It is clearly a day for sombre thinking. Here’s a fascinating look at new thinking around Japan’s surrender in World War II.

The public view that the atomic bomb was the decisive event that ended World War II is not supported by the facts.

Some of the arguments for rethinking the atomic bomb and its role in World War II:

  • The Japanese were looking to the Russians to mediate with and gain concessions from the Americans (e.g. territory and immunity). The Russian declaration of war one day after Hiroshima removed this strategic option.
  • Japan had had many (60+) cities firebombed before the atomic bomb was dropped. It is unlikely that the fact of the destruction of a single city would have made them capitulate (c.f. Dresden, the Blitz).
  • It is likely that more people died in the Tokyo firebombing (which used conventional weapons). Images of Tokyo and Hiroshima “are indistinguishable”. The atomic bomb is not necessarily an “ultimate weapon”.

via Why did Japan surrender? – The Boston Globe.

If any of these arguments holds water, then we have to radically rethink the atomic age. Basically, the atomic bomb was the first munition that looked spectacular on TV and that lead to the idea of the nuclear deterrent and then the cold war. All based on a misreading of history and a failure to look at the real evidence as to whether the atomic bomb was special or not.

Wow. My head hurts.