A Just Democide Doctrine?

April 30, 2009

[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.

No, Not 50-60Mil. War dead. It Was 15 Million

April 25, 2009

[First published April 11, 2005] I recently came across a reference to the number killed in World War II to about 60,000,000. This figure, or one lower at about 55,000,000 is not uncommonly mentioned. But, these figures are wrong and way too high. The correct count is closer to 15,000,000, but when I use this figure I get emails like one that said—“Your total inaccurate and detracts from your credibility.”

What confuses people is the way war dead are often counted. The most authoritative sources, widely relied in the field of war studies, are the statistical books of J. David Singer (See his Correlates of War Project here). His figure for World War II war dead is 15,000,000. Crazy, right? You often read figures like those I mentioned, and here is an authoritarive source which gives a figure only 25 to 30 percent of that usuallygiven. Even more confusing about this is that the World War II death toll for the Soviet Union is widely accepted as about 20,000,000. What gives?

What has caused these massive disparities is the confusion between those killed in combat and its crossfire, and those murdered by governments during the war (democide). Aside from battle or military engagements, during the war the Nazis murdered around 20,000,000 civilians and prisoners of war, the Japanese 5,890,000, the Chinese Nationalists 5,907,000, the Chinese communists 250,000, the Nazi satellite Croatians 655,000, the Tito Partisans 600,000, and Stalin 13,053,000 (above the 20,000,000 war-dead and democide by the Nazis of Soviet Jews and Slavs). I also should mention the indiscriminate democidal bombing of civilians by the Allies that murdered hundreds of thousands, and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most of these dead are usually included among the war-dead. But those killed in battle versus in democide form distinct conceptual and theoretical categories and should not be confused. That they have been consistently confounded helps raise the toll during World War II to some 60,000,000 people, way above Singer and my estimated 15,000,000 killed in battle and military action. And that the almost universally accepted count of genocide (a form of democide) during this period is no more than “6,000,000” Jews, around 13 percent of the total wartime democide, has further muddled research and thought.

Overall, both World War I and World War II had about 24,000,000 (combat) war dead. This leaves still many, and smaller, wars to go to reach my approximate 35,000,000 war dead 1900-1987. I did a through search of the estimates of war dead for each nation, 1900-1987, and you can find them in my books Lethal Politics for the U.S.S.R., China’s Bloody Century, Democide for Nazi Germany, and for all others, Statistics of Democide. For their location on my website, see my list of documents

Good to clear that up. I trust I won’t see those highly inflated World War II war dead totals again.

Link of Note

”Why Not Here” (2/26/05)

By David Brooks [only available for purchase at The New York Times]
From Colleague: Along with the idea of memes and the zeitgeist, here’s a good oped by David Brooks. I especially like his mention of the argument that US foreign policy is at its best when it is not accommodating, but “maximalist” for freedom….Another reason to be grateful that John “Rodney King” Kerry ain’t president!

Brooks says:

[Why not here] This is the most powerful question in the world today: Why not here? People in Eastern Europe looked at people in Western Europe and asked, Why not here? People in Ukraine looked at people in Georgia and asked, Why not here? People around the Arab world look at voters in Iraq and ask, Why not here?

Thomas Kuhn famously argued that science advances not gradually but in jolts, through a series of raw and jagged paradigm shifts. Somebody sees a problem differently, and suddenly everybody’s vantage point changes.

“Why not here?” is a Kuhnian question, and as you open the newspaper these days, you see it flitting around the world like a thought contagion.

Wherever it is asked, people seem to feel that the rules have changed. New possibilities have opened up.

The question is being asked now in Lebanon. Walid Jumblatt made his much circulated observation to David Ignatius of The Washington Post: “It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.”

So now we have mass demonstrations on the streets of Beirut. A tent city is rising up near the crater where Rafik Hariri was killed, and the inhabitants are refusing to leave until Syria withdraws. The crowds grow in the evenings; bathroom facilities are provided by a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts and a Virgin Megastore.
The head of the Syrian Press Syndicate told The Times on Thursday: “There’s a new world out there and a new reality. You can no longer have business as usual.”

Meanwhile in Palestine, after days of intense pressure, many of the old Arafat cronies are out of the interim Palestinian cabinet. Fresh, more competent administrators have been put in. “What you witnessed is the real democracy of the Palestinian people,” Saeb Erakat said to Alan Cowell of The Times. As Danny Rubinstein observed in the pages of Ha’aretz, the rules of the game have changed.

Then in Iraq, there is actual politics going on. The leaders of different factions are jostling. The tone of the coverage ebbs and flows as more or less secular leaders emerge and fall back, but the amazing thing is the politics itself. If we had any brains, we’d take up Reuel Marc Gerecht’s suggestion and build an Iraqi C-Span so the whole Arab world could follow this process like a long political soap opera.

It’s amazing in retrospect to think of how much psychological resistance there is to asking this breakthrough question: Why not here? We are all stuck in our traditions and have trouble imagining the world beyond. As Claus Christian Malzahn reminded us in Der Spiegel online this week, German politicians ridiculed Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech in 1987. They “couldn’t imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany.”

But if there is one soft-power gift America does possess, it is this tendency to imagine new worlds. As Malzahn goes on to note, “In a country of immigrants like the United States, one actually pushes for change. … We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow.”

Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote an important essay for this page a few weeks ago, arguing that American diplomacy is often most effective when it pursues not an incrementalist but a “maximalist” agenda, leaping over allies and making the crude, bold, vantage-shifting proposal – like pushing for the reunification of Germany when most everyone else was trying to preserve the so-called stability of the Warsaw Pact.
As Sestanovich notes, and as we’ve seen in spades over the past two years in Iraq, this rashness – this tendency to leap before we look – has its downside. Things don’t come out wonderfully just because some fine person asks, Why not here?
But this is clearly the question the United States is destined to provoke. For the final thing that we’ve learned from the papers this week is how thoroughly the Bush agenda is dominating the globe. When Bush meets with Putin, democratization is the center of discussion. When politicians gather in Ramallah, democratization is a central theme. When there’s an atrocity in Beirut, the possibility of freedom leaps to people’s minds.

Not all weeks will be as happy as this one. Despite the suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq, the thought contagion is spreading. Why not here?

Freedom's Website Never Again Series

What? Only 35,000,000 Killed in 20th Century War?

November 30, 2008

[First published on December 15, 2004] pointed out in a 1986 Wall Street Journal article (here) that the 20th Century is noted for its absolute and bloody wars. World War I saw nine-million people killed in battle, an incredible record that was far surpassed within a few decades by the 15 million battle deaths of World War II. Even the number killed in twentieth century revolutions and civil wars have set historical records. In total, this century’s battle killed in all its international and domestic wars, revolutions, and violent conflicts is so far about 35,654,000.

I then received an email suggesting that my total is probably inaccurate; the total might be closer to 100 million.

I should have qualified the total as for military combat dead and civilians caught in the crossfire. Consider WWII for example. The most authoritative source, widely relied on in the field of war studies, are the statistical data on war published by J. David Singer (search under COW Project). His figure for WWII war dead is 15 million. Now, one may think he is in error, since the war dead ordinarily given for the USSR alone is about 20 million, and often cited is 50000,000 to 60,000,000 for the whole war. How then can Singer and I say 15,000,000 dead in the war? Part of the problem is that many figures one sees for wars include combat dead and those murdered by government (democide), such as in the Holocaust. The difference is due to Singer and I counting only combat dead, including civilians caught in crossfires, whereas the much higher totals also count those murdered by governments during the war (democide). For example, the Nazis murdered about 21,000,000 people, including the Holocaust; the Japanese murdered about 6,000,000; and the Soviets about 13,000,000. Now, when you add such democide totals to those killed in combat, one comes close to the 50,000,000 to 60,000,000 often mentioned for the war.

Overall, both WWI and WWII together had about 24,000,000 (combat) war dead. Which leaves still many, and smaller, wars to go to reach my approximate 35,000,000. A total far below the near 110,000,000 killed [later revised to about 140,000,000] by Marxist governments

I did a thorough amalgamation of the estimates of war dead for each nation, 1900-1987, in the process of collecting democide data, and included them in my statistical tables. They can be found in my books Lethal Politics for the USSR, China’s Bloody Century, Democide for Nazi Germany, and Statistics of Democide for all the other nation’s war dead. For their location on my website, see my website’s list of documents.


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