July 14, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Revisionist history dies hard

On the editorial page of the News Leader earlier this week, Nick Patler repeated one of the familiar canards espoused by leftists during the Cold War -- that dropping the atomic bombs on Japan was not necessary to bring an end to World War II in the Pacific. In his view, which I find quite offensive, President Truman approved dropping the atomic bomb

not to save American lives, but committed what amounts to a brutal crime against humanity primarily to prevent the Soviet Union from ending the war by invading Japan...

That is a foolish statement on several levels. It is true that the Red Army was preparing to invade Japanese-occupied Manchuria, but the Russians lacked the necessary sea transport to invade Japan itself. To substantiate his claims, Patler cites a recent book by Gar Alperovitz, a leading left-wing scholar-activist who is tied to the "Revisionist" school of diplomatic history. Those people believe that the Cold War would never have come about if only the United States refrained from offending Joseph Stalin in the aftermath of Hitler's defeat. It's essentially an argument in favor of appeasement, and is utterly blind to the expansionist aims of the Soviet Union.

In the next day's paper, Charles Culbertson responded by reminding everyone of the fanatical, desperate measures the Japanese military government was undertaking to ward off an American invasion. The war would have lasted another year without the A-bomb, and U.S. casualties probably would have exceeded one million before it was all over. It doesn't mean we should blithely turn away from the moral dilemma Truman faced, and it may take several decades before American people and historians reach a final "verdict" about the meaning of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.