So, if Barone wants to stick with Moynihan’s and the New Republic’s assessments of the war while I stick with the assessments of Gen. Eisenhower, Adm. Leahy, and Truman’s own commission, that’s fine. The question — would Japan have surrendered without our bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki? — can’t be answered with certainty today, nor could it have been answered in August 1945.
But this fog, this imperfect knowledge, ought to diminish the weight given to the consequentialist type of reasoning Barone employs — “Many, many more deaths, of Japanese as well as Americans, would have occurred if the atomic bombs had not been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
We don’t know that. That’s a guess. We didn’t know that at the time. If Pres. Truman believed that, it was a prediction of the future — and a prediction that clashed with the predictions of the military leaders.
Given all this uncertainty, I would lend more weight to principle. One principle nearly everyone shares is this: it’s wrong to deliberately kill babies and innocent children. The same goes for Japanese women, elderly, disabled, and any other non-combatants. Even if you don’t hold this as an absolute principle, most people hold it as a pretty firm rule.