Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Pilgrimage to Trinity

By localroger in Culture
Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 08:07:20 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

Here and there upon the Earth are places so unique and important that many of us come to regard them as holy. Some of these places are shaped by natural forces, like the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, the Valleys of the Vapors, or the frozen desert of Antarctica. Some attain their status because of the great or important humans who were born there, and some by the great or important humans whose lives ended nearby.

Some places become sacred because of a great or momentous event. One of the shortest but most important of those events occurred at 5:29:45 AM on the morning of July 16, 1945, when the work of a few millionths of a second brought forth a new thing in the experience of humans, of the Earth, and very possibly of the entire Universe.

Sacred places inspire pilgrimage, and on November 20, 2004, I realized an old dream of mine. I made the pilgrimage to the Trinity site, at the north end of the White Sands Test Range in central New Mexico, where the first atomic bomb was exploded.


1.
"And then..." (choking up) "...the whole sky lit up. It was just like daylight. It was awesome. And down by the gas pumps the Army guys were jumping up and down and slapping each other on the back, and I heard one of them say 'We've got the world by the tail now!'"

--Bucky Gilmore, who saw the Trinity test at age 12, to our tour group

2.

As sacred places go, Trinity is unusually uninspiring. It is hard to get a feel for what happened there in 1945. But that is largely because of the ambivalence, and to a certain extent the profanity, of its keepers.

At Trinity there are big signs warning you that the place is a national treasure and that, in particular, removing Trinitite is a crime. Yet the site's biggest vandal in the last 59 years has been the Army itself.

In 1947 the embarrassingly expensive and unused Jumbo was "tested" to semi-destruction; an off-center detonation blew the ends off but left the 180 ton central cylinder intact. In the early 1950's the Army scraped up and buried much of the Trinitite crust and filled in the central depression. Through the years they also allowed the historic George McDonald ranch house which survived the blast to deteriorate as it lay abandoned.

Only in 1965 did the White Sands Test Range officials decide to mark Ground Zero with the lava rock obelisk that still stands there, and only in 1975 did the Park Service designate the place a National Historic Landmark. Only in 1982 were efforts started to preserve and restore the McDonald ranch house.

Without the marker and fencing or a radiation detector, you could pass the site a hundred times without realizing its significance. The desert ecosystem has claimed the new soil that was added in the early 1950's, so that you must step over desert scrub and jackrabbit droppings to hunt for the remaining small bits of Trinitite, which in turn are unnoticeable unless you know to look for them by their signature green color. A low, anonymous, windowless building covers a few hundred square feet of the crater to preserve the original surface for future archaeologists.

Near the marker, the largest surviving tower footing is protected by a little guard made of welded rebar. A second footing survives only as a bare patch of bald concrete almost level with the desert sand. The presence of a third footing is revealed by a single piece of half-inch rebar, perhaps two inches long, sticking out of the sand. Of the fourth footing there is no evidence at all. Scattered around the site are hundreds of fist-sized chunky bits of metal which are probably bits of Jumbo's blown-off ends.

Away from the fenced-in central crater rows of cedar posts survive to mark the cable runs to some of the remote instrumentation bunkers. Only one of those bunkers, West 800, still exists; and it was only recently restored and marked. All of the rest of the infrastructure -- the instruments and cameras, the bunkers with their concrete slab roofs supported by massive oak beams, the controls and cables spanning twenty kilometers of desert -- is gone, removed and discarded soon after the test.

3.

Events of mythic proportion inspire mythic tales. The popular understanding of atomic history is riddled with falsehoods that range from understandable simplifications to poor justifications to outright lies spread to maintain the secrecy of design elements.

Probably the biggest myth to emerge in the years since 1945 is that Fat Man and Little Boy ended the war. It's even printed right there in black and white in the brochure that White Sands passes out to visitors. It's the kind of simple story that makes perfect sense, is easy to beleive, and makes us feel better about the awful way the world's second and third atomic explosions were used.

The only problem is, it isn't true.

By July of 1945, the Japanese Empire was on the ropes. Secretary of War Henry Stimson summed it up for President Truman on July 2 thusly:

  • Japan has no allies.
  • Her navy is nearly destroyed and she is vulnerable to a surface and underwater blockade which can deprive her of sufficient food and supplies for her population.
  • She is terribly vulnerable to our concentrated air attack upon her crowded cities, industrial and food resources.
  • She has against her not only the Anglo-American forces but the rising forces of China and the ominous threat of Russia.
  • We have inexhausible and untouched industrial resources to bring to bear against her diminishing potential.
  • We have great moral superiority through being the victim of her first sneak attack.
On the other hand Stimson went on to warn that an invasion would be horribly costly to us, and that he thought the Japanese would be amenable to an appropriately worded demand for surrender. He even recommended that...
"if we do not exclude a constitutional monarchy under her present dynasty, it would substantially add to the chances of acceptance."
Was Stimson right? By July of 1945 we had cracked Japan's military codes, and on July 10 and 11 we intercepted top-secret cables indicating that the High Command was seriously considering surrender. There was just one caveat:
"It is his Majesty's heart's desire to see the swift termination of the war ... however, as long as America and England insist on unconditional surrender our country has no alternative but to see it through in an all-out effort for the sake of survival and the honor of the homeland."
So we basically knew that the Japanese were ready to surrender and what approximate terms they would accept. On July 2 Stimson recommended that we offer them such terms. But on July 16 Trinity lit up the sky over New Mexico, and when the Potsdam Declaration was announced -- having been delayed until after the test -- it contained the very language we knew Japan would never accept.

How important was our demand for unconditional surrender, a demand we made knowing it would cause the war to go on when it might be stopped? It couldn't have been very important, because after the atomic bombings and after the Japanese were forced to lick our boot heels, we ended up giving them what they wanted anyway. The Emperor was in fact allowed to retained his always largely symbolic throne, and the Japanese nation retained its polity.

So what we got for prolonging the war for several weeks and killing several hundred thousand people was almost exactly nothing.

4.

I could not justify travelling to New Mexico just to tour Trinity. Our "real" reason for going there was the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. One of the earliest and most successful species and habitat preservation projects, the Bosque provides magnificent opportunities for birding; but as Fate would have it, it's also close to some high geek tourist spots such as the Very Large Array, just 50 miles away, and even closer at 20 miles the Trinity test site. Wanting to give us every possible reason to come visit, the Friends of the Bosque put tours to both places on the Festival schedule.

During one bus tour of the Bosque our guide rightly bragged that the refuge had allowed a vanishing population of only 17 wintering Sandhill Cranes in 1939 to become over 11,000 today, through their deliberate efforts to mimic the shallow wetlands which once flanked the now dammed and channeled Rio Grande. "We have fossils which show that these cranes have been coming here for nine million years," she added. "They've survived volcanoes and mountain uplifts, and hopefully we'll just be another blip for them too."

She then turned beet red as she realized what she had just said, but not one person in that bus full of humans spoke up to suggest that our own species might have a future as impressive as the Sandhill Crane's past.

5.

The atomic explosion wasn't just a New Thing for human beings. We can be reasonably sure it was a New Thing in the entire history of our planet. And absent the meddling of another intelligent life form like ourselves, it may have been a New Thing in the entire 13.6 billion year history of the Universe.

There are more energetic spectacles to be found out in the depths of space, but in the microseconds after the fission reaction runs its course the heart of an atomic bomb is one of the most extreme environments anywhere -- even compared to the heart of a star, even compared to a supernova. And we know of no mechanism that could create such extremes of temperature and particle flux without also involving extremes of gravity and mass that tend to keep one away from the action. We know of no natural situation that could create such conditions and loose them upon the surface of an otherwise inhabitable world, before the eyes of witnesses who might survive.

Everything about an atomic bomb is spectacular. The separation of pure isotopes, whether U235 or Pu239, is a difficult and unnatural thing to arrange. They must start out in a subcritical arrangement, then be very quickly assembled into a critical mass; Little Boy performed this operation by firing a gun, Fat Man by implosion. And then, in the brief moment when the assembly is critical -- because forces strong enough to assemble it fast enough will also blow it apart if the nuclear reaction doesn't materialize -- you have to introduce seed neutrons to make sure the reaction starts. Again, this must be done very quickly. The device that does this in an atomic bomb is called the initiator, and in some ways it's even more unnatural and difficult to engineer than the rest of the bomb.

6.

We are a nation of savages. That is what we decided last night. We belong to the "most advanced" society in the history of the world, and we decided that we would rather be barbarians, hunched over fire pits, ripping meat off the bones of our enemies, raping our women, howling out at the gods for peace in the afterlife.

--The Rude Pundit, on November 3, 2004

Although the Rude One was writing of something much more mundane, he goes on to correctly observe that we have been a nation of savages since long before this year's ugly election cycle. In addition to the genocidal way we dealt with the original inhabitants of our country, there is that little dust-up back in the 1860's when we proved we are equal-opportunity savages, quite willing to turn our savagery inward upon ourselves under the right conditions. And a consistent history of not being able to go more than a few years without some kind of war to keep us entertained shows that we haven't really changed.

My wife hates it when I say things like this. She likes to say "there is no 'We.'" She doesn't like being grouped with people she thinks of as Neanderthals (and that might even be an insult to our extinct cousins) because of the accident of her place of birth and inherited citizenship.

To a certain extent she has a point, but I think it would be a hard point to explain to one of the many, many, many, many people brutally murdered in our many, many quasi-legal "adventures" in places like Vietnam, Chile, Nicaragua, or Iraq. Our tax money pays for the bombs and death squads whether or not we personally fly the planes or train the goons.

What is really true, I think, is that we are two nations commingled in uneasy detente. The nation of savages certainly is there and has always been part of us; as Plato observed it will be a part of any democratically run state. But there is also within us a nation of civilized, noble people who actually believe in the words and the philosophy behind them on the documents produced by the people who founded our nation.

Sometimes the savages are ascendant and we have things like the Civil War and Vietnam and our current adventure in Iraq. Sometimes they are in eclipse, but being savages they still slink around doing savage things like Iran/Contra, and on a smaller scale generally making the lives of our neighbors miserable when they can, whether by gay-bashing the local fags or making sure every source of pleasure carries with it the risk of making the rest of your life a living hell.

The striking thing about the Manhattan Project is the number of civilized, noble people who played indispensible roles, knowing what it was they were trying to create. For various noble-sounding reasons that made sense at the time, they helped to create the ultimate tool of savagery -- and handed it to the savages to use as they pleased.

7.

The second biggest myth of the atomic era is the idea that we had to build atomic bombs on the chance Germany might build them first. And in the early years of the war that was a valid concern.

But the German atomic program was beset by several factors that doomed it. Foremost was Hitler's suspicion of "Jewish science," which forced many of his brightest physicists to come work for us. Second, the engineering enterprises we built to realize our bomb such as the Y-12 isotope separation plant and the Hanford reactors were probably beyond the Reich's means. (If Hitler hadn't bungled Operation Barbarossa and gotten stuck in Russia, that situation might have been different.)

The Germans might have taken the istope-separation route to build a U235 bomb, but they had the resources to pursue only one avenue. They tried thermal diffusion, since its inventor Klaus Clusius was on their side. But it turns out as Otto Frisch learned in 1941 that the Clusius method doesn't work for Uranium Hexaflouride. We went on to successfully explore gaseous barrier diffusion and electromagnetic separation, but the Germans abandoned the whole idea.

And Germany's ability to follow the Plutonium path was mostly blown by a single mistaken measurement. When Walther Bothe measured the neutron absorption cross-section of carbon in January 1940, he came up with a value high enough to rule it out as a moderator for nuclear reactors. Bothe didn't know that, like Von Halban and Kowarski on our side, he probably had graphite contaminated with boron; but the Germans could not cross-check their result with Enrico Fermi, whose different methodology gave a much more promising number. That mistake denied them carbon as a moderator for the reactors that would be needed to breed Plutonium. Their only other option was heavy water, and when we bombed the Norsk Hydro heavy water plant in Vermork and British commandoes sunk the ferry carrying the train with the last of its output, the German atomic program became irrelevant.

Did we know any of this at the time, though? In 1943 Leslie Groves created the Alsos intelligence unit (Alsos is greek for "grove," get it?) charged with locating German nuclear assets as the Normandy invasion rolled inland. By April 1944 Alsos had located all of the uranium ore known to be in Nazi hands and all of their scientists, and we knew that they had never had a chance at a bomb, had built only one reactor, and that their one reactor had never sustained a chain reaction.

Groves' reaction to this happy news was to clamp it under a tight lid of secrecy. Too many of the Manhattan Project physicists were working on the project only because of the German threat, and he knew that they would not be as eager to unleash such technology against the more primitively armed Japanese.

8.

If Trinity had not happened, what happened at Hiroishima and Nagasaki might be forgivable. It was widely believed that an atomic bomb would not be as effective as conventional bombs delivering equivalent energy, because the bomb's output would not be spread out over the target. Before Trinity nobody had any idea what such a blast would look like or what it would do to the landscape.

And in some respects, the Trinity test was almost defiantly arranged to prevent such knowledge from being acquired; with so much at stake you'd think they would have put some test structures around Ground Zero to see how well they survived. But one of the fairy tales told early on about Trinity is that it was more of a pure science experiment than a weapons test, even though they were using the opportunity to test tool kits and procedures necessary for assembling and dropping the bomb in the field.

When the shot worked and we had hard data about the yield and pressure wave and temperatures it created, we had no idea how such extremes would affect real buildings.

But we did have a plan to find out.

By April of 1945, when serious consideration began to be given to where to drop something like an atomic bomb, Curtis LeMay had already bombed and burned out most of Japan's larger cities. This is why Tokyo wasn't atomic-bombed; it was already mostly bombed out already. Hiroshima rose to the top of the Target Committee's list mainly because it was the biggest city LeMay's bombers hadn't gotten to yet, and on their advice LeMay continued to spare it, so that we might accurately assess how much damage was done by the atomic bomb without the confusion of other damage to cloud the data.

And even after the Enola Gay bombed Hiroshima on August 6 we didn't really know just how much damage it had done; we had aerial photos but no hard information from the ground. We were shocked that Japan didn't immediately surrender. Didn't they understand what they were up against? What we didn't realize was that Little Boy had destroyed Hiroshima so thoroughly that reports of the devastation took time to get out, and those reports were so astonishing they were hard to believe.

So, on a schedule set even before the Trinity test, we dropped Fat Man on August 9. This mission was beset by glitches; a malfunctioning fuel selector limited the B-29's range and weather obscured the primary target at Kokura. Bock's Car was able to make Nagasaki, a city added to the Target Committee's list only at the last minute. One fortuitous hole opened up in the clouds and Fat Man was set loose.

By now the news was getting around about what had happened in Hiroshima, and the Japanese government began to frantically assess the situation even as preparations were made to deliver a third bomb. That bomb wouldn't be coming; Truman had ordered a stop to the atomic bombing. Henry Wallace recorded in his diary that Truman "didn't like the idea of killing all those kids."

9.

"Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds."

--Robert Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer, the single most important man in the Manhattan Project, studied Sanskrit and read the Hindu holy text the Bhagavad-Gita as a hobby.

The juxtaposition of a scientific peacenik like Oppenheimer and congenital war hawk Leslie Groves is enough to make one's head explode. One can understand how Groves was able to deal with Oppenheimer; he was simply ruthless about it. Oppenenheimer was on the short list of people who could get the job done, and he agreed to try. Then Groves put every invasive apparattus at his disposal into the 24/7 task of following and spying on Oppenheimer to make sure he wasn't slacking or spilling secrets to his many card-carrying Communist friends.

But what motivated Oppenheimer to enter such an obviously Faustian deal?

Historians find Oppenheimer "complicated" and "interesting." But I personally think most people are ultimately motivated by simple things. Like most of us Oppenheimer had fealty to several interests which were not always congruent. He had his sympathies with the working man and his hopes for the ennoblement of humanity, and he had his worries and warnings encoded in the holy texts he liked to read. But he was also a scientist, and to offer a scientist the resources Groves offered to study a problem of such laser-like clarity and pinnacle importance is like offering a 15 year old boy the chance to fuck Paris Hilton. I think he saw that if he declined the opportunity he'd spend the rest of his life getting drunk and kicking himself. It probably wasn't even a very hard decision for him to make.

Oppenheimer's decision is interesting to me, though, for another reason. Oppenheimer was more interested and better versed in human concerns like poverty and power and transcendance than most of us are today; yet when his scientific interest came into conflict with his human interest, it was the scientific interest that prevailed. Which might be a Good Thing or a Bad Thing depending on how you look at it, but it undeniably was a Thing that was Used to turn a contemplative, introspective person into a tool which would ultimately turn against everything he ever held dear.

10.

One of the myths of the atomic era is that Ethel and Julius Rosenberg sold the secret of the atomic bomb to the Russians, and that's why Russia was able to acquire its own nuclear arsenal. It's most likely true that Julius at least passed on important details of Fat Man's design. But that wasn't the secret that made it possible for other countries to acquire their own atomic bombs.

The secret of the atomic bomb is that it is possible to build them at all.

Leo Szilard understood this and warned James Byrnes that to use the bomb against Japan and possibly even to test it would be tantamount to giving it to the Russians; but Szilard, who had pretty much gotten the whole affair rolling by conceiving of the basic idea of the nuclear chain reaction back in 1933, was widely regarded as a peacenik troublemaker and the Powers that Be ignored him.

The problem is that atomic bombs require an enormous industrial effort, but they are not really all that complicated. If you don't know whether a bomb is possible it is very hard to justify the cost necessary to refine enough fissionable material to find out. In 1939 Neils Bohr had insisted it would be necessary to turn the whole country into factory to pursue isotope separation, and when he came to America and saw the scale of Manhattan Project constructions, he said to Ed Teller, "and you have done just that."

But we had turned the whole country into a factory anyway to face the war, and we could afford the distraction of the possibly unworkable but oh so tantalizing atomic explosive. Few other countries could, and outside the context of World War II it's unlikely we would have put in such a grand effort either.

It's a dead certainty the Soviets wouldn't have; in their years of rebuilding they "borrowed" many industrial secrets from us but Stalin instructed his spies to concentrate on proven technologies. As Harry Gold related,

"...I was told that the Soviet Union was so desperately in need of chemical processes that they could afford to take no chances on one which might not work."
Of course, once you know atomic bombs are possible and especially that your neighbor has them the equation reverses. The only possible defense against atomic attack is the ability to mount an atomic retribution; having bombs of your own becomes a survival imperative worth whatever it costs.

And history shows that once you make that commitment, you'll probably get the same results we got; as Richard Rhodes points out, every country that has ever set out to create an atomic weapon has succeeded on the first try.

11.

Another myth is that we developed the bomb to use against Germany and Japan. That's certainly what our leaders told us back in 1945, but as early as 1943 it was no longer really true. And this gets back to the question of why the Japanese were goaded into continuing to fight by the unacceptable wording of the Potsdam Declaration, and why the bombs were used at all when Japan was more than ready to throw in the towel to our satisfaction.

Once we had the Battle of the Atlantic in hand and Russia ostensibly on our side, and once it was clear there would be no surprising new technologies on the Nazi side, Allied victory was only a matter of time. Hitler may not have seen it but both the Americans and Russians did, and both nations began laying plans for after the war, when it seemed inevitable that without a mutual enemy to force us into alignment we would turn on one another.

A major part of our strategy in this regard was the atomic bomb.

What the atomic bomb got us was nothing Japan could have offered; it showed the world in general and the Russians in particular what would happen to them next if they annoyed us. By actually using the bomb against a real target we showed that we were willing to use it. This is why the Potsdam Declaration was delayed until after the successful Trinity test. Although we were pretty sure Little Boy would work without testing, it was a harder bomb to build; our hopes for near-term mass manufacture rested with Fat Man. Little Boy was an ace that could be played once and perhaps occasionally, but Fat Man was a whole pocket full of aces and it allowed us to adopt a more aggressive strategy.

This attitude is reflected in the recorded comments of many people, from Leslie Groves to Henry Stimson to the nameless Army guys overheard by Bucky Gilmore on the morning of the Trinity test.

Of course the project itself also had the kind of inhuman momentum that builds up when enough money and effort is spent on anything; as James Byrnes lectured to Leo Szilard,

"How would you get Congress to appropriate money for atomic energy research if you do not show results for the money which has been spent already?"
Or as Stimson remarked upon hearing of the successful Trinity test,
"I have been responsible for spending some two billions of dollars on this atomic venture. Now that it is successful I shall not be sent to prison in Fort Leavenworth."
But for two billion dollars, in an era when gasoline only cost 15 cents a gallon, lighting up the Jornada del Muerto may not have been enough. Knowing that as the war wound down the secrecy would lift and Congress would have time to start looking into exactly where all the money went, they may have felt only flat enemy cities could justify their actions.

It is interesting to wonder how things might have happened if President Roosevelt had not died on April 12, 1945, leaving Truman to decide the fate of a huge secret that was new and unfamiliar to him. With more experience and confidence might Roosevelt have made the decision after Trinity that Truman made only after Nagasaki? Or would he, too, have gone along with the idea that we had to impress the Russians? Some things history denies to us entirely. All we know is that it took Truman two atomic bombings before, as the most powerful human being on Earth, he stood up and acted like a human being and put a stop to something he saw was awful.

12.

Perhaps the biggest myth of the American national character is that we are the Good Guys.

Whenever this atomic subject comes up and my views come out I often get some pretty hostile responses. A lot of that is just the savages venting, but some of it comes from people who should be a bit smarter about things. A lot of it comes from people who are just like I was, before I happened to see Plate 42. And I think it's because it's hard, it takes a real shock to the system, to admit to yourself that your country didn't just needlessly and horribly kill a few hundred thousand people; your country does shit like that all the time. To recognize the magnitude of the problem is to realize that we are not, in fact, the Good Guys. And that's a very traumatic thing to have to accept.

From America's beginning we have been a nation of high ideals but low values. We're the kind of nation that can accept the 3/5 compromise on slavery right after ratifying a document that says "all men are created equal." We can hear something like the Dred Scott decision and most of us are fully capable of saying "sure, that makes perfect sense." Then we can have a big old knock-down drag-out civil war on the issue that kills a few million people, as we trip over ourselves finding ever newer and cleverer ways to kill each other. Then we can pick silly fights like the Spanish-American war just because we don't have anything else to do.

In a sense it was an accident that we came out of WWII looking like the Good Guys; it helped that we were sneak-attacked and that the Germans really went out of their way to make us look good by comparison. Under other circumstances the atomic bombings of two inhabited cities would have been roundly and widely criticized. But it seems that Teflon, which was invented for sealing surfaces at the Y-12 diffusion plant (not as popularly believed for the Apollo space program) kept the dirt of our misdeeds from sticking even before we started to apply it to cookware.

We went on after WWII to do a lot of Not Very Good Guy things, from the Cold War missile buildup to the Cuban Missile Crisis to Vietnam to Iran/Contra to Iraq. Now there's a typically American approach to something we don't understand very well; befriend both sides in a nasty long-standing conflict and then screw them both over! How to win friends and influence people, American style. When you've got the world by the tail you can do whatever you want.

I have some familiarity with godlike fictional characters, and one of my favorites is the Gaia being in John Varley's wonderful Titan trilogy. Gaia is introduced to human culture by television a hundred years before humans come calling on her, and she is finely attuned to the human sense of drama. As the heroine Cirocco Jones notes in the runup to the big battle in the last book, Demon, Gaia has decided to be a movie character (in fact incarnating herself as a 50-foot-tall Marilyn Monroe), but "she knows she isn't the good guy." And the reason she isn't the good guy is simple; the really interesting character in any drama is the bad guy.

Now as interesting things go, building the atomic bomb is one of the most interesting things ever to happen, and the fact that we still argue about it sixty years later is a testament to just how interesting it is. But it also, when you get down where the short hairs grow, isn't a very Good Guy thing to have done. And America tends to be cool with things like that, even if we saw too many John Ford movies to admit we're wearing the black hats in this show.

13.

My father was a nuclear physicist. As a child I helped him in the lab, learned to do all his student experiments, and learned to irradiate samples with a carefully shielded Californium neutron source so that a liquid nitrogen cooled gamma ray detector could read the energies of induced radioactivity, revealing the elements that were present. Dad taught me to be careful with radioactive samples but not to fear them, and I used X-ray and gamma-ray sources from his lab in my senior science fair project.

In all of my childhood I never really connected what my father did with the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. It's the kind of thing you didn't think about much unless you wanted to go crazy; the idea that you could be minding your business, and that at any random moment your whole world could explode in a searing fireball that would consume everything you ever cared about, is not really compatible with doing anything useful.

But around 1989 I happened to be surfing the remainder bin at a local Walden Books when an oversized trade paperback caught my eye. It was At Work in the Fields of the Bomb, a photo essay by Robert Del Tredici. It was priced to go at one dollar. I flipped through it, thought I might find it interesting, and bought it.

Later I took time to examine the images in order. I appreciated the effort that had been required on Del Tredici's part to get some of them; he had rented airplanes and travelled all over the world to build the "big picture" of how nuclear weapons come to exist. Some of the images were familiar; I'd seen some of the very exhibits at the National Atomic Museum he photographed. Some revealed the mundane details that exist in any industry, which few outsiders ever get to see. And some were tragic; but I kept a skeptical awareness that this had obviously been assembled by someone with an agenda.

Then I came to image 41, the parents of Sadako Sasaki. At that point I had never heard of Sadako, but from the caption I understood why her parents might be making an appearance in the book; she had died at age 12 of "atomic bomb disease," a.k.a. leukemia. Very tragic. I flipped the page.

42. Sadako's Paper Cranes

These are the handwork of Sadako Sasaki. When she was 12 years old Sadako contracted leukemia from earlier exposure to the atomic bomb. She did not wish to die. She refused all painkilling medication and took literally a Japanese proverb that says, "if you fold 1,000 cranes, you will get whatever you wish." She folded 645 of the tiny birds before she died. Kasuga City, Fukuoka, Japan. October 14, 1984.

I tried to flip to the next picture but my hands were shaking, and my eyes were welling up with tears. To this day it is hard for me to express what I felt when I learned of Sadako. There is something about her that simultaneously shames me and makes me proud of what it can be to be human, but there is also the ominous question of which would be worse: That she was discouraged and denied paper and therefore failed to fold the thousand cranes before she died, or had she been allowed to finish her project only to find that it didn't save her?

I'm not the only person to be awe-inspired by Sadako Sasaki. Today there is a statue of her at the Hiroshima Peace Park, and every year children all over the world fold cranes and send them to Hiroshima, where they are strung in garlands of 1,000 in her honor.

The next day I regained my composure and completed Del Tredici's photo essay. Then I started in on the notes, which comprise more than half the book (and alas don't seem to be available online). Then I proceeded to read everything else I could find about the nuclear industry. It became harder and harder for me to see the technology as value-neutral, especially the technology of making prompt fission triggered weapons. Despite years of testing no atomic explosion has ever benefitted humanity, despite several serious (one might even say desperate) attempts to find positive uses.

Sedan Crater was a test of thermonuclear earthmoving; the device that dug this 380 foot deep hole in the ground was 17 inches in diameter, 38 inches long, and weighed 470 lb. It released far more radioactivity into the environment than its designers expected, and no further such tests were attempted.

And thanks to the whole nuclear enterprise we are stuck with huge amounts of toxic waste, legions of people who claim to have been harmed by exposure to these toxins or radiation, atomic "secrets" easily penetrated by C students and untrained journalists like Howard Morland, and a vast expenditure dwarfing even the original Manhattan Project for which we have little positive to show.

Nuclear energy has certainly been useful at times, especially for space travel, but it never required the vast expenditure for isotope separation and plutonium production that the Manhattan Project required. Nearly all of the pure science that was done for the bomb project would have eventually been done anyway. The techniques of nuclear medicine could have been developed with a reactor technology geared more to energy production, and developed at a slower pace so as to minimize the risk and let us get a more sensible grip on how to deal with the control and waste issues.

Instead, it seems that nuclear matters of all sorts were rushed into production precisely because the Manhattan Project needed to be legitimized.

I tend to think there is a way to use nuclear energy that is not insane, but we haven't found that way; and today when relatively sane proposals (like pebble-bed reactors) are put forth, people are rightly skeptical that things will be different than they were when we were rushing anything that looked like it might half-way work into overproduction. The waste problem still isn't addressed, and the solution that looks best to me, of burying it in deep-ocean subduction zones, is being ignored because it would be so much easier to just bury the stuff in Nevada and hope for the best.

14.

So there I was at Trinity, the place where the world changed in a few millionths of a second on the morning of July 16, 1945, trying to get a feel for it. But there isn't much to feel about the fireball of an atomic explosion; one moment you're standing there, there's a hundred foot tall tower and a bunch of roads and cables and cameras and instruments and crap, and the next moment poof, you're very very dead. You wouldn't even have time to feel pain or even to hear the sound of your own annihilation.

Sixty years later there are a few chunks of concrete where the tower once perched, a monument, and a bunch of scrub and jackrabbit droppings and tourists quietly pocketing little bits of green glass.

If Trinity had not happened, if we had sat on our knowledge, then two whole generations might have been spared the fear that it could all end without warning, an unprecedented state of terror that has never existed before in human history.

If Trinity had not happened and we had bombed Japan anyway then we might look back at Hiroshima and Nagasaki differently, for we could not have known what would happen when such bombs are dropped on cities. We could say "We didn't know, and we stopped as soon as we realized just what we were doing."

But Trinity did happen, so the world learned that the bombs could be made and it learned that we were willing to drop them on mostly civilian population centers. And then we spent the next twenty years figuring out how to do the same thing even more thoroughly and more easily with even less warning for the victims, so that one wouldn't even see the B-29 flying high overhead before the world was ripped asunder.

And so the Soviets and the British and the French and the South Africans (!) all went out and got bombs of their own, and now India and Pakistan glare at each other across an uneasy border and the tips of their nuclear missiles, and we wonder where all the damn radioactive waste will finally end up.

15.

And the Sandhill Cranes, which have been wintering in lower New Mexico for nine million years, continue to arrive, blissfully unaware of how thoroughly the flightless newcomers are fucking up their world. But they've survived volcanoes and mountain uplifts, and if all goes well we'll just be another blip for them too.

Sources

Although I've linked what I could find, most of the forces that have shaped my attitude toward nuclear matters are not online.

One tragedy of my trip to New Mexico is that I missed the chance to meet Richard Rhodes, who was visiting Louisiana to promote his new book about John James Audubon while I was away. Many of the events I mention can be quickly found by Amazon's search-inside function (though you'll need an actual copy of the book to use the results):

The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb

This more obscure book also made a big impression on me; the authors make a strong case that like the Nazi doctors who perpetrated atrocities for the Reich, the scientists who build nuclear weapons use a "doubling" mechanism by which the person at work has a different set of ethics and core beliefs than the person who goes home each evening to a loving family:

The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi Holocaust and Nuclear Threat

Here is a meticulously laid out case against the bombings and the subsequent abuse of "downwinders" who were victimized by unnecessary atomic testing; the author was Secretary of the Interior under JFK and LBJ and a congressman from Arizona:

The Myths of August

P.S. I have only now realized, after all these years, that the photo of Sadako's cranes which changed my life was numbered Plate 42. As anyone conversant with the landscape of science fiction knows 42 is not just a random number; in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide it's literally the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. I made a similar joke in my own novel. Except that in At Work in the Fields of the Bomb it's not so much a joke as a surprisingly profound statement.

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Poll
Favorite Nuclear Destination
o Trinity 5%
o Hiroshima 7%
o Bikini 26%
o Los Alamos 1%
o National Atomic Museum 0%
o Kazakhstan 3%
o Sarov 0%
o Three Mile Island 5%
o Chernobyl 29%
o Tranquility Base 21%

Votes: 57
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Grand Canyon
o Mount Everest
o Valleys of the Vapors
o Antarctica
o born
o there
o lives
o ended
o event
o new thing
o Trinitite
o Jumbo
o George McDonald ranch house
o lava rock obelisk
o a little guard
o Festival of the Cranes
o Bosque del Apache
o Very Large Array
o Rude Pundit
o Alsos
o bombed out already
o Robert Oppenheimer
o savages venting
o Titan
o Demon
o John Ford
o At Work in the Fields of the Bomb
o Sadako's Paper Cranes
o Sadako Sasaki
o Sedan Crater
o Howard Morland
o The Making of the Atomic Bomb
o Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb
o The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi Holocaust and Nuclear Threat
o The Myths of August
o Also by localroger


Display: Sort:
Pilgrimage to Trinity | 287 comments (258 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
Online book recommendation (3.00 / 2) (#2)
by Psychopath on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 12:35:10 PM EST

Some years ago I found the illustrated book At Work in the Fields of the Bomb by Robert Del Tredici. Unfortunately it is out of print. But it seems to be available online. While some pictures are missing it is still a good read/sight.
--
The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain. -- Karl Marx
*cough* see section 13 /nt (none / 1) (#5)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 12:47:56 PM EST



What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
+1 FP, but... (2.28 / 7) (#7)
by ktakki on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 01:03:48 PM EST

On the other hand Stimson went on to warn that an invasion would be horribly costly to us, and that he thought the Japanese would be amenable to an appropriately worded demand for surrender. He even recommended that...
As ambivalent as I am about the decision to use atomic weapons on Japan, I'm still bothered about your omission of some of the factors that went into this decision, like OLYMPIC and CORONET (the planned invasions of Kyushu and Honshu), the Japanese plan to arm 28,000,000 civilians with sharpened sticks and satchel charges for repelling the invaders, and the attempted coup that occurred after the Emperor's decision to surrender.

The two alternatives, invasion or blockade, would have killed millions.

As for the issue of unconditional surrender, anything less would have been politically unacceptable.


k.
--
"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

Politically Unacceptable (3.00 / 4) (#10)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 01:19:48 PM EST

Well the article is already too long, and it's mostly about my feelings. There are several things in it that I'll probably have to explain at greater length.

First of all, the entire term "unconditional surrender" is complete bullshit. Consider exactly what it implies. If I as a conquerer demand your unconditional surrender, does that mean you agree to my plan to kill all of your male citizens aged 18 to 40? Does it mean you agree to my plan to shoot everyone who was a part of the old government without a trial? Does it mean you agree to my plan to raze all your cities and salt the earth and ship your population off to slave camps scattered around the world?

If you suspected me of having any of those plans, I'm sure you would fight exactly as our hawks were predicting the Japanese would fight, to the last man with sticks if necessary. But it was obvious we weren't planning to do any of those things. Potsdam even included language to that effect. So, regardless of what we called it, the surrender terms we offered did carry a lot of implied conditions.

The only condition that was a sticking point was Hirohito. The Japanese would not accept his removal. And we did not in fact remove him. Therefore it was disingenuous -- we were in fact lying -- when we said such a term was unacceptable at Potsdam. And we knew what the result of that lie would be.

Now what I ask you is this: How "politically unacceptable" would this condition have been if there had been no atomic bomb program at all, and the only options had been give them what we gave them anyway, or mount the costly invasion?

I think the chances that there ever would have been an invasion are approximately zero. That's not what a lot of people, including people in the army, were being told; but it's what would have happened. The reason is that, almost exactly at the point when our intelligence made us aware that surrender was a realistic option, the atomic program reared up requiring a chance to justify itself.

I'm sure you can argue with some of those assumptions, but that is the reasoning by which I arrived at my conclusion.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Summation (1.33 / 6) (#89)
by sllort on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 09:19:12 PM EST

"Well the article is already too long, and it's mostly about my feelings ... that is the reasoning by which I arrived at my conclusion."

Thank you for spending too many words to state the obvious, that this article is about your feelings, which you have molded into facts and managed to paste into a story which does not have "Op-Ed" in the title, thereby implying that your feelings are true. This sentiment, "my feelings are true", lies at the heart of George Bush's re-election. It warms my heart to see it here as well.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]

Not sure what you are getting at here (none / 0) (#91)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 09:30:28 PM EST

I think it has something to do with maybe I should have put "op-ed" for either topic or section, which is pretty reasonable and actually something I thought about a few seconds after launching it. Then again, I think you might just be indulging in some tension-relieving buttheadedness.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
Well, I don't know about you (3.00 / 2) (#96)
by rusty on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 11:04:46 PM EST

...but I know that if I see something that isn't explicitly labeled "Op-Ed" I automatically assume it to be fact, and believe it with all my heart.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
You and the rest of Red America (none / 0) (#175)
by sllort on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 07:14:13 PM EST

Us Kerry voters tend to question the media though.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
Politically unacceptable, defined. (2.66 / 6) (#112)
by ktakki on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:37:37 AM EST

First of all, the entire term "unconditional surrender" is complete bullshit. Consider exactly what it implies. If I as a conquerer demand your unconditional surrender, does that mean you agree to my plan to kill all of your male citizens aged 18 to 40?
Oh, please. I thought localroger was above this sort of strawman arguement. Was I mistaken?

Okay, I'll back off of that stance for a moment and give you the benefit of the doubt here. These draconian terms are not far from what the Japanese might have imposed had the shoe been on the other foot (i.e., Japan nuking Seattle and San Francisco prior to a US surrender) given their track record in China. But Germany accepted the Allies' unconditional surrender terms three months prior to Hiroshima. Japan still had ambassadors in a number of European countries who were able to observe the conditions in post-surrender Germany. Unfortunately, the Japanese diplomatic corps had little to no influence on the conduct of the war, particularly the endgame.

Potsdam was far from vague about the conditions:

  • The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government shall be subordinate to the Allied Supreme Commander.
  • Territory will be occupied until proof that war making power is destroyed.
  • Japan was limited to the five home islands and such minor islands as we determine. The Yalta agreement handed the Kuril islands to the Soviet union for entering the war against Japan.
  • Japanese military forces shall be disarmed and returned to peaceful and productive lives.
  • Stern justice to war criminals; human rights shall be established. Permission for industry and world trade, but not to re-arm.
  • Allies to withdraw when objectives are accomplished and a freely expressed, peacefully inclined government is in place.

The fact of the atomic bomb and the damage it could do to a city differed only in the number of USAAF aircraft involved in the destruction. The firebombing of Tokyo was more devastating, took more lives, destroyed more houses, but was accomplished with hundreds of bombers instead of the three B-29s that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki (one bomber, two observers). This was, after all, a Curtis LeMay operation. Anything less than bouncing rubble was a failure to LeMay.

You can't view atomic warfare in 1945 through 2004 eyes; Fat Man and Little Boy were just bombs to Groves, LeMay, and Truman. Big ass expensive bombs, to be sure, but without all the Cold War thermonuclear Armageddon baggage that accrued over the next sixty years.

And let me clarify what I meant by "politically unacceptable": anything less than the complete captiulation by the Japanese government (not the figurehead Emperor but the military junta that ruled the country) would have been unaccepable to the American public ("Remember Pearl Harbor!" was the "Let's Roll" of its day), and the Allies (recall that objections over Japanese adventurism in China and Indochina had spurred the US steel and oil embargos that triggered Japan's retaliation).

Finally, I've got to admit that there's a certain aspect of the decision to nuke Japan that I can't defend, namely the inherent racism of 1940s America. Having seen propaganda films from that era, it wouldn't surprise me if we'd turned Honshu and Kyushu into glass parking lots (some of the plans for OLYMPIC and CORONET called for use of nukes to "soften" the invasion beaches). But, like I said above, you can't really judge 1945 actions through 2004 eyes. It was what it was. Learn and move on.


k.
--
"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

[ Parent ]

A minor note on anti-Japanese racism (none / 1) (#169)
by Polverone on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 04:54:12 PM EST

A few years back I decided to investigate primary sources about the degree and nature of racism against the Japanese in World War II. I obtained several years of back issues of Seattle-area newspapers from the World War II era (and World War I for comparison).

My findings surprised me. Yes, there was vicious anti-Japanese sentiment expressed by ordinary people and in editorials/cartoons in the newspapers. Yet the World War I anti-German material was even more vicious! If the Germans weren't white, the cartoons mocking them would certainly stand out as racist. Many persons and things with a "German" taint to them were harassed and sometimes attacked. WW I peace protestors / German supporters were brutalized by the police and mobs of soldiers.

I concluded that "American racism led to Japanese demonization" is only a half-truth. The Germans, white as white could be, were viciously demonized when it was expedient during WW I. There's an ugly dehumanize-the-enemy streak in American warmaking (all warmaking?) but it is not limited to funny looking foreigners.

Unfortunately, I don't remember a lot about differences in portrayal of Germans and Japanese during WW II itself. I think the differences cannot be simply attributed "racism" and left at that. I do recall that Japanese were portrayed positively in the WW I newspapers, since they were actually working on the side of the Allies at that time.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

John Dower (3.00 / 2) (#191)
by driptray on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 12:11:52 AM EST

If you read John Dower's War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War you'll see that there was a very large difference in the way that the US viewed the Germans and the Japanese.

The Germans were typically not called so - they were called "Nazis", thereby emphasising their politics rather than than any essentially racial characteristics. Sure, they were demonised, but ideas such as the "good German" showed that the demonisation was not strictly racial.

On the other hand, the Japanese were demonised as a "devil race" that were so inherently evil that defeat was insufficient - they needed to be wiped out. There was no corresponding idea of the "good Japanese" - all Japanese, even women and children, were considered part of a swarm that required extermination.

I recommend the book. It's a terrific read. His susbsequent book, Embracing Defeat about the Japanese reaction to the 1945-52 US occupation is also great.
--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]

I've heard of that book before (none / 1) (#193)
by Polverone on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 01:15:29 AM EST

In fact, hearing a summary of its ideas was one reason that I wanted to investigate primary sources on my own. When somebody has a thesis to support, they will of course present the strongest evidence for it. I wanted to see how claims of racially-based demonization stood up when unfiltered primary sources were examined.

I did of course see things that would be considered racist; the Japanese were almost always abbreviated to "Japs" in print and caricatured as having tiny slits for eyes, bad teeth, and often wearing glasses, sometimes depicted as monkeys, octopuses, or other animals. They were roundly denounced in print. But I did not find among these primary sources -- and I was certainly looking for it -- treatment in print or cartoons that was more vicious than what Germany and its supporters had received in these same newspapers during WW I. It indicated to me that American dehumanization of the enemy did NOT necessarily reach an unprecedented height with Japanese during WW II, and that "racism" would better describe the target of anti-Japanese propaganda rather than its source.

Considering WW II alone, I would say that the Germans got gentler treatment than the Japanese in the pages of these newspapers. But the WW II treatment of Germans was also gentler than the WW I treatment of Germans in these same newspapers, which I cannot easily explain. Also, as I said, the "good Japanese" received considerable exposure in WW I coverage as friends of the Allies. If this image completely disappeared from WW II media, I find it hard to imagine that the disappearance stemmed from grass-roots racism that had sprung up or grown much more ferocious over a single generation. It seems that the media (either in WW I or WW II) must not have been an accurate reflection of general American sentiment about Japan, or that millions of Americans sustained extreme cognitive dissidence going from "the helpful Japanese, friends of Britain" to "the evil and subhuman Japanese, in need of extermination" over the course of 20 years.

I realize that my limited sample of media (no more than 3 different newspapers, with coverage over most of the war years for both wars) may not have been representative of American media as a whole during these periods. I still found it a very interesting exercise, considering the great amount of tut-tutting I'd heard about vicious American portrayals of Japanese during WW II and the deafening silence about vicious American portrayals of Germans in WW I. Maybe it's standard fare to accuse your enemies of being rapists and baby-butchers, but drawing him as a monkey is hitting below the belt?

I do remember seeing some stomach-turning images of burning Japanese soldiers attacked with flamethrowers in back issues of Life that I read through while I was doing this project. I never saw anything so horrifying with Germans in it. Yet those images also attracted a large number of angry letters to the editor and were never approached again in cruelty in all the issues I examined. If extreme examples like that are lined up in a row, claims about vicious anti-Japanese sentiment look stronger than if you look at the entirety of a publication's content during the era.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Cognitive dissonance (none / 1) (#197)
by driptray on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 02:50:22 AM EST

I think "grass-roots" racism can spring up and die down in far less than a generation. I think it can happen in about a week.

When the war ended, the US suddenly had to switch from killing the Japanese to working with and amongst them. At this exact time, the American media representations of the Japanese reversed course, and began depicting them as willing students, earnestly learning from the Americans how to be good. It was a complete change from images of a pestilent swarm that needed to be wiped out. Previously deadly and unredeemable, now docile and trainable.

And it worked. The attitudes of Americans changed very quickly. There was a latent racism there about Asians that the government was able to first exploit, and then exploit again, but in quite a different direction. But the nature of that latent racism was very different from American attitudes about the Germans (also exploited for propoganda purposes).
--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]

Reluctant -1 (1.90 / 11) (#9)
by toulouse on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 01:18:44 PM EST

There's a lot of great stuff in there, but there are also a lot of highly self-indulgent tangents. Yes, you can argue that they tie-in to a certain extent, but only in the way that a kitchen ties-in to a bedroom because they happen to be in the same house.

The elitist opinions on cultural composition, savages and noble-men, tying this into the Iraq war are but one example. There are more. The idea of having to approve this in order to get the cogent strand of the Trinity story to the front page is disheartening. It verges on the deceitful.

It's like listening to an old-timer telling you their life-story. You have to grant them some deference in their meanderings, because of their experience, and the fact that a lot of what they say is fascinating, but there are certain points where you want to prompt them back to the point.

This is going to the front page, regardless, but carte blanche for opinion-based waffle should not be given so generously.


--
'My god...it's full of blogs.' - ktakki
--


Elitist? (2.40 / 5) (#12)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 01:38:56 PM EST

I respect your decision; I realize that this article ties a lot of controversial ideas and assumptions into a big ball which a lot of people are going to have issues with.

However, if you are reading anything elitist into it, I think you are seriously misreading. Unless you think it is elitist to think I am better than someone who thinks it is just OK to murder a few hundred thousand people with no good reason, in which case I plead guilty.

The use of the word "savage" is not intended to imply any real indigenous culture, but a caricature of unthinking violence which we like to think is discouraged within our own civilization.

As for bringing the Iraq war into it ... I think that in the long term, say 100 years out, history will come to regard both Hiroshima and our Iraq adventure as acts of unprovoked and unjustifiable savagery. That is not, of course, the consensus yet; and I'd expect quite a few people to vote this piece down because they disagree with it. But for clarification, that is my opinion.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

And there it is again ... (1.00 / 4) (#13)
by toulouse on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 01:41:30 PM EST

However, if you are reading anything elitist into it, I think you are seriously misreading. Unless you think it is elitist to think I am better than someone ...

Right there.


--
'My god...it's full of blogs.' - ktakki
--


[ Parent ]
Excessive snippage (2.75 / 4) (#17)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 01:57:10 PM EST

Unless you think it is elitist to think I am better than someone who thinks it is just OK to murder a few hundred thousand people with no good reason

Allow me to correct your cut and paste job.

Now, if you are one of those people who think it is OK to kill a few hundred thousand people for no good reason, then I think I am being moral, not elitist, when I say I'm better than you. But I also wouldn't expect you to agree.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

It's elitist to say (2.50 / 2) (#23)
by Skywise on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 02:31:23 PM EST

"...it is just OK to murder a few hundred thousand people with no good reason"

Sure, in your view of reality there was no reason and why not?  Because your view is sacrosanct.

China was emotionally and resourcefully drained.  It posed no threat to the Japanese mainland.  The Japanese, pinned in as they were and with their navy destroyed, were STILL a major powerhouse. (They rebuilt their entire national industry in 15 years, they became an economic threat to the US auto industry in 30)  Given the lessons of Germany after WW1 which directly led to the events of WW2 a peaceful surrender followed by economic penalties would've left a festering society that would only reform itself into a powerhouse again to try again to establish a Japanese empire.  It *had* to be a decisive victory to establish a political point.  Doing it with the US Army would be too costly on both sides (IE, murdering a few MILLION people for no good reason).  The nuclear bomb is/was always more powerful as a political weapon than a destructive one.

Was it a horrible thing to do? Yeah.
Was it more savage?  That's debateable  No war at all would've been less savage.  But dropping the bomb costs hundreds of thousands as opposed to millions of deaths and would've had incalculable additional costs that I can't even fathom.
Was it the wrong *choice*?

Armchair quarterbacking the past is easy.

[ Parent ]

Political Point (2.33 / 3) (#26)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 02:49:37 PM EST

Your account of Japanese strength at the end of the war directly contradicts the accounts of both General Eisenhower and Henry Stimson, who were in a much better position to know than either of us. We had already burned out most of their cities and had already killed many more people than we killed on the two famous days in August. It doesn't get much more decisive than that.

In any case there is great uncertainty today, and there was obviously uncertainty then, over whether the unconditional surrender and bombings were really necessary; I'd say that when you are talking about so much concentrated murder that "probably" isn't good enough. And "probably" is all they had, and even that's being generous.

Read the accounts of what Eisenhower thought before and after the bombing. It was his men who were dying out there, and he thought it was an awful and unnecessary thing to do. But there was bloodlust afoot and he actually pissed off his colleagues when he dared voice that opinion. Kind of like what regularly happens when I dare to agree with him too loudly.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

What have atomic weapons done for you? (1.87 / 8) (#20)
by LilDebbie on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 02:13:48 PM EST

Despite the failure of WWI to "end all wars," the atom bomb has effectively ended war as we once new it. Russia never conquered Europe as they planned after the war because we let them know that what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki could happen in Moscow.

The atomic bomb created the UN.

Throughout human history, nations have warred with each other often and at great cost to economies and populations. Today, war is waged as a police action, not as an attempt to destroy another people. By creating a weapon so terrible, the world can finally know lasting peace. So when China finally rises to challenge the US, we won't fight yet another pointless war to prove who has the biggest dick.

The Bomb is the only peacemaker that can effectively ensure peace. It is the single greatest achievement in human history.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

Really? (2.80 / 5) (#24)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 02:37:40 PM EST

Today, war is waged as a police action, not as an attempt to destroy another people.

I'm so glad it wasn't "at great cost to economies and populations" what has happened since 1945 in places like Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan (talking about the USSR here too), Nicaragua, Iran, Iraq, etc. I'd feel really bad if innocent bystanders had been bombed or death squaded or shot or anything. Oh wait...

The problem with the Bomb as peacemaker is that it has not made peace. The original very naive scientists, Leo Szilard especially, who thought it would were completely horrified by Hiroshima, which immediately gave the lie to the idea that being Bombed was "unthinkable." These guys thought that a la H.G. Wells the Bomb would make war too expensive to wage, but once they realized people really were stupid enough to drop atomic bombs on each others' cities, they immediately saw that they'd actually created the worst thing ever. Which is why Leo Szilard quit physics entirely and started studying biology in 1946.

The plain fact is that we came within a few hours of all-out nuclear war in 1963 because of a few old hawks who were quite plainly not deterred by the thought of a hundred million casualties. I would not call that "peacemaking" but "damn near annihilating everything."

We could argue all day long about what would have happened between the USA and Russia if there were no Bombs in the picture, but it's hard to argue that any likely scenario would involve wiping out both populations in their entirety, something that has been a very real possibility for much of the last 60 years. If the Cold War atomic stalemate was the best we could hope for, then we should just go extinct as quickly as possible and see if the Sandhill Cranes manage to do any better.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

The wars you mention (2.25 / 4) (#27)
by LilDebbie on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 02:52:49 PM EST

while they had tragic human costs, my point was that the intent behind war has radically changed. In none of those examples were we out to conquer and subjugate a people. We went in, killed the people we didn't like, and got out. Yes, innocents died along the wayside, but significantly fewer than in every war up to and including WWII.

I suppose my main point is that war has evolved into a tool to fight ideological battles and to respond to potential security threats. The important thing to recognize is that this now provides individuals with a choice when it comes to war: opt out. Don't associate with the group that is getting slaughtered. Sure, we still have innocent casualties, but the trend is now for less collateral damage as weapon technology improves instead of more, which used to be the trend. Jesus, consider how many civilians were killed by the US in WWII without using The Bomb. That course, thankfully, has stopped and is reversing as a direct result from the developement of The Bomb and it's "demonstration," to be euphamistic.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Intent of War (2.66 / 3) (#30)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 03:09:32 PM EST

Well if I was about to be shot by a soldier who was "clearing" my village, I probably wouldn't give a rat's ass whether he was there to take my land or to make a point to those rotten Commies my neighbors elected.

"Opt out" is only an option for people who attack. Very often your ethnicity or poverty make it impossible to leave the group that is getting slaughtered.

War isn't necessarily any prettier today than it was in 1944. Vietnam and Cambodia and Afghanistan were every bit as bad for the people living there as WWII was for the Germans and Japanese.

Among very likely scenarios for future wars, Korea will be worse when it blows up. If the US decides to go into Iran, look for it to make Vietnam look like a walk in the park (Iraq is already looking a lot uglier than we ever expected). And if China ever decides it's time to reassert its claim to Taiwan look for things to get really ugly. Like mushroom cloud ugly.

There are a few things we seem to be eschewing today. I don't think we would deliberately try to start a firestorm in a large city, but I don't think we have the Bomb to thank for that so much as the fact that there are five or six countries who could return the favor if anyone tried it. Same with any kind of general land-grab invasion (even with no nuclear deterrent).

And if we were in a hot war where we were taking heavy losses and it was looking bleak, I'd expect the strategic bombers to come out. The one lesson the US has very obviously taken recently is that it is more fun to bomb people from the air than to wade in with M-16's. And that's true even, as we are doing it, without using the atomic bomb.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Oh, no... (3.00 / 2) (#69)
by fyngyrz on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 06:57:18 PM EST

Iraq is already looking a lot uglier than we ever expected

It's only looking uglier than Bush and his cronies claimed it would be. But they are politicians, and all they do is bluster and lie, so what's new there?

It's only looking average-ugly to me. It could definitely be a lot worse, and may yet become so. There are a lot of oil pipelines and wellheads yet to burn, a lot of aid workers yet to behead, a lot of politicians yet to be assassinated. Certainly in simple cumulative effects, we know it's going to be a lot worse before it is "over" for the trivial reason that it isn't over yet.

But that's what happens when you send in troops. Every time. When a politician assures you that a war is going to be "easy" and there will be "minimal" losses, the smart move is to get rid of the fucker. Right away.


Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

IAWTP /nt (none / 0) (#73)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 07:29:05 PM EST



What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
Correction (2.66 / 3) (#47)
by YelM3 on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:23:41 PM EST

In 1963 we in fact were minutes, actually a single command, away from total nuclear obliteration. A Russian submarine commander cancelled an order to fire nuclear-armed torpedos that day. (Again this is cited in Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival.)

So really the argument that nukes bring peace is ridiculous for the very reason that they came within a hair's beadth of destroying us all. And that it could easily happen again (in fact, eventually it almost certainly will, if it hasn't already.)

[ Parent ]

I find that reassuring, actually (none / 1) (#61)
by LilDebbie on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:54:49 PM EST

The Captain canceled the order. There are precious few people in positions of power who would actually launch. I'm of the opinion that if one side nuked the other during the Cold War, the other wouldn't retaliate, because the vast majority of people simply would not follow such orders.

Would you hit the button if ordered?

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
I have known people... (3.00 / 3) (#62)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:58:53 PM EST

...who would have joyfully, gleefully pushed the button. One of them even flew missions for SAC and might have had the chance.

And once there were a few actual nukes going off in my country I'd probably step up myself and push the button if the apparattus was there. Of course nobody in their right mind would put me in command of a missile silo because I'd wait to make my own decision, but my point is that given the sheer numbers of such crews a few of them would be sure to follow orders, and once the festivities were well under way their more reluctant peers would probably join in too.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

I would push the button (none / 1) (#198)
by YelM3 on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 02:51:55 AM EST

...because if I didn't, the guy sitting in the chair opposite me with key #2 would take out his 9mm and kill me. Such is life and orders.

But in any case, chances are I would push it because I am a solider trained to follow orders and not to have my own thoughts or opinions. I mean if our esteemed President gave the order, who am I to second-guess it, right? What do you think I am, from France?

[ Parent ]

So the US rid us of all-out, total war (none / 1) (#25)
by losthalo on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 02:45:02 PM EST

by creating a horror we can't really face using?

[ Parent ]
Exactly (2.00 / 2) (#28)
by LilDebbie on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 02:55:38 PM EST

The Bomb could only be dropped when only one person had it. Now that damn near everyone has it, nations are significantly less likely to resort to force of arms.

Now that the Cold War is over, we only have to worry about The Terrorists getting their hands on one.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Somehow I don't find that as comforting (none / 1) (#55)
by losthalo on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:45:55 PM EST

as you appear to, but maybe that's because I grew up hearing about all of the missiles aimed at us by the Soviet Union, and how horrifying a nuclear exchange would be; although I don't lose sleep over The Terrorists detonating a nuke that they stole or bought from the old Soviet Union's remnants.

It's not much fun sitting through the second stage of all of the young new Nuclear Powers (India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran, etc.) learning that Brinkmanship is foolishness, though.

[ Parent ]
yeah (none / 1) (#59)
by LilDebbie on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:50:50 PM EST

I'm a wee bit worried that Musharraf might lose power and get replaced by someone more eager to "do Allah's bidding" (which is my new euphamism for jihad). Thank bog they have a limited strike range.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Is USA more trustworthly thatn Pakistan? (none / 0) (#127)
by svampa on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 06:49:21 AM EST

Perhaps you, as American citizen, may think so. I don't. I've heart Rumsfield, at least three times, threat with the use of tactical nukes. Two times in Iraq and one in Afganistan

I think bush' administration is enough mad to use them. But the next one could be worse.

Acording with your point of view, if Iraq would have had nukes, and so Kwait, we would have avoided two wars, Iraq wouldn't have dared to invade kwait, and USA wouldn't have dare to invade Iraq.

Perhaps you are right. The best solutions is small countries with nukes. It's a good deterrence for abuse from strong countries.

My point is every country should have it, or no country should have it. Leting USA controls who have nukes, but avoiding any control over USA is a danger for the rest of the countries.



[ Parent ]
Deterrence Works (none / 1) (#137)
by wiredog on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 09:02:24 AM EST

Ask Kim Jong Il.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
indeed (none / 1) (#160)
by blue tiger on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:42:27 PM EST

having 1.4 bil. chinese ready to repel any american adventure in the area is really a good deterrent :/

[ Parent ]
I don't see any peace (2.25 / 4) (#44)
by YelM3 on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:17:45 PM EST

Where's all the peace you're talking about? Since 1945 we've seen smaller-scale violence and state-sponsored terrorism all over the globe. Sure, the World Wars were pretty bad but people are still dying and suffering all over the place. Not only that, but the nations that do have the Bomb are given such an advantage that they can ravage less developed countries at will. Who wants to challenge a nuclear power over some "minor" country like Iraq, for example?

And speaking of Iraq, I doubt the thousands of innocent people dying or dead in Falluja care whether they are in the middle of a World War or a "high-tech surgical strike." It's all the same shit if your local hospital is occupied by invaders and your little sister just got her face ripped off by shrapnel.

[ Parent ]

Talk to your grandparents (none / 0) (#50)
by LilDebbie on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:32:36 PM EST

If there are no longer alive, pick up a history book. Check out casualty rates for WWI and WWII.

Do me a favor and take a long, hard look at those numbers. Then ask yourself, "how many people live in my state?"

There have been roughly 100,000 total casualties in Iraq so far. If that isn't a MASSIVE FUCKING IMPROVEMENT, then I'm afraid I don't understand math anymore.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Actually, millions of deaths in the 1990s (2.50 / 2) (#85)
by poyoyo on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 08:32:43 PM EST

There have been 3 million deaths in the Congo Civil War since 1998, and nearly a million in the Rwandan Genocide, and in both those cases most of the deaths were civilians. Yes, the World Wars still had more casualties, but it doesn't seem like a "MASSIVE" improvement to me. And Iraq is strategically important, but it's not the biggest humanitarian crisis going on at this moment: Darfur is.

[ Parent ]
True dat (none / 0) (#106)
by LilDebbie on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 11:53:49 PM EST

and the Congo genocide is horrible example of what happens when the rest of the world sits on its collective thumbs waiting for "definitive evidence" to materialize. There should have been a police action, but unfortunately the West tends to turn a blind eye to the shit that goes down in Africa.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Congo and Rwanda (2.50 / 2) (#136)
by wiredog on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 09:00:59 AM EST

If you intervene in those places you end up with large street protests where various college students and professors call the people intervening 'war criminals', 'fascists', and so on, followed by various international human rights groups releasing studies pointing out how many hundreds of people were killed by the intervention (but not mentioning the millions of lives saved), and so on. Plus it costs you money and lives.

If you don't intervene, you don't get big demonstrations, no one calls you names, international human rights groups don't accuse you of being a war criminal for not intervening, and you don't spend lives and money. Plus, you don't have to keep people there for ten or more years rebuilding the place.

It's really just much easier to stand aside and let the wogs do each other in. Keeps the left happy, keeps the right happy, and costs you nothing.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]

that was beautiful (none / 0) (#162)
by LilDebbie on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 02:24:00 PM EST

*tear*

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
nonviolent solutions? (none / 0) (#196)
by YelM3 on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 02:48:08 AM EST

Have you ever considered them? The economic influence of the United States is enough to pressure action on any conflict; surely this is better than killing 100,000 even if it prevents the deaths of many more. The biggest crime of our current US rulers is that of making the UN and World Court irrelevent by ignoring and hindering them.

[ Parent ]
The economic influence of the United States (none / 1) (#213)
by wiredog on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 08:48:17 AM EST

What economic influence did the US have on Rwanda? Or the Congo? Less than it has on Sudan. Economic pressure only works if everyone who has economic interests goes along with the sanctions, and the only case I know of where this really worked was in South Africa.

If we really wanted to pressure Sudan, for example, we would have to get the Chinese to stop buying oil from the Sudanese government. The Chinese don't want to stop buying that oil. So we have no economic influence there.

Unless we threaten, seriously, and mean it, to stop importing goods from China.

Which is as good a way to start a war with China as I can think of offhand.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]

not math (none / 0) (#118)
by gdanjo on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 02:31:51 AM EST

There have been roughly 100,000 total casualties in Iraq so far. If that isn't a MASSIVE FUCKING IMPROVEMENT, then I'm afraid I don't understand math anymore.
No, you understand numbers, which != math.

Because if you can compare the number of deaths in WW1/2 to Iraq, then I don't understand variables.

Dan ...
"Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
-ToT
[ Parent ]

He means peace for Americans (2.50 / 2) (#56)
by GenerationY on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:46:09 PM EST

the only people on the planet who matter.


[ Parent ]
Let me expand the point (2.00 / 3) (#65)
by GenerationY on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 05:40:57 PM EST

because that sounded rather nasty.

The coming of the bomb and ensuing cold war meant no risk of war for either the USA or Russia at least at home. You strike the homeland, we nuke you into next year. However, it meant the rest of the world was pushed into fighting each other pretty much nonstop from the start to the end of that period precisely so the two superpowers could maintain that level of threat. Many of these smaller conflicts were the nastiest, as the US and the USSR basically sponsored internecine conflicts, terrorism and coups which its widely known from the histories of all our countries, are the nastiest ways to fight war of all.

If anyone tells you the Cold War didn't produce horrendous numbers of casualties and deep scars in societies across the world, they are a liar.

[ Parent ]

It is a shield for all who live under it (none / 1) (#172)
by Polverone on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 05:19:08 PM EST

60 years ago, it was conceivable that a foreign power could destroy the military forces of France and the UK, take their territory, and instill a new government by force. That is inconceivable today, not because the rest of the world has disarmed or France and the UK have gargantuan military forces, but because both live under a nuclear umbrella now.

The same is true for Russia, the US, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan. That's more than 40% of the world's population now living in states that will never face outright invasion and military occupation. Even advanced non-nuclear powers like Germany, Japan, and Canada could develop nukes faster than a World War II-style land invasion could take all their territory. They almost live under a nuclear umbrella thanks to this, even ignoring protections granted by their neighbors and allies.

Nuclear weapons in the hands of non-rational actors, or subnational actors who have no home to threaten with mutual destruction, would be a very grave threat indeed. Neither does the nuclear umbrella protect from terrorist attacks. Still, looking at WW I and II, I think it is a very good thing that major powers will never again wage total war against each other like they did twice last century.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

I don't dispute this (none / 0) (#199)
by GenerationY on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 03:00:28 AM EST

but look at all the blood and carnage that the Cold War entailed.

I'm certainly no pacifist and its only under certain conditions I would consider suggesting diarmament of nuclear weapons.

But my point is that the depiction of the Cold War as one in which not a bullet was fired (etc., etc.) is very misleading indeed but something that one hears far too often from the American side. Certainly the USSR and USA fought a conventional war, albeit it is was often by proxy (not necessarily on both sides though, e.g., Vietnam).

On a note of pedantry, nuclear weapons wouldn't prevent a re-run of WW2 or similar anyway. France nuke Germany? A bad idea according to my Atlas anyway.

[ Parent ]

Someone bookmark this (2.66 / 3) (#98)
by rusty on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 11:14:59 PM EST

...so we can review it when a Non-State Actor detonates a nuke in a major city somewhere in the world.

What happens then? A group with no home nation, committing nuclear attacks -- who do you mutually destroy? What happens the second time? The third?

The only way nuclear weapons can promote stability is if they are roughly equally distributed only among leaders with a known location. That is no longer the case, and nuclear weapons are about to become our worst nightmare.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Oh I have an Idea. (none / 1) (#110)
by Wallas A Hockpock on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:10:12 AM EST

Mecca and Medina are turned to 2 big glass parking lots.

[ Parent ]
Fantastic idea! (3.00 / 2) (#113)
by rusty on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:39:27 AM EST

Kill a few hundred thousand Muslims, and ensure that the rest of them will never stop killing us until one or the other of us (or, more probably, both) is wiped off the face of the Earth entirely.

We'll just turn the US military over to you then, Commander Hockpock.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Tangiential but... (none / 0) (#128)
by Torka on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 07:22:55 AM EST

Why are you allowing him to modbomb this story?

[ Parent ]
More likely Tehran and Tabriz. (none / 1) (#135)
by wiredog on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 08:54:16 AM EST

Or maybe the Bekka Valley, depending on which group detonates the weapon, and where.

Most of the major nuclear powers are having troubles with various Islamist groups, and those groups are supported, to some extent, by various States. If Iranian backed Chechens nuked a city in Russia, would the US or China object to Tehran getting hit? If Islamic Jihad nuked Tel Aviv, would Russia or the US object if the Bekka got it?

Ultimately the terrorist groups need a place to train, rest, and rearm, and if nukes come into the equation then the countries providing safe havens, however deniably, will have to seriously rethink their actions.

The reactions of Yemen and Libya to the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are instructive.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]

you might look at this. (none / 0) (#174)
by Wallas A Hockpock on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 07:13:57 PM EST

<a href="http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,11498606%255E31501,00.html"> WMDs camouflage real reasons behind Iraq invasion.</a>

 I wasn't trying to be flip. There are several real reasons for responding as I did. This article talks about what appears to be the real and accidental reasons why that might have to be the case.


[ Parent ]

crap (none / 0) (#176)
by Wallas A Hockpock on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 07:16:34 PM EST

WMDs camouflage real reasons behind Iraq invasion
The link as I intended.

[ Parent ]
I don't think I get it (none / 0) (#181)
by rusty on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 08:32:15 PM EST

According to the thesis of that article (which I don't think is wrong) wouldn't hitting Mecca and Medina be exactly the incorrect thing to do? Unless you meant not as retaliation against Islam's holiest cities but as part of a more general toppling of the Saudis.

Even if there were a war against the Saudis, it would seem extremely prudent to leave Mecca and Medina out of it entirely. Surround thm, cut them off except for basic humanitarian supplies, and just try to prevent any violence or any excuse for violence from them.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

my though. (none / 0) (#195)
by Wallas A Hockpock on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 01:35:41 AM EST

My point is this is where the trouble stems from. The Saudi royal family are the protectors and custodians of both spots. I don't think you can seperate them from either locality. They are quite happy to bank roll all kinds of crap. Don't want to live under fundi Islam any more than I would fundi Christans. At present they don't appear to think they have anything to lose.

[ Parent ]
it's simple (none / 0) (#235)
by LilDebbie on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 06:55:37 PM EST

nuke mecca and jeruseulum and light up a phat blunt and watch the world go down in flames.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
a quote from the Gipper on the subject (none / 1) (#111)
by Rahaan on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:29:15 AM EST

before a radio address:
"My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever.  The bombing begins in five minutes."



you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]
The end of the world (none / 0) (#219)
by guidoreichstadter on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 12:02:18 PM EST

will occur 83 days after a low cost method of refining uranium is found.


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]
Comment search isn't working. <nt> (none / 0) (#236)
by Vesperto on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 07:12:07 PM EST


_____________________________
If you disagree post, don't moderate.
Not a Premium User.
[ Parent ]
That's why I said bookmark it [nt] (none / 1) (#241)
by rusty on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 11:41:35 PM EST



____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
That's why every country should have it (none / 0) (#124)
by svampa on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 06:25:15 AM EST

It has avoided many wars, like Pakistan vs India.

What is really dangerous it's when only one side has it.



[ Parent ]
The woold war III (none / 0) (#125)
by svampa on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 06:31:34 AM EST

I don't know what kind weapons will be used in the WW III. But I do know the weapons will be used in the WW IV: sticks and stones.

Einstein



[ Parent ]
Remember the gun era.... (none / 0) (#188)
by recharged95 on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 11:50:04 PM EST

"Despite the failure of WWI to "end all wars," the atom bomb has effectively ended war as we once new it."

Correct, but I have to disagree on the rest. History serving as needed, when man started using guns back in 1247, eventually leading to a group who controlled the majority of arms (or the technology) hence resulting in threatening and later policing people/nations as time progressed, we still ended up with grander wars with higher death tolls (percentage-wise).

Like atomic bombs stopped "war"? Nah, "hommie don't think so". If you think about, the definition of war is evolving, i.e. wars that are not as physical but much more psychological --"freedom of thought" comes to mind (for now).

[ Parent ]

Mutualy Assured Destruction (none / 0) (#237)
by Vesperto on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 07:13:30 PM EST

is what a-bombs have created and i don't call that peace. Peace is the absence of war, i can't recall when was the last time that happened.
_____________________________
If you disagree post, don't moderate.
Not a Premium User.
[ Parent ]
Um.... (none / 1) (#254)
by sophacles on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 11:43:57 AM EST

When was the first?

[ Parent ]
A long time ago, (none / 0) (#268)
by Vesperto on Thu Dec 02, 2004 at 06:48:24 PM EST

but there was some time of peace. Sad, isn't it? The fact it's been over 3 generations without peace. Heavy marketing i guess.
_____________________________
If you disagree post, don't moderate.
Not a Premium User.
[ Parent ]
Great article (2.33 / 3) (#21)
by Vilim on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 02:16:18 PM EST

+1 fp - In the normal localroger fashion an excellent pice of work

I can't imagine the sorrow that Oppenheimer must have felt, knowing that there weren't many people on the planet who could have built such a horrendous device

"Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds."

Is actually a quote of Oppenheimer quoteing the Bhagavad Gita.

It is amazing how world war two prompted many of the most brilliant scientists in the world to do thier worst. Another example is Werner von Braun, he was probably the only person in Germany who could have developed the V-2 rocket which devastated London. All he wanted to do was build rockets to go to the moon (after the war he was a principal figure in the Apollo missions).



I Aim For The Stars... (3.00 / 2) (#40)
by godix on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:04:57 PM EST

But Sometimes I Hit London.

"Yeah, we rocked the vote all right. Those little bastards betrayed us again."
- Hunter S. Thompson on the 2004 election.
[ Parent ]
I was sooooo tempted to post that myself /nt (none / 0) (#53)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:39:24 PM EST



What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
Another good Von Braun quote (none / 1) (#94)
by Vilim on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 10:09:33 PM EST

Another one, said by Von Braun after the first V-2's hit London

"The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet."



[ Parent ]
+1 FP nuclear bombs! (2.70 / 10) (#29)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 02:58:30 PM EST

There's never enough stories that glorify the sheer penis-engorging effect seeing a nuclear cloud has. Not too close, of course.

For the nuclear bomb aficionados amongst us, I highly recommend the 92 minutes of Trinity and Beyond, an endearingly crafted documentary which chronicles the Trinity program in detail and includes tens of minutes of footage of nuclear bomb explosions and their orgastic plumes to the tune of a Wagnerian score. It climaxes in a view of Chinese soldiers galloping (yes, on horses) into one of them. It's the only pro-Bomb documentary I've ever seen and it's so blatant in its admiration of the Bomb that it would make Ronald Reagan proud. I had to change my underwear, my pants and the cover on my chair after seeing this one!

--
"If you cant think of your own sig, you are nothing." - noogie


Eww (none / 0) (#246)
by Gorgonzola on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 05:41:13 AM EST

Of all the many bad things you can accuse the Gipper of, having a nuclear bomb fetish is not a proper one. Reagan actually abhorred the bomb personally, but considered it a necessary evil.
--
A page a day keeps ignorance of our cultural past away, or you can do your bit for collaborative media even if you haven't anything new or insightful to say.

[ Parent ]
Questioning of facts: (2.33 / 6) (#31)
by JChen on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 03:19:49 PM EST

Japan under Tojo was not about to surrender without The Bomb; the Emperor held nominal power and was often kept in the dark as to the military cabinent's proceedings. The cabinent was effectively an oligarchial despotism led by Tojo, and therefore the attempts of the Emperor and his allies in the government were negligible.

Let us do as we say.
See my reply to dasunt (2.50 / 2) (#37)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 03:59:01 PM EST

Also, if what you are claiming was true, then Hirohito wouldn't have been able to arrange the surrender even after the bombings. It is not the bombings that made the surrender possible, but the Emperor's willingness to make his aggreeability on the matter public, bypassing the High Command. The very fact that there was a coup attempt with the stolen recording, etc. proves this.

And all Hirohito needed to make that action acceptable was a guarantee that his succession would continue.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Problems with not dropping the bombs (2.83 / 12) (#32)
by dasunt on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 03:21:04 PM EST

  • Manchuko -- one of the reasons why Japan was still fighting in 1945 was to force a conditional surrender, and one of the terms for that surrender would probably have been to keep Manchuko.
  • Anami Korechika -- the War Minister who only agreed to surrender when Hirohito wished it. He was gung-ho for fighting even after Nagasaki and Hiroshima. (We had killed Yamamoto in '43, which was probably the right decision at the time, but as the naval commander-in-chief, his anti-war stance may have helped force a favorable conditional surrender.)
  • The War Mentality -- 1950s Japan would be 1930s Germany -- "we didn't lose the war, it was the leaders who surrendered." Considering that more than a few militaristic leaders would still be in power, we'd be gearing up for another war on the Pacific rim shortly.
  • A continued set of bombing runs -- would Japan had surrended in the fall of 1945? Without the distruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, probably not. If the surrender doesn't happen until late 1945 or early 1946, there will be a lot more deaths due to conventional bombings than due to two atomic bombings. Part of the reason why Japan surrendered was that they thought we had an large supply of atomic bombs (the truth being that we were prepared to manufacture, ship, and drop one bomb a month at that point).
  • The terms of the proposed conditional surrender -- no surrendering of the Japanese armies (they would return home), no change in government, no occupation.

The situation is problematic -- a conditional surrender[1] with Japan arguing from a stronger position, which would keep a stronger Japan, conquered territory, and a non-effective purge of the government hawks, or a continued war with more people dying for a non-conditional surrender. Remember, Hiroshima wasn't enough to force a surrender. Nagasaki was.

Sure, at the time, the US government had plenty of racist war propaganda out there, and there are scary reports that shed some light on why we didn't see a lot of Japanese POWs in the early years of the war[2], but at the same time, the allies had far less blood on their hands then the Japanese.

Perhaps there was a better way than nuking two cities to end the war. Perhaps. I can't think of one though. Conventional bombing would have killed more. Assasulting the home islands (operation coronet) would have been bloody. A blockade would have lead to more starvation and malnutrition. If we had no Manhatten project in 1940, perhaps things would have been different (considering the manpower and money used we could have probably come up with more effective non-nuclear ways to kill people), but by '43, when we began to doubt the effectiveness of the German bomb program, a lot of the capital was tied up.

Remember, in 1945, Fat Man and Little Boy killed less people then a sustained bombing run over Tokyo. It wasn't the casualties that resulted in surrender -- it was the power of the bombs.

PS: I feel a tad guilty, but I've always been glad that Henry Stimson was around when the list of targets were written up.

[1] In the end, Japan did have a conditional surrender, but with the US having a strong bargaining chip. (Any surrender with terms is a conditional surrender, and the surrender signed protected Hirohito).
[2] Lindberg wrote a bit about this in his diaries, and other sources aren't hard to find. While the scope and intensity of the German and Japanese war crimes were greater, that doesn't mean that the Allies were saints.



Intercepted cables (2.60 / 5) (#36)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 03:50:39 PM EST

The case you make sounds reasonable; it was hard enough even back in 1945 to guess exactly what the Japanese High Command was thinking. But the problem is, we know what Hirohito was thinking because of the intercepted cabled from Foreign Minister Togo to ambassador Sato in Moscow.

It's in my story and Richard Rhodes quotes it on page 685 of TMOTAB, but I'll quote it again for you because it's the most important bit of evidence we have:

"It is his Majesty's heart's desire to see the swift termination of the war ... however, as long as America and England insist on unconditional surrender our country has no alternative but to see it through in an all-out effort for the sake of survival and the honor of the homeland."
Togo was actually in a position to know what Hirohito wanted, and the fact that they were making overtures to the Russians at all makes it pretty clear what Hirohito wanted.

Others have rightly pointed out that Hirohito is probably the only person in the entire Empire who could have actually arranged a surrender; the cables show that he would not require much convincing. Did we know this at the time? The quoted cable was intercepted on July 12.

So it's like the Nazi atomic program, which was held out to be advanced and dangerous even when we knew it was defunct, a big fat lie used to justify our own programme. While all the points you raise could have been valid, and it was reasonable to take them into account, we knew what the actual situation was.

It is very obvious that if we had gone to the table with Japan we could have arranged acceptable terms to end the war then and there, in mid-July of 1945. No invasion was going to happen, and most likely the agreement wouldn't have looked much different than what we did give them.

The most damning thing in the whole affair is really that, after the bombings and the "unconditional" surrender, we gave them most of the terms they had been wanting anyway. It's crazy to assume we couldn't have bargained them down to the same arrangement if we'd let them open up negotiations as they were obviously trying to do. There is really only one reason for shutting the door on them at Potsdam, and that was to allow our little science fair experiment to proceed.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Wrong (2.55 / 9) (#42)
by trhurler on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:09:06 PM EST

You don't understand it, and maybe this is to your credit, but there is a WORLD of difference between accepting an unconditional surrender and then being magnanimous, on the one hand, and accepting a conditional surrender and then having to be a harsh policeman on the other.

The general doctrine of every successful military force in the last century at least has been to accept no conditional surrender. An enemy who is not willing to give up completely and throw himself on your mercy has not really given up at all.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
You're right, I don't understand it (3.00 / 6) (#52)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:38:16 PM EST

there is a WORLD of difference between accepting an unconditional surrender and then being magnanimous, on the one hand, and accepting a conditional surrender and then having to be a harsh policeman on the other

As I wrote in another reply, there is no such thing as an "unconditional" surrender. Even if they weren't written down, there were certain understandings even offered in the Potsdam declaration. For example, we weren't going to just kill all of their surviving draft-age men, or just shoot everyone who participated in the Imperial government without a trial, or enslave their population. There were understood limits.

The difference between the supposedly completely different "conditional" surrender and the "unconditional" surrender we finally got was that Hirohito would keep his throne and continue his succession, but would have no power. That's it. If you are trying to tell me that the postwar occupation would have been completely different because we gave them that term to start with, I simply don't believe you.

Now people can be basically nuts, and on reflection I suppose it is possible that we got so hung up on words like "conditional" that they became more important than the presence or absence of various specific points. If that's the case then the people involved were incompetent and should not have been in positions of power over other people. And you don't have to think that way to understand the point; Eisenhower, who was much closer to the situation than either of us, seems to have felt pretty much as I do about it.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

The words are important (3.00 / 4) (#95)
by rusty on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 10:58:55 PM EST

I don't really know enough to have an opinion either way on the meat of this argument, but I do think the words are the important part here. With an "unconditional" surrender, we get to stand up and say "The Japanese have surrendered unconditionally" and, more important, they have to stand up to their people and admit that they have surrendered unconditionally.

Whatever the actual details of the surrender end up being, I think trhurler's right that the way it's presented makes a world of difference, in terms of the willingness of Americans to forgive and help rebuild, and the willingness of the Japanese to forget and accept our help in rebuilding.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Where the pigheadedness comes in (none / 0) (#133)
by localroger on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 08:28:16 AM EST

We had several options to open a dialog with them. Given that the "unconditional" surrender we got from them was in fact rife with actual conditions, I'm sure that we could have negotiated terms via the back door that would have satisfied both sides. The fact that no effort was made to do this is inexcusable.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
Er... (none / 1) (#178)
by trhurler on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 07:34:38 PM EST

I think you are overestimating the likelihood of success of such an option. You are thinking like a pacifist, laid back, UN-loving diplomacy-lover. That's fine, but there was no UN at the time, diplomacy was done more at gunpoint than by any other method(as it still is, if you only count EFFECTIVE diplomacy,) and the people in charge were selected for their ability to win a war by the means of war rather than for their sensitivity and peaceful natures - ON BOTH SIDES.

Even with the UN, the estimation on both sides of the Cold War was that any war between the US and the USSR would inevitably go to a full nuclear exchange. This estimation was based on difficulty of trust in the enemy during combat, and was considered so certain that both sides drew up all their war plans around it. Given this mentality about the enemy, which of course derived from World War II(from all sides,) and therefore can be considered to apply to that war, what on earth makes you think diplomacy was a likely way to end said war?

In any case, I still maintain that forcing a surrender has immense benefits after the war. Negotiated surrenders and ceasefires and so on almost always are broken by one or both sides almost immediately, and if not, then certainly as soon as they see it to their advantage. Forced surrenders are generally pretty permanent. You can argue until you're blue in the face, and all I have to do to defend my claim is point to any reasonably high quality history textbook.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Liklihood of success does not matter (2.00 / 3) (#184)
by localroger on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 09:46:30 PM EST

If you have a chance to put out a minor effort -- pick up a telephone, send a diplomatic pouch or one ambassador on a secret mission -- and it has, say, a 1% chance of saving 300,000 lives, and you do not take that chance, then In My Humble Opinion you are a monster.

Now the really damning things are not the obvious things but the details. The timing of the Potsdam Declaration is particularly damning. It is very clear we not only did not take the minor effort with the maybe 1% (and I tend to think a lot higher than that, but I'll grant you this for now) we did everything in our power to shut the door on that chance.

I am also very suspicious of the pattern of evidence that has come down to us from that time. (I think Richard Rhodes is too, but he is much too careful to come out and say it flatly.) History is written by the winners, and the evidence we have about what was going on in July and August 1945 has been filtered largely through people who have an investment in covering their asses if in fact they did wrong. A lot of stuff we should know is simply absent. A lot of it was made secret and the only chroniclers who could access it were people like Stimson. There must be dozens of people aware of more details of the Japanese court intrigue than we've received, but their silence may have been part of the price of the very generous terms we actually gave them after the bombings.

As far as the argument about forced and negotiated surrenders, there are not a hell of a lot of examples for you to point at that are relevant. The reason that forced surrenders of ancient history tended to be permanent is that the victors really did have a bad habit of genocidally eliminating their former rivals, selling them into slavery, etc. As for the example of Germany after WWI, you can just as strongly argue that it was our bad treatment of them and the cruel reparations which forced their economy into a tailspin and made it possible for the Nazis to gain power. You will note that we did not make that mistake again, and it may be that, rather than ending the war with our boot on their necks, that accounts for their relatively mild-mannered success today. You certainly haven't made a case otherwise; you just keep jumping up and down and saying "this is how it is."

Anyway, if your best argument is along the lines of "Ugh stompum enemy good, Ugh not take big hairy paws off enemy throat till enemy admit Ugh got biggest dick in tribe, otherwise enemy come later bash Ugh with rock while Ugh sleeping" at least stop complaining about my Rude Pundit quote.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Gotcha (2.50 / 2) (#192)
by trhurler on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 01:03:31 AM EST

If you have a chance to put out a minor effort -- pick up a telephone, send a diplomatic pouch or one ambassador on a secret mission -- and it has, say, a 1% chance of saving 300,000 lives, and you do not take that chance, then In My Humble Opinion you are a monster.
Your humble opinion has been noted and logged. As for reality, in wartime, people don't take long shots that might end up embarassing them with little hope for any gain except possibly for the enemy. Nobody does. This does not make them monsters.
Now the really damning things are not the obvious things but the details. The timing of the Potsdam Declaration is particularly damning.
If you assume that every detail of everything that is ever done in a crisis situation is entirely deliberate and carefully orchestrated, and think that the opinions and/or actions of an individual here and another there are necessarily those which are to be equated with "the government's" choices in all cases, yes. On the other hand, if you're sane, then the timing of the Potsdam Declaration is merely unfortunate, and any malice therein is almost certainly the work of isolated miscreants.
History is written by the winners, and the evidence we have about what was going on in July and August 1945 has been filtered largely through people who have an investment in covering their asses if in fact they did wrong.
By this logic, the worst possible alternative in any situation where you don't know all the facts is always true. Do you believe that, or are you simply succumbing to the conspiricist mindset because you are predisposed in this matter?
A lot of stuff we should know is simply absent.
Why should "we" know? Government secrecy is not there merely to protect the guilty, you know.
A lot of it was made secret and the only chroniclers who could access it were people like Stimson.
And you think this was merely because they had something to hide. Sure.
There must be dozens of people aware of more details of the Japanese court intrigue than we've received, but their silence may have been part of the price of the very generous terms we actually gave them after the bombings.
This sentence doesn't even make sense unless you assume before the fact that there was some sort of coverup and then look for ways it could have happened. Doesn't that bother you AT ALL? You're using the methods of nutters who wear tinfoil hats.
As far as the argument about forced and negotiated surrenders, there are not a hell of a lot of examples for you to point at that are relevant.
Your lack of knowledge of military history is not a failing on MY part.
The reason that forced surrenders of ancient history tended to be permanent
I specifically excluded them by saying "modern."
is that the victors really did have a bad habit of genocidally eliminating their former rivals, selling them into slavery, etc.
I suggest getting some less sensationalist history. Usually they either took what they wanted(if it was takable,) or else subjugated the people they conquered. Wholesale destruction of civilizations was both nearly nonexistent and mostly pointless. Yes, some people were enslaved, and some were slaughtered, but not on the level you're implying.
As for the example of Germany after WWI, you can just as strongly argue that it was our bad treatment of them and the cruel reparations which forced their economy into a tailspin and made it possible for the Nazis to gain power.
Sure. You still have not grasped the difference between the terms of surrender and the terms of peace. They are NOT the same thing.
You will note that we did not make that mistake again, and it may be that, rather than ending the war with our boot on their necks, that accounts for their relatively mild-mannered success today.
And you think we could have rebuilt their economy and remade their culture in our image without ANY opposition(as we in fact did,) had we not first forced them into utter submission? You are not this stupid, and I know it, so quit pretending:)
Anyway, if your best argument is along the lines of "Ugh stompum enemy good, Ugh not take big hairy paws off enemy throat till enemy admit Ugh got biggest dick in tribe, otherwise enemy come later bash Ugh with rock while Ugh sleeping"
Are you ignoring my argument, or just not understanding it? Because... well, this isn't my argument. At all.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
On longshots... (none / 0) (#202)
by UCF BullitNutz on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 05:26:29 AM EST

As for reality, in wartime, people don't take long shots that might end up embarassing them with little hope for any gain except possibly for the enemy. Nobody does. This does not make them monsters.

Yeah, let's go and ask the engineers of the A-Bomb whether or not their project was seen as "in the bag." Why not ask the participants in Doolittle's raid whether or not they thought their mission was a longshot? Fuck, longshots (Op Overlord? Thermopylae?) are what define the goddamn wars, not the actions that are "done deals" by the time they begin.
----------
" It ain't a successful troll until the admin shuts off new user registration for half a year." - godix
[ Parent ]
Longshots (none / 0) (#212)
by ZorbaTHut on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 08:47:31 AM EST

I agree in theory, but in practice . . . well, just look at some of the crazy military things that failed and didn't embarrass anyone. Hell, look at some of the crazy military things that were completed!

Military groups are used to looking at completely insane ideas and trying them out. The worst that will happen is a few dozen news reporters will rant about the military's wastefulness when the J-17 Stealth Supersonic Jeep turns out to be somewhat impractical.

On the other hand, having to admit you sent a dozen demands for surrender before they actually agreed is plain embarrassing. It's like that girl you know that finally agreed to sleep with her boyfriend just so he'd stop pestering her - "Alright, I surrender already, stop asking!"

[ Parent ]

Well (2.57 / 7) (#119)
by trhurler on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 02:37:15 AM EST

As I wrote in another reply, there is no such thing as an "unconditional" surrender.
Of course there is.
Even if they weren't written down, there were certain understandings even offered in the Potsdam declaration. For example, we weren't going to just kill all of their surviving draft-age men, or just shoot everyone who participated in the Imperial government without a trial, or enslave their population. There were understood limits.
Given your overall argument, it is somewhat amusing to me that those limits were solely a function of our basic human decency. There was NOTHING about the surrender terms that required us to do any of those things, and there were doubtless many Japanese who were afraid we WOULD do some of those things.
The difference between the supposedly completely different "conditional" surrender and the "unconditional" surrender we finally got
You don't understand how this worked. They signed an unconditional surrender. THEN, after they gave up, we made deals with them of the sort "we're going to do X, and you do Y." For instance, "we're going to rebuild your country and embark on the biggest program of industrial assistance in history, and you're going to have an emperor with no power and a government run by us until such time as we see fit." It is a legal and psychological difference, and it is the latter that really is important.
was that Hirohito would keep his throne and continue his succession, but would have no power. That's it. If you are trying to tell me that the postwar occupation would have been completely different because we gave them that term to start with, I simply don't believe you.
Why do you suppose there's an insurgency in Iraq, but was NONE to speak of in Japan? If anything, the Japanese were MORE fanatical than the Iraqis are, on average. Yet when the war was over and their side gave up, a handful of minor incidents mostly involving communications aside, that was IT.
Now people can be basically nuts, and on reflection I suppose it is possible that we got so hung up on words like "conditional" that they became more important than the presence or absence of various specific points. If that's the case then the people involved were incompetent and should not have been in positions of power over other people.
Yes, the people who won World War II were a bunch of incompetents. That's it.

Do you have any grasp on "reality" whatsoever? In public policy, the way you say things is far more important than what you say, and almost as important as what you do. This is not merely a matter of "keeping up appearances," but reflects an underlying psychological reality. A conditional surrender would have left many Japanese with hopes they should not have kept up, and made them resent us. An unconditional surrender may have involved temporary shame, but in the long term, the result was what we have today.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
One question: (2.66 / 3) (#63)
by dasunt on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 05:22:17 PM EST

The most damning thing in the whole affair is really that, after the bombings and the "unconditional" surrender, we gave them most of the terms they had been wanting anyway.

Where are you getting a list of terms that the Japanese were asking for?

From what I've been told (but oddly enough, cannot find online), the Japanese terms included:

  1. Retention of the Emperor.
  2. No disarment.
  3. No war crime trials.
  4. Manchuko remaining with Japan.

Other then #1, the US-imposed surrender did not include any of them.



[ Parent ]
Well that was their starting position (2.66 / 3) (#70)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 06:58:51 PM EST

You never start a bargaining session by asking for what you really want, you start by asking for a bunch of unrealistic shit.

I think the Japanese expected us to open up a dialog, which would involve (possibly secret) negotiations. I think everything was really on the table except for Hirohito's succession. All indications are that they were bewildered that we didn't do this, until the atomic bombings.

But then, that does get us into things that weren't recorded and aren't really knowable today.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

The research does not seem to back you up. (2.33 / 3) (#82)
by dasunt on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 08:08:53 PM EST

The most probable course of action (IMO) is that the Japanese would have prepared themselves for a decisive battle at Kyushu, hoping to inflict enough casualties upon the US in order to more favorably sue for peace.

Of course, the best laid plans often go awry, and we do not know what the Russians were planning on doing after declaring war. Perhaps Kyushu would have been easier than expected.

Remember though -- the invasion of Okinawa killed as many Japanese as both bombs combined. Why shouldn't we expect more from Kyushu?

I don't see the cabinet going for an unconditional surrender except for the Emperor. Check out the opinions of some of the Emperor's advisors and ministers for their opinions -- the unconditional surrender was possible because of the bomb, not in spite of it.

At the same time, I don't see how a conditional surrender won't leave Japanese militarized. I could see Manchuko being given up, and a few of the hawks in the Japanese government being disposed of, one way or another, but we would be left with a militarized Japan that would be close to a military coup (it was in our timeline anyways).

Other questions you should bear in mind is how many Japanese were starving per month, and what would happen to POWs the Japanese had at the first sign of an invasion.

While I haven't read the authors that you have read, I am familiar with the Atomic-bombs-weren't-called-for movement, and its beliefs. I've looked into them, but they appear to be misguided, hoping for an unrealistic outcome, or ignoring the consequences of a realistic outcome.



[ Parent ]
Read Richard Rhodes (none / 0) (#86)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 08:39:18 PM EST

I linked the two books on amazon in the article. It's clear there is stuff in there you haven't seen.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
Since that is the case... (none / 0) (#183)
by dasunt on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 09:02:19 PM EST

The level of nesting here is pretty absurd, don't you think? Perhaps its time to agree to disagree for the moment.

I'll keep those books in mind, although my reading pile is pretty thick at the moment.

A book you'd probably like is "War without Mercy", by John W Dower. The author's premise is that the end of the Pacific War was fueled by Allied racism towards the Japanese. While, IMHO, he goes a tad overboard with this premise and minimizes other factors, its not a bad bit of reading material if you approach it with a skeptical mind.



[ Parent ]
Kyushu?! (none / 0) (#206)
by BJH on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 06:32:03 AM EST

The Americans weren't planning on invading via Kyushu. There was a well-developed invasion plan that involved landings on the beaches of Ibaraki Prefecture and a quick sweep southwards to take possession of Tokyo.

Why bother fighting all the way up the Japanese islands if they could decapitate the government in one stroke?

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

I think you are mistaken (none / 0) (#215)
by dasunt on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 08:56:21 AM EST

Operation Downfall was going to hit Kyushu first.

What you seem to be doing is forgetting the first part of Operation Downfall (Operation Olympic -- the attempt to establish a beachhead in Kyushu on November 1st, 1945) and remembering the second part of Operation Downfall (Operation Coronet -- the attempt to invade Honshu which is the plains west of Tokyo, which was pushed back to March 1st, 1946)

Admittedly, Kyushu was a poor spot to attack, due to the Japanese defenses there, and the allies were getting enough information through magic to figure out the Japanese attack plan (plan Ketsu-go, if you want to research). The question is, where to attack then -- Shikoku perhaps, and gain another beachhold that can provide air support to more of the mainland? Or strike Honshu directly, lacking the air support from Okinawa?

The other 800 lb gorilla in the cage is the USSR, and we have no idea what they are going to be doing at this time. (Don't believe me? -- just try to find a detailed, informative article about the USSR's invasion plans for Japan. Will they attack full throttle? Will they muck around in Manchuria, going slowly, and let the US take most of the losses?)

Finally, at which point will Japan surrender? If they stuck to their original plan, probably after the main US invasion. But if the US bypasses Kyushu, does the Japanese leadership believe that it has enough bargaining power to end the war? Does the pro-surrender faction gain enough support to force an end to the war? Does Hirohito try to force the issue and a coup happens? Or does Japan keep fighting? (I'm guessing that Japan surrenders, but I can't see a probable scenerio which results in less casualties then the two atomic bombings.)



[ Parent ]
Country of Neanderthals - hardly (1.63 / 11) (#33)
by minerboy on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 03:22:50 PM EST

I'm amazed that you ignore the history of every other country. Do you ignore the rape of Nanking ? , An act which killed many more than the nuclear weapons. Certainly you don't deny the european holocaust or Stalin's purges. Genocides in Armenia, or Cambodia, Sudan, India/pakistan, Rwanda, Seirra Leone, Liberia. It may well be true that we are a species with a lust for violence. It's certainly true that Americans can be as violent as anyone else. But, in terms of using american power to opress, we fall way down on the list compared to these others.

In other words compare Japans racism to Rascism in the US in 195, and then consider what japan would have done with a nuclear option.



Hahaha (2.50 / 4) (#34)
by GenerationY on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 03:41:38 PM EST

I'm not even going to debate this, I just invite everyone to point, laugh and enjoy.

[ Parent ]
Pussy ! n/t (none / 1) (#39)
by minerboy on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:04:08 PM EST



[ Parent ]
I know you can do better (none / 0) (#51)
by GenerationY on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:34:50 PM EST

admit it, you more or less wrote that on autopilot.

[ Parent ]
Hegemony or Survival (2.00 / 7) (#43)
by YelM3 on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:10:22 PM EST

Unfortunately, since World War II the United States has held the unchallenged world monopoly on terror. While individual incidents of violence in other nations are comparable to individual incidents sponsored by the U.S., the overall ration of terror goes mostly to the United States. Of all the countries and situations you listed, the United States was involved in almost all of them, often funding, arming, and training the perpetrators of these terribly violent acts.

As the world superpower, the United States may not be "more violent" than any other given country (because, for one thing, which is more violent -- killing 10,000 or killing 100,000? Chemical warfare in Central America or mass graves in Sudan?) -- but it certainly should have more responsibility to prevent mass terror and violence. Instead, we have almost without exception used our unchallengable military power to coerce other nations to be subservient and to do our bidding. Indeed we have many times had a hand in violently overthrowing democratically elected regimes.

Hegemony or Survival. It's a book by Noam Chomsky. I suggest you read it, since it's quite good and happens to detail dozens of uses of American military force used to opress the world since WWII and even long before. As I said, nearly eveything you mentioned as supposedly committed by another nation was in fact, directly or indirectly, a conscious act of the rulers of the United States.

Often the widely-held "historical" record of events involving mass-slaughter, international war crimes, etc. are not exactly accurate, especially when they are committed by the ruler of the world and writer of history. The facts recognized by scholars very often conflict with the official history of the United States' involvement with foreign nations. This book does a good job of pointing out, for example, that the first War on Terror was in fact launched by Reagan in 1981, and that nearly every "counterterror" operation undertaken by the US in Central and South America is usually cited in the US as a success, or at worst a well-meaning attempt gone slightly amiss. To the people living in these countries, of course, the United States' actions are state-sponsored terrorism.

Another interesting data point if you want to compare the relative violence of the US versus other nations is to look at how we react to provocation and attacks from others. Both Cuba and Nicaragua, when facing imminent and ongoing violence brought by the United States, turned as their first defense to the rule of international law (the UN and/or the World Court) and sought international help. Unfortunately for them, the US has a well-documented history of simply ignoring the rulings of international law and opinion. Many times the world community has deemed US actions "war crimes" and "state terrorism," only to be ignored or vetoed by the US. (The same goes for what Chomsky refers to as our client countries such as Israel.) Now ask yourself when the last time was that the US turned to the U.N. or world court rather than to more-or-less immediate and unilateral military responses to even perceived threats. Instead of using her responsibility and power as a global military force to set examples for other, smaller nations, the US has set itself above international law and consequences.

So in fact, not only is the United States an extremely violent state by relative measure, but it promotes violence globally and neglects the systems put in place to offer alternatives to violence.

[ Parent ]

It sounds sort of like (none / 0) (#54)
by minerboy on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:40:04 PM EST

"The neo-protocols of the neo-elders of neo-zion." But I will read the book. I imagine there are, within a degree or two of separation, an American connection in everything significant that happens in the world, owing to our economic power, political influence, etc. -The question is, is there some grand evil plan? Further - are we to ignore Soviet influence during this time? The other chomsky stuff I've read often ignores or minimizes soviet actions - for example the soviet arming of the arab states - prior to the US arming of Israel.



[ Parent ]
Chomsky=Socialist ripoff of David Icke (NT) (none / 0) (#103)
by jeremyn on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 11:28:58 PM EST



[ Parent ]
unchallenged since WW2 (2.00 / 2) (#138)
by wiredog on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 09:05:23 AM EST

Are you on drugs? Or have you just managed to avoid reading any history.

Oh, I see, you read Chomsky.

Ever heard of the Iron Curtain? The Berlin Wall? The US was definitely challenged.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]

That just sounds ridiculous (none / 0) (#155)
by Nursie on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:53:49 PM EST

You know the iron curtain and the Berlin wall were both in Europe, don't you?

Indirectly challenging to the US perhaps. More of a direct threat to Europeans though.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
You just sound parochial (none / 0) (#156)
by wiredog on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:00:13 PM EST

There's more to the world than just Europe, you know.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
I was pointing out the oddness. (2.50 / 2) (#158)
by Nursie on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:06:36 PM EST

Yes, well aware of that, I've lived outside europe for a quarter of this year so far.

I was just pointing out that perhaps you could have used better examples of things that were a threat to the US than a wall in the middle of the German capital and the boundary between the eastern european soviet/socialist states and the western european democracies. Cuban Missile crisis perhaps?

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
Only one problem.. (none / 1) (#46)
by sudog on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:20:41 PM EST

.. you chose to make links on words and concepts (especially in the introduction) which, while related, provide no clues to the reader of what you're speaking unless and until they actually click on the links to begin with.

I may already have been intimately familiar with the details of these links, or I may simply have not been interested in poor quality links about Elvis or JFK.

By forcing me to click on those links to figure out what you're talking about, my annoyance level at the article is heightened and reduces the chance that I will actually read this lengthy article right to the end.

In fact, you don't even mention what the topic of the article is about, instead forcing me to click on that link to a lesser-quality self-termed "brochure" about the event. What the heck man?

Also, one or two of the links are broken, which suggests you didn't bother to use the edit queue, which itself suggests that you don't feel the need to avail yourself of it.

In all, not one of your better pieces.


Broken links? (none / 0) (#49)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:25:50 PM EST

I did in fact put this in the edit queue and verify all the links before putting it to vote, so I'm a bit mystified. Which ones don't work for you?

As for the elliptical way of opening it, well it's a matter of taste and I respect your opinion. Your point is well taken, but I probably wouldn't change it. Sometimes I like to trade perfect clarity for style, and sometimes that doesn't work for some readers; nothing I do will work for everybody. Hopefully my next piece will be more to your taste.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Well I usually refuse to -1 your articles anyway.. (none / 1) (#57)
by sudog on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:49:29 PM EST

..because I know the effort you go through to write them, and I know how much crap ends up getting posted here on K5.

Anyway the broken link in question is the one attached to the word "ended" in the intro (the John Taylor link.) It's broken up, possibly because of word-wrap in your browser, into multiple lines and that break translates into a bunch of %20's in the link, and thus it fails when you click on it. Tried in both MSIE and Opera.


[ Parent ]

Got it (none / 0) (#60)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:53:53 PM EST

Let me try that again: ended

I cannot figure out how I missed that *raps head*

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Erratum (3.00 / 5) (#58)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 04:49:53 PM EST

As CtrlBR pointed out editorially, it was actually Norwegian commandoes who sunk the last of Germany's heavy water. The British staged the bombing raid that knocked out the facility.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
You forgot the most important erratum (none / 0) (#278)
by sllort on Sun Dec 05, 2004 at 05:34:21 PM EST

Biased, revisionist history passed off as non-OpEd article.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
Well, if it wasn't obvious... (none / 0) (#280)
by localroger on Sun Dec 05, 2004 at 07:41:55 PM EST

never mind, whatever.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
How could it be obvious? (none / 0) (#282)
by sllort on Sat Dec 11, 2004 at 12:07:08 AM EST

People voted for it anyway.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
+1, you bet your ass. (2.00 / 10) (#64)
by fyngyrz on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 05:31:50 PM EST

I disagree vehmently with almost all of this; it is liberal handwringing, coupled with a typically left wing fearmongering approach to atomic weaponry that I completely disagree with.

It also takes the course of applying what we knew later, or at best, concurrently in vastly separate and secretive areas of endeavor, as rationale for what we should or should not have done. Useful hindsight is what a dog gets when he's licking his ass. It is not, and never will be, a reasonable metric to evaluate people's actions in real situations when they don't have a later perspective to draw on. Its like criticising someone for picking the wrong lottery number. "Well shit, Jed, if you'd just picked the right number, you'd ha' been a millionaire!" Would that Jed had only known, eh?

Atomic weapons: Dead is dead. Kill an enemy with an atomic bomb, they're dead. Kill them with a knife, they're still fucking dead.

Do a poor job with either, and they'll suffer for a while, and put a big load on those who try to keep them alive, which is a good thing because it ties up infrastructure and encourages them to think that maybe this war thing isn't such a good idea, after all.

The little chick who was folding cranes and evoked the author's tears is a typical idiot argument. She'd have been no less heart-wrenching if she'd have been dying because a bullet penetrated her liver, or she had a systemic infection from a bayonet wound, or she simply had Kwashikor or Beriberi because they couldn't get food due to war conditions.

The fact that a child died and didn't want to has fucking nothing to do with atomic weapons one way or the other. What is has to do with is that the Japanese were fucking idiots to attack the USA. No possible amount of arguing that they were "forced to" by extant economic or materials conditions can ever hold any water. If I am starving, and you have a loaf of bread, and I am a weak little punk, and you are a big assed dude with 57 bodyguards, a black belt, and a 50 caliber machine gun, it does not make sense to attack you, even if I am starving. If I do, I'm not a victim of the moment - I'm just fucking stupid. That girl died because the Japanese attacked us. If they hadn't, she'd either be a wizened old grandmother now, or at least an honored ancestor.

Pinheads that blame the USA for bombing Japan need to make a long study of actual human behaviour, rather than imagining what ideal human behaviour should have been in the face of a highly modified historical view of reality.

War: War is hell. It is no more or less hell because of atomics, it just sucks no matter how it is pursued. I wager the author would have dropped a tear or two on a medevial battlefield where 12 year old pages were gut stabbed as they stood by their dead knights, too, and as the ladyfolk of a village were raped and killed in passing. War Is Hell. Atomic weapons are no more or less hell except that they can be used to preserve some of at least one side when used in the fashion that Fat Man and Little Boy were used.

Civilian targets: Hiroshima was almost exclusively a military manufacturing center at that point in time; it was an absolutely legitimate military target -- and again, if you think that the firestorms that enveloped Tokyo and various German cities as a result of "conventional" bombing were more humane than a nuclear weapon, then either you've never seen a serious burn, or you're simply out of your tiny little mind.

It makes no difference whatsoever what the agent of death is in war (or to the victim), what matters is killing the other guy and destroying his infrastructure before he kills you or uses that infrastructure to build weapons to kill you with. Hiroshima was the very poster child of military infrastructure. Civilians, certainly - civilians making weapons and ammo and otherwise backing up the war effort. Just like ball bearing factories in Germany, chock full of civilians, and which we bombed into the most uniform rubble possible, as soon as we were able to.

If you do a good job destroying manpower and infrastructure - with a large, overwhelming force, or with one, large, overwhelming weapon, you win either way. But if you do it with one large, overwhelming weapon, you are going to lose a lot fewer people, and that is why atomic weapons are a good thing, and why the fact that if we don't use them when we should - in Afghanistan on the caves, for instance - then we are indulging in a blatant waste of our soldiers lives, and all because the disease of political correctness has made us very bad at waging war.

Lets all take a moment to recall the purpose of war, because it is often lost sight of in the shrill crying from the liberal PC mouth: War is where you kill the other guy and wreck his war-supporting infrastructure, while trying as hard as you possibly can to avoid these two things being achieved in your direction. If you totally fuck the other guy and nothing happens to you, that's called... wait for it... "winning" and wouldn't you know it, that is the goal in war, it is and will be the goal in every war since the beginning of time and in every war that remains to be fought.

This is the purpose of war no matter if you are the initiator or the defender. However, if the goal is clearly unreachable, and you initiate anyway, I think we can all pretty much agree that you are simply a fucking idiot. If the goal is unreachable, but because of social built-ins like the Japanese being "superior beings" and so forth, you make the mistake of assuming the goal is reachable, then you are still a fucking idiot because you give more credence to myth than reality for the sake of your own comfort. The Japanese, for their part, attacked a power so superior in resources, landmass, and sheer "we-will-fucking-kill-you" willpower (as quite amply and recently demonstrated in WWI at the time) that it is only by understanding that they were culturally inclined to be sheer fucking idiots that you can comprehend how they could ever even think about attacking Pearl harbor. So you want to watch out when people like this author want you to be an idiot and completely misunderstand what war is about, for, and due to.

This article brings up point after point that needs powerful rebuttal against a wacky-assed bleeding heart and entirely unrealistic perpective, and the most likely way to see those rebuttals is to see it live a little longer, rather than vote it down. So +1, buddy, +1. :)


Blog, Photos.

Thanks for the vote (3.00 / 5) (#66)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 05:50:02 PM EST

Rather than wade into a hundreds of kilobyte point-by-point slugfest, I would like to ask you one question.

Do you think General Eisenhower was a pansy liberal post-facto whatever when he basically said exactly what I am saying now, both before and after the actual bombing in 1945? And if you do, are you somehow in a better position than he was to evaluate what was going on in 1945?

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

No problem. :) (3.00 / 5) (#67)
by fyngyrz on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 06:20:54 PM EST

Re the +1, certainly, you're welcome. I actually really liked the majority of your story, I just vehemently disagree with where it took you. And just like tech support, all you ever hear are the complaints, no matter how good the application is. :)

For instance, I'd cry over the little girl as fast as you did; I just don't make the move of attributing her problems to the specific weapon. Weapons don't kill people, people kill people. The number of times in one lifetime you can legitimately blame an inanimate object for a problem are very few indeed. I find it rather difficult to blame an object designed to kill people when it actually kills them. Or the object's designer. All they get from me is "good job, pal." The question here - the only question, in my mind - is, should it have been used? I think the answer is yes, given the timeframes involved, what various groups knew, and what others didn't. Political and command chain and information overload inertia has to be considered as well; even if info gets from A to B, that doesn't mean it has had time to be understood, or even read, in a timely manner.

Do you think General Eisenhower was a pansy liberal post-facto whatever when he basically said exactly what I am saying now, both before and after the actual bombing in 1945?

Yes. He might have done considerably better if he'd had a little front line experience; but he didn't, and as a direct result he didn't have a good sense for what he was doing, and he screwed up a whole lot. You might want to look into his relationships with Patton and Montgomery, as well as his then active political goals, before you do any military Eisenhower-worshiping. I think it is very clear that dropping the bomb had precisely the desired effect; ergo, Eisenhower was wrong, and the reason he was wrong is because he was a fairly lousy general, regardless of how popular he was. He was wrong before, and he was wrong afterwards as well.

And if you do, are you somehow in a better position than he was to evaluate what was going on in 1945?

Yes. Far better. But he couldn't take advantage of the historical records (Beryllium Sphere!) I have been exposed to from all the various sides of this particular compass, so I don't hold his lack of perspective against him; that would be a serious error, the very one I argue against above.

I would have loved to have been able to nay-say him on a few things, and to fix a few others. I would have, I am sure, because I think I am a lot meaner person, which connects me more tightly to reality - for instance, I would never make a decision because it was politicaly correct in my estimation. Only if it was actually correct in my estimation. Eisenhower was very much a political animal, by which I mean he was basically a turd.

Not just in war, though. Like the interstate system, which was very poorly conceived, though came into being out of sheer neccesity anyway, despite its many warts. Today, it is a people and animal killing, unneccesarily speed-limited, dangerous access, crumbling, infinite loop of unjustifiably expensive fixme-fixme-fixme and by Gawd, I primarily blame Eisenhower for giving it such a poor start.

But that's another rant. :)

Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

Fair enough (3.00 / 4) (#68)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 06:44:55 PM EST

Your comments on Eisenhower are sensible even if I tend to agree more with him than you; I'll credit you that.

Let me take one teeny thing out of context ---

because I think I am a lot meaner person, which connects me more tightly to reality
Well there in its essence is the difference between us; I've never been a mean person, and I tend to regard mean people dubiously at best. Not that I don't think we occasionally need mean people; when mean people from the other tribe are waving their spears and crossing the stream you've regarded as a border lo these many years, you need mean people of your own who are willing to wade in and discourage them.

I think the atomic bombings were a mean thing. I particularly think they were an unnecessarily mean thing even in the very mean context of WWII.

The problem with atomic bombs is that the damage goes far, far beyond what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And I think the mean people of the era were really looking not at the immediate event, but more at the next fifty years when they decided to use the weapons.

That, to me, is inexcusable. But of course neither of us can really prove our case in that regard to the other; we've made up our minds for other reasons. I do accept that, and I offered this story up with the understanding that people like you would be highly critical of it.

I do think the tone of the discourse so far has been extremely civil, much more so than I expected, and for that I thank you and the people who agree with you. Let me take this opportunity to say that *cough* maybe I was a bit insulting there. But as I posted elsewhere, my feelings in this regard are strong, even if you regard them as wrong.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

yah... (3.00 / 4) (#71)
by fyngyrz on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 07:12:10 PM EST

...if we met in person, we'd probably lift our drinks, rather than fling them. :)


Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

I propose a toast... (3.00 / 7) (#72)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 07:21:52 PM EST

...to any folks who can sensibly agree to disagree, and air our differences without getting into a big fight over it.

Something I think you'll agree to is that, what happened in 1945 happened in 1945 and we can't change it now. I can putter around the site and muse upon the things that bother me, but both of us will wake up in the same world tomorrow, with the same possibilities to make it either better or worse working with what we have right now. Let's just work, each in our own way, to make sure tomorrow isn't something we end up regretting.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

...clink (n/t) (3.00 / 3) (#79)
by fyngyrz on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 08:03:12 PM EST


Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

*sob* (none / 1) (#99)
by rusty on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 11:23:36 PM EST

That was the best argument I've ever seen on this site.

*wipes a tear*

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

bah! truly sickening (none / 0) (#123)
by fleece on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 05:50:02 AM EST

might be more at home here

....but I suggest you might want to stop by here first - to obtain the only supporting material you'll need to pursue your hobby



I feel like some drunken crazed lunatic trying to outguess a cat ~ Louis Winthorpe III
[ Parent ]
blah blah (2.50 / 2) (#116)
by gdanjo on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 02:18:02 AM EST

Useful hindsight is what a dog gets when he's licking his ass. It is not, and never will be, a reasonable metric to evaluate people's actions in real situations when they don't have a later perspective to draw on.
Translation: "We cannot learn anything from the past. You may as well just lick your arse."

Its like criticising someone for picking the wrong lottery number. "Well shit, Jed, if you'd just picked the right number, you'd ha' been a millionaire!" Would that Jed had only known, eh?
Translation: "I have no idea of the difference between a decision borne of knowledge, and a random event."

Atomic weapons: Dead is dead. Kill an enemy with an atomic bomb, they're dead. Kill them with a knife, they're still fucking dead.
Translation: "Actions should be judged by their individualistic outcomes. No greater world-view is necessary."

The little chick who was folding cranes and evoked the author's tears is a typical idiot argument. She'd have been no less heart-wrenching if she'd have been dying because a bullet penetrated her liver, or she had a systemic infection from a bayonet wound, or she simply had Kwashikor or Beriberi because they couldn't get food due to war conditions.
Translation: "Why do people feel differing amounts of sympathy depending on how they die? I don't get it."

That girl died because the Japanese attacked us.
Translation: "What's causation?"

War: War is hell. It is no more or less hell because of atomics, it just sucks no matter how it is pursued.
Translation: "What's an 'enabler'?"

[blah blah blah]
Translation: "YHBT."

Dan ...
"Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
-ToT
[ Parent ]

Oh look, an apologist psychobabbler! (2.50 / 2) (#146)
by fyngyrz on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:15:20 PM EST

Translation: "We cannot learn anything from the past. You may as well just lick your arse."

No, dear Sigmund, translation is: It is not reasonable to expect decisions at point A on a timeline to be made with knowledge that only became available at point B. IOW, you can't apply hindsight to an evaluation of a past decision's worth.

Translation: "I have no idea of the difference between a decision borne of knowledge, and a random event."

No, dear Sigmund, translation is: Neither individual had knowledge of an unknown event, though I do take your accidental point that the actions of the Japanese and the Nazis were so irrational as to closely approach the random.

Translation: "Actions should be judged by their individualistic outcomes. No greater world-view is necessary."

No, dear Sigmund, translation is: Dead is dead, and dead is the goal of war until the other fellow gives up or is overwhelmed. It's not about baby-kissing. It is about the development and deployment and active delivery of more and more fearful weapons. And look, it works: You've become especially terrified of a-bombs, having come to the conclusion that they are somehow magically worse (for example) than the firestorms that consumed Dresden and Tokyo. I, on the other hand, have the common sense to be almost equally terrified of death by fire or a-bomb. I'm actually less terrified of death by a-bomb, because if I'm close enough, it won't hurt at all. That whole pain thing? That's a problem for me. Go figure. :)

Translation: "Why do people feel differing amounts of sympathy depending on how they die? I don't get it."

No, dear Sigmund, translation is: When someone dies as a result of someone else's ill-considered actions, it is an equal tragedy no matter what the mechanism. Let's say that Joe is crossing the street carrying a briefcase, and a drunk driver hits him and kills him. Joe's briefcase flies away in the accident, and tears your mother's head off. She was on the sidewalk. According to your world view, this is an entirely different level of tragedy than if she'd have been in front of the car, right? Because it wasn't the drunk's car that did this, it was a secondary effect, a briefcase.

You, in your left-wing sillyness, would have the world legislate away the briefcase. Probably while trying to identify the drunk's "enablers", judging by your descent into psycobabble below. Me, I'd just fry the drunk driver.

Anyway, turns out, dear Sigmund, that your mom's death is actually the same degree of tragedy as if she'd been right in front of the car like Joe was, and it is only your world view that needs adjustment. Doesn't matter what killed her, that's not the tragedy. The tragedy is that she died, and the cause which needs to be addressed was a drunk driving (wo)manslaughter event. Same thing applies to this girl. It's not that she was killed by a bomb or a knife in war, it is that she was killed at all and the cause was that the Japanese started the war.

People who mourn someone's death understand that the tragedy is the loss of potential for that person, and the loss of company for those left behind. This is a productive process.

People who can identify the penultimate cause of death are those who are most likely to solve the problem. This is also a productive process. That cause, in this case, was Japanese imperial ambition (and their blind stupidity.)

In sharp contrast, people who mourn the method of death are hysterical twits. They have completely missed what the real tragedy is and are dancing about crying over what is entirely the wrong issue. They're not being productive, and no problems will be solved as a result of such hysteria. In fact, more problems are likely to be caused by such misdirected angst -- you'd already be legislating briefcases away, wouldn't you?

I know this is very complex stuff for a left winger to assimilate, but you work on it, K?

Translation: "What's causation?"

Right. Though you apparently aren't familiar with dealing with problems by eliminating the actual source, rather than attempting to treat the symptom. That probably goes some distance towards explaining your next California style psi-chi-hat-tricks sally:

Translation: "What's an 'enabler'?"

Well, dear Sigmund, that's a left-wing pissant psychobabble concept that allows those responsible for the root cause of a problem to shift the blame for some of it onto someone else who they've dragged down into some fuckarow with them. Something I get the impression you're intimately familiar with, given the delicious way you tossed that particular carrot into the salad. Who do you like to "share" blame with for your problems?


Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

meh (none / 1) (#182)
by gdanjo on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 08:39:59 PM EST

No, dear Sigmund, translation is: It is not reasonable to expect decisions at point A on a timeline to be made with knowledge that only became available at point B. IOW, you can't apply hindsight to an evaluation of a past decision's worth.
I'm very well aware of the hindsight-20/20 fallacy, dear Liza, dear Liza; however, describing a fallacy and hand-waving about the lottories does not a fallacy make; nor an argument. Please to be making your argument relevant to what localroger said k thnx.

Neither individual had knowledge of an unknown event, though I do take your accidental point that the actions of the Japanese and the Nazis were so irrational as to closely approach the random.
I believe that localroger was talking about the US's actions, not the Nazi's or Japanese. The US made an informed decision to drop a bomb. Or are you implying that this decision was "so irrational as to closely approach the random"? Is that your point?

Dead is dead, and dead is the goal of war until the other fellow gives up or is overwhelmed.
Re-translation: only the individualistic effect need be considered. No other world-views are necessary. Dead is dead to the individual, yes, but nukes have other effects on the world - but to you these don't matter.

I, on the other hand, have the common sense to be almost equally terrified of death by fire or a-bomb. I'm actually less terrified of death by a-bomb, because if I'm close enough, it won't hurt at all. That whole pain thing? That's a problem for me.
If you're only worried about your own hyde, that's fine. Just don't extrapolate these feelings of yours to world events.

You see, worrying about your own arse is an easy thing to do - we all know it well. My cat knows it. The wasps on my porch know it. The evolved, however, are able to think of themselves - that death is death, and should be avoided regardless of type - but can also think of other effects of what it means to have the power of God at your fingertip - that megadeath is not just death. See, some of us believe that only God should be able to play God - not just out of respect, but as a survival strategy.

Some people are able to think beyond their own arses - even to whacky concepts like "future arses" - when evaluating actions. I'd suggest you do the same.

When someone dies as a result of someone else's ill-considered actions, it is an equal tragedy no matter what the mechanism.
Once again, from an individualistic view, you are correct - dead is dead. But pull your head out of your arse and you'll see that method of death means something as well; otherwise, why is there going to be a sep-11 memorial? Why don't we have crossing-the-road-killed-by-SUV memorials around the country?

Hint: there is a difference between random action and planned action.

your mom's death is actually the same degree of tragedy as if she'd been right in front of the car like Joe was, and it is only your world view that needs adjustment.
Your charming allegory still fails to take into account the difference between random occurances and planned events. Try again.

In sharp contrast, people who mourn the method of death are hysterical twits.
I'll keep that in mind next time a faggot gets the spleen kicked out of him.

you'd already be legislating briefcases away, wouldn't you?
Yes. Yes I would. I would legislate away briefcases.

Given that you worked so hard on building up your strawman, I can't bring myself to tear him down.

Go on, have your fun now.

Well, dear Sigmund, that's a left-wing pissant psychobabble concept that allows those responsible for the root cause of a problem to shift the blame for some of it onto someone else
Is that kind of like shifting the blame for nuking a city from the nuker to the nukee? Or is it more like blaming a woman for rape? Or is it more like more like blaming a doctor for abortion? Or do we blame the woman for abortions now?

And who do we blame for your stupidity? Your mom? You dad? Society? Your math teacher that didn't teach you about randomness? Here's a thought, maybe we should just blame you for being stupid - after all, you have control over yourself, don't you?

Who do you like to "share" blame with for your problems?
I find it ironic that in trying to assign blame for the action of the US to ... uhh, the US ... you accuse me of pushing the blame elsewhere.

You're a riot.

Dan ...
"Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
-ToT
[ Parent ]

Oh, I get it now... (none / 0) (#200)
by UCF BullitNutz on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 05:07:45 AM EST

Pinheads that blame the USA for bombing Japan need to make a long study of actual human behaviour... Now, where have I seen "pinheads" used in a political context before...
----------
" It ain't a successful troll until the admin shuts off new user registration for half a year." - godix
[ Parent ]
I sort of disagree (1.66 / 3) (#75)
by insomnyuk on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 07:51:22 PM EST

I too believe that the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unjustified and not a military necessity, especially after reading Gar Alperovitz's book on the subject.

However, I generally disagree with your critical framework, savages vs the civilized, because it is too vague and ad-hominem, not to mention absurd.  Who are the savages if not the Japanese Imperialists and the Nazis as well, and how can you possibly equate christians, athiests, pagans, and zen buddhists who engaged in mass murder with Neanderthals?  And then compare them to the Bush regime? This is a quite absurd analogy and you provide poor justification for it, if any.

Also, I felt your title and introduction were a bit deceptive in that I thought it was going to be a description of a trip to a testing site with side commentary.  I had no idea you were going to tie an entire narrative about the justification for using the bomb on Japan, which ended up taking more space than the actual discussion of Trinity, and which will inevitably force any discussion in the comments to be about that debate.

Finally, your frequent use of capitalizing the first letter of a word to point out Truth or Science or what have you, is cliched and prosaic at this point.

Yet I must vote +1FP on this article and I encourage all K5ers to do the same, because it tells a good story, many of the links are fascinating, and it will certainly encourage debate since you provided ample material.

---
"There is only one honest impulse at the bottom of Puritanism, and that is the impulse to punish the man with a superior capacity for happiness." - H.L. Mencken

I respect your opinion (2.60 / 5) (#78)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 08:02:29 PM EST

Who are the savages if not the Japanese Imperialists and the Nazis as well

Excellent question. The answer is that we are all the savages. Being savage is easy. It comes naturally. The hard thing is to transcend our brutal nature and become better.

At Hiroshima we very defiantly decided not to do that.

As for the rest, I tend to think you misread me. But that may be understandable, quite a few have complained that it was a very long article. But it encompassed a lot of experience and feelings, and I couldn't think of any other way to do it.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Future framework arguments (3.00 / 3) (#101)
by rusty on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 11:28:04 PM EST

It may be more productive in the future to cast this framework as a choice that we all have between doing savage things and doing civilized things. There probably hasn't ever been a human being who hasn't done both, at one time or another so the conflict, as you say much better here, is not between savages and the civilized but between the savage choice and the civilized choice which we all face constantly.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Also (none / 0) (#102)
by rusty on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 11:28:50 PM EST

That last sentence was pretty goddamn savage. I should have chosen a more civilized way to write that mess. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Poll wackiness (none / 1) (#76)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 07:52:14 PM EST

As I write this Bikini is at 7 and Tranquility Base is at 6. First it's kind of odd that Bikini (which is just a big hole in the water now) beats out any particular place on the Moon, but then it's even wackier that, let's face it, TWO places you can't really go dominate the results.

At least for now, subject to change, etc.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min

Not all is as it seems. (3.00 / 2) (#77)
by fyngyrz on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 08:01:35 PM EST

I voted for Bikini because a naval ship with my family name on it was there as part of the research arm (a hydrographic survey ship) during both the able and baker tests; that makes it of particular, and permanent, interest to me. Plus it was fun to skin dive there; just one of those weird "connectivity" things.


Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

cool /nt (none / 0) (#80)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 08:03:27 PM EST



What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
reTitle: 'Localroger's 20-20 Biased Hindsight' (2.00 / 5) (#81)
by sllort on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 08:06:29 PM EST

Without a title fix, I find this trash unpalletable. Since this story is by localroger and therefore cannot fail, I use my atomic +1SP vote in a desperate attempt to keep it off the front page. If you hate this shit, please do the same. Remember, a vote for -1 is a vote for roger.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
Rusty tricked me (2.57 / 7) (#83)
by sllort on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 08:10:01 PM EST


Your vote (1) was recorded.
This story currently has a total score of 80.

You're the straw that broke the camel's back!
Your vote put this story over the threshold, and it should now appear on the front page. Enjoy!

Wow it's like Nov 3rd all over again, only this time I feel like my vote counted. How the fuck can people possibly vote up a story which asserts that we didn't have to worry about Hitler getting the bomb when at the time, we had no fucking idea what the Nazis had?

You're as rational as the Bush voters, you know.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]

LOL ROFLMAO fucking COOL (none / 0) (#84)
by localroger on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 08:12:37 PM EST

I always wondered what it would be like to have a W in my name and now I know! Oh wait...

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
You should have voted for Nader [nt] (none / 1) (#100)
by rusty on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 11:24:45 PM EST



____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
You should have voted for someone w/ principles. (none / 0) (#109)
by Esspets on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:38:22 AM EST

Well, you know, principles that aren't so pragmatic that they change constantly.


Desperation.
[ Parent ]
None were running [nt] (none / 1) (#120)
by monkeymind on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 02:50:30 AM EST


I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.
[ Parent ]

unconditional surrender (2.25 / 4) (#88)
by forgotten on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 09:13:15 PM EST

i think it was quite reasonable for the allies to insist on this, and it was certainly in japan's, and the region's, long term interest. certainly japan would not have had a constitution outlawing war if there had been a negotiated surrender.


--

I'm sorry (2.54 / 11) (#93)
by cdguru on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 09:48:13 PM EST

I'm sorry that you feel the way you do about Americans and humanity in general. I'm also sorry that you seem compelled to illustrate your feelings about this in ways that inspire other people to believe, accept and possibly act upon your feelings.

As far as Japan is concerned, you have mentioned several times in comments about your opinion of what "unconditional surrender" might mean. The problem is that a number of the more savage members of the Japanese war cabinet would actually have believed an unconditional surrender might mean "killing all the males between 18 and 49". It would be something they would do if confronted with a similar situation, so however unthinkable that might be to the average American, be assured that it would not be so to the Japanese military. Especially those that had been brainwashed into believing that the US military was being every bit as savage as the Japanese army would be had they invaded California. We can see clear examples of this with Iwo Jima and Saipan.

No, I do not believe that we would have liked a "negotiated peace" with Japan where they did not believe to their very core that they had been utterly defeated. We would have "insurgents" battling for years or decades. We would have seen a purge of Japanese-Americans because after the first few Japanese made there way to California to cause as much havoc as they could, we wouldn't have any choice. It would not have been a pleasant alternative.

As far as general savagery is concerned, I think you have missed out on history in general. Yes, things have been bad for the last 150 years for some people in some places. Did you think it started then? There have been wars since humankind has been around to have them. If you consider the 30 years war in Europe to be less savage than the US Civil War, you probably missed out on the fact that there were no divisions between combatants and civilians at that time - everybody was fair game. In large measure, the savagery of that period led to the idea that wars should be fought between combatants and not just a general massacre.

If anything, the overall cost in lives due to combat has far more to do with there just being more people available and more crowded into the same area than the actual level of savagery. If one so desired to do so, I am convinced a study of "savagery" while controlling for population would find that there is far less in now than there was at any time in the past. The point is that what we are seeing is not in any respect "controlled for population", so we are seeing more people being killed and injured as populations increase. Saying this is "more savage" than previously fails to account for this and is misleading. It does sound nice to make your point, though.

As to the contention that WWII has led to more war than less, you miss that no "major power" exchange has occurred. Yes, there have been "proxy wars" where major powers were equipping different sides in a smaller conflict. But, we have sidestepped any escalation into a direct major power conflict. Why? Some believe that the threat of utter annilation via nuclear destruction has prevented this, and I would tend to agree. Unfortunately, much of the problem now is the threat of powers not affiliated with a nation acquiring either nuclear weapons or other materials that can cause massive casualties. If we have been free of major power conflicts since WWII, it is likely that the threat of utter destruction of a nation has been a deterrent. With non-affiliated groups there is no "nation" to lose, so such destruction isn't a deterrent. That is the new challange. And I don't think we have figured out how to deal with that yet.

umm... kind of melodramatic? (none / 0) (#107)
by modmans2ndcoming on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:11:30 AM EST

I doubt that trinity was momentous for the universe.

[ Parent ]
It's worth noting... (2.25 / 8) (#97)
by jd on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 11:11:09 PM EST

Shortly after the Trinity site was first opened to the public (about the same time as Infocom released the Trinity computer game) it was closed because it was discovered it was still too radioactive. It's not like the military lack geiger counters and radiation badges! So why open it when it was unsafe? Easy. A few bucks profit easily outweighs health risks that could never be linked to a specific source.

On to World War II. Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, had very close ties with Emperor Hirohito, before the war and after. As such, he would have been the logical person to oversee the language used and possibly to deliver the demands. He knew the Japanese High Command and Emperor on a personal basis. In a country like Japan, that counts for a lot. He would also have been trusted more by them than any American, no matter what their rank or title, especially in explaining what the terms actually meant.

That opportunity to make use of existing bonds was never used. The American Government did make every effort to antagonize their opponents and reduce understanding. Since America was already eyeing Russia as a threat, the use of the atomic bombs in Japan may well have been an excuse to demonstrate American technology to the Russians. In that case, the war was just a rationale. It merely provided a means to show the latest American weaponry in a "real" city scenario - something no test could have done.

After the surrender, virtually all Japanese war-crimes were forgiven. Slaves, held by the Japanese, were never compensated and the slave handlers never taken before a court of law. Many POWs died in Japan building bridges and other structures, under terrible conditions. Many women were kidnapped from "conquered" territories and provided to the military as sexual toys. Survivors of each of the horrors have been largely ignored. There weren't many - conditions were savage.

But whose responsibility was it to ensure that justice was done? Japan's? They were the ones who surrendered. No, it was the job of the British and Americans to impose International Law, as they had in Germany.

So why didn't they? Because the actual terms of surrender, as eventually agreed, required a nominal fine for atrocities in exchange for a total pardon for (almost) all concerned.

A far, far more generous package than the Japanese had been willing to accept, prior to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Is it possible that the bombs, far from ending the war, actually caused the Japanese to demand far better terms than they'd have otherwise accepted?

Unlike conventional bombs, the dying only began after the bombs were dropped. There are still people suffering from radiation sickness and radiation-inflicted injuries, sicknesses and tumors, to this very day. Fifty seven years of incurable, largely untreatable, human suffering. Let's say it did stop the war early. Let's say it did save thousands of lives. Was that a big enough saving to justify tens or hundreds of thousands living in unremitting agony for over half a century? That's a hell of a price, and I just don't see what was gained that was worth it.

Nor is it just the residents then that suffered. Cancer rates are way above normal in both cities and ESPECIALLY in outlying areas that got fallout but didn't get much in the way of decontamination. Residents there now, visitors there now - even American ones - are much more likely to develop radiation-related tumors and cancers.

Is it possible that in the years since the bombs fell, that more Americans have died from the radiation from those bombs than would have died in any hypothetical siege or invasion? If that is so, I put it to you that we lost. Victors don't usually kill themselves in their victory. Only losers do that, which makes the Allies, in the Pacific theater, the biggest bunch of losers that ever lived.

What we won was to terrify Russia into stealing nuclear secrets, mainly through the Cambridge Spy Ring (which gave Russia full access to Bletchley Park and thus most US/UK military secrets AND UK/US encryption ciphers). Russia was already diving into paranoia, but it's child's play to warp paranoia in on itself. A paranoid only has differing degrees of enemy, they have no friends, so it's no big thing to twist a paranoid nation in on itself.

But America didn't go that way. They wanted a Cold War, because a country in a war footing is easier to manage and it was proving profitable. The only way to get a Cold War was to scare Russia silly about America, not anyone else, and the only way to do that was to convince Russia that America was willing to violate any ethical or moral (or even military) consideration, in order to win. Which meant nuking Japan. (Yes, it flies in the face of military tactics, because you can't occupy a lump of radioactive cinder.)

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor - known in advance, I think that's generally accepted now. It was certainly known by the British, War Office records have shown that. No, there are many things in American texts on World War II that are untruths, often created as propoganda weapons at the time but still held to today.

History is rich enough and deep enough without inventing any more of it. Teach the truth, accept the truth, and make use of the strengths the truth has to offer. You'll find few tactics used by the US in World War II or later that are in Sun Tzu's "Art of War". Sun Tzu's book is still a damn good reference guide and deviations from it should expect to be questioned, not blindly accepted. Especially when it's obvious such deviations couldn't possibly offer any advantage and could make things worse.

I don't pay my taxes, of which some percent go to pay these military guys, so that they can loaf around, swing back drinks, and play the fool with people's lives - friends AND foe. I pay my share of the defence of this country so that sound strategies can be used to maximize the benefits and minimize the consequences.

I don't think I'm getting good value for money. I don't think any American ever has. Nothing's going to change - unsound strategies to justify pork-barelling and lousy accounting will continue to be used.

Did you know the DoD can't account for 6.6 billion dollars over, I think it's the last 5 years? At the same time, they can't afford to put any armor on the transport trucks in Iraq? You run a business like this, you'd make Enron look like a day at the beach. But partly because it's Government-run (but mostly because the DoD has bigger guns than Congress) they get bailled out by as much as they need/want, whenever they need/want.

It was no different in 1945, and won't be any different in 2045... except that now we've all these anti-terror laws allowing the military to do police work in the US, it might be somewhat worse.

You know the really depressing part of all this? The US is still better off than most other countries. That, alone, is sickening. The day they ask people to sign up to go join a martian colony, expect me to be in line. (Assuming it happens in my lifetime.)

Amazing. (2.33 / 3) (#105)
by fyngyrz on Sun Nov 28, 2004 at 11:49:53 PM EST

There are still people suffering from radiation sickness and radiation-inflicted injuries, sicknesses and tumors, to this very day.

Well, what about the suffering of the 1103 men on the Arizona or more generally the 2403 at Pearl harbor? Oh, wait, they didn't get to suffer much, they're DEAD.

Well, what about the suffering of the 300,000 Chinese citizens in Nanking? Oh, wait, they're DEAD.

Well, what about the suffering of the thousands of Korean and Chinese women enslaved as "comfort women" for Japanese troops? They're not dead, or at least, they weren't usually killed by "service", but you can bet they suffered hugely.

Well, what about the 3000 marines who died at Tarawa? Hold the phone... insight system coming on line... aw, shoot... they're DEAD too.

Upon careful examination of my feelings about the radiation sickness that the Japanese citizens endured, as well as the initial death toll and rather total destruction of local infrastructure I have determined that my reaction is:

Good. Try it again, and we'll give you more of the same.

But they're not going to try it again, are they? No. They're not. And you know why, don't you? 'Course you do. Because they know we have the political will to squash them like bugs if they don't play nice.

So, it turns out, they play nice. They're one of the world's economic powerhouses. They engage in HUGE commerce with the USA (and everywhere else, almost, though I bet the Koreas are on the short list.) They did just fine, and they've learned that if you stick a tiger with a knife, you'll get your fucking head bitten off.

What you report isn't a downside, it's an upside. It's a little better than institutional memory. In gangland, it causes actual detours when Leroy sees James coming and recalls "last time I give James sum face, he up and kick my ass." You'll note that the Japanese have been quite respectful to us as well. You can expect that to continue. They were stupid. They know they were stupid. They got bitch slapped and disrespected like a boy in a dress (my sincere apologies to crossdressers, I'm just trying to be colorful here.)

You want to know the downside? The downside is because of interminable, droning, PC screeching from people of your mindset, the US no longer has the political will to STOMP on its enemies, and as a result, we now have a whole shitload of enemies that are getting quite restless, and we lose lots of young men going into places we probably should have just nuked (parts of Afghanistan cave systems come to mind.)

You know what? The next time a bunch of "your daughter will serve me in paradise" camel-fuckers decide that flying into a building has no downside, maybe someone you know will be involved. Maybe then you'll develop a proper sense of "don't fuck with me and mine", something you seemed to be entirely bereft of at the point in time when you wrote this comment.


Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

you're tough (none / 1) (#121)
by gdanjo on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 02:53:08 AM EST

Though, I don't think you've taken enough opportunities to show just how tough you are. Better reply to that post again, two just ain't enough; I saw some more sentences you can give a good bashing.

Or are you just a pussy?

Dan ...
"Death - oh! fair and `guiling copesmate Death!
Be not a malais'd beggar; claim this bloody jester!"
-ToT
[ Parent ]

You bet. n/t (none / 0) (#143)
by fyngyrz on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 11:00:53 AM EST


Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

Do you want to live in gangland? (2.00 / 2) (#129)
by Nursie on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 07:40:38 AM EST

Seriously dude, you need some anger-management therapy or somethin'

I don't want to "STOMP" my enemies, I'd rather try not to create enemies in the first place. How do you create enemies? You "STOMP" people. That's how.



Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
Sure... (2.00 / 2) (#141)
by fyngyrz on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 10:47:59 AM EST

That's how we "created" the Nazis, right? Was it your mother who birthed Hitler? Is that why we should be all cuddly-wuddly? Or was your mother the mom of the Japanese emperor? Is that why we should be all cuddly-wuddly??? Because I know my family didn't create that sack of imperialist shit. I was under the impression that these people were human waste that their cultures elected to support in a bid to attack us, and our interests, in which case an overwhelming armed response is appropriate. I was under the impression that both the Nazis and the Japanese were maintaining torture camps for prisoners of war and the socially unacceptable (such as the Jews.) But I'm glad you've resolved all that, and I don't have to think that we should have STOMPed them, but instead, we should have cuddled them and loved them and called them George. We're bad people for wanting to hurt those cuddly-wuddly little Japanese and German Citizens Of The Axis.

Look, it's just common sense. If I'm minding my own business, and you screw with me or mine, you're going to get stomped. So don't do it.

The Japanese had no excuse for what they did. None. And we have no excuses to make for dropping the a-bomb on them. None.

So when you gurgle up apologist left-wing weak-minded garbage in my direction, don't expect it to be taken seriously. It will never happen. Now go back to your WWII Axis memorabilia collection and cuddle up with a flag or two. I hear the rising sun makes a dandy snot rag.

Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

Calm down dear....... (none / 1) (#149)
by Nursie on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:30:31 PM EST

What sort of "screwing with me and mine" justifies all out war in your angry little mind? I didn't say that the US shouldn't have got involved in WWII. Of course it should have done exactly what it did. I do say that your attitude will create as much trouble as it puts down when not in such clear cut cases as WWII.

Was Iraq justified on this basis? Or is your little maxim there exactly the reason why Iraq will create more hatred towrds america than it suppresses. You're screwing with them and theirs. They didn't have anything to do with 11/9. Yes, some radical muslims perpetrated an atrocity and they should be found and imprisoned or executed. Their whole ideology should be exterminated through both force and reason. Force to remove those that already buy into it and reason to prevent more falling into its ways. But at the same time invading Iraq or turning the whole of the middle east into glass with thermonuclear weaponry is not appropriate as it was not done by either a country or the entire muslim world.

My original point still stands. You say yourself:
In gangland, it causes actual detours when Leroy sees James coming and recalls "last time I give James sum face, he up and kick my ass."
Do you want to live in gangland? You seem to tout it as some sort of ideal, but in reality gangland is a place of violence, vandalism and murder. I don't want to live there. Maybe Leroy goes and gets a gun and shoots James because of the ass kicking. Maybe James's bereaved family wipe out the whole Leroy clan... so it escalates. Better for Leroy not to have got in James face to start with. Better for James to respond appropriately.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
Oh, I'm calm, trust me. :) (2.33 / 3) (#159)
by fyngyrz on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:24:06 PM EST

What sort of "screwing with me and mine" justifies all out war in your angry little mind?

Nanking (or Nanjing, depending on your favorite romanization), does. Auschwitz does. In the final analysis, Hitler does; The Hirohito/Tojo combination does.

On a personal basis, you inflict physical hurt on my family, and you might not make it to the "justice" system. All out war is about the right description for what would happen to you. Don't start, and you're going to see tomorrow without a braille tourists guide, or at least, it won't be my responsibility if you don't. If you want to call that "anger", I really don't mind, though that is quite incorrect. But you can call it anything you want, just so long as you're aware of the challenges you face if you screw with my family.

Were I leading this country - obviously not going to happen, but - that's precisely the same attitude I would take towards the country's citizens. For instance, since you bring up 9/11, by the time that I had learned for certain that Muslim beliefs were the root cause of 9/11, Mecca would indeed have been a smoking field of radioactive glass. If muslims strike our symbols, I have no problem whatsoever striking theirs.

Was Iraq justified on this basis?

No. The justification I can agree with for Iraq is the mass murder of the Kurds with chemical weapons, which we knew about, and the pretty close to mass murder of citizens by Saddam's secret police, which (as far as I know) we didn't know about. At this point, Saddam's been taken out, and as far as I am concerned, we should have been out of Iraq long ago. He was the big roach in the kitchen. Now, I will say that when Iraq invaded Kuwait, I felt that we should have taken Saddam out at that point. Bushie the elder blinked. I would not have. Saddam was the root problem, and by not taking him out, the problem remained unsolved.

Do you want to live in gangland?

Yes. in fact, I do. I want to be armed, and I want you to be armed. Given that, I will be very polite, and you will be very polite. We will call each other "sir" and we will be very, very sincere when we do. We will be excruciatingly polite to each other's families, and we will extend all manner of chivalry and consideration to each other's loved ones. People who are not polite will cease to walk the earth in very short order, which will reduce the ranks of the impolite in a precipitous manner, which is an altogether good thing in my estimation.

This is a much more general and effective solution to "you will not get in my face and I will not get in your face" than presuming on the good will of the average person, which is a myth in any case.

In the case of nations, you can see that this is the exact situation. Most of the time, it works very well.

Here in the states, when a mugger shows up, the mugging usually goes in favor of the mugger, not the muggee. The reason for that is that we don't go armed, because in the ultimate act of hypocrisy, our nation has decreed that what is perfectly good for it - maximum armament and deterrence by MAD and direct use of as much force as we bloody well think is appropriate - is not good for its citizens. This has led to the situation where recompense for a mugging, a murder, a rape, is to have your shoulder patted and being told "gee, too bad, there there, get it all out" by your therapist.

I don't buy this at all. So its simple: Attempt to mug me, and I'll do my level best to cripple you beyond all hope of recovery right there where you stand. I practice this every day, too -- I'm not just handwaving. That is exactly what I will do. Sure, I might go to jail, but (a) I'll know that I stopped your sorry ass, and (b) I'll know that you won't be mugging anyone else. That alone makes it entirely worthwhile. If I can do it more than once, then I'm way ahead on the old KarmaWheel(tm). And then there's (c), the headlines: "5th Dan Black Belt Breaks Every Bone In Mugger's Body." That'll put a smile on millions of people's faces over the morning coffee. Talk about your basic karma-plus, eh?


Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

"Muggee" always loses (1.00 / 2) (#163)
by orasio on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 02:37:53 PM EST

You are one of those savages. Even if you kick the shit of the other guy, you still end up in prison, with your ass pounded withoud appropriate lubricant. If it happened to me, even if I don't go to prison, I don't like hitting people, I like being left alone. The idea of using aggression to stop aggression is stupid. Peace is attainable, and not by violence. I don't like the idea of my neighbour having a gun, because I don't think he knows how to use it. I don't want to be a policeman and watch on my neighbour either. I wouldn't like you to be my neighbour either. I would like you better in a mental house ( You are mental, realize it). I would much rather live with sane people. It's funny how you talk about Japan, and Iraq being mass murderers. Israel is commiting a genocide against palestinians, much in the way of nazi Germany, and the US does nothing against it. The US has its own concentration camp in Guantanamo, where Ginebra doesn't apply. They killed lots of people in Afghanistan, and Iraq, which are not a threat to their country, with the excuse of some arabs on a plane, that no one knows who they were working for! They could even be working for non-arab people, for what we know, don't forget that. With your kind of reasoning, someone, like the EU or Japan should come and bomb the two bastards. Or use any of the multiple ways there are to bring a country to its knees, like biological weapons or even economical means, which could destroy easily the US. I don't think that way, I believe that we should evolve into thinking people that don't like killing each other.

[ Parent ]
No, you misread. (2.33 / 3) (#167)
by fyngyrz on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 03:46:40 PM EST

Even if you kick the shit of the other guy

You seem to be underestimating me as a "savage." Let me help you out. I didn't say I'd "kick the shit" out of the other guy, I (clearly, I thought) explained that I'd "cripple [the other guy] beyond all hope of recovery."

Now, pay attention. I'll explain in more detail, since for some inexplicable reason, you misunderstood. This means that this putative "other guy" will never, ever, have even the slightest hope of mugging anyone ever again. He's going to need a wheelchair, a blowpipe, a seeing eye dog, and a happy little bag to collect his fecal matter in. He'll probably become religious, because he's most likely to spend his remaining days praying to die. He won't be able to masturbate, because (a) his spine will be broken in several places so his (badly broken) hands and arms won't work, and (b) where his dick was, there will only a ragged little stub hanging over an empty, shriveled sack.

As for you not wanting me to have a gun, not worry. I don't need a gun. I am a weapon.

As for you not wanting to be my neighbor, that's not a problem. I have lots and lots of land, and I can't even see any neighbors.

The funny thing about that whole thing is, no one ever gives me, or my family, any crap. Thugs and creeps turn the other way when I'm in the room. I am perceived as a very large number of pounds of fuck-you-very-much beef to a thug, and they make wide berths around me. So I probably won't have to worry about any of this, ever. That's because I took, and take, the time to ensure that my family and I am not going to be anyone's easy victim. I did this because I know the world is filled with thugs. I don't run around assuming everyone is a happyass, out to shake my hand and give me hugs. When you said "I believe that we should evolve into thinking people that don't like killing each other" I was nodding my head. But at the same time, I know darned well it isn't going to happen. No more than the religious will suddenly realize they're being - well, let's be kind - "silly" - and walk away from all that nonsense. It's human nature. I recognize it. Your beliefs are dangerous to you and yours if you believe they dominate human behaviour - today, or ever.

And as for the prison, well, we'd just have to see. I'm not likely to behave like your average cellmate, if incarcerated.

You made some uncalled for comments about the Palestinians. You also seem to have also gotten the idea that I'm a specific fan of the Jews. I'm not. As far as I'm concerned, they're exactly the same kind of fools that the Muslims and the Christians are. But I see no reason why they can't be allowed to live in peace. The Palestinians can live there too. or anywhere else they can find work. No one - not you, not me, not the Palestinians, not the Jews - needs a "country they can call their own", as far as I am concerned. Nationalism is only slightly more attractive than religion to me. Which isn't saying much. I just don't see any way out of it. Countries, like traditional family units, are here to stay. Religion, like other forms of insanity, is also here to say. So don't go painting me as an apologist for any "people." I am annoyed by the inability of one individual to leave the next individual alone. I don't need to go to the group level to figure out that initiating an assault is a bad idea. A vigorous defense, on the other hand, as highly effective prophylactic deterrence, is a great idea.

Happy now? Let's see you fling "savage" with a little more gusto. Seems to me you were being a little weenie about it. I felt shorted. :)

Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

Uh-huh. (none / 1) (#204)
by BJH on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 05:42:47 AM EST

As for you not wanting me to have a gun, not worry. I don't need a gun. I am a weapon.

Please go and be a weapon in a little room with padded walls.

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

Muslims (none / 1) (#190)
by driptray on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 11:56:50 PM EST

...by the time that I had learned for certain that Muslim beliefs were the root cause of 9/11, Mecca would indeed have been a smoking field of radioactive glass.

That makes about as much sense as saying that Christian beliefs were responsible for the WTC being blown up by Timothy McVeigh, and then attacking the Vatican in response.
--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]

Ah. (none / 1) (#185)
by jd on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 10:29:46 PM EST

Emperors are generally not elected. Except in America. Emperor Hirohito was born into his title and the generals who ran the Japanese war effort were appointed. The citizenry did what they were told. Usually under threat of being disemboweled if they didn't.

Germany's Hitler seized power in a coup and maintained power through things like Hitler Youth, the SS, the Gestapo and the immediate execution of anyone who thought differently.

Claiming that the average Japanese or German "deserved death" on the grounds they had psychotic leaders is no different from Bin Laden claiming Americans deserve death because George Bush is guilty of crimes against humanity in the Middle East.

So what YOU are saying is that things like the September 11th attack and the Oklahoma Bombing were justified. After all, if the leader is guilty, the citizens are, right? That's your argument, not mine.

I'd rather be seen as a wuss by someone as myopic and xenophobic as yourself than be guilty by proxy of the mass murders by all sides that you implicitly justify by explicitly justifying that mindset.

That way lies madness. And I'm not talking about a British mod group, either.

[ Parent ]

"gangland" by another name (2.60 / 5) (#147)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:23:06 PM EST

is "chivalry" - historically, people have never been nice to each other just because people are nice. People, nations, civilizations, are only polite when the alternative is a serious ass-kicking.


A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it is insane. - Obscure Chinese Proverb
[ Parent ]
Always a terrible shame (none / 1) (#151)
by Nursie on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:34:28 PM EST

human nature that is, the savagery of it all is quite distasteful.

My thoughts are that this should become less and less necessary as the world becomes more democratic (if the world becomes more democratic). It's harder to drag the people along on a war of conquest these days, and the international community is pretty dead set against it. War becomes expensive and the people reluctant. it disrupts life, trade and often the driving force behind society - profit (unless you're a defence contractor). The US is the the only power at the moment that can really pull it off.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
Very true. (none / 0) (#152)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:40:38 PM EST

But not even democracies are immune to the rule of the mob.

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it is insane. - Obscure Chinese Proverb
[ Parent ]
Well that's the thing (none / 0) (#154)
by Nursie on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:49:01 PM EST

when the mob get the taste for war and elect leaders that see fit to indulge them, then you have trouble.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
and by the way... (none / 1) (#108)
by fyngyrz on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:23:14 AM EST

Is it possible that in the years since the bombs fell, that more Americans have died from the radiation from those bombs than would have died in any hypothetical siege or invasion?

No. It is so improbable it approaches zero.

Since Trinity, well over 2,000 nuclear weapons have been detonated. Almost all of them were considerably higher yield (bigger bombs) than either Fat Man or Little Boy.

Estimates of deaths for continuing the war island by island ranges from half a million to two million allied soldiers (that leaves out the Japanese deaths, but who cares. They deserved it at the time, no question about it.) Half a million is probably closer, because the Japanese were getting their asses kicked at the time, but there were a lot of them, and they were all planned to become combatants.

So, let's say that 500,000 would have died. And, being really, really conservative, lets say that is equal to the number of Americans who died from the dropping of the two little a-bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So, that is about 37 kt of bombs, with a collateral damage of 500000 Americans.

Again, to be conservative, lets just count the atmospheric detonations, because they can spread more easily. The total megatonnage (not kilotons) detonated to date (that is documented, of course there could be more that is secret) is 438 megatons.

So. if 37 kt kills 500,000 over time according to a minimal interpretation of your premise, then the death toll should be just about exactly 27 times that for a megaton. Which, by the way, works out that the average Japanese bomb size was 18.5 kt (22 and 15 kt, respectively), and that we've shot off the equivalant of 23,652 "Japanese bombs" IN THE ATMOSPHERE. *cough*. Then we multiply by 438, and the final number of putative dead from your theory of evil atom bombs would be 5.9 billion. This leaves out all the megatonnage from ground tests, the very few space tests, and the underwater tests, and it also used a very conservative number of dead from the invasion plus it didn't account for Japanese deaths, though I probably should have done so because this is a liberal contention I'm arguing with here, and you would have wanted them counted. And it doesn't count any tests that aren't officially acknowledged (governments wouldn't hide anything like this from us, would they???)

So, all you have to do is ask yourself: Can we reasonably attribute 5.9 billion deaths, to date, to atomic weapons?

The answer is incredibly obviously no. It's even more obviously no if you use the non-conservative end of those calculations... I've not actually worked it out the way I did the conservative number, but I think we'd all probably be dead.

The reason I took the time to work through this is to show anyone who was tending to believe your handwaving just how ridiculous it was. I'm not trying to convince you; you obviously haven't taken the time to work through the implications of this prattle you're peddling, and so why should I expect a few more facts to make any inroads?

Gads, some liberals need a science education so bad.

<poof>

Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

You're making an assumption (none / 0) (#114)
by NoBeardPete on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:49:23 AM EST

You're assuming that deaths are linear with respect to tonnage of nukes detonated. I doubt this is really an accurate assumption. Although, to be fair, I wouldn't be surprised if the second derivate was positive over the range of values in question.


Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

Actually, I made several. (none / 0) (#142)
by fyngyrz on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 10:59:33 AM EST

How local you are to the bombs is obviously a factor, and the technology of the various bombs really changed the amount and type and lifetime of the fallout.

Still, the assertion made in the grandparent was so ridiculous and so obviously cobbled up out of nothing I was feeling a bit feisty. All that handwaving was the result. Sorry. :)

I'd be more than happy if everything was a Hallmark card. If we were nice to these people, they'd be nice to us. But that's not the way it is. Some types of people and some types of societies need to be hammered. Even then they don't always get it, look at the stupid Germans.


Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

Pfff. (none / 0) (#203)
by BJH on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 05:35:23 AM EST

(that leaves out the Japanese deaths, but who cares. They deserved it at the time, no question about it.)

That's exactly the kind of unthinking acceptance of violence against others that the article is talking about.

Do you really believe every Japanese deserved to die, if it was required for American victory? That the deaths of hundreds of school-age children at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justifiable in the name of American supremacy? That half a century of suffering for thousands was a reasonable price to pay for a real-world test of atomic weapons?

If so, here's a big FUCK YOU.

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

Well... you go too far (3.00 / 2) (#122)
by svampa on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 05:49:43 AM EST

I agree in lot of things. For example that the bombs were probably unnecesary, perhaps they drop them to test the new toys and to show its power to the world adn USSR.

But there are points in your comment that I can't find no sense.

Is it possible that in the years since the bombs fell, that more Americans have died from the radiation from those bombs than would have died in any hypothetical siege or invasion? If that is so,

Who could guess such future those days?. You could say Paradoxical. more Americans have died from the radiation from those bombs than would have died in an invasion. as a proof of how umprevisble future is. But it has nothing to do with the decisions they made then. It has nothing to do in this history

But America didn't go that way. They wanted a Cold War, because a country in a war footing is easier to manage and it was proving profitable.

Well, I'm sure USA has used several times cold war as a excuse to justify some decisions in front of its own citizen, and to follow its own agenda in foreign affairs. But its too maquiavelic to think that they created the cold war to control their own citizen.



[ Parent ]
heh (none / 1) (#164)
by Battle Troll on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 02:42:15 PM EST

But its too maquiavelic to think that they created the cold war to control their own citizen.

Are you reading the same French press as I am? How many people bought copies of L'Effoyable imposture?
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]

oops (none / 0) (#165)
by Battle Troll on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 02:42:28 PM EST

L'Effroyable
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Footnote (none / 0) (#131)
by localroger on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 08:17:17 AM EST

My wife's sister and her family live in Nagasaki, including their twelve year old son.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
Where did you learn history? (2.66 / 3) (#140)
by wiredog on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 10:39:19 AM EST

"Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II" She wasn't the queen during WW2, and they weren't married then.

"virtually all Japanese war-crimes were forgiven." Umm, no. There were war crimes trials, and quite a few Japanese were hung. They may not have gotten the publicity of the Nuremberg trials, but they did happen.

"the dying only began after the bombs were dropped" No, most of those killed were killed by the bombs themselves. Either direct effects, or in the firestorm that followed. Delayed radiation effects are a small part of the total killed, and the total killed, including delayed effects, is still lower than the firebombing of Tokyo.

"Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor - known in advance, I think that's generally accepted now." No, it's not generally accepted, since it wasn't known. Certainly not by the US. The US was fairly sure that war was coming, but didn't expect the attack on Pearl Harbor. And which War Office records show this? Any stories on them from reputable sources?

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]

Japanese war crimes (none / 1) (#186)
by driptray on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 11:16:29 PM EST

There were war crimes trials, and quite a few Japanese were hung. They may not have gotten the publicity of the Nuremberg trials, but they did happen.

The vast bulk of Japanese war crimes were committed against the Chinese and other Asians. That's because the vast bulk of the war for Japan was against China. Japan only got tangled up with the US at the very end of what had already been a long (and losing) war for them.

The US wasn't particularly concerned with the bulk of Japanese war crimes because the US shared the racist sentiments of the Japanese regarding the victims of those crimes.
--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]

If... (none / 1) (#187)
by jd on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 11:23:56 PM EST

Where you learn history changes it, you're not learning history, you're learning an opinion. History is, or rather was. It's not a mutable thing, there aren't multiple versions, and nothing you, I or anyone else can say or do can alter one line of it in fact. What was, was, and will always be what was.

Queen Elizabeth (Princess Elizabeth at the time of the war) IS married to Prince Philip. I said nothing about their relationship at that time, is is a present tense. Was is not. Before complaining about what someone wrote, it helps to know the language they wrote it in.

Prince Philip studied, pre-war, with Emperor Hirohito. That's well documented, look it up yourself. Your post is longer than a Google query, so you're obviously not that impatient over knowing the answer.

As for the Pearl Harbour thing - Bletchley Park (the UK's center for code-breaking in the war) had broken JN-25 in the 1930s. Japan changed to JN-25B in December 1940, but the ciphers were sufficiently similar that 20-25% of all messages could still be broken. That partial information, combined with a US wiretap which revealed that the Japanese ambassador had been ordered to destroy anything of intelligence value, was enough to attract a lot of attention. (The Japanese diplomatic codes were totally broken at that time, but no explicit military information was ever sent via them.)

Although JN-25B was not to be fully broken until 1942, enough information existed to do the kind of brute-force cracking so many wannabe crypto-geeks are fond of. In other words, you look at likely scenarios and see what fits.

For Bletchley Park information, their website is somewhat sparse, but you could go and visit. It wouldn't kill you to get out of the house.

As for the theory that the British would have told the Americans, or done something, well why should they? There was no tactical advantage in letting the Japanese know their codes were broken. Indeed, it was common practice NOT to do anything, often enough, that neither the Germans nor the Japanese would know their messages could be read.

This is not obscure history, believe me. Anything on Alan Turing or Bletchley Park will cover the issue of inaction in incredible detail. This is not an obscure chapter in history. The British happen to be very proud of their cryptoanalysis history, especially that involving the German Enigma and Lorenz ciphers, as broken by Colossus.

Mind you, that could have a lot to do with the fact that Alan Turing beat the Americans on building the first programmable computer and the first stored-program computer. It might also have to do with the fact that Colossus - a 1940s giant hulk of a machine - could run through permutations for the Enigma machine faster than a modern Pentium IV. The people who worked there were very, very good at what they did.

Today, the US signals intelligence is the best in the world (though that doesn't always say much - the NSA only cracked a message about September 11th on September 12th, which wasn't all that useful by then) but in the 1930s and 1940s, Britain had some of the brightest minds and some of the best technology. If only they'd kept up.

[ Parent ]

the NSA (none / 0) (#194)
by Rahaan on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 01:18:09 AM EST

Today, the US signals intelligence is the best in the world (though that doesn't always say much - the NSA only cracked a message about September 11th on September 12th, which wasn't all that useful by then) but in the 1930s and 1940s, Britain had some of the brightest minds and some of the best technology.
Do you have any more information on this?  I'd be interested in seeing it.


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]
The Puzzle Palace (none / 1) (#209)
by wiredog on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 08:25:05 AM EST

by James Bamford, and its sequel.

What the author of the comment you're replying to leaves out is just how much traffic the NSA has to deal with (see Echelon for details).

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]

Ah, yes. (none / 0) (#228)
by jd on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 04:05:01 PM EST

Nobody knows if Echelon even exists. The NSA refused to tell Congress. If it does, it is likely distributed over five countries (the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and is integrated with the rest of the SIGINT operations these five nations collaborate in.

Then, there's the matter of information filtering. This is what would make or break an Echelon system. If it uses keywords (very unlikely), it would be hopelessly swamped by useless garbage (especially from roleplayers, fanfic writers, "Echelon jammers", etc) and would be unlikely to spot real messages (where codes and ciphers would render a keyword system useless).

Much more likely is a relational context-based system. In that case, 99.999% of the traffic on mobile phones, the Internet, etc, would be rejected by the first-level filters. The core of Echelon would only have to actually parse what's left, and 99.9% of that would likely be rejectable by more sophisticated filtering systems.

If Echelon is swamped, it's not because there's too much data, it's because the coders were incompetent.

[ Parent ]

Once again... (none / 0) (#251)
by wiredog on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 09:50:28 AM EST

Read the book.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
A few links for you (none / 0) (#229)
by jd on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 04:14:35 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Hmm (2.50 / 2) (#208)
by GenerationY on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 08:15:09 AM EST

You'd send a 24 year old Greek exile who was a Midshipman at the time to negotiate the surrender?
I think you are pushing things a bit there frankly.


[ Parent ]
Also a stunningly incompetent socialiser (none / 0) (#218)
by Nursie on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 09:33:50 AM EST

The man has made so many social gaffe's he's generally considered a laughing stock in the UK. He may well have been a damn fine soldier (or whatever he was) but now he's more famous for his bumbling racism.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
In something like that... (none / 0) (#227)
by jd on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 03:55:51 PM EST

It's best to send the person the other side would trust the most, regardless of rank, social skills, IQ, etc. If there were good grounds for believing that the Japanese High Command would have had absolute faith in the integrity of some High School janitor, so long as the Allied forces had shown they'd listen to said janitor when they came back, I'd give them the job.

I don't care about titles, I don't care about status, I care about getting the job done.

America created the rank of a five-star General so that they had someone who could be of equal status to the British and German Fieldmarshal. It didn't give the Generals any more ability to do their work, and probably created quite a lot of friction in the process. That is an example of putting egos and image over and above getting things done.

If you want to hold a parade, sure, get people with lots of decorations stuck all over them. But if you want to do negotiations, get a negotiator. And if you want negotiations that'll work, get negotiators the other side'll accept. Who cares who they are? Who cares if they paint their hair blue? If that's what's needed, then that's what you do.

Remember, in a surrender deal of this kind, you don't care what your side thinks, because it's not your side that's doing the surrendering. It's what their side thinks that matters, because they are the ones who need to be convinced.

[ Parent ]

This is the problem (none / 0) (#242)
by GenerationY on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 12:05:18 AM EST

Whilst you are right that a personal connection is important, I would suggest sending a young Midshipman/exile would have been seen as a gross insult likely to make things worse, not better. My limited experience with dealing with the Japanese is that they take careful notice of things like status and rank and calibrate their actions and position accordingly. Furthermore, it wouldn't have worked for allies for similiar reasons and finally, would you have confidence in someone who didn't have the authority (and frankly even today he lacks the skill to discharge such a responsibility) to negotiate?

[ Parent ]
But that isn't /specific/ (none / 0) (#210)
by wiredog on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 08:37:42 AM EST

Yes, the US and UK governments knew the Japanese were doing something, that's why the war warnings were sent out in late November and early December of 1941. They knew that war with Japan was almost certain. But they didn't have specific information about the attack on Pearl Harbor, because the Japanese Navy didn't transmit any information that could be intercepted.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
Dan Aykroyd knew. He KNEW. (none / 0) (#279)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Dec 05, 2004 at 06:01:04 PM EST

I saw him, looking at those radar screens. But what did he do? Nothing! Sent a fucking telegram, the bastard! Never heard of the PHONE, you ghostbusting dumbass?

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Phillip? (none / 1) (#205)
by Nursie on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 06:14:58 AM EST

As a brit it astounds me that you would suggest phillip could have been of use to anyone. He may have been a different character back then of course, but now he's regarded as a bumbling idiot and something of a racist. He's made so many stupid comments, some of which are quite racist, that we don't think he's useful for anything.

There's a collection of his stupidity here. But th most famous is when he said to some British students studying in China "If you stay here much longer you'll all be slitty eyed.."

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
The explanation I've heard (2.80 / 5) (#115)
by NoBeardPete on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:57:49 AM EST

The explanation I've heard for the insistence on "unconditional surrender" is that the Allied top brass was worried that otherwise there'd be a brief peace followed up by a World War III. World War I was once known as the War to End All Wars. When it turned out that within a generation, there was another, bigger, worse war, people were upset. When they realized that the seeds of World War II were sown in the peace process used to wrap up World War I, they were determined not to repeat that problem. Apparently, for the leadership of the US and the UK, this meant making sure that victory was total and decisive, as well as following up on the victory with large amount of help and aid to the shattered losers, instead of following up with punitive fines and economic restrictions.

It's be nice to see you explore some more understandable reasons that the US top brass acted as it did, instead of just writing them off as looking for an excuse to test out their new toys on thousands of Japanese civilians.


Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!

And apparently did it successfully (none / 1) (#145)
by ghjm on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 11:46:11 AM EST

There has not been another world war, and the major powers are more at peace now than ever. The only credible threat to world peace is the danger that the United States will forget (or has forgotten) the consequences of war.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

1000 Paper Cranes (3.00 / 4) (#126)
by PowerPimp on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 06:49:13 AM EST

In fifth grade, my teacher read this story to our class, and instantly turned my mischievous talents at folding paper airplanes into a positive force for the proliferation of Origami.  Of the 1000 cranes my class made, I personally folded 400. I used to see just how small I could make them, and still, occasionally test my skill and see just how small a square of paper will yield a recognizable crane.
You'd better take care of me God; otherwise, you'll have me on your hands...
Rather black and white viewpoint. (none / 1) (#130)
by Scott Robinson on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 07:58:47 AM EST

Somehow, I doubt the country in composed of savages and compassionate people.

I'd be more inclined to believe in a mixture.

Banality of evil. (none / 0) (#171)
by grendelkhan on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 05:18:39 PM EST

Something like the 'banality of evil' idea, wherein nearly everyone (save for evil serial-killer types or saintly types like Raoul Wallenberg) has the capacity for both great good and terrible evil, depending on what situation you put them in.

Hell, I don't know what I'd have done, being a German gentile during the Holocaust. No one who wasn't there knows, not really.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Nukes have become, oddly, impotent (2.50 / 2) (#144)
by crunchycookies on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 11:40:37 AM EST

For most of the struggles that have occupied the world since WWII, nukes have had little relevance. Nukes did not insure the survival of the British Empire. Nukes did not keep the USSR together. Nukes did not insure the survival of Communism. Nukes did not insure the survival of Apartheid South Africa.

Most of the conflicts since WWII have involved social movements and not great armies at war. The former British colonies threw off their old colonial masters. It is not clear how the far more powerful British military could have held back the rising tide of the forces of independence. Empire was a thing of the past and even Churchill's pledge to not be the Prime Minister that presides over the dissolution of the Empire could not change things. Nukes were clearly useless.

The forces that destroyed the USSR were social. Guns and even nukes could not hold them back. Once the attraction of Communism waned only force could hold it together but only for a time.

South Africa had a military more powerful than all other African countries combined including nukes. They had valuable natural resources of gold and diamonds that could be traded on the black market when the embargo blocked legitimate trade. None of this mattered. Nukes did not delay the end by even one day. Apartheid was ended by the millions of Africans that were no longer willing to be forced to the bottom of society and by the rest of the world that stood with them.

Israel, like Apartheid South Africa, has an army more powerful that all it's neighbors combined. It is well stocked with money, guns, and nukes. The same forces that brought down other repressive regimes too are destroying it. By a people no longer willing to accept Israeli oppression. Israel is being destroyed by it's own racism. Oppression will not bring peace and Nukes will not save it either.



Three things. (2.00 / 2) (#150)
by fyngyrz on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:33:56 PM EST

First, I agree. Nukes have become increasingly impotent. I think that is because the political will to use them is AWOL. No politician will do anything that is not PC.

Secondly, you say:

Nukes were clearly useless

Once created, the fact that nukes were around could never cause them to attributed as useless. I would lay very long odds that the reason you are still here is because no one in the USSR had the stones to weather the US response if they fired theirs off. The US (I think, though this is admittedly born of my own biased view of what the US stands for) would not have started a nuclear war. This leads me to the conclusion that US nukes saved you from a Soviet dominated, highly radioactive world. So you might want to be careful how you consider how useful nukes are, or aren't. A weapon doesn't have to be fired to be useful. Sometimes just having it is enough. The obvious comparison is that if you are assaulted on the street, and you pull a gun, and the bad guys back off - even though you didn't fire at them - the gun was quite useful.

Third, you mention Israel. Without getting into the religious issues, the fact is that the Arab community of nations in the region has already demonstrated that they would very much like to over-run the Israelis. They gave it a good try. Oddly, though, they've not tried recently. Why do you think that is? Do you think that's because they've developed a sudden deep concern for Zionists? Me, I draw the conclusion that they know that the Israelis have nukes, and they're currently thinking: "gee... maybe storming over Israel's border might not be such a great idea. Let's send anonymous suicide bombers instead and just hurt them real bad while giving them nowhere to focus their wrath."

I personally think that if the Israelis had been without nukes all these years, we'd be without Israelis by now.

Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

We'd have plenty of Israelis (none / 0) (#153)
by wiredog on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:44:15 PM EST

They'd be living in the US.

As to the US not starting a nuclear war, we came close in 63, what with LeMay being an advisor to Kennedy. Fortunately the other people in the administration weren't total whack jobs like LeMay, and cooler hears prevailed.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]

Bzzzzt. (2.50 / 2) (#161)
by fyngyrz on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:43:25 PM EST

We'd have plenty of Israelis. They'd be living in the US.

We'd have plenty of Jews, which is not the same thing at all as plenty of Israelis. I wasn't picking words out of the air at random.

No one will ever exterminate all the Jews, or all the Muslims, or all the Christians. Slightly mutilating what George S. Kaufman once said after P. T. Barnum's comments on taste, "you'll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the [general] public." In this case, I refer to the number of very interesting people who happily, even eagerly, cleave to superstition in the face of, and in spite of, any imaginable amount of quality information that could, and should, lead them directly to the opposite conclusion.

Blog, Photos.
[ Parent ]

You missed my point, somewhat. (3.00 / 2) (#214)
by crunchycookies on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 08:50:59 AM EST

My point was that in social struggles nukes are useless. Obviously when great armies are facing each other then each will attempt to gain the most powerful weapons. To do otherwise is to insure defeat.

There has not been a war since WWII where this has been the situation. All wars of the last half-century have been asymmetrical wars. One side was clearly stronger than the other. Yet the weaker side often won. Vietnam, Apartheid South Africa, Russia in Afghanistan, Somalia, The British Empire, the USSR all had a powerful military facing a far weaker force but the weaker force won. (The list is far longer but you get the idea.) Sometimes the opposing forces are internal as with the USSR and Apartheid. Sometimes the stronger force was external as with Russia in Afghanistan, Vietnam and Somalia. In all these cases the stronger force did not prevail.

Why is that? These wars were clearly different than WWII and WWI. The great wars were wars between governments. The average German did not want to be marching through the snow on his way to Moscow. He wanted to be home having a beer. If the governments had made different decisions there would have been no war.

Social struggles are quite different. The Vietnamese wanted to be free of foreign domination. This desire would have existed even if Ho Chi Minh had not existed. A leader would have arisen because the cause already existed.

Apartheid would have been resisted because it was a horrible system and not because of Nelson Mandella. India would have fought to be free of the British even without Ghandi.

The Palestinians will fight against Israel because it is a horrible racist state. It does not matter whom the Palestinian leader is.

These are the struggles of our time. These are struggles of people wanting to be free and independent. In these struggles nukes are clearly useless.



[ Parent ]

Your story sucks (1.20 / 5) (#148)
by debacle on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 12:27:56 PM EST

Although after playing Metroid Prime so often for the last three days (Even after I've gotten through everything, I still like to run around from time to time, it's quite enjoyable), I can understand the landscape you describe to be very Agonian. If you would like for me to ever eradicate the space pirate presence there, feel free to ask.

But on the other hand, no one cares. The atomic bombs were the feather on the camel's back, but they were still vital in ending the war. If we hadn't dropped the bombs, Japan would have become a red country just like Poland or Lithuania.

If anyone else would have posted this, it would have been voted down quite quickly, except for those idiots who so love to demonize the US.

You are over the hill, localroger. A hack, a cretin, and a pariah. It is with total regret that I masturbate myself while reading this story, and you are only forcing my hand.

It tastes sweet.

LOL (none / 0) (#157)
by GenerationY on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 01:03:22 PM EST

You are over the hill, localroger. A hack, a cretin, and a pariah. It is with total regret that I masturbate myself while reading this story, and you are only forcing my hand.

I have just choked my way through the best part of a cup of tea you git.

[ Parent ]

Couple comments... (3.00 / 2) (#166)
by skim123 on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 03:34:08 PM EST

You make a good point about how, had the US just not informed the world of its atomic bomb, that today we might have a world free from such devices. But it makes you wonder what the landscape after WWII would have been without the nuclear threat hovering over. What I mean to say is that the Cold War could have been very hot - the A-bomb kept the US and Russians from full out war, relegating the conflict to nations like Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, etc. Without the bomb as a deterrent, might we have seen a full scale WWIII this past century?

Also, I think hindsight is 20/20, and it's easy to look back now and say that the US was building the A-bomb not for Germany or Japan, but for Russians, and that the leveling of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was to showcase our new weapons to the Soviets. I think part of this may be true, but part of it may just be hindsight. Put yourself in the shoes of our administration back in the thick of WWII. Yes, Germany was increasingly on the ropes, Japan was reeling, but we didn't know if the war was going to end in one year or in ten. And despite your claims that the Germans were technologically impotent after 1943, don't forget that their barrage of V2s on London didn't happen until (IIRC), late '43 and '44.

Now, imagine that Roosevelt hadn't given the A-OK on the A-bomb, and the war stretched on for another decade. How could he rationalize this, or explain this to our Allies? My point is, given the fact that Japan and Germany, while on the ropes, were appearing as very, very stubborn contenders, I think it made sense to proceed with a bomb that could plausibly end the war without needing to put G.I.s in Berlin or Tokyo.

In closing, let me highly recommend Fog of War, a 2004 documentary about Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the Cuban Missle Crisis and a number of years in Vietnam (he was Kennedy & LBJ's SoD). He also served under LaMay's unit in WWII as a statistician, and has some good commentary about LaMay's firebombings.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


Well... (none / 0) (#201)
by BJH on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 05:12:47 AM EST

My point is, given the fact that Japan and Germany, while on the ropes, were appearing as very, very stubborn contenders, I think it made sense to proceed with a bomb that could plausibly end the war without needing to put G.I.s in Berlin or Tokyo.

It's fairly widely accepted in Japan that the Japanese government of the time was looking for a good excuse to surrender for the simple reason that Russia was making a very fast southward thrust that, if the war hadn't ended when it did, could have resulted in Hokkaido and possibly even half of the mainland being subsumed by the Soviets.

There was a fair bit of bad blood between the two nations that went back to the earlier Russo-Japanese War of 1904. I dare say Japanese leaders thought that their chances of getting a fair deal (as it were) were higher with the US than with Russia.

--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]

You missed my point (none / 0) (#224)
by skim123 on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 03:07:21 PM EST

Yes, when the bomb was dropped this may have been the case, but when the US gov't started funding the research, this wasn't yet the case. I was just saying how I could see that the US gov't officials might move forward with this, even though they realized at the time that they might be opening Pandora's box.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
But... (none / 0) (#261)
by BJH on Thu Dec 02, 2004 at 01:50:43 AM EST

...it's the dropping of the bomb that really mattered, isn't it? If they'd just developed it and never used it, it wouldn't have been a problem.
--
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
Three-fifths compromise. (3.00 / 2) (#170)
by grendelkhan on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 05:05:22 PM EST

Goddamnit, it pisses me off somethin' fierce when people go on and on about the inhumanity of the three-fifths compromise.

Didn't you know that it was the slave-heavy South that wanted slaves to count as full people for the purpose of apportioning Representatives to the House? Look, slaves were zero fifths of a person when it came to rights or citizenry. The compromise had only to do with balancing the desires of the North and South to be fairly represented in the newly formed Congress.

Roger, you really should know all this. In fact, I'll bet that you do; you're just too intellectually lazy to avoid making a cheap---yet inaccurate---point.

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca

It's the baldness of the statement (none / 1) (#180)
by localroger on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 07:53:51 PM EST

Yes, the "compromise" was about representation, but what it represents in this context is the willingness to not only turn a blind eye to slavery, but to accept that such an absurd statement belongs in our foundational document in order to grease the wheels of commerce.

When you do something monstrous for seemingly sensible reasons, it's still something monstrous. And that is basically the point I am working around here.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

So you're saying it would have been better (none / 0) (#232)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 04:31:28 PM EST

for the north to stick to it's guns and claim that the slaves weren't people at all?

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it is insane. - Obscure Chinese Proverb
[ Parent ]
Well it would have been much more honest (none / 1) (#234)
by localroger on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 06:53:45 PM EST

The 3/5 compromise is another example where people with good principles compromised for bad reasons. If you're gonna say someone isn't a human for purposes of being able to own property (they're owned like property), they can't vote, they can't own property of their own, etc. then it is somewhat hypocritical to want to claim them as a person for purposes of determining proportional representation.

The non-slave states could have simply said "if you want them determining representation you have to set them free." Now that wasn't going to happen and the result is that the Union wouldn't have formed. But by forming the Union that way it left the unresolved issue as a festering sore that would be resolved in the 1860's.

It's yet another time where an abstraction (forming the Union) was placed ahead of what was obviously morally right. If more people actually did what they know is right instead of acting like 15 year olds who have read too much Nietzche and Rand, the world would be a whole lot better place.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

obviously morally right (none / 0) (#256)
by wiredog on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 12:09:00 PM EST

To who? Us? Or the people of 200+ years ago?

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
To everybody (none / 1) (#259)
by localroger on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 06:21:30 PM EST

The abolitionist movement was already quite strong by the 1780's, which is why there were non-slave states at all. It's a no-brainer unless you are in thrall to the economic necessity of slavery or really intractably racist, and plenty of people even in that day were neither.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
Point 10 is misleading (2.80 / 5) (#173)
by Polverone on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 07:01:39 PM EST

The secret of the atomic bomb is that it is possible to build them at all.

Leo Szilard understood this and warned James Byrnes that to use the bomb against Japan and possibly even to test it would be tantamount to giving it to the Russians; but Szilard, who had pretty much gotten the whole affair rolling by conceiving of the basic idea of the nuclear chain reaction back in 1933, was widely regarded as a peacenik troublemaker and the Powers that Be ignored him.

The problem is that atomic bombs require an enormous industrial effort, but they are not really all that complicated. If you don't know whether a bomb is possible it is very hard to justify the cost necessary to refine enough fissionable material to find out. In 1939 Neils Bohr had insisted it would be necessary to turn the whole country into factory to pursue isotope separation, and when he came to America and saw the scale of Manhattan Project constructions, he said to Ed Teller, "and you have done just that."

But we had turned the whole country into a factory anyway to face the war, and we could afford the distraction of the possibly unworkable but oh so tantalizing atomic explosive. Few other countries could, and outside the context of World War II it's unlikely we would have put in such a grand effort either.

It's a dead certainty the Soviets wouldn't have; in their years of rebuilding they "borrowed" many industrial secrets from us but Stalin instructed his spies to concentrate on proven technologies. As Harry Gold related,

    "...I was told that the Soviet Union was so desperately in need of chemical processes that they could afford to take no chances on one which might not work."

It required an enormous industrial effort to produce atomic bombs in a few years starting with the technology of the 1940s. A fission bomb development program undertaken at a later date, with more patience and more COTS technology, could have comfortably fit between "new radar systems" and "more antiaircraft missiles" as an unremarkably-sized military budget item.

Uranium-233 can be bred in reactors and separated from its thorium parent. Plutonium-239 can be bred in reactors and separated from its uranium parent. These are mere chemical separations like generations of students have done in "wet-chemistry" quantitative inorganic chemistry classes, not the much more difficult isotopic separations that required building vast diffusion plants and inventing whole new technological branches in their support. Even isotopic separations can be done on a much more modest budget if you don't have to get it all working in 3 years with 1940s tech.

Sustained nuclear fission was known before anyone built a bomb. Reactors/piles would have been built even if people were merely after a power source and not a superweapon. Isotopic separation techniques (not vital, but useful, to a nuke-creation project) would have been developed and refined even without the impetus of weapons development, since pure isotopes are useful in research. High-speed digital computers could further simplify the effort by permitting simulation beforehand so design parameters are better known (meaning you don't have to overbuild the bomb itself and waste expensive fissile material so much).

Maybe the enormous effort of the Manhattan Project brought atomic weapons into the world 20 or 30 years early. It's certainly no more than that, though. The basic research, the necessary support technology, and the fission weapons themselves would have all arrived eventually even without the crash wartime program. The Manhattan Project was such a huge effort only because it was trying to outpace the "normal" progression of the state of the art by about an order of magnitude. South Africa developed its nuclear weapons on a budget of less than ten million dollars per year over less than 20 years with a relatively small core of scientists and technicians. Sure, they spent that much money only because they knew such weapons were possible. But one or two hundred million dollars is not much in terms of industrialized-nation military budgets. For far less than the cost of one new submarine or yet another jet fighter design, industrialized powers could and would have pursued the possibility of a superweapon even without the demonstration of such weapons at the end of WW II. They might've had to wait for enabling technology to trickle in from commercial and academic research, but all the pieces would eventually be in place for industrialized powers to develop nuclear weapons on a shoestring budget.

The nuclear genie is much more than a spirit rising out of Trinity or smoking out of Hiroshima's rubble; its lamp would be rubbed whenever people pursued knowledge, even for pure or noble reasons, of atomic nuclei. Only an unimaginably far-sighted effort to renounce the development of as-yet-undemonstrated atomic bombs, and to set up great international transparency in inspecting nations for bomb-production efforts before anyone had yet produced such weapons, would have had even a hope of keeping humans from developing these swords of Armageddon.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.

What COTS technology? (2.50 / 2) (#179)
by localroger on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 07:47:39 PM EST

I have thought about this a lot; I did not suddenly wake up after seeing Sadako's picture and find myself instantly in agreement with Howard Morland.

First of all, when you are talking about a big physical process -- and reactors, chemical separation works, and isotope separation all come under this category -- modern tech doesn't buy you a lot. Yes you can get better process controls, but tanks were tanks in 1945 and they're still tanks today. Only today, the specialized materials are more expensive, as is energy to run prodigous things like steam diffusion columns.

About the only technology that would be really improved would be electromagnetic isotope separation, because we have much better magnets.

Accumulating fissile material slower lets you keep the cost down, but from the military standpoint it's not really acceptable; once you have a bomb, you are really fucked if you don't have another to follow it up with. This is one reason for the scale of Manhattan Project constructions; people like Groves did not want to be facing Russia with the ability to make only one bomb every year or two. If you can't turn it into an arsenal capable of posing a serious threat to a country the size of Russia, all it will do is piss them off and encourage a pre-emptive conventional attack on your bomb works.

If you are building reactors to explore energy production you aren't looking for weapons-grade material; you don't need it, and it actually gets in your way. The reason we build breeder reactors is that we have the processing works to use Plutonium, and the reason we have that is because of atomic bombs. If you have breeder reactors but you don't have the processing works, what you have is a high-speed nuclear waste factory.

If you are not building bombs, you probably do not have the modeling tools to build better bombs in the computer. It's not just a matter of solving a difficult problem with better tools and more time. It's a matter of solving six or seven very difficult problems, any of which is completely useless without the others.

You mention chemical separation of Plutonium. Have you seen what was necessary to do that? Once you close up the processing canyon human beings can never enter it again. Everything has to be controlled robotically, including repairs to the robots. Considering that radiation is distinctly unhealthy for computers too that task wouldn't be much easier today than it was in 1945.

Also, the chemistry of Plutonium was far from obvious and it took some heroic experiments by Glenn Seaborg to figure out exactly what you'd have to do to chemically separate Plutonium from other reactor products. Given that it was already known how to separate tiny amounts of Plutonium in liquid suspension, the only reason to investigate high concentration chemistry is to lay the groundwork for a massive industrial effort.

Explosive lenses? We use implosion spheres for metallurgy but they don't have a lot of uses outside of fission triggers that would have justified making them practical. And I won't even get into initiator design, which has always been a major problem with implosion bombs, and if you can think of some other practical use for initiators I will be quite impressed.

You might be able to put together a Little Boy or two with just a slow, small electromagnetic separation plant and basic know-how; but gun bombs take over two critical masses of fissile material, which you'd be making slowly. And they aren't amenable to tricks like levitated cores or boosting to reduce this requirement.

So you're right, if the Manhattan Project had never happened we could duplicate the effort with a more modest expenditure over a longer period of time. But even if the cost was only $100 million in today's money, do you think we would spend it for something we didn't know would work? Imagine explaining it to the Congressional oversight committee. You'd be slated to testify right after the guy who spent six million dollars on the sex life of beetles.

And before you say "Star Wars," remember that hare-brained things like that are an answer to the very real threat of atomic attack which, as I said, justifies such enormously risky expenditures if the alternative is having your cities flattened.

The Bomb clouds so much of what has happened since 1945 that it's almost impossible to figure out what the present would look like without it, but I really can't imagine people outside the mad scramble of WWII putting up with so much expense for something so iffy. Not when there would always be more concrete things to spend that money on.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Nuclear weapons sans Manhattan Project-scale work (2.66 / 3) (#189)
by Polverone on Mon Nov 29, 2004 at 11:51:28 PM EST

I assume in what I have said that people would have pursued nuclear reactors for power and research/medical-isotope generation if not for weapons production. This seems like a reasonable assumption; Canada and Germany, for example, have nuclear power plants and have done considerable research on nuclear technologies yet have no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons. With these assumptions, the source for much of the COTS weapons-enabling technology would be the nuclear power generation industry. They would have developed the tools necessary to handle highly radioactive materials and enrich isotopes (though they do not go to the extremes needed for producing weapons-grade material). These tools alone are a significant leg up in the quest for a bomb.

The chemistry of plutonium would have been studied and developed regardless of weapons efforts, just as other rare and apparently-useless-at-the-time elements have been thoroughly studied. Yes, spent fuel is very radioactive and needs to be remotely handled until the most energetic radionuclides have been removed, but that does not preclude experimentation with its chemical constituents. I am sure that academics like Seaborg, if not the power industry itself, would explore the new elements found in reactor waste. This exploration would inevitably include methods for separating plutonium from the bulk of the material. Or, using thorium-fueled reactors, you'd be stuck only with the task of separating one well-characterized element (uranium) from another (thorium) and miscellaneous radioactive dross. I think it's also a reasonable possibility that commercial entities would look into fuel recycling/breeding, since this greatly extends the supply of fissionable material and means that less long-lived waste needs to be disposed of (the US breeding and recycling because it wanted to discourage proliferation, not because of intrinsic problems with such schemes). That would of course bring plutonium-separation technology up to production scale without bomb-makers yet needing to spend a dime on R&D.

As you mentioned, electromagnetic separation of isotopes is also feasible for the patient weaponeer, and it requires far less resources than building a gas diffusion plant with weapons-grade output. This could be used to enrich natural uranium (very slow and tedious), enrich low enriched reactor fuel (somewhat less tedious) or, fastest, be used in conjunction with chemical methods to produce pure Pu-239 starting with mixed Pu isotopes recovered from reactors. This would be a lot easier since the starting concentration of the desired isotope is much higher. It would be desirable to isotopically purify plutonium for weapons use, but not absolutely necessary. As an experiment in 1962, the US built and successfully tested a weapon made only with reactor-grade plutonium.

I am not an explosives engineer, but I understand that to one skilled in the art (and this includes a lot more people than just weapons scientists), designing the explosive lenses to implode a sphere of metal is not especially tricky. The hard part is firing the lenses with a high degree of synchronization. COTS technology comes to the rescue again, with advanced electrical detonators and high-performance pulse power switching devices.

I think you overestimate the willingness of nations to attack rivals when it appears that the rivals currently have or will soon have a small stock of nuclear weapons. The USSR didn't do it to the US when the US had its small stock of weapons in the mid-1940s. The US didn't do it to the USSR when the USSR had its small stock of weapons in the late 1940s/early 1950s. Neither Pakistan nor China did it to India when India tested its first weapon in 1974. India didn't attack Pakistan when Pakistan conducted its first tests. I don't think "our rivals might attack us out of fear of our awesome new weapons" figures into military planning that often. Realistically speaking, neither the US nor the USSR was poised to destroy the other without nuclear weapons, so even attacking the US to preempt slow stockpiling of nuclear weapons would have been a fool's errand and I'm sure military planners would be able to see that.

Finally, your story of how military planners are highly accountable for and conservative with the money they spend doesn't wash with me. The US spent billions developing the Stealth bomber before the public ever had any clue where that money was being spent. The Comanche helicopter program and Crusader artillery program have both been dropped fairly recently after billions of dollars had already been sunk into them. This isn't just a post-WW II phenomenon, either! The US spent many millions of dollars testing and stockpiling chemical weapons (some of which were actually quite worthless) in the interwar period. Despite never finding a use for them, after WW II many further millions were spent to investigate and produce in quantity the new nerve gases discovered by the Germans.

Even if your nation were Canada, Italy, or France and not one of the superpowers, a 10 year, ~$20 million a year modest nuke R&D program would be just a drop in the military bucket. For the superpowers, it would be a drop in the ocean. The potential payoff is also very high. Without wartime super-urgency, wartime super-budgets aren't needed to develop the first nukes. And once that first proof of concept is in place, there would presumably be a scramble by many nations to join the nuclear club and stockpile, just like in our own world. It might even be easier than in our own world for nations to join that club after it had gained its first member, if people were not accustomed to strictly regulating fissile materials in that world.

So, I repeat: even if nuclear weapons had not been developed during WW II, it would have taken extraordinary foresight and international cooperation to ensure that such weapons were never developed. Without such extraordinary measures, I believe they would have been developed a few decades later somewhere, if not the US, though the US would still be a likely candidate.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

We are kind of talking past one another here (none / 1) (#207)
by localroger on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 08:06:14 AM EST

Quick points:

For energy production, you do not need isotope separation at all. Given that it is an enormously expensive side issue that isn't needed, it wouldn't be developed for the energy industry.

For energy production, you do not need to produce large quantities of Plutonium at all. In fact, the reactor that does that well isn't nearly as good at producing energy and produces a lot more toxic waste; the only reason you'd do it is to reprocess the Plutonium. Which brings us to...

For energy production, you do not need to breed Plutonium at all. Sure it does show up as a side product in a regular reactor, and you'd investigate its chemistry (probably in weak solution, as Seaborg did in his first round of experiments). But unless you're going for bombs you have no reason to attempt to increase its concentration to the point of pure metal, an enormously difficult and dangerous task whose only purpose is to build bombs.

One thing that has improved greatly since the 1940's is remote sensing. While space exploration would probably have gotten a slower start without the ICBM programs to push it I tend to think we'd still have satellites, and geophysics would not have been affected at all. In the 1940's it was actually possible to hide something the size of a bomb program, even with the occasional test. Today it isn't.

The other thing is that even if a superpower cobbled together a few Little Boys, the very first thing the weaponeers realized after Hiroshima was that, gosh, it *wasn't big enough* to realize their dream of reigning unchallenged. I tend to think the world reaction to us having, say, five Little Boy type bombs would be "god, what a bunch of assholes." Such a slow cheap technology would not quickly get us an arsenal that could, in Curtis LeMay's charming term "kill a country."

One reason the Soviets didn't do something about our nascent nuclear capability is that they were rebuilding their country after being whomped on by Germany. If we'd developed the Bomb in 1965, with rough parity in conventional forces and relatively strong economies, do you think they'd be so complacent? Especially if we had the temerity to actually use one of those bombs in one of the Vietnam-style side conflicts we might be enjoying?

Oh, and one last thing I notice: Those advanced electrical detonators for microsecond-simultaneous detonation were developed for the Manhattan Project. They wouldn't be OTS either.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Hiding a bomb program (none / 0) (#217)
by wiredog on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 08:57:55 AM EST

India and Pakistan did pretty good jobs of hiding their programs.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
Only until the first test (none / 1) (#221)
by localroger on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 12:53:18 PM EST

Yes, you could hide the "small, cheap, slow" bomb program to a certain extent because it is small and cheap, but you can't hide the tests. And because your program is small and cheap, it is amenable to being conventionally attacked. If you only have a few warheads and the whole world gangs up on you with its conventional forces, atomic bombs aren't much good.

And this brings up another thing I should have mentioned earlier; we emerged on top of a messy situation with a surprise! whole arsenal (as far as anyone knew) of these weapons. By the time anyone realized how few bombs we had we had more, because of the vast scale of Manhattan Project works.

If anybody developed the bomb (and I'm sure it would be a U235 gun bomb, not amenable to miniaturization or boosting) say 15-20 years after WWII in a situation of otherwise mostly equilibrium, it would be strongly discouraged. It wouldn't be worth anything if not tested, and once demonstrated the world (having recovered from the ravages of WWII) would not permit you to develop a large arsenal. It might become a bargaining chip in negotiations, I simply don't see the kind of overproduction and global terror we've known since the 1950's emerging. Think of how South Africa's bomb "benefitted" them.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

amenable to being conventionally attacked (none / 0) (#222)
by wiredog on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 01:09:02 PM EST

In the latest issue of The Atlantic there's an atricle Will Iran Be Next which shows how difficult it would be to take out even a small program with a conventional attack. People learned from Osirak.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
There are many paths to nuclear energy (2.50 / 2) (#225)
by Polverone on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 03:15:08 PM EST

True, you don't need isotope enrichment for nuclear fuel, but it is needed for some reactor designs. Other designs work fine on natural uranium, like CANDU. Of course CANDU also produces more plutonium than light water reactors, and tritium as a garnish for your boosted weapon designs. Some degree of plutonium production is inevitable whenever you're using uranium fuel. Then the question becomes "will you recover it?" Reprocessing waste from power reactors for plutonium saves a huge amount of effort compared to the Manhattan Project-style approach of building a vast complex of dedicated plutonium-producing piles and reactors.

You're also wrong that chemists wouldn't bother trying to produce elemental plutonium metal unless it had weapons applications. Researchers produced or attempted to produce metallic forms of all transuranic elements that they had useable quantities of, regardless of applications (or lack thereof). Isolating new elements is what any chemist worth his salt does when given the opportunity to try.

People don't even need to believe they'd be acquiring the capability to sterilize another country to begin pursuing nukes. A limited-size nuclear deterrent alone could be quite attractive. "We'll gut any 10 of your cities before we even warm up our conventional arsenal if you attack" is a pretty sobering threat, even if it's not quite "we'll reduce your country to radioactive slag if you attack." Since the US didn't attack the USSR even when the US had a strong conventional and nuclear edge over the USSR's tiny bomb stockpile and weak post-WW II condition, I think the chances of either superpower attacking the other over a nascent nuke program would not be high.

Also, remember I'm predicting that nukes would first be developed as late as 30 years after WW II if there was no Manhattan Project. We know it's possible to hide nuke development from intelligence capabilities of the 1970s, since that's exactly what South Africa did. The new nuclear weapons state might even get away with some weapons testing at night under cloud cover, or in large underground caverns, especially since the signature characteristics of a nuclear explosion would be less well-known.

The foil slapper detonators have been attractive outside of nukes, in other military and aerospace applications, because they are extremely reliable, rugged, precisely timed, and nearly invulnerable to accidental initiation. They would be developed eventually even without the Manhattan Project, just as Teflon would have been eventually produced in quantity even without an urgent need to handle large amounts of uranium hexafluoride. I don't doubt that there are some custom items or techniques that would need to be developed for making nuclear weapons, but they are far less numerous and expensive than the scale of the Manhattan Project itself would suggest.

I used to think like you -- that nuclear weapons development demanded a vast, staggeringly expensive effort. I've read quite a bit more about nuclear weapons and proliferation since then, and came to believe that any industrialized country with a nuclear power program is already better than halfway to having the Bomb, whether or not they intend to develop it. I've also come to realize that trailblazing to the first actual weapons wouldn't be that difficult or expensive for a more patient nation. Advanced techniques in metallurgy, materials science, computing, and high-speed instrumentation would all be developed for scientific and industrial use even without the Bomb as motivator. These technologies would grease the skids for any nation that did pursue a weapons development program at a later date. Beyond a certain point, an industrialized nation with access to fissile materials is restrained from weapon development only by political will, and the incentive to restraint could easily be weaker in a world that had never seen Hiroshima, Nagasaki, nuclear rivalry, and subsequent non-proliferation and disarmament efforts. The US has worked so hard on NPT enforcement precisely because it knows intimately and with great certainty just what nuclear weapons can do and what their production looks like. I doubt the same zeal would be present if nobody had yet developed or tested a weapon.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Good point (none / 0) (#226)
by localroger on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 03:41:21 PM EST

I doubt the same zeal would be present if nobody had yet developed or tested a weapon.

Remember too that the people who originally promoted and helped build the bomb were many of them idealists who thought that atom bombs would make war unthinkable, a la The World Set Free. They seem unthinkably naive today but as you say, we learned a lot about human nature as well as technology in August 1945.

I will grant that in 30-50 years we might have a smattering of gun bombs in the world but implosion designs seem like a real stretch to me. Then would anybody devote the massive effort to testing (which you really wouldn't be able to hide) boosted layer-cake style bombs (which are a necessary warmup if you ever want to build miniaturized bombs) or the Teller-Ulam design?

It seems to me that a smattering of gun style bombs might even actually have the effect that Wells Szilard, and Co. had hoped for, since you could hope to survive an attack with them well enough to pound the shit out of your attacker in retaliation. The genuine and intended threat of our current massively overbuilt H-bomb delivery systems is to annihilate an entire nation of 100 million or more people so thoroughly that they can't. Can you really see that capability arising in a world that had never had the intense buildup of the 1940's?

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

War of a certain kind did become unthinkable (2.50 / 2) (#230)
by Polverone on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 04:18:00 PM EST

As I mentioned elsewhere in this story, today greater than 40% of the world's population (people living in the US, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Russia, and Israel) lives under a national nuclear umbrella. It is unthinkable to consider any of those nations invading or waging total war against each other the way leading powers did twice in the first half of the 20th century. It turns out that these nations may still make war against non-nuclear-weapons states, but I believe the nuclear club may still expand despite fierce non-proliferation efforts. So long as the weapons end up in the hands of rational actor nation states, I think the expansion of the nuclear club is a good because it decreases the portion of the world where outsiders can hope to expand territory or force political change at gunpoint.

I think implosion designs would be a natural followup to gun designs, especially once people realize that plutonium in power plant waste is more abundant than U-235 in virgin uranium. Implosion designs using uranium are also a natural improvement since they increase yields for a given amount of fissile material, letting you build more powerful bombs or just more numerous bombs. Then, if you have a ready supply of tritium (from heavy water moderated reactors, for example) tritium-boosted weapons become the 3rd generation. Tritium boosted fission designs can easily reach the hundreds-of-kilotons yield of modern strategic weapons, though they won't go into the megaton+ range that the thermonuclear island-erasers of the 1950s and 1960s achieved.

The US went from the first crude fission weapon to megaton+ deliverable thermonuclear weapons in less than a decade. I think the pace of advancement would be more leisurely in my imagined world without the Manhattan Project. Imagine, say, the first gun-style bombs arriving by 1965 and the first tritium-boosted advanced implosion designs by 1980. I do think that without fierce nuclear rivalry, full-blown thermonuclear weapons might not be developed until much later, if ever. Thermonuclear weapons are only needed if you want super-overkill, like being able to destroy 90% (as opposed to just 60%) of Moscow in a single shot.

Still, the fundamental technical know-how for producing fusion weapons would surely be developed in time, since laser-ignition inertial confinement  experiments provide needed fundamental understanding of plasma physics, ideas for fusion power reactors, and detailed experimental data useful in building fusion weapons, all in one neat package.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Explosive lenses (none / 1) (#216)
by wiredog on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 08:57:18 AM EST

IIRC, Kistiakowsky came to the Manhattan Project as a result of his explosive lens work that had been done outside any requiremnet for nuclear weapons. Explosive lenses are used in antitank weapons.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
The next great discovery... (none / 1) (#220)
by guidoreichstadter on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 12:21:16 PM EST

after Tabeltop Fusion will be the Tabeltop Fusion Bomb.

Honestly, though, doesn't the whole world seem to be resting on a foundation of sand with this whole reliance on military dominance and nuclear weapons & such to maintain "business as usual"?

I mean, with the "inexorable march of technology" and all that, isn't it just a matter of time before uranium enrichment becomes a process anyone can carry out in their backyard? Its not like uranium is exactly rare or anything...

I can only imagine that the price of Weapons of Mass Destruction is only going to fall for the forseeable future. What happens when something like a nuclear bomb becomes as easy to build as a fertilizer bomb?


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.

You don't know the engineering (none / 0) (#223)
by wiredog on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 01:19:20 PM EST

Sure, you can make an isotope separator that's small enough to fit in your back yard, but it's going to produce a very small amount of usable U235. The U235 you need is 0.7% of the total. 7kg/ton, roughly. So you get about 1 critical mass per 7 tons of uranium. For a gun type bomb you need more than one critical mass. Figure you need 2. So where are you going to get 14 tons of natural uranium, and what will you do with the leftovers?

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
Easily (none / 0) (#231)
by guidoreichstadter on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 04:27:44 PM EST

Uranium ore is widely distributed pretty much all over the planet. Commercial ores bear on the order of kilograms of uranium per metric ton, common coal about fifth of that. You could extract a ton of uranium from three thousand tons of coal- that's about a third of a single train shipment of coal. Every exposed seam of coal on Earth is a potential site for a covert uranium mining plant, which could front as a legitimate coal mining operation.

Even granite bears about 4 grams of uranium per ton; every exposed outcropping of granite is a potential source of uranium for a group that wants to get it without attracting attention.

Uranium is about ten times as dense as water, so you could fit ten tons of uranium (enough to get a bomb's worth out of) in a cardboard box in your garage. You could store the residue in your refrigerator if you're too lazy to bury it under your geraniums.

But the question in general remains- if not atomic weapons, then viral or chemical ones- I'd bet that widely available cheap ones are on their way, accessible to groups a lot smaller than the government of a country. What implications does that hold?


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]

Such weapons are within reach of smaller groups (none / 1) (#238)
by Polverone on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 09:14:25 PM EST

The groups are called "corporations." Any large company with technical expertise has, in theory (imagine that employees can be perfectly convinced to not talk about nor question their tasks), the ability to make nuclear weapons, nerve gas, or other nasty things. Fortunately, the will to commit violence and level of education/skillfulness seems to be inversely proportional for most individuals. I've looked at copies of (alleged) captured Al Qaeda manuals and they don't exhibit the level of sophistication or refinement shown even by bright US high school students in making explosives, poisons, rockets, etc.

Nuclear weapons are the only ones I really fear as weapons of mass destruction. Nerve gases can be deadly with an effective delivery system, and they'll incite panic disproportionate to their actual danger, but they present no easy way to kill 100000+ people in an afternoon like a nuke. Engineered pathogens are a great unknown, and for the present at least they don't seem like the sort of thing that a subnational group would easily develop. There are many things within the realm of possibility if we imagine a Union of Evil Scientists working toward the destruction of civilization, but I don't see any reason to say there's a real threat yet.

Uranium ore might be widely distributed, but good uranium ore certainly isn't.  You could fit several warheads' worth of uranium in your garage, but the equipment and ore itself to produce one warhead's worth of uranium won't fit in your garage or the back yard. I agree that it grows easier each year (apart from imposed barriers like export controls and international inspections) to produce nuclear weapons. I have in fact argued at length elsewhere in this story that nuclear weapons would be relatively easy and cheap to produce by almost any industrialized nation beyond a certain point of development. But that's still a level considerably above where a subnational group could clandestinely produce weapons, starting from uranium ore.

By your numbers, it'd take the processing of 4200 tons of commercial-grade uranium ore (yielding 7 tons of uranium, refined to produce one critical mass of U-235, with each ton of uranium requiring 600 tons of ore to be processed) to produce even one critical mass's worth of U-235. It also requires the efficient isotopic enrichment of 7 tons of uranium once the uranium's been separated from ore. These are near-trivial tasks to accomplish with national efforts in industrialized nations, but doing it all clandestinely with the approval/support of no government is something else. It'd take a James Bond villain, not an Al Qaeda, to pull that off. That's even talking about using genuine uranium ore and not going the Rube Goldberg route of getting uranium from granite.

If fresh commercial nuclear fuel could be stolen or diverted, it wouldn't quite take a James Bond villain to produce highly enriched uranium from it and cobble together a bomb, but I'd say it's still well beyond the capabilities of any known, active subnational group.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

As far as I can tell, it breaks into two issues: (none / 0) (#239)
by guidoreichstadter on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 10:19:01 PM EST

Refining the ore, and enriching the uranium.

Refining the ore:

A group would not likely try to obtain uranium from high quality ore because of the scarcity of the ore and the scrutiny of transactions involving uranium ore. However, it looks like uranium could quietly and easily be refined by a small group from coal at a relatively small and possibly remote site using nothing more than current technology. Coal would be attractive because of its prevalence, low cost, relatively high uranium content, ease of processing with off the self technology due to its fragility and organic content, and dual use which could mask the true purpose of processing. No technological advance is needed to make this an attractive option to groups trying to covertly produce large quantities of uranium. A refining operation of this sort (or several distributed ones) might even be running at this moment.

Another possible source of uranium is from seawater, where it is present in loads of up to several milligrams per metric ton, either from the concentrated salts or from a mundane scrubbing compound (amidoxime fiber) immersed in the ocean current flow. Technology has already been deployed on an experimental basis that aims at the commercial production of uranium in this manner. Seawater is even more prevalent than coal, attracts less attention, is available for nothing, and a refining operation could easily be hidden anywhere on the shore of (or underneath, think lobstertraps)the ocean. The nature of the amidoxime fiber scrubbing technique lends itself to faciley concealed, physically minute, and easily distributed refining plants. I would expect that advancing technology will greatly increase the risk from this area.

Enriching the uranium: This is the major obstacle to groups trying to produce enriched uranium- the known technology is too complex, expensive, obtrusive, and physically large for a small group to maintain. Storing or hiding the actual quantities of uranium is not an issue- the issue is the unwieldy technology. Thus, this is the area where the greatest threat from technological advance comes. Who knows, maybe five months, or five years from now, researchers will stumble on a cheap high temperature superconductor, making electromagnetic separation available to a small group. Or maybe a bio-engineered microbial assisted path will be discovered, or nanomaterials will allow the construction of cheap, simple ultracentrifuges. I think these things will happen, sooner perhaps rather than later, as more of the world industrializes and hundreds of billions more dollars are poured into research, perhaps by western nations seeking to halt or reverse the slide of their economic position.

Anyways, assume it is known that twenty people with a couple hundred thousand dollars can flatten a city, instead of merely destroy a skyscraper. What happens next?


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]

I think you have it backwards (none / 1) (#244)
by Polverone on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 01:19:50 AM EST

If we are talking about a small group of people that needs to remain covert then I think coming up with the uranium is a bigger problem than performing the isotopic enrichment. I mean, splitting up the extraction of uranium from 21000 tons of coal so as to make it unobtrusive? I suppose if everybody in the group does 200 tons here and 500 tons there it's pretty quick and easy. Many hands make light work, right? Or it can be plausibly done if your hypothetical terrorists own a steel refinery, coal generating plant, or other place with a large legitimate demand for coal and can use their industrial needs to mask their true goals. But then we're talking Bond Villain territory again.

Actually, it's much harder than that. I thought your uranium-in-coal figures sounded too high. According to this article on coal combustion, uranium content of coal ranges from 1-10 ppm, with average content 1.3 ppm across a large number of samples as determined by the EPA in 1984. The coal ash has concentrations higher than this, of course, but we're still talking about 7-60 ppm. You need to process more than 100,000 tons of coal ash to get enough U-235 for one critical mass at those concentrations. There's some coal with higher uranium concentrations, and presumably ashes down to 6 or 7 times its raw uranium concentration, but we're still talking about processing more than 50000 tons of coal or ~10000 tons of ash. I don't think a terrorist group could process 10000 tons of anything without attracting attention, unless they work very slowly.

Processing seawater for uranium is an even more ridiculous idea, if you are talking about a small group that wants to have a bomb before all the members die of old age. Yes, both coal and seawater are interesting as potential sources of fissionables for national enterprises, but of no interest for weapons production by any current or foreseeable subnational group that exists outside of novels.

Even without superconducting magnets, electromagnetic isotope separation is a proven technology that could be used by a group that somehow obtained a sufficient quantity of natural or slightly enriched (light water reactor) uranium. Unless they have a big complex, though, they will have to work for many years without discovery to finish the refinement of one bomb's worth of material. I suppose that a great leap forward in magnet/superconductor technology might help this stage along, but I suspect that even superconducting calutrons would take years to finish a bomb's worth of material if you can only operate a handful of units at a time. Governments can solve this problem by throwing more money, people, and equipment at it, which of course terrorists can't do.

The worst-case-scenarios are a lot worse then this. Like, what if a bunch of ex-British Nuclear Fuels employees get together with their engineer friends and a billionaire sponsor to clandestinely produce weapons? They could sneak around export controls because they wouldn't be exporting, use cutting-edge technology learned about on the inside, and have two or three bombs in 10 years! But this seems very unlikely. Angry, ill-educated young men with guns and grenades are a much more likely threat than billionaires with nukes. Unlike the billionaire, the engineers, or the ex-BNF employees, they don't have a lot to lose or a lot of resources to bring to bear on their endeavors.

Your question about "what if you could destroy a city for $100,000?" is an interesting one. Yet you can't even destroy skyscrapers for $100,000 on more than one date with the 9/11 trick, because passengers of hijacked jets will no longer cooperate. The only scenarios I see where $100,000 can destroy most of a city come from science fiction. I suspect that if such a thing were ever invented, it would mean the end of cities as a way of life, and a lot of chaos and death in the interim. I just can't picture a $100,000 nuke, not even with a lot of advances. Fissionable materials are and will remain scarce and subject to controls, and nothing short of indistinguishable-from-magic technology can change that.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

I think you underestimate the problem (none / 0) (#255)
by guidoreichstadter on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 12:00:15 PM EST

If covertly obtaining and refining 10000-100000 tons of coal ash is the major obstacle facing a terrorist group trying to obtain enough raw uranium to extract bomb grade material, then I would take the problem very seriously. Hundreds of millions of tons of coal ash are produced around the world every year, and much of it is dumped in abandoned mines, open pits or landfills. As you pointed out, it is possible to extract tens of milligrams of uranium from each ton of this material. It might even be possible to install low-cost in situ leaching systems or take advantage of natural leaching to extract a product with a higher uranium concentration.

Also, I would not underestimate the ability of terrorist groups to mobilize large numbers of (not necessarily idoelogially motivated) people for continuous, low profile, small scale procurement/refining operations. The substrates for obtaining the uranium are plentiful and easy to obtain. If the technology for refining could be simplified to a house-based batch processing method, I don't doubt you would see a profitable black market for uranium spring up across the world, especially in areas where legitimate economic opportunities are marginal.

With marginally advanced technology to simplify the process and lower costs, I wouldn't be surprised to see coal ash, seawater or phosphate rock emerge as economical substrates for black market uranium production.


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]

If you mobilize large numbers, it's not covert (none / 1) (#258)
by Polverone on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 06:12:43 PM EST

If you recruit 5000 families to do cottage-industry uranium refinement from 100000 tons of coal ash over a year, it will be noticed. Time, materials (chemicals), and labor will be needed to refine the ash. The scenario starts to look a lot like controlling coca and poppy growing/refinement. But there are some things on the government's side:

-Unlike the case of cocaine and poppies, where growing is distributed and refining into drugs more centralized, everyone who participates in the uranium cottage industry is going to need some equipment and chemicals. Those are easier to spot than plants (or ash) alone. Every participant is going to need ion-exchange resins or expensive solvents to extract the uranium from solution if they imitate current industrial practice.

-The group recruiting uranium-refiners is going to want to keep the uranium, not sell it at a huge markup in the West, so the enterprise is a money sink rather than a money source like drug production and smuggling. It will need continual funding from outside sources, not only to pay the cottage laborers but to buy (and smuggle?) the chemicals and equipment needed and to bribe whoever needs to be bribed.

-Less than one critical mass's worth of U-235 is useless for making weapons. If a government can locate and seize refined uranium even once in a while, the acquiring organization continues to spend money without ever having even the possibility of a weapon to show for it.

Making yellowcake even from genuine uranium ore isn't something that could be done inconspicuously on a thousand-ton scale. Starting from ash makes the problem much harder. Some breakthrough advances could make this much easier, but the technology would have to be robust, (relatively) cheap, and accessible before cottage uranium-from-ashes becomes at all plausible.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]

Good point (none / 0) (#260)
by guidoreichstadter on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 11:28:58 PM EST

Of course, the general principles could still be used for aqcuiring the radioactive materials for constructing a "dirty bomb."


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]
That requires more advanced tech (none / 1) (#262)
by Polverone on Thu Dec 02, 2004 at 04:08:51 AM EST

Natural uranium and thorium are not radioactive enough to make any sort of radiological weapon. They are actually so low-activity that you can buy their compounds as ordinary chemicals with no special licensing or regulation. To turn a few kilograms of uranium into a radiological weapon you'd need to use it in a reactor and recover the waste, or hit it with an external neutron source to get fission without needing a self-sustaining reaction. A neutron source with the required flux and energy to be effective will need to come from a particle accelerator. The use of particle accelerators to bypass nuclear control efforts is an interesting proliferation possibility for governments, but again far beyond the capability of any currently known subnational group.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]
Of course, with cost efficient accelerators... (none / 0) (#263)
by guidoreichstadter on Thu Dec 02, 2004 at 08:54:57 AM EST

There's the danger of a very quick path to a nuclear weapon: you only need a critical mass of uranium for a primitive bomb because its doing double duty in the design- acting as the energy source and the initiator. The Hiroshima weapon only consumed around 1% of it's fuel. If cheap superconductors provide a route to a simple neutron source, a hidden stationary nuclear bomb could be built in the target city using an embedded accelerator and a very small amount of refined uranium fuel. That might cut the amount of substrate you need to process by a factor of 100, putting it in the range of 1000 to 100 tons of ash. Now $100 /gram black market raw uranium is looking like a real possibility. Also, using an accelerator as the initiator you might not need to go through a rigorous refining procedure.

That mey be where the biggest threat from technology lies- reducing the actual amount of uranium needed to produce a functioning weapon. Incidentally, that would probably facilitate the design and production of conventional missile or bomb delivered weapons.


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]

For that matter (none / 0) (#264)
by guidoreichstadter on Thu Dec 02, 2004 at 10:20:11 AM EST

Couldn't you get enough energy for a bomb out of more easily available elements/isotopes than uranium if you are using a huge neutron flux to initiate fission?


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 1) (#265)
by localroger on Thu Dec 02, 2004 at 01:30:56 PM EST

you only need a critical mass of uranium for a primitive bomb because its doing double duty in the design- acting as the energy source and the initiator.

This is completely wrong. You need a critical mass because the reaction will not sustain itself in a smaller mass. While Little Boy was not as efficient as Fat Man, it burned a substantial fraction of its U235. The purpose of the initiator is just to provide, with some certainty, a single neutron to start the reaction going when the critical assembly has been assembled.

There are very few neutron sources which will sustain a fission reaction in a subcritical assembly, or in U238. Particle accelerators are very slow; you are talking about a very large neutron flux needed in a fraction of a second.

It turns out that one thing that will produce such a flux is nuclear fusion. It's not easy to get fusion going even in the middle of a fission bomb, which is why the exotic isotope tritium is required to boost normally subcritical cores into propagating the reaction.

It's also why if you break it down most of the output of so-called "hydrogen" bombs is actually from fissioning of the depleted uranium tamper around the fusion core. In a typical H-bomb the fusion reaction only releases about the same amount of energy as the fission primary; each contribute about 10% to the total. The rest is induced fission in cheap depleted Uranium.

Of course, building one of these requires that you have fast boosted A-bombs to use as triggers, so there is a chicken-and-egg problem for using it to bootstrap a low-tech solution.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

What a relief. (none / 0) (#266)
by guidoreichstadter on Thu Dec 02, 2004 at 03:25:59 PM EST

The 1% figure is from hastily misreading wikipedia, but you could still (theoretically) get around a 20kT explosion out of around a single kilogram of enriched uranium, and a group could do a lot of damage with significantly less than 20kT, or even use a less powerful bomb to initate fusion. With a high enough externally generated neutron flux, you could destabilize every atom of U-235 in the assembly simultaneously. It's nice if you can scrape together enough uranium to use the flux from the natural readioactive decay to start a chain reaction that sustains itself, but theoretically it's not necessary to have one or two critical masses. The total energy going into the system as kinetic neutrons is much less than that coming out as kinetic nuclear fragments & such. As you point out, it wouldn't even be necessary to use enriched uranium as the fuel, and you could get a positive energy balance out of everything heavier than iron.

Speculative near term advances like low temperature superconductors or nano-ordered materials might have the potential to stimulate the development of a neutron source capable of destabilizing an destructive mass fissionable material. It might not be necessarily be an advanced particle accelerator, but perhaps a self-destructing device that uses a conventional explosive as a brief source of high power.


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]

Critical Mass (none / 0) (#267)
by guidoreichstadter on Thu Dec 02, 2004 at 06:09:40 PM EST

Critical mass is dependent on the geometry of the assembly of the nuclear fuel. I would imagine that calculations for a critical mass on the order of kilograms assumes only an optimized macroscopic geometry with metallic-domain-scale disorder and non-directional neutron emission from radioactive decay, since these conditions reflect the technical limitations of the engineering of the period that produced the first weapons. With an atomically ordered assembly of uranium atoms, and magnetically aligned nuclei to control the direction of neutron emission, perhaps any quantity of uranium could be made to be a critical mass.


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]
More minutae (3.00 / 2) (#269)
by localroger on Thu Dec 02, 2004 at 06:49:42 PM EST

Critical mass calculations are based on a perfect sphere. Nothing you can do will let you get away with much less than that. When you read a figure like "the critical mass for X material is Y kilograms" that is the figure for a perfect unimploded sphere. The reason Little Boy needed more than 2 critical masses is that its geometry is imperfect, as a gun type assembly always will be. Implosion bombs get by with less -- but only a little less, unless they're boosted -- because the distances are reduced.

I really don't think you understand just how many neutrons are needed to make a dent in this. You are talking about a major high-energy operation. You are not going to build something that does that in your back yard no matter what high technology is evolved unless your back yard is the size of a small town.

As for the atomic arrangement of the atoms, that has exactly zero effect on the nuclear reaction. Long before the reaction has released enough energy to make it a useful bomb the entire core is a plasma. There is no way to control the direction of neutron emission from fission, nor is one likely to be discovered via any conceivable technology. (Note that I don't say known, I mean even faintly consistent with what is known but allowing for what physicists like to call "arbitrarily advanced technology.")

Look, I work in industry. You have no clue just how expensive and difficult it is in practice to do a mundane thing like mixing up a few thousand liters of window cleaner. Once you get out of the kitchen and off the desktop you're no longer just dealing with the quantities of raw materials and products; you're dealing with the technology to handle those things (and I don't mean to handle radioactive crap without killing yourself, I mean just plain storing it and moving it around). You're dealing with massive water and energy usage. You're dealing with a massive waste problem, and on top of all that with radioisotopes you're dealing with stuff that gets steadily more dangerous to handle as you purify it.

And technology is not moving in a direction to make those things easier for individuals; it's making those things harder. Think about the things in your life that actually use a lot of energy, like air conditioners and cars. They've been getting lighter and more fuel efficient, not heavier and more powerful. That is a trend that will continue. In the future you may have fantastic handheld computers but it may beyond an ordinary person's means to cobble together the equivalent of a forklift just to move the pitchblende around.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Don't know (none / 0) (#270)
by guidoreichstadter on Fri Dec 03, 2004 at 12:38:16 AM EST

I would be surprised if there isn't a way to orient neutrons being emitted from a decaying nucleus. The experiments that first demonstrated parity violation used magnetic fields to align cobalt nuclei and observed oriented beta decay. If you could direct the direction of decay, you could achieve critical mass with smaller quantities of uranium. In the limit, imagine you can confine the emission along one direction with a good probability. Then you just line your uranium atoms up like ducks in a row (or many short rows) and you are guaranteed a chain reaction.

You only need a huge flux of neutrons if you are not being intelligent with them. If you just shove neutrons in the general direction of the target you're going to hit mostly empty space. If you could aim the neutrons at the individual uranium nuclei, you could do a lot better. Carbon nanotubes have been shown to function as tiny electron accelerators when a strong electric field is applied across them. You could attatch a uranium complex to the end of the tubes along with a target to convert the kinetic electrons to kinetic neutrons or some kind of scheme.

I wouldn't be surprised if there are a lot of avenues towards efficient fission of subcritical assemblies that don't involve merely replicating the way things have been done before but with better tech.


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]

Beta decay is different (3.00 / 2) (#271)
by localroger on Fri Dec 03, 2004 at 09:28:35 AM EST

Beta particles are electrons. They have a charge, so you can steer them. It's not that the nuclei are oriented, but that the beta particles are channeled where you want them after the decay occurs.

There is no way to steer a neutron. They go in a straight line until they hit a nucleus, period. There is no way to orient the nucleus so that the artifacts will go in a particular direction. When the nucleus of a fissionable isotope gets hit by a neutron, it roils chaotically until it becomes elongated enough for two halves to form which mutually repel one another. There is no way to determine exactly how many protons or neutrons each half will get, or how they will be oriented. Tremendous energies are involved so the initial direction of the neutron's impact is pretty meaningless, and it all happens below the Planck scale so it really can't be observed usefully.

This is not a matter of "better tech." Radioactive decay is used in some contexts as the very definition of randomness because of this. Very smart, well-funded people have been trying for fifty years to make smaller, more powerful bombs, and I can guarantee that if the tech to do something like that is going to be in your garage twenty years from now it is in those government research facilities today.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Not quite... (none / 0) (#272)
by guidoreichstadter on Fri Dec 03, 2004 at 01:32:07 PM EST

The cobalt nuclei in the parity experiments are oriented with respect to their spin state before (and after) the emission of the beta particle, and it is this orientation that determines the trajectory of the beta. Additionally, (certain) nuclei in the sample of an NMR device are oriented with respect to their spin.

Neutrons, like all other particles, can be diffracted (thermal neutrons have a wavelength on the scale of angstroms). The efficiencies of currently employed neutron focusing technology should be expected to improve with advanced atomically ordered materials.


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]

But if the government has it... (none / 0) (#274)
by guidoreichstadter on Fri Dec 03, 2004 at 01:33:56 PM EST

at least its in good hands...


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
[ Parent ]
below the planck scale!? (none / 0) (#283)
by sayke on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 02:49:23 PM EST

how does that work?


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

Are you serious? (none / 0) (#284)
by localroger on Sun Jan 02, 2005 at 10:10:16 PM EST

how does that work?

The details of a fission event occur at such a small scale that observing them will completely mess up what is happening. In fact, about the only kind of particle you can fire at a nucleus to get any idea what is going on *is* a neutron. The details of how an individual nucleus reacts, roils, and eventually splits cannot be observed, the process can only be inferred from statistical observations of many fission events.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

ok, but sub-atomic, not planck scale, no? (none / 0) (#285)
by sayke on Mon Jan 03, 2005 at 09:02:59 AM EST

neutrons are vastly bigger then the planck scale... hell, quarks are vastly bigger then the planck scale... we can't observe anything at the planck scale, right? 10^-35 meters is way beyond us, so no planck-scale events can be measured or interacted with at all. or am i misunderstanding you?


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

The pursuit of nuclear weapons... (2.50 / 2) (#233)
by skyknight on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 05:41:07 PM EST

is a tragedy of the commons, for sure, but each actor nation is being rational in the acquisition of said weapons, and to fail in that endeavor could very well mean suicide. What alternative do you propose? Do you even have an alternative, or are you just lamenting the unavoidable?

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
The madness of the rapidness (none / 1) (#240)
by localroger on Tue Nov 30, 2004 at 10:56:07 PM EST

It didn't have to happen this way. Even accepting the argument that bombs would have eventually been built, it didn't have to be like...
  • OMFG we have to get this out in like 3 years
  • OMFG we have to make sure we have enough spares to confront Russia
  • OMFG we can't let them surrender, we gotta show how big our dick is
  • OMFG, the Americans might whomp us, we gotta get what they have
  • OMFG, the rooshians have copied our bomb, we gotta get something better
  • OMFG, the Americans are going for something bigger, what can we do?
  • OMFG the rooshians have done something big, howthefuck did they do that?
  • OMFG the Americans got ten megatons, how the fuck did they do that? Oh wait...
  • OMFG the rooshians have figured out our precious teller-ulam whatsis, whattawedonow?
  • OMFG the Americans are so teh fucking crazy we thought they knew about those missiles we have in Cuba
  • OMFG the rooshians can hit us with ICBM's even though we took out their cuban non-deterrent
I submit that there was a pressure favoring a certain kind of insane research that wouldn't have been there otherwise, and that without that pressure we might have the means to do certain obscene things but we wouldn't have the immediate capability.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]
Given the potential for nuclear weapons... (3.00 / 3) (#247)
by skyknight on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 07:00:21 AM EST

to wipe an entire nation off of the map, don't you think that this kind of paranoia was justified? Various defensive postures on the part of individuals in daily life can often approximate needless paranoia, as the result of individuals being very poor at estimating probabilities for rare events. However, in the case of foreign policy, paranoia is not only the norm, but a necessity to survival. Most of the events that matter are exceedingly rare, and totally catastrophic. Sloppiness on either side, either on our part or the Russian's, could have resulted in a nuclear Pearl Harbor. Russia was not paranoid to do what it did. There were strategists on our side who thought that the rational thing to do was to nuke Russia off of the map before it gained the capability to do the same to us. I'm sure there were plenty of people in the Russian camp thinking the same way about wiping us out. Nuclear policy is insane, but ironically in this arena insanity is the only way to ensure your survival.

There's also the uncertainty factor that must be taken into account. Both in your article and in this comment you speak of a bunch of facts that may or may not have been well known at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20, but you have to realize that nations put a huge effort into counter-intelligence endeavors, i.e. feeding the enemy bad information. Only a fool would operate with complete certainty under the auspices of any particular bit of intelligence gathering. To an extent, you have to assume the worst, using your intelligence only to make educated guesses, not absolute assertions.

Also, I think trhurler made a decent point about the way we handled Japan. Look at what happened to East Germany. Imagine the set back to the world if Russia had done the same to Japan. Admittedly it would have been a lot harder to accomplish since Japan is an island nation, but it still would have been awful. Siege tactics may very well have worked if the Russians were not in the picture, but siege tactics are always time dependent. If you have superior forces and inexhaustible supplies, then siege tactics are always superior given an infinite time line, but actually having that infinite time line is quite rare.

Also, as terrifying as nuclear weapons are, I really think that they have paid huge peace dividends. Can you imagine the carnage of what an American/Russian war would have unleashed on the world? Instead of all out conventional war, we got a scary but quiet stalemate. Yes, there was Vietnam, Russia bled us by proxy, and it was awful. Yes, there was Afghanistan, we bled Russia by proxy, and it was awful. Yes, there has been a lot of ugliness as the result of the cold war. However, I'm inclined to believe that the misery of this past half century would be dwarfed by a parallel history in which nuclear weapons had not been developed, and America and Russia were in a constant state of hot war. Imagine what that would have done not just for economic damage, but also to civil liberties. Now that I think about it, nuclear weapons may very well have saved us from the future that Orwell envisioned. A state of perpetual war is perhaps the greatest way to erode or outright eliminate civil rights, since you can more or less declare a constant state of emergency.

I think that maybe, in a perverse way, we may have been incredibly lucky, and that we're too short sighted to realize the extent to which we were.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
The Good Guys (3.00 / 5) (#243)
by djp928 on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 12:47:34 AM EST

localroger, you say that Americans need to come to grips with the idea that we're not "The Good Guys", and that in fact we've been pretty heinous quite often in the past.

My question is, are there any nations in the world, past or present, that you *would* consider to be "The Good Guys"? I think we can all agree on a short list for "The Bad Guys". Most people would list Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and Mao's China as "The Bad Guys". Imperial Japan, Facist Italy, and many others might make a lot of short lists as well. But can we similarly come up with a list of "The Good Guys"?

Or is it that you think that citizens of other nations are more realistic about their history? I submit that most people tend to want to see their nation in a positive light. Do you think most modern Germans love being reminded about how their grandfathers killed millions of Jews, Gypsies, mentally and physically handicapped, and otherwise "non-Aryan" people, or would they rather focus on the good things their nation and their ancestors have done and accomplished? Are Americans uniquely blind to their nation's misdeeds, or are people as a whole simply more forgiving of their own nation's seedy history and more apt to play up its perceived virtues?

If we were to judge several of the modern western democracies together, who would come out ahead in the race to be judged "The Good Guys"? I would submit that the US would have an edge simply by virtue of being the youngest country of the bunch (unless you look strictly from the point of the founding of the democracies, in which case the US is actually the oldest) and thus we have simply had less time to commit attrocities. But, is the English Civil War better or worse than the US Civil War? Is Germany being "responsible" for two world wars better or worse than the US starting wars in the middle east? Is the US involvement in Vietnam excused or made worse by the fact that we started out in that war trying to aid the French in *their* colonial war. Was European colonialism in Africa and the middle and far east better or worse than US colonialism in Hawaii, the Phillipines, and (some would say) Iraq?

Do these seem like ridiculous questions? Maybe they are. Maybe that's my point. Maybe my point is, it's *easy* to lay blame, but often very hard to see the reasoning behind historical actions in their proper context. It's *easy* to blame the Germans for WWII. It's harder to see that WWII was really just a continuation of WWI. It's *easy* to blame the Allies at the end of WWI for laying the foundation for what turned into WWII. It's harder to see that they did it because of a misguided sense of honor and right that was pervasive at the time.

Similarly, it's easy to say we shouldn't have dropped the bomb(s), that if we did it mostly to impress the Russians and not to actually end the war with Japan, that doing so was a "Bad Guy" move. It's harder to see the at-the-time reasoning behind it, the "if we don't put the fear of God into the Ruskies, they're going to turn around and come right after us as soon as we're done with the Axis powers, and dammit, we DON'T WANT TO FIGHT ANYMORE" attitude that maybe it was better to kill more of our current enemy now in order to avoid a massive, full-scale war with Russia so soon after we just finished with the current, hidiously destructive one. Is self preservation a "Bad Guy" move? Is not wanting to fucking fight any more right now a "Bad Guy" move?

It's easy to find "The Bad Guys". It's a lot harder to find "The Good Guys". Many nations, at least during certain time periods, have been bad. How many have been truly good?

Am I just another typical blind American, unwilling to admit that maybe America hasn't always been the shining city on a hill Reagan loved to tell us we were/could be again? Possibly. Truthfully, I don't know *how* I feel about what we did at the end of WWII. Part of me is significantly detached from the event to just think it's freaking hella cool we were able to fucking vaporize two whole cities. Part of me realizes there were humans in those cities, hundreds of thousands of them, who never killed an American (or had ever SEEN an American) who got vaporized along with the buildings and the military/industrial facilities we were "targeting". I don't think my country has ever acted strictly out of selfless "good intentions" when those intentions didn't also happen to be in its own best interest. However, I don't believe any *other* country ever has, either. That's what countries *do*--they act to preserve their own interests. Any other explanation for a nation's actions is misinformed at best, and simply a lie at worst. Some are more ruthless about it than others, and so some get labeled "The Bad Guys" and some "The Good Guys". But all of them do it.

-- Dave



I can't answer for roger (3.00 / 3) (#245)
by GenerationY on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 02:04:00 AM EST

but I think "old Europe"-ans are pretty aware of how fucking evil they were in the past and are in no hurry to repeat it.

You want to stop the British (and to some extent French) Government in its tracks? Just use the codeword "colonialism" (seriously, this has had undue influence over policy in Africa since WW2).
Young Germans are very aware of their recent past. You are doing them a disservice if you are suggesting they are somehow trying to ignore the past (however understandable that may be), well the truth is far from it.

We don't have an unshakable faith that we always do the right thing and carry a considerable burden of shame. This isn't wholly bad if it informs decision making.

Americans, however (or at least the ones we see on TV) seem to believe God is always on their side and they've never put a foot wrong. With this mentality it seems they never learn.

An object lesson in the above would be that you really shouldn't say things like this:
it's freaking hella cool we were able to fucking vaporize two whole cities.


[ Parent ]

Last I checked... (none / 0) (#248)
by skyknight on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 07:08:16 AM EST

the nation was split almost right down the middle. Also, there are plenty of people who associate readily with neither Republicans nor Democrats. Please don't pigeon hole all of us together. As a highly educated, agnostic, sedan driving, gun owning, welfare hating, freedom loving individual who is extremely conservative about getting the US involved in foreign messes, I don't think I fit whatever mold you have in your head very well. I'm sure there are also lots of other people with different variations of parameters who don't fit your mold either.

The truly terrible thing about American democracy is its winner-take-all style election system. It leaves a significant fraction, if not the majority of people, severely under-represented at any given point in time, if not totally unrepresented.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Breathe deeply (none / 0) (#249)
by GenerationY on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 07:26:52 AM EST

and re-read what I actually wrote instead of what you imagine I wrote. Thanks.

[ Parent ]
Bah. (none / 0) (#250)
by skyknight on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 07:33:39 AM EST

You just put that parenthetical notation there in case someone like me made a comment like I did.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
As much as I disagree with the War on Terra (none / 0) (#252)
by Pxtl on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 10:04:34 AM EST

I find it so depressing that the French placed themselves as the spearhead of the opposition, given that the colonialism and cynicism of French foreign policy is pretty much unparalelled.  Come on, how long ago was it that France was performing nuclear weapons tests, in bare-faced violation of treaties?

[ Parent ]
European and American attitudes (3.00 / 4) (#257)
by djp928 on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 01:00:37 PM EST

I never meant to imply that the German people want to ignore the past. What I meant to say is that I would think, like most people, the German people don't want to be continually reminded about their past misdeeds and would rather focus on the positive things they're doing now. Clearly it's healthy and necessary to remember the past, for as we all know, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

But there is certainly a difference between European attitudes and American attitudes. I think a lot of it has to do with the US being a young country in the grand scheme of things--we simply haven't had the *time* to build up the long, often seedy, often shady past that other, old world countries are saddled with. Time also brings perspective. When everybody who participated in or protested against the Vietnam war is dead, we'll be able to look at the conflict with a more objective eye, I think. Already I think many Americans would tell you the war was a mistake, something we should never have gotten involved in, and in hindsight, that whole "domino effect" thing never really panned out, did it? But such perspective does take time. And in the meantime, people who went over there to serve their country, risked their lives, saw friends killed, and were forced to live the horror of war are going to be justifiably upset if you try to convince them now it was all for nothing and they were stupid for doing it. They all had their reasons at the time, and a lot of them were convinced then (and still are now) that they were good reasons.

Europeans have that perspective already on a lot of their history. Americans don't. Certainly we whitewash our history some, but I still ask, what country *doesn't* to a certain extent? People like to bring up slavery as a horrible wrong from our past, and obviously it was. It was a terrible thing and we're certainly not taught in school that it was a good thing--only that it happened, there were reasons why it happened, and that eventually, the issue was so divissive we fought a war amonst ourselves over it. But I see two different ways of looking at the issue. One way is what might be called the "European" way, which involves a lot of hand wringing and navel-looking, a lot of reflection on how evil the whole thing was, a lot of shame over having fought a civil war over it (or anything, really). This seems to be the attitude localroger and many others have over issues like this. The other way of looking at it, what might be termed the "American" way, is to say that yes, it was bad. It was evil. We're sorry it happened and we do feel shame about it. But there's no shame at all to be had over the Civil War. The Civil War is what *ended* slavery. We tried everything we could, from ignoring the problem to compromise to an aborted attempt at forming seperate countries to resolve the problem, and in the end, like many problems throughout human history, we had to fight about it. And when it comes time to fight, there is no higher virtue to an American than being ready to lay down your life for what you think is right. A lot of people on both sides of that war lived up to that ideal, and yes it was awful, yes it was horrible, but at that point, it needed to be done and we did it. I don't feel any shame over that at all.

Despite what you may think, I'm not trying to say objectively that one viewpoint is absolutely right and the other absolutely wrong. I've made it pretty clear which one I prefer, but I accept that the other viewpoint exists, and I respect it as having valid points. And that's one thing I don't see out of a lot of people, American *or* European. We objectify each other. You say we all look like people who believe "God is always on their side and they've never put a foot wrong." I certainly see where that attitude comes from. However, you must know it doesn't apply to all Americans, or even, I would submit, a majority. You might say "But a majority supported Bush in the recent election." And yes, that's apparently true. But a lot of people voted for Bush, not out of total support for what he's done in places like Iraq, but out of the (perhaps misguided) thought that Kerry would just fuck things up *worse* by pulling us out too soon and letting Iraq fall back into dictatorship. I think a lot of people think like I do on that issue--that regardless of what you thought about our invasion, now that we *have* invaded and are occupying the country, we CAN'T just leave now. There is no proper exit strategy for Iraq that doesn't involve us staying there as long as it takes to insure that when we do leave, the country won't just fall back into a dictatorship. Many people feared that Kerry would have tried to pull us out ASAP, and damn the consequences. Bush said he didn't want to get involved in nation building, but dammit, nation building is exactly what he has commited us to now, and many people voted for him because they believe he was at least commited to doing that necessary job.

So because a majority of Americans voted for Bush doesn't necessarily mean that a majority of Americans supported the Iraq war, or currently support the Iraq war. It doesn't mean we like or dislike his cowboy attitude, or that we love the idea of Dick Cheney being a heartbeat away from the Presidency. All it really *does* mean in our two party system is that a majority of people disliked Kerry *more* than Bush. For a lot of people, it wasn't even a referendum on foreign policy. We have a lot of domestic issues here, too. Kerry was for a form a socialized medecine, and that historically has been a non-starter here. Bush is for privitization of parts of the Social Security system, a very popular idea to many of the more libertarian minded members of the populace. There's tons of reasons for a person to have prefered one candidate over the other that have nothing at all to do with Iraq or other foreign policy issues--to stereotype all Bush voters as Bible-thumping, Christ-fearing, gung-ho pro-war hillbillies is horribly misleading, just as much as stereotyping all Kerry supporters as pinko liberal commie hippies is.

I feel that I'm rambling again. I may or may not have adequately made my point. I may or may not have *had* a point to make. I know that I feel that this kind of hand-wringing over historical events is pointless. I *also* feel that blind, thoughless "my country, right or wrong" attitudes are pointless and also dangerous. But truthfully, I've not met a lot of people who really, *honestly*, when you pin them down about it, believe in the "my country, right or wrong" mantra. There are a whole lot of people who *want* to believe in their country (in *any* country). These people will *always* look for the good and whitewash or gloss over the bad. Are Americans more likely to fall into that trap? I don't know. I honestly don't think so. I think we're often portrayed that way, but I think it's unfair. I think we've also had less time as a nation to come to grips with the black parts of our history, and that when we get a little more perspective, we'll be less apt to fall into that trap as a people.

Also, about my comment about the atomic bombinbs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki being somehow "cool". I said that knowing a lot of people would find it upsetting, offensive, or disturbing. But I said it because there *is* a part of me, a possibly testosterone driven, possibly little-boy wow-ness driven, possibly just plain fucked up part of me that *does* think big explosions are intrinsically cool. I didn't mean to imply that I thought incinerating hundreds of thousands of civilians was cool. I also don't think this is a distinctly American trait. I've known plenty of non-Americans (ok, most of them GUYS, but one of them is my New Zealand born girlfriend) who have the feeling deep down that big explosions are just fucking cool in some inexplicable way.

I *also* think that using the bomb in Japan contributed a *lot* to the fact that nobody has used such a weapon in anger SINCE. If we had just tested it and not dropped it, or dropped it off the coast to "demonstrate" it to the Japanese and the Russians, we wouldn't have Hiroshima and Nagasaki to remind us of why we shouldn't fucking use these things. We wouldn't have Plate 42 to constantly show us what we're risking when we contemplate the use of weapons of this caliber. Humans really aren't as good at abstract thinking as we are at concrete thinking. Having things like Plate 42 there to give us a concrete reminder of how fucking horrible these things can be is worth a thousand pages of scientific papers saying the same thing in the abstract. If we didn't have concrete proof about what these things do when you drop them over populated areas, we might have been able to fool ourselves later into thinking it wouldn't be that bad, or that the "egghead scientists" were just fear mongering and that these bombs were "just another tool in our arsenal". And a nuclear confrontation in the 60s would have been orders of magnitude more disasterous than the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Clearly this doesn't excuse the bombings, any more than Hitler having killed millions of people in concentration camps is excused by the fact that it provides us a constant reminder of the dangers of fanaticism and racism. But it is a valuable lesson nonetheless.

-- Dave



[ Parent ]

Never again war (none / 0) (#273)
by alba on Fri Dec 03, 2004 at 01:33:49 PM EST

Americans like to see WW2 as a triumph of good (the US) against evil (the Nazis). But actually it was the Red Army that beat the Wehrmacht. And then some historians call WW2 a logical consequence of the strange peace treaties after WW1.

So on the European continent war was experienced as a demonic force beyond human control. Its inevitable start was decided decades before the first shot. And wherever it went it turned normal humans into a sort of monsters. All participants commited some kind of atrocities. Be it for a higher cause or just to survive. War has no respect for moral values.

There are some variations of this lesson. Even though Spain did not take part in WW2 its own civil war told a similar story. And France, Belgium and the Netherlands took a painful detention class during their colonial wars.

However, there are two exceptions: UK and USA do not accept the lesson. They believe religiously in the concept of just wars, in their own invincibility, in their moral right and obligation to force their way on others.

Well, the EU itself is (or used to be) anti-bullshit. No shortcuts, no history nonsense, only good hard business. It will be interesting to see how things turn out. European cars vs. US, Airbus vs. Boing, ESA vs. Nasa - the last 50 years showed that the American dream makes bad engineering.

[ Parent ]

Thats a bit random (none / 0) (#281)
by GenerationY on Tue Dec 07, 2004 at 05:41:04 AM EST

Why do you say this about the UK? Nobody here feels invincible or right in war. And indeed, the colonial period is taught to children as something to be ashamed of. The last fifty or so years has seen Great Britain pull out of other people's affairs as much as is possible. Countries still in the Commonwealth are there because they want to be, not ncessarily because Britain wants them to be.

Tony Blair doesn't even have the support of his own cabinet for the war in Iraq, so don't confuse him with a nation.

What you are forgetting, possibly, is fifty years of being killed by Irish terrorists more or less at their whim. It is rather sobering. As is the fact I've never lived more than a mile from clear evidence of bombing damage from WW2 despite having lived all over Great Britain. We weren't occupied but we had the living shit kicked out of us and its affected all our major cities to this day.

[ Parent ]

pragmatic nukes? (2.50 / 2) (#253)
by D440hz on Wed Dec 01, 2004 at 10:22:52 AM EST

Thank you for the article. I found it informing, and well written. the notion behind nuclear arming is a difficult issue, it seems that by the simple fact that it is possible to build the device, nations strive to design weapons insuring mutual annihilation. Nuclear weapons are a very very strong bargaining chip in the world today, as soon as a nation achieves nuclear capability of minor distinction (smaller yield fission weapons compared to 3 staged fusion devices) the entire diplomatic arena shifts gear. It is a cause for wander if pursuing nuclear weapons is a pragmatic decision on the side of nations or not. One has to wander if the US would take military action against north Korea, now its quite out of the question. in other words it can serve at times as a sufficient deterrent against aggression by countries like the US, and their unilateral agenda. But in the end those weapons will most likely be used, it seems logical that small devices would land in the hands of terrorist organization, and that will probably change life as we know it.
D-440Hz
Nuclear waste (3.00 / 2) (#275)
by Tim Freeman on Fri Dec 03, 2004 at 06:30:49 PM EST

I tend to think there is a way to use nuclear energy that is not insane, but we haven't found that way; and today when relatively sane proposals (like pebble-bed reactors) are put forth, people are rightly skeptical that things will be different than they were when we were rushing anything that looked like it might half-way work into overproduction. The waste problem still isn't addressed, and the solution that looks best to me, of burying it in deep-ocean subduction zones, is being ignored because it would be so much easier to just bury the stuff in Nevada and hope for the best.
The Integral Fast Reactor, if developed, would convert the long-lived waste into energy and short-lived waste, so it would mostly solve the waste problem. Also, by yielding energy, it would decrease the total amount of fuel required to generate a given amount of energy, and thus decrease the total amount of waste.

Google has a bunch of pointers if you search for "Integral fast reactor", and the group of them is better than any one of them.

Tim Freeman
http://www.fungible.com
Programmer/consultant in the Sunnyvale, CA area.

hmm (none / 1) (#276)
by ShiftyStoner on Fri Dec 03, 2004 at 07:08:01 PM EST

 I though atomic bombs were more powerful than this. I didnt think a barn 20 miles away from ground 0 could stay standing. I didnt think any hunk of metal could go undamaged so close to the blast site. I sure as hell didnt think any metal stumps or concrete would be left in the ground at ground zero. Acctualy, I wouldnt think any metal would last on the surface of the son without being liquified instantaniously, much less an explosion suposabley many times hotter than its surface.

 I just read the intro and the link btw.
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler

Several people on the tour had the same idea (none / 0) (#277)
by localroger on Sat Dec 04, 2004 at 05:50:36 PM EST

Around a 20 kt bomb like Fat Man the area that is subject to "instant vaporization" only goes out a couple of thousand feet. And the pulse of heat is very short, so if something is sufficiently heavy, or in the shadow of something sufficiently heavy, it may not melt or vaporize. The heat doesn't have time to penetrate to a great depth in a material like concrete or into the ground.

Further out, the damage is caused by the pressure wave tearing structures down. The McDonald ranch house did have its windows blown out, and the barn roof was compromised. Then, the way the whole city gets destroyed, is that all these broken up buildings become kindling for a firestorm which rapidly spreads beyond the zone of total blast destruction.

The situation with an H-bomb such as might be found atop a modern ICBM is a bit different. At 150 Kt the fireball goes out nearly a mile, and effective blast damage to make kindling out ten or twenty miles. If Fat Man had been such a bomb the McDonald ranch house would probably exist only as a foundation, and there would be no evidence of the steel tower at all.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

Disputed History about (none / 0) (#286)
by Instr on Sat Dec 03, 2005 at 04:36:48 PM EST

Hey, by the way. There's a disputed history concerning the Japanese nuclear program. Certain parties believe that the Japanese were quite close to their own nuclear weapon, and if the Americans didn't Hiroshima/Nagasaki in August, in 1946 the Japanese would have San Francisco-ed. See the wikipedia talk page on the Imperial Japanese nuclear program. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Japanese_atomic_program

Not so (none / 0) (#287)
by localroger on Fri Dec 16, 2005 at 01:04:24 PM EST

Richard Rhodes spends several pages going over what the Japanese had, and more importantly had not, accomplished by 1945. They had exactly one lab working on nuclear matters, which was trying (and mostly failing) isotope separation mainly as a scientific curiosity. They had no reactors, a totally insufficient industrial base to pursue a critical mass even if they had solved the separation problem, and hadn't even started on the difficult problems of assembly and initiation which occupied so many Manhattan Project brains. The Japanese leadership had no understanding of the potential, and their level of commitment made the Germans look like fanatical boosters of the technology by comparison.

Rhodes spent ten years travelling the world interviewing the surviving principals in all these programs, and he documents this situation very completely. I frankly trust him a lot more than some random kook with a webpage.

It is also worth noting that the phrase "a working bomb design" is deliciously vague to the point that it could mean anything. Howard Morland ultimately teased the so-called "secret" of the hydrogen bomb from a diagram in an encyclopedia that showed a lump of Lithium-6 Deuteride physically separated from an atomic trigger. This upset a lot of people but it never meant even for the slimmest fraction of a second that Morland was in a position to build a hydrogen bomb. Similarly, no matter what its few atomic scientists did or didn't figure out toward the end, the Japanese Empire was never in a position to build an atomic bomb. They were never even close.

P.S. on skimming, it is clear that the guy flogging this idea on that Wikitalk page is a bona fide Net.Kook.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Pilgrimage to Trinity | 287 comments (258 topical, 29 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!