Dear Japan, sorry, not sorry


President Obama visited Hiroshima the other day, and to his credit he didn’t apologise for dropping the bomb. He didn’t drop the bomb himself, of course. That was President Truman, again not personally, 71 years ago. Truman never apologised either, believing to the end of his life, as did most of his contemporaries, that his decision shortened the war and saved hundreds of thousands if not millions on lives that would have been lost had the war continued. A few days ago I wrote about walking the old battlefields of Peleliu, an insignificant speck of coral in the middle of the Micronesia, which over the course of some seventy days became the graveyard of over 2,300 Americans and all but 19 of its 10,900 Japanese defenders. Further 8,500 American soldiers and Marines were wounded; mercifully there were hardly any civilians on the island. A world without an atomic bomb would have been a world with Peleliu multiplied thousands-fold across the Japanese home islands.

For a long time, the great majority of the American public agreed with this sentiment, not the least the hundreds of thousands of GIs and Marines who were spared the horrors of the invasion. But the Greatest Generation has been passing away, and the Whiniest Generation doesn’t share their sensibilities. As Hot Air reports, for the first time ever, a small plurality of Americans believes that the decision to drop the atom bomb was wrong. Only 37 per cent of those under 44, 28 per cent of women and 24 per cent of non-white respondents still agree with Truman.

The collapse in support has come only over the past decade, probably for a variety of complicated reasons: Population churn, war fatigue from Iraq and Afghanistan, greater sympathy for Japan as an ally against the looming menace of China, fears of nuclear terrorism in an age of proliferation, Obama championing “nuclear zero” even though it’s never, ever going to happen, and so on.

writes Allahpundit at the link above.

I believe that Truman was right, but even if he was wrong, I’m not going to apologise for it, and I don’t think the American government on behalf of the American people should either. I find the concept of historical apologies, however well-meaning, faintly ridiculous, if not sinister. I can only apologise for a wrong I have myself done or otherwise allowed to happen. If you feel the need to apologise for something that you have not done – because, for example, it had happened several centuries ago – you’re merely demonstrating your moral vanity and showing off what a virtuous person you are.

You are also buying into pernicious collectivism. The ancients believed that the sins of the fathers are visited upon their children for several generations. In the Judaic theology, this morally crude and logically indefensible belief went out of intellectual fashion around the time of the prophet Ezekiel. But the left today will party like it’s still 500 BC. Except in their moral universe the culpability and responsibility extend well beyond the basic genetic kinship to encompass the whole races, nations, classes and religions. It also extends well beyond three or four generations. Deuteronomy, eat your heart out.

Thus, as a white person I’m meant to apologise for slavery. As a Christian I’m meant to apologise for the Crusades. As a modern Australian I’m meant to apologise for the dispossession of Indigenous peoples. The list goes on.

You know what? It is very human to empathise and sympathise with suffering throughout the ages. The normal reaction on recognising that suffering and wrong and evil would be to say: a lot of bad shit happened throughout history, let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Thus I while I hope that my contemporary, Hans in Kessel, thinks that it was wrong that Germany invaded Poland and also thinks that Germany shouldn’t invade Poland in the future, I neither expect Hans nor want him to apologise to me specifically or to Poland in general for the invasion, which he had nothing to do with, not the least because he wasn’t even born then.

I’m equally sceptical of leaders apologising on behalf of their countries. To take another example: I would like to think that Vladimir in Moscow thinks it was wrong for the Soviet Union to invade Poland in 1939 and then impose the communist dictatorship from 1944 onwards. I would like to think that Vladimir also thinks that it would be wrong to invade Poland and/or impose its preferred form of government in the future. But I neither expect nor want Vladimir to apologise to me, or to Poland. This is partly because I doubt he would be sincere (which is a much bigger problem), and partly because an apology would be meaningless, even if, unlike Hans in Kessel, Vladimir actually was part of the apparatus of repression that made it all possible for some 45 years.

Which brings me back to Japan. Dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was horrible, even if, as I believe, it was a lesser evil. The best thing we can do for the dead is to make sure that Japan and America (and Australia too) are never again at war and in a position to bomb the shit out of each other. But for goodness’ sake, let’s move on from this useless moral masturbation of political apologies.

Update: Different polling organisation, different result. According to YouGov, the Americans think by 45 to 25 per cent that Truman made the right decision. Furthermore, 70 per cent think that the US should not apologise for it (22 per cent think it should).