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Marius Basanovic (31018207)

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Name: Student Number:

Marius Basanovic 31018207

Unit:

SSH100 Ideas in Action

Unit Coordinators: Assoc Prof David Brown & Assoc Prof Sandra Wilson

Tutorial:

Wednesday, 10:00 11:30 am

Assignment 2 Critically discuss: What does the atomic bombing of Hiroshima reveal about the nature of state violence?

Total Words: 2,010

Due: Friday 6 November 2009

SSH100 Ideas in Action

Marius Basanovic (31018207)

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In a modern context nuclear war highlights the pinnacle of institutional violence. The development of technology in the 20th Century created a new phase in which violence would be strategically organised. From an etymological discourse State violence holds a fluid definition, specifically as the word State is based upon the context of legitimacy from an observers perspective. This notion of legitimacy is what differentiates lethal criminal violence from lethal institutional violence, and is the fundamental justification behind all state sanctioned violence. McCauley (2000) argues the development of a nation state as representing the collective interest of its citizenry highlights that it as an intangible entity holds parallel values of self-defence and survivalist instincts. This is to ensure the greater good and highlights the point that fundamentally states are expressions of utilitarian values in an attempt to impose order internally and externally, often creating the need to do evil in order to do good. An outstanding example of this is in the American atomic bombing of Japan, specifically Hiroshima. In the deliberate targeting of approximately 140,000 Japanese noncombatants a plethora of values were now in contrary as the argument was opened up if the systematic killing of civilians justified a quick end to the war, although at the time the democratic nation of the USA appeared to completely support its governments decision as noted by Tanaka (2005).

In modern nation states it is accepted that the military functions as an indirect representative of a nations self defence interests, and more importantly hold legitimacy in their actions as extensions of the citizenrys will by being instructed by government. As the state allows immunity to the military in the context of self defence or for the greater good the link between state sanctioned killing and criminal violence is in terms of legitimacy. Although while a state may legitimise an action often a contrary

SSH100 Ideas in Action

Marius Basanovic (31018207)

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argument of moral legitimacy arises, as it is argued by Hall, Whitaker (1999) that historically it seems that states as an entity generally exercise less restraint than most individuals. World War two highlighted specific events like the Holocaust and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima where there appears to be a contradiction between moral legitimacy and state legitimacy by a government or other institution

This willingness by America to accept a violation of moral values such as the notion of not specifically targeting non-combatants could be explained through the deep psychological predisposition historically of supporting an institutions justification through ideology, complemented by the trend since the first world war of intertwining civil and military authority. This domestication of soldiery was further complemented through the internal industry of a country supporting foreign deployment. With a government gaining influence through democratic support, internal institutions such as the media, judiciary, ect, inevitably result in manipulating our attitudes, behaviour, fantasies, hopes and our survival instincts as a species. as noted by Hall (1999). More significantly is the affects towards the populations fragile cognitive processes leading to generalisation (demonization) and an imaginary notion of altruistic hegemony, which from a realist perspective is an illusion covering oppressive intensions. These efforts to convince justification by these institutions, is accumulated in the form of propaganda, and if effective making people more accepting of lethal violence towards others.

This subjective notion of justification appears absurd as it places the value of human life upon a sliding scale, variable in worth by a persons perception. The lack of objectivity allows for abuse in the context of legitimacy and only very rarely is it challenged. With the development and use of the nuclear bomb a new level of

SSH100 Ideas in Action

Marius Basanovic (31018207)

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efficiency was created being placed in the hands of the American government as noted by Walzer (2004). The specific use of the weapon upon Hiroshima highlights the mindset required by those who posses these weapons, as a willingness to use those devices through a utilitarian viewpoint for the greater good. What was significant in the decision to drop the bomb was that it was not used in the context of defensive aggression as Japan did not threaten the survival of America as a state, yet an argument of extended self defence was used to justify the bombing of Hiroshima. The justification presented was that by dropping the bomb, initiating the unconditional surrender of Japan, less people would have died then if a mainland ground invasion were to be carried out. It is assumed the Chief Air Force statistician at the time Robert S McNamara that this was statistically true, which if a person held a completely objective utilitarian set of values would be justification of a state nuclear bombing noncombatants, although from a absolutist viewpoint or if one holds the life of an innocent in any greater value then that of a solder the argument arises that it would be far more morally justified to hold off from bombing Hiroshima.

Specifically what is argued is that if this state sanctioned violence was a justified at the point when it was decided to bomb Hiroshima, where is the line drawn between state violence and morality. As it was considered that governments such as Nazi Germany violated moral justification in their state sanctioned violence towards minority groups, although being the dominant power there was no set moral framework which was imposed upon America. It was clear to the American political realm that their naval, air and ground forces held significant superiority against Japan, and this was the case very early in the war. Ever since Operation WATCHTOWER was launched as the first American counter offensive against the Japanese in August 1942 statistics holding

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similar ratios to the first six month offensive of 6,500 casualties for America and 25,000 Japanese casualties was common.

When looking at the objective nature that science plays within a state it holds acknowledgement that the worst instances where state violence has taken place appeared when violence is associated parallel to intellectual obligation. Perhaps the most worrying aspect is that this is a possibility that America holding no repercussions in deciding to drop the atomic bomb did it predominantly in the rational of scientific intellectual gain, equal to that of the Holocaust, or of medical research in captivity in the Changi military prisoner of war camp. For example Lifton (1986) demonstrates the effectiveness of the Nazi regime to convert physicians aligned to the preservation of life, into instruments of genocide. Parallels could be drawn to the Manhattan Project and the recruitment of scientist like Albert Einstein, and their cohorts. In both contexts they were recruited with the intention of systematic violence although while they developed these technologies they have only committed the crime of obedience, similar to Katz (1992) examination of a Nazi officers memo relating to the systematic extermination of Jews.

When examining the two predominant perspectives relating to Hiroshima the first argued by Niebuhr (1995) is specifically relating to a realist position in viewing the act of an immoral society stemming from the basis of an exertion of dominance which has deflated the value of a Japanese civilians life through propaganda that it held minimal value. The second perspective that it was an act of morality in foresight is also in some degree viable, as statistically roughly the same amount of non-combatants died in one night of firebombing Tokyo then from the bombing of Hiroshima, which caused

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Marius Basanovic (31018207)

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immediate surrender. Tanaka (2005) notes the view that from both of these explanations there exists the notion of self interest, as in the first perspective the drive to dominate Japan ensured an end to world war two with American dominance . The second perspective can be looked at in terms of a preservation of American soldiers lives at the cost of Japanese non combatants. Specifically there seemed to be an addiction to violence of which stems from the necessary mechanism of self defence identified by McCauley (2000). This evolutionary trait is in itself legitimate, as seen as defence in the form of rebellion against oppression or to stand against harm.

In terms of state violence where there is a subjective construction of the enemy image, creating a us and them mentality, there is a manipulation between the innate ability of survivalism and accompanying this with selfish intension under the guise of victimisation. At this point where a imagined threat is created in order for justification state actions must be questioned in terms of legitimacy as a puppet/puppeteer relationship can be formed between the public and government. When there exists possible viable alternatives for resolution, or the dominant party has demonized their enemy to the extent that their threat has been unrealistically inflated the argument on self defence in the bombing of Hiroshima can appear to be justified. Yet the view of utilitarian values, specifically the value of a Japanese non-combatants life compared to an American soldier is inevitably going to increase when it is presented that the American nation is under threat seen by Nandy (1988).

Numerous realist retrospective positions identified in Walzer (2004) argue that the decision to drop Fat man on Hiroshima preceded a legitimate argument for extended self defence. While there would exist no repercussions in their action, and also their

SSH100 Ideas in Action

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dominant position in the world would in fact be reinforced it is perceivable to say simply that America displayed a clear example of where absolute power corrupts absolutely. In todays context it should be examined what specifically identifies an action as legitimate, regardless of a states justification, and regardless if it is an action by a group or individuals, not necessarily being part of a nation state. Faden (1996) highlights that for a strive for human preservation a wide perspective in moral legitimacy should be examined before a nation acts.

The arms race that developed after the dropping of the bomb in Hiroshima highlighted their use in terms of a competitive deterrence, which would later be developed in terms of mutually assured destruction. Although even when rational people are in conflict there can never be an assurance of complete safety while state violence can be justified, even if a mistake occurs, as Robert S McNamara noted that: Any military commander who is honest with himself or with those hes speaking to will admit that he had made mistakes in the application of military power. He has killed people unnecessarily, perhaps 100 people, 1000 people or 10,000 people but he hasnt destroyed nations. The conventional wisdom is that you learn from your mistakes, and to some extent we all do. But in the case of nuclear weapons, there will be no learning period. With one mistake nations are going to be destroyed.

The state violence seen historically by the United States, such as Hiroshima, is almost a guarantee of future violence. Even though the USA was and is the dominant superpower, they never renounce the option of first strike strategy; meaning that nuclear

SSH100 Ideas in Action

Marius Basanovic (31018207)

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arms can be used to initiate conflict rather than simply be reactionary in times of supreme emergency as defined by Coady (2004). Hall (1998) proposes that violence is a function of history, opportunity and triggers, minus the influence of inhibitors, designed in his equation of the prediction of violence : V=f(HOTI)

Ultimately no government has or will, in realist terms, set an upper limit on the extent to which they are willing to use state violence, as it is bred as a selfish but necessary evolutionary survivalist trait. This is regardless of the damage to human life or earth, and when seen in previous examples of the bombing of Hiroshima highlights the continuum of justified violence which breaks all previously defined notions of moral justification or legitimacy now that nations can be effectively submissive entities when in perspective to a nuclear superpower. Ironically until a new technological breakthrough arrives a competitive form aggression is the only factor which guarantees deterrence.

References:

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T. Coady (2004), Hiroshima and the World of Terrorism, Res Publica, vol. 13, no. 2 pp14-17

W. Faden (1996), Final Report of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. 620 pp. New York, Oxford University Press. http://www.hss.energy.gov/HealthSafety/ohre/roadmap/achre/index.html (accessed 22 October 2009) Note: The Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE), was created by President Clinton on January 15, 1994 to investigate and report on the use of human beings as subjects of federally funded research using ionizing radiation

H. Hall (1998), Collective Violence: Effective Strategies for Assessing and Intervening in Fatal Group and Institutional Aggression. Boca Raton, Florida, CRC Press.

P. Johnson (1997), A History of the American People, Weidenfield and Nicolson, London, pp. 667-671

A. Nandy (1988), Science, hegemony and violence A Requiem for Modernity. The United Nations University Tokyo, Japan. Delhi Oxford University Press, Bombay. http://www.scribd.com/doc/6349909/A-NANDY-Science-Hegemony-and-Violence-aRequiem-for-Modernity. (accessed 22 October 2009)

SSH100 Ideas in Action

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R. Niebuhr (1995), Moral Man and Immoral Society, in Omar Dahbour and Micheline Ishat (eds), The Nationalism Reader, Humanities Press, New Jersey, pp. 312319 (Originally published in 1932).

C. McCauley (2000), Some Things Psychologists Think They Know about Aggression and Violence, The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation (HFG) Review of Research Teaching About Violence, vol. 4 no. 1 Spring 2000. http://www.hfg.org/hfg_review/4/mccauley-pr.htm. (accessed 20 October 2009).

Y. Tanaka (2005). Fire Bombing and Atom Bombing: An Historical Perspective on Indiscriminate Bombing. Japan Focus. http://japanfocus.org/products/details/1582 (accessed 20 October 2009)

M. Walzer (2004), Arguing About War, Yale University Press, New Haven, Ch. 3: Emergency Ethics

SSH100 Ideas in Action