Why won't President Obama apologize for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? He will be visiting Hiroshima soon, and he has said that he isn't going to be apologizing.
It is hard to explain why conventional bombing of a city is principally better, morally, than a nuclear bombing of a city. If Obama apologized for the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he should also apologize for all the other bombings of Japanese and German cities during WWII.
Nuclear bombings were not prohibited by the Hague conventions.
By today's estimations, if the USA wouldn't use nuclear weapons, the invasion would cost at least between 500,000 and 750,000, and maybe as high as 1,000,000 deaths (not casualties) of American soldiers. The number of killed Japanese soldiers is estimated to be 7 times higher.
No country could be reasonably expected to sacrifice between 500,000 and 1,000,000 of its soldiers in order to save 300,000 enemy civilians.
These figures do not include Chinese civilians which would be killed by the Japanese. In 1939-1945, about 3.9 million Chinese civilians were killed by Japanese. More Chinese people were tortured, raped etc.
Japan has not asked for an apology. Japanese people, generally, don't want the apology either. The Japanese emperor Hirohito, who is highly respected in his country, said: "It's very regrettable that nuclear bombs were dropped, and I feel sorry for the citizens of Hiroshima, but it couldn't be helped because that happened in wartime." Further, in the May 2016 Japan Times poll, 64.9% of Japanese respondents thought Obama does not need to apologize but that he should commit to nuclear nonproliferation. This figure does not include those Japanese who thought Obama should neither apologize nor commit to nuclear nonproliferation. Totally, almost 75% of Japanese respondents thought Obama should not apologize.
Apologies might change the public view of bombings, which would worsen, rather than improve, the American image, and harm the relationships between the USA and Japan.
They would lead to demands that reparations be paid for the bombings, and for all other bombings during WWII.
Other than the fact that apologizing is political suicide there are a few good reasons.
- No country really ever apologizes for acts of war, they may be sorry for starting a war, but its very rare that anything specific is mentioned.
- The bombings really weren't that destructive compared to the conventional bombings carried out against Japan and Germany. The radiation fallout wasn't something that was known at the time, and most of it dissipated pretty quickly.
- Japan isn't really forthcoming about their own actions during WWII and tensions are still high with countries they occupied, apologizing for bombing them would also be likely to worsen the USA's relations with those countries.
Because the Japanese government doesn't want him to!
Dennoch betonten sowohl die Bürgermeister der bombardierten Städte als auch Japans Außenminister Fumio Kishida, eine Entschuldigung Washingtons sei nicht nötig.
The mayors of both bombed cities and the Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida emphasized that an apology of Washington is not necessary
For the Japanese (government), it is very convenient to have ended up in the victim role of the war. The horror of the nuclear attack allows them to bury the many war crimes that they committed in Asia.
If the US started to apologize, Japan would have to do a lot of apologizing, too, and not just to the US.
An apology would signal unwillingness to use nuclear weapons as a deterrent, response, or for Mutually Assured Destruction. It would, in effect, render the USA's investment and reliance on nuclear weapons useless.
The US experience of civilian mass suicide at Marpi Point, Saipan, and the casualties of taking Okinawa, indicated the complete Japanese (if not Okinawan) willingness for civilian populations to be eradicated for their cause.
The finding of 17 miles of tunnels near Nagano confirmed the Japanese plan to fight a war of attrition to the very end. In a sense, the bombings saved the Japanese people from the possibility of near complete destruction. The 1 million purple heart medals minted in anticipation of the Japanese Home Islands Campaign shows the US Military shared that assessment of the situation.
Why should he? WW2 was a "total war" situation. All civilian work was managed by the governments and military with the aim of supporting the military. As such civilians were legitimate targets, because incapacitating the military's support structure is a legitimate goal. That was the military doctrine at the time, and it remains military doctrine with nuclear MAD.
You have to think of this in the context of the times. First, Japan conducted a huge and deadly unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor. The result was that the United States entered the war. In short, the Japanese started it!
Second, the United States had been a war on a massive scale for four years. The costs in terms of lives and treasure was unimaginable by today's standards. The entire population of the United States was ready and willing to do whatever it took to win the war and end it and sooner rather than later. Just remember how eager Americans were to end the Iraq was just a few years ago and that war was no where near the scale of WWII and no where near the cost in terms of lives and treasure. WWII was 100 times greater!
Third, the United States Navy - and especially the submarine force - had already effectively destroyed all of Japan's merchant fleet and was blockading the islands. Japan had been truly and soundly beaten for months and yet refused to surrender. And there was no sign that surrender was even being considered. I think it was believed by the Japanese leaders that an invasion of Japan by the Americans would prove so costly to the Americans that they would give up and sue for peace on terms favorable to the Japanese.
A great many military historians believe that the large scale invasion of Japan could very well have cost more Japanese civilian lives than did the atomic bombs. And that's not including American lives lost. People tend to fight really hard to defend their homes from foreign invaders and it was believed that every Japanese citizen with scythes, pitch forks or his heirloom samurai sword would have attacked the invaders. And previous conventional bombings in Japan had been pretty devastating. Japanese housing of the time was packed close together and made mostly of light wood. Casualties were always very high.
So when you take all that into account, it's really easy to see why Truman felt justified in ordering the bombings. So once you accept that the bombings were justified, it's pretty easy to understand why no American president will apologize.
I think the only definitive answer we can give is because Obama and his staff see no up-side to apologizing that would out-weigh any downside.
TL/DR version: Because politics.
There's also the argument that "if it ain't broke, why fix it?" applies here as well. We are on good terms with Japan. There doesn't seem to be a compelling political need to offer an apology at this time.
All those same people would have died and all the same economic damage would have still happened if there would have instead been a land invasion. Probably 10x on both of those counts.
The way it handled reduced the net cost to the U.S. of closing out the conflict at like 99% and reduced the net cost to Japan by like 90%.
Making good strategic choices that limit harm to both sides is not something to apologize for.
Neither Obama nor any President will ever apologize for using nuclear weapons against Japan. If Japan didn't want to risk losing the war, or having nuclear weapons used against it, or indeed cared about civilians at all, they should not have started the war.
It's not polite to say this now that relations between the US and Japan are good. However the Japanese are quite good at playing the victim regarding their role in WW II. Ever notice how only the most stereotypically innocent civilians are out in front asking for an apology? Where are the war mongers? Where are the generals, the politicians, the leaders who started the war? Oh, that's right, they have zero credibility asking for an apology. Not to mention they are all dead.
Japan, along with rest of the Axis powers, started WW II. It is we who should be asking them for an apology. But we don't do that because we won, and there's an understanding that asking for an apology at this stage would be weird. Maybe if the Japanese offered one without being asked, that would be about the only way it could be handled.
The issue of nuclear weapons is a sideline, a distraction, considering the immense damage that WW II caused. The real issue is the entirety of the war itself. Japan only talks about the nuclear weapons because it's the only part of the war they can play the victim on.
There are many people in the United States who believe that these bombings were unjustified. Arguably, I would speculate that most of them would be considered part of President Obama's political base.
However, he is not up for re-election so he will gain no benefit in shoring up his base so making such an apology brings him no benefit.
I know this is quite Machiavellian., but that's the way I see it.