Was America’s use of the atomic bomb against Japan justified? Was its use really necessary to end the war?
We may never know; it’s a hypothetical, hindsight, what if situation. It probably wasn’t necessary, seeing as the rest of the Axis was defeated by then, but there is no doubt that the use of the atom bomb was efficient in ending the war and saved American lives. Was it right, however, to kill a couple hundred thousand Japanese, most of which were civilians? In Walzer’s sense of utilitarianism, it was certainly justified for President Harry Truman to dirty his hands.
Truman had two options: use the atomic bomb and end the war swiftly, while killing tens of thousands of innocents, or wage war in a more traditional air, land and sea approach, which would certainly increase American casualties while possibly allowing another attack on the US, and prolong the war indefinitely.
The utilitarian concerned solely with American interests would most certainly agree with President Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb; it provided the greatest benefit to the greatest number of Americans. Today’s utilitarian concerned with mankind in general should also agree that the American development and use of the atomic bomb was the right choice, for it provided the greatest benefit for not only Americans, but the greatest number of humans as well. For, at the moment, the use of the bomb not only prevented prolonged warfare, but, also has effectively prevented future use of the atomic bomb. Truman’s use of the atomic bomb on Japan showed the world the devastating consequences of nuclear warfare and future implications of a future world war using atomic bombs, which would almost certainly result in total destruction of the world.
Was the American government’s choice to develop the atom bomb wrong in and of itself? In a world driven by progress, someone else (namely, Germany, according to Einstein) was bound to harness the power of uranium chain reactions, so the U.S. cannot be blamed for the invention of nuclear weapons; the U.S. simply developed the power first. On a side note, development of the atom bomb also helped to develop nuclear power as a viable energy resource.
Utilitarianism or not, it appears that Truman and the U.S. were right to get their hands dirty.