WAR: appropriate first use (was: If we do get Afghanistan...)

From: Robert J. Bradbury (bradbury@aeiveos.com)
Date: Sat Nov 24 2001 - 11:54:54 MST

Lee said:

> A show of
> devastating, overwhelming, terrifying force against an enemy
> that was clearly the agressor, leaving him no choice but total
> unconditional surrender, accomplished exactly the right goal:
> war over, lives saved, no questions.

As documented below -- the question whether lives were saved remains
quite undecided.

However, one point that has not yet been mentioned might be the
importance of demonstrating that we had the weapons to Stalin.
You have to remember that Stalin had *no* reservations about
having millions of his own citizens killed. How much the Western
allies knew about and feared Stalin at the end of WWII would make an
interesting research project. As I recall the allies pushed quite
hard to take as much of Germany as possible to prevent Russia
from grabbing the entire country. Now if Russia *had* grabbed
Germany, it remains a pretty interesting question whether they
would have stopped there -- one has to remember how much Napoleon
had cost them (old greivances die hard). If Stalin had taken
Germany and then France he certainly would have taken all of
mainland Europe -- that would have been a very different world.

So dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagisaki may have
been essential to stopping the Russian war machine.

While the "demonstration" in a non-populated area might have been
a nice idea -- it could have been seen as nothing more than saber
rattling. And since I'm fairly sure that we only had 2 bombs
at that time saber rattling would have been a poor use of ones

Eliezer said:

> I think that if the United States had realized, that far back in time, how
> much the threat of nuclear war - and later, nanotechnological war and
> biological war - would hang over the heads of future generations, the
> correct decision would have been to spend the lives necessary to subdue
> Japan the hard way. [snip] ... that who wins or loses some war between
> nations isn't worth dragging existential risks (planetary risks)
> into the equation.

Ah, but the "threat of nuclear war" has been exaggerated. See:

Now, of course many people would be killed and development might
be set back for a generation or more but it doesn't look like
it wipes out humanity. Actually the developments of the cold
war, such as submarines powered by nuclear reactors, seem to
me to have actually *increased* our chances of surviving both
nuclear wars and near-extinction level cometary/asteroid impacts.

As I've discussed previously, biological weapons are pretty poor
for the purposes of "war", but are sometimes useful for terrorism.

> This is not a good precedent if some country other than the US is
> the first to acquire military nanotechnology. This does not help the
> US's argument for nuclear nonproliferation.

Actually, I think it will be unlikely to be a problem if any
secular democratic society acquires military nanotechnology.
We've generally avoided the use of offensive technologies
unless we are attacked first. Now whether they would be used
for covert operations remains an open question. If the small
arial drown reconnaissance technology is an example, military
nanotechnology might actually save lives since the *really* bad
apples who promote terrorism can be surgically removed.

Now, of course the risks become whether or not one turns those
technologies against ones own citizens or whether they become
tools that political parties use against one another. Those are
cases where "first use" really threatens to open a can of worms.

Related Material:

I found this comment rather interesting:
"The Japs expected an American invasion of Kyushu, sometime in late 1945 or
early 1946 and if such invasion were to occur the Japs had plans in place
to murder their 400,000 Allied prisoners immediately. US Army Intelligence
estimated that US forces would take 1 million casualties with a Kyushu
See: http://letters.frontpagemag.com/cgi-bin/gopostal.pl?article=1245

Though these articles cast some doubt on the 1 million number:
"Why did President Truman Drop the Bomb" by David Dinkens
"Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb" by Philip Goodman"

Other URLs:

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