Is it immoral to use nuclear weapons in war?

The question was not the resolve of the Japanese military, but whether that level of destruction of civilians was warranted in the moral sense. The question I meant was whether the Japanese populace could have escaped involvement or whether it was justified to consider them as de facto combatants. I think that belief honestly existed, but I also think the belief that civilian involvement justified destruction on the level of Hiroshima and especially Nagasaki (after the example of Hiroshima had been witnessed) was misguided. The civilians were civilians and should not have been made deliberate targets.

Yes, Truman was in a tough place, without question. According to those in prison camps, there was a real intention to kill all the prisoners of war before the Allies overcame the area where the camps were.

What if the civilians are not the target but may die as collateral damage?

Seems to me that any use of force which creates collatoral killings of innocents is wrong.
Especially when it’s known ahead of time that it shall…
And then? When excuses for continuation of such actions emerge

Nukes? Today? There are 2 Sides w/Nukes & Missiles.
Next Big War when/if it comes to pass?
Could be Armageddonish in scope.


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WW-II had many instances of attacks on civilian targets, or at least on not specifically military targets. The city of Tokyo was targeted with thousands of bombs, as were other cities, as were Germann cities and factories. London was targeted with missiles not because of its military value but to demoralize the population. Does it make a difference if a city is targeted with one 16 kiloton nuke rather than with 16,000 1 ton bombs?

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Why would a nuclear detonation be in itself worse than a chemical detonation? It has all to do with how it is used. Exactly the same as with a knife.

That would not make any difference, in the RC assessment and judgement.

But -

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, like all the cities on the target list, were conventional military targets, though not conventionally targeted. But while that was quite true, the destruction of that military capacity in itself was not the anticipated cause of the post-haste Japanese surrender. Such destruction of military capacity/urban infrastructure/civilian deaths had taken place in many other places in the Home Islands (most noticeably in the raids on the six major cities between March and July 1945) and could have been done in these two cases with multiple B-29 raids on those two cities, and the Japanese still would not have been prepared to surrender. Rather, it was the shock of the destruction realized from a single B-San/single bomb that was counted on to end the war. That is, it was not the destruction of that military capacity (or deaths) in itself that was the primary goal of the bombing, it was the breaking of the Japanese will to continue the fighting, by doing so with such economy of effort: one plane/ one bomb/one day. It was, indeed, the resolve of the Japanese power structure, specifically the resolve of the only power structure capable of ending the war, the badly divided Saiko Senso Shido Kaigo, (plus the Emperor and one or two other power brokers such as the Marquis Kido, Keeper of the Privy Seal).

The history of the endgame in the Pacific is immensely complicated, and a hobby of mine for over 25 years. I often find myself drawing on that hobby, when this general subject appears and drifts into this area. I always hope it doesn’t. I’ve posted more than enough on it.

In this context, of the subject of the thread, I say no.

But it made a great difference to the Japanese decision makers.

Terauchi’s “Kill All” order.

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The Church actually has some teaching on when war is just and how it can be waged
According to this traditional Catholic teaching, the targeting of civilian populations is immoral.
However, using nuclear weapons, it has been said by Catholic theologians, can be justified if the target is a military one.
I would hardly think that a country could morally justify wiping out New York City because there are military targets of one sort or another there. The mass killing of civilians on the scale of nuclear weapons, I would say, is always immoral. The ends do not justify the means.

Let us also remember the “fire bombings” death toll compared to the bombs themselves…an oft forgotten pretense to the use of the first atomic bomb…

I reiterate, killing civilians and noncombatants during a war is immoral.

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There are, of course, military targets scattered widely over sparsely populated areas of the Dakotas, Colorado, and Wyoming, in the form of hardened and dispersed underground missile silos and launch control centers. A one megaton ICBM targeted to one US silo would be a military only target. Simililarly, a one megaton US ICBM targeted at a remote silo in Siberia would be a military target. But there would be a lot of radioactive fallout. The best use of such weapons is the use to which they are applied every day, that is, deterrence.

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You’re correct. The Japanese had issued orders that in the event of an allied invasion of the Japanese home islands proper - which was tentatively scheduled for autumn 1945 - all allied POWs (400,000) were to be killed.


I wish I could like your post more than once.

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An often forgotten predecessor. Which would have continued had the nuclear weapons not been available /used. This strategic conventional attack was going to continue, with resources 50% greater than LeMay’s max number of B-29s, as of August (from 1002 to roughly 1700), against the 180 cities of a population exceeding 30,000, around a target population of 5 million+, and against the transportation systems, the latter aimed at interdicting the food supply in the islands. Starvation is particularly fond of the young and the elderly.

The Tokyo fire raids alone caused higher casualties than the two nuclear bombs.

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The problem with nuclear weapons is that they have a large area of destruction. There are very few military targets that are that far from any civilian ones.

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The trigger would have been when Allied forces approached any POW concentrations. This was mainly in the southeast Asian areas, and would have likely been set off when Slim opened Operation Zipper in early September.


There are a lot of problems with that, starting with these: life isn’t a textbook.

On a practical level, by August 1945 all Japanese civilians were essentially combatants anyway. Civilians were being issued weapons; were expected to repel an invasion; and were actively engaged in war work, I.e., building fortifications.

I’m not citing a textbook. I’m citing moral teaching. If you say that’s difficult in real life, so is chastity.

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