korea into abjectly kneeling down to the United States, Trump, reports the New York Times, said:
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Mr. Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.” [Highlighting added by Flathead Memo.]
Trump’s rhetoric is irresponsible and dangerous.
American policy must be based on the facts. North Korea is a gangster state with atomic bombs and long range missiles. It’s leaders intend to stay in power. Therefore, they won’t give up their bombs and missiles. Our only viable policy option is containment, which worked with the Soviet Union and China. Containment requires retaining our nuclear weapons, the will to use them, and the option of launching our own first strike.
I mention this because the anniversaries of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki always, and rightly, are marked by public gatherings around the world calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. These gatherings, as in the past, will express hope, and remind people of the horror of nuclear warfare. But they won’t persuade North Korea to surrender its bombs and ICBMs. As noted recently at the New York Times and by Kevin Drum, sanctions have not worked. North Korea has become a nuclear state, and will remain one for decades. We must adjust our policy and behavior accordingly.
We’re going to be living with North Korea, its nuclear weapons, its ICBMs, and the crass, bullyragging, gangsters who lead it, for years, probably decades. Truman spoke loudly and swung a big stick to end a war. But to not start a war, it’s time for Trump to channel Teddy Roosevelt’s practice of speaking softly and carrying a big stick.
A note to John Heenan, Greg Gianforte, Jon Tester, Matt Rosendale, et al. You have no moral right to remain silent on this subject. How should our nation deal with North Korea, and why?