I am confused as to which principle of morality is applicable to World War II bombings. I am choosing between the lesser of two evils principles and the double effect. I think it can be justified through the Lesser of two evils principle; whether to bomb Japan, that can have only Japanese casualties or to invade Japan, that can have American and Japanese casualties, so it is better to bomb it although they are both evil. I also think that the Principle of double effect can also justify this, as to bomb Japan (evil) for them to surrender in order to stop the war (good). What principle of morality best justifies and applicable to the said event?

  • I may be wrong but I think you are assuming that the bombing can be justified and the question is : how ? It would have been better in my view not to start from this assumption but to ask whether on moral grounds the bombing can be justified. Some will argue that it can be; others that it was absolutely unjustifiable. Excuse me if I have misinterpreted your question.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Aug 11 '18 at 8:39
  • I have read <crisismagazine.com/2017/combatants-non-combatants-double-effect> and <catholicinsight.com/…>, and I based those assumptions from them. I am asking if the two principles can justify the bombings or which of the two can justify.
    – sammyyy
    Aug 11 '18 at 8:52
  • For additional perspective on the premise that the bombings were militarily necessary, see my response to user34559's answer and that link: thenation.com/article/why-the-us-really-bombed-hiroshima
    – Chelonian
    Aug 13 '18 at 16:48

I agree that it was ethical based on the lesser of 2 evils principle, and without the need to invoke the "saving of American lives" part.

Assume the nuclear option claimed ~700,000 souls, and destroyed the great culture of 2 cities. In Hiroshima, "300,000: Total death toll to date, including those who have died from radiation-related cancers."

The non-nuclear option would have killed many more, and destroyed much more culture. A single firebombing raid of Tokyo killed 100,000.

The double effect doesn't seem appropriate at all in this context. However, thinking about it more, the nuclear option served to wake humanity up, increasing the fear of war in most, save the most deranged despots.

I hope the voices of those who survived Hiroshima & Nagasaki never fade.

A quick google search revealed these cold stats: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-by-the-numbers-the-atomic-bombing-of-hiroshima-2016may27-story.html

On a lighter note, I highly recommend the new Mr. Rogers movie, which inspired me to visit this Philosophy Stack Exchange for the first time.

One of my favorite lines: from the Vietnam War era, when King Friday XIII, described as “one of the few remaining benevolent despots,” establishes a border guard https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/how-mr-rogers-made-fantasy-familiar

  • Some--such as Eisenhower, Nimitz, and other generals and admirals of that time-- have argued that the atomic bombing of Japan was unnecessary, because Japan was already defeated, particularly with the Soviet Union about to take on Japan as well. Here's one summary of this: thenation.com/article/why-the-us-really-bombed-hiroshima
    – Chelonian
    Aug 13 '18 at 16:47

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