by Bruce Thornton | FrontPageMag.com | October 13, 2011
In 1938, after the disastrous Munich conference lit the fuse of World War II, a British Labor Party M.P. said, “It is perfectly true that we did not act, not merely wisely and generously, but even justly to Germany after the war . . . . I repeat that we bear a very heavy responsibility for the tensions and menaces of the present international situation.” This comment was an expression of the English “war guilt” that for the previous two decades had created sympathy for Germany and made it easier for England to ignore the serial violations of the Versailles Treaty that convinced Adolph Hitler his aggression would not be punished.
The historical lesson illustrated by Munich––that the road to appeasement is paved with guilt and apologies––has been confirmed by the behavior of Barack Obama. He set the appeasing tone of his administration in 2009, when he bowed to Saudi King Abdullah and sent the bust of iconic critic of appeasement Winston Churchill back to England. That June he confirmed his appeasing intent in his speech to the Muslim world delivered in Cairo. There, amidst flattering fantasies about Muslim “tolerance,” he attributed the “tension” between the West and Islam not to Islamic jihadist terror supported by Middle Eastern regimes, but to “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.” After shouldering the blame for jihadist aggression against us, Obama then began his serial “outreach” to the mullahs in Iran, assuring them that he was “willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.” Of course, this appeasing “outreach” failed miserably, merely emboldening the regime that, starting with the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, has stained its hands with American blood, arms and trains the terrorists killing our soldiers in Afghanistan, and moves with impunity ever closer to possession of nuclear weapons.
And now a secret cable released by WikiLeaks reveals that Obama, on the 2009 tour to Japan where he bowed to the Emperor, wanted to apologize to the Japanese for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima that ended the war in the Pacific and destroyed one of the most brutal regimes in history. The apology never came off because, according to the leaked cable, Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka told U.S. Ambassador John Roos that “the idea of President Obama visiting Hiroshima to apologize for the atomic bombing during World War II is a ‘nonstarter.’” No doubt the Japanese are not eager to revisit their past, which includes their barbaric behavior in Manchuria, where in 1937 hundreds of thousands of Chinese were murdered, tortured, and raped; or their torture, forced labor, and beheadings of Allied prisoners during the war, 350,000 of whom were still in Japanese hands in August 1945. For a taste of what life was like for prisoners of Imperial Japan, read the harrowing account of the Bataan death march in Michael and Elizabeth Norman’s Tears in the Darkness.
We should not be surprised, however, that a product of the left-wing university like Obama would embrace the notion that America committed a “war crime” for which it must apologize. It is academic orthodoxy that using atomic weapons in 1945 was unnecessary, an act not of military utility but of racism or geopolitical bullying. But the truth is very different, as anyone with a modicum of historical understanding and command of the facts can discover for himself. And those facts show that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved hundred of thousands, if not millions, of American and Japanese lives.
Far from being near defeat and surrender, as critics of the bombings allege, the fanatical leadership of Japan was determined to fight to the end, inflicting as much damage on the Americans as possible even if victory was not attainable. The proof was the horrific fighting on Okinawa from April 1 to July 2. There the Japanese fought bitterly not for victory, but simply to put the cost to America so high as “to offer a suicidal lesson to Americans,” Victor Davis Hanson writes in Ripples of Battle, “to stop before they found themselves dying in the millions on the beaches of the Japanese motherland.” And indeed the price exacted for Okinawa was high: 200,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians died, taking with them 24,000 Americans. How many lives, then, would a conventional invasion of the home islands have cost? Conservative estimates put the toll at 500,000 American and twice that number of Japanese.
Moreover, Japanese military capability had not been fatally degraded in July 1945. The Emperor still had about 6,150 combat-ready planes, 8,000 pilots with enough training to fly as kamikazes, and an army of 2,350,000 regular troops, with perhaps as many as 30 million citizens able to fight as a militia. As Hanson summarizes, “Literally millions of Japanese civilians and soldiers were willing to die to defend their mainland from an American invasion, both as conventional and suicide attackers.” As for waiting a few weeks for the Japanese high command to come to its senses and realize the war was over, as liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith argued, the killing was continuing in Asia, which means ending the war with atomic bombs also saved Chinese, Russian, and Japanese lives. In just one week of fighting in August, the Soviets killed 80,000 Japanese, losing 8,000 of their own. And even after Nagasaki, Allied soldiers were killed and prisoners beheaded.
Dropping the atomic bombs clearly saved lives and shortened a brutal war. What, then, accounts for Obama’s eagerness to apologize? As Obama has openly said, he does not believe in American exceptionalism or its goodness. Like the professoriate, most of the media, and the purveyors of popular culture, he believes that America is always guilty, her motives always suspect, and her enemies always the victims of her aggression. He has been convinced that America has committed racist, colonialist, imperialistic crimes against the world, and continues to be driven by greed and the lust to dominate others. For anyone believing this fanciful melodrama, why should he give his love and loyalty to such a global villain? Shouldn’t he rather apologize for those past sins, and appease those whose violence against us is justified payback for our own aggression?
In this, too, America resembles the England of the Thirties. In 1933, Winston Churchill said, “Our difficulties come from the mood of unwarrantable self-abasement into which we have been cast by a powerful section of our own intellectuals. They come from the acceptance of defeatist doctrines by a large proportion of our politicians. But what have they to offer but a vague internationalism, a squalid materialism, and the promise of impossible Utopias?” Sound like anyone we know?