A Just Democide Doctrine?

[First published December 28, 2005] I just finished reading Downfall: The End Of The Imperial Japanese Empire by Richard B. Frank, which is on what led up to and caused the defeat of Japan in World War II. Based on the latest disclosures about the Magic and Ultra decoding of Japanese diplomatic and military messages and the debate among top Japanese rulers, this is the definitive book on the effect of our dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It answers the major questions I had:

Were the bombs decisive? Yes. And it had to be two bombs. Hiroshima alone would have allowed the Japanese to conclude, which they were on the verge of doing, that we had only one bomb, and it would take a long time for us to make another.

Were the Japanese peace feelers in Moscow serious? No. Not by the Japanese or by the Soviets, who were bent on conquering Japanese held territory

Would a change in American surrender terms from unconditional surrender to allowing a continuation of the emperor and imperial dynasty have brought about surrender. No. The reason the Allies insisted on unconditional surrender was so as not to repeat the mistake of the Versailles Treaty that ended WWI. It allowed the Germans to keep their government and military organization in place, and left it to Germany to punish her war criminals, and reform the military that led her into war. Now, in WWII, Britain and the U.S. were convinced that Japan and Germany would have to be occupied, and democratized by the Allies. Few critics of our Afghanistan/ Iraq nation building seem aware that this is what we did successfully in “authoritarian and militaristic” Germany and Japan after their defeat.

Would a million Americans have been killed if we invaded Japan? Unknown. Contemporary estimates were 300,000 more or less would be killed. However, given that the Japanese had predicted where the invasion would take place, had reinforced her forces there well above what we anticipated, would use all her aircraft for suicide attacks, and had prepared civilian battalions for suicide attacks, the toll on our side may not only have been close to a million, but the invasion may have been defeated. In any case, the Navy finally opposed invasion, and preferred to rely on blockade and air attacks alone. However, the war ended before this became an open fight between the Army and Navy.

Were Hiroshima and Nagasaki democide? Yes, it was mass murder, as was the firebombing of Tokyo and all other major cities.

Therefore, should we not have dropped the bombs and carried out the firebombing? As an adamant opponent of democide, I must painfully conclude that with foresight as to the reasons below, I would have approved this democide:

It ended the war

It thereby saved the lives of millions of Japanese who were on the edge of starvation. They would have died of a nation-wide famine if we had started bombing the internal transportation network, and tightened the blockade, as planned had we not dropped the bombs. These are sure deaths aside from those who would have been killed had the Navy agreed to go along with an invasion.

It saved the lives of the millions who would have been killed under Japanese occupation and by continuation of the fighting in China, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia. Perhaps a million or more were saved by the A-bombs.

Had we invaded Japan, all POWs held by the Japanese would have been killed. That was a standing order.

At the time of the surrender, Soviet forces were on the verge of invading the home islands from the north, and had the war continued for months (the bombs were dropped on August 6 and 9, 1945. Our invasion of southern Japan was planned for November, and that of the Tokyo area in March 1946. By then, the Soviets might have taken and occupied half of northern Japan. Thus, once Japan was defeated, the Soviets would have shared in the occupation as they did in Germany. Many Japanese lives alone were saved from communist terror as a result, or from fighting invasion Soviet forces.

Even if the ruling military in Tokyo had been forced to surrender by an invasion or strangulation of Japan, her vast armies in China and elsewhere might have continued to do battle (deeply ingrained in the Japanese military by their culture and unique history was to never surrender — this was a matter of honor and self-esteem), and the attempt to occupy Japan would have met a nation-wide insurrection and terrorist attacks by civilians that would have made those in Iraq look puny. What brought about a total surrender of Japan’s people and armies was the Emperor overriding the military and making it an imperial decree to end the war forthwith, and his radio broadcast calling for all Japanese to surrender. He had to be obeyed. He did this because of the two atomic bombs.

So, for me, as for American decision makers at the time, there is the awful choice between two stark evils. One is to murder hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians versus ending the war quickly with the millions of lives thus saved. What we have here is the need for — and even to think about it gives me a feeling of horror — a Just Democide Doctrine — that is an ethical rational for democide comparable to the Just War Doctrine developed by Catholic Theologians centuries ago. That is: If the lives to be assuredly saved by a democide far exceed in number the lives to be murdered, than the murdering is justified, although evil.

As to the ethics of this, I’ve been a deontologist, and much influenced by Immanuel Kant. Now, with this idea of a Just Democide, I’ve collapsed into situational ethics. So be it. That’s the world we live in.

2 Responses to A Just Democide Doctrine?

  1. Josh Parris says:

    Why does America have to fight them at all? Why did we have to drop the bomb? Yes, obviously the Japanese preemptively struck us at Pearl Harbor, murdering over 2,000 people and we eventually fought them throughout much of the Pacific. But America made a lot of mistakes prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, one of them being the fact that the United States government froze all Japanese assets in the United States. These “mistakes” were part of a strategy emphasized by Henry Stimson, the secretary of war at the time (he had previously been secretary of state), who wrote in his diary at one point in 1941 about “how we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.” (Cumings, Bruce: “Parallax Visions: Making Sense of American-East Asian Relations” Duke 1999 p. 47) It is also true that Roosevelt was extremely sympathetic to Churchill and Britain’s plight and related to him on multiple occasions that it was his intention to involve the United States in the conflict. The British people’s plight however, is soley a consequence of their and the United State’s previous involvement in the even more incredibly unnecessary global bloodbath of the previous generation, in which the downtrodden German people later searched desperately for a cure for their ills. That cure came in the form of true democidal maniacs such Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, and Adolph Hitler. Furthermore, Hitler and his regime of maniacs ruthlessly murdered approximately 20.5 million people, more than a quarter of them being murdered simply because of their millenia old religious beliefs. This though was only a third of the number that Josef Stalin, the democidal maniac of the Soviet Union, killed during his tenure. Stalin invaded Poland with Hitler, and also invaded Finland in the same year (The Finns fought incredibly bravely and intelligently, but were eventually pushed back by the massive numbers Stalin could put into the war). Meanwhile Roosevelt met with Stalin many times and called him “Uncle Joe.” Nevermind the fact that Stalin had already killed more people by the time of these conferences than Hitler would ever kill and had tens of millions more hard at work in the Gulag. Clearly the conflict in Europe should have been ignored by the United States, who eventually suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties during that war and dropped more megatons of explosives on German cities than both the Japanese atomic bombs combined. The reason we should not have fought a war with the Japanese are in adherence with mostly with Judeo-Christian principles. First, America was woefully unprepared for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Once Americans were attacked though, the militia of America referred to in the 2nd Amendment to the Bill of Rights should have been called out to defend the continental United States should the Japanese continue on and invade it. However, as Admiral Yamamato of the Japanese Imperial Navy noted, had the Japanese invaded the mainland United States, “there would have been a rifle behind every blade of grass,” much the same as if America had invaded the Japanese mainland. This is the primary reason for the 2nd Amendment (so the militia of the several states can defend themselves against outside attack); the founders probably thought that the republic they had just created would never venture toward fascism (corporatism) or the increasing totalitarianism that developed quickly after the Second Great War. But that increasing totalitarianism is the secondary reason of the 2nd amendment: the ability of the people to defend themselves against a tyrannical and out of control government, much like the one they faced in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, etc., and today. There was absolutely no danger of the Japanese conquering the United States. And fortunately for the United States, none of its vital aircraft carriers were destroyed. Why was it necessary for America to fight the Japanese all the way across the Pacific, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and maimed, both physically and psychologically, and eventually dropping the bomb on two Japanese cities. Furthermore, it could not be considered democide because the United States and Japan were at war with one another, and because a people’s own government must murder them in order for it to be considered democide. Was it democide when America bombed the Germans and Italians? Or when they bombed Cambodia and Vietnam? What about Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Iraq again? What about Pakistan now?

  2. rudyrummel says:

    This shows a misunderstanding of the term democide. Wars often involve not only the mass deaths of civilians in combat, but also the mass murder of civilians, as in the Holocaust or Rape of Nanking. It is this mass murder that is democide, even though in the context of war. Thus, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, deaths and those killed in the indiscriminant bombing of Japanese and German cities and towns, was democide.

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