The Controversial Decision

The Controversial Decision

Atomic Diplomacy

There are several theories that arose after the use of the atomic bomb on Japan following the end of World War II, the Post War era and the Cold War era. Many critics of the atomic bomb have taken a hypercritical approach of men like former Secretary of War Henry Stimson and President of the United States Harry S. Truman. Others have taken a more moderate analysis on the development and the use of the atomic bomb, particularly its use in what is called "Atomic Diplomacy."

I. Atomic Diplomacy

In Louis Morton’s the Decision to use the Atomic Bomb it seems apparent that Truman and his advisors were hesitant for Soviet involvement in Asia.[Louis Morton, The Decision to Use the Atom Bomb. (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1990), 503.] Morton cites the Soviet refusal to honor the Yalta agreements and the belief that the United States should not beg the Soviets to get involved as two prominent themes. [Ibid., 504.] Without the Soviet’s involvement many advisors believed that the United States and Great Britain could defeat Japan alone. [Ibid.] Martin Sherwin’s "A World Destroyed" discusses the beginning of a critical point in International Studies that would later become the ‘special relationship.’ [Martin J. Sherwin, A World destroyed: The Atomic Bomb and the Grand Alliance (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 1975), 68.] The shift in allegiance of the United States from the Soviet Union and Great Britain to just Great Britain began when the atomic bomb became a reality. [Ibid., 85.]

This favorable partnership with Great Britain began in 1940, when Britain sent a proposal to the United States for, “‘…general interchange of secret technical information with the United States, particularly in the ultra short wave [radar] field.’” [Ibid., 68.] Although this predates the United States entry in 1941, and the broken non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union this is the beginning of what would be more favorable terms and privileges to Great Britain. [Ibid., 88.] This growing preference towards Great Britain was a result of Churchill’s commitment for an atomic partnership with the United States. [Ibid., 78.] Churchill played upon President Roosevelt’s growing suspicions of the Soviet Union and Stalin. [Ibid., 79] This would led to Churchill pushing for a formal agreement with the United States and an (implied) isolation of the Soviet Union from anything of the kind. [Ibid.]

Overall, this is just one of the actions that the United States did that showed a growing distrust of the Soviet Union. These measures mentioned show a gravitation perpetrated by Prime Minister Churchill that would have serious consequences on diplomacy in the post war period. Therefore, it is necessary to conclude that based on the limited information on this point that this is the basis for reasoning of the use of the atomic bomb and its diplomatic consequences.

In his book "The Most Controversial Decision" Wilson Miscamble discusses Truman’s decision and background. Truman, a former Missouri Senator and World War I veteran came to power with relatively no knowledge of the Manhattan Project. [Wilson D. Miscamble, The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 20-21.] Inexperienced and largely isolated by his successor late Franklin Roosevelt whose advisors like Henry Stimson sought to gain his favor. [Ibid., 22] Specifically, on April 25th Stimson briefed Truman on the merits of using the atomic bomb and its implications with the future relationship with the Soviet Union, whom both men distrusted. [Ibid., 32] It became apparent though, after the meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov with Truman’s concerns over Poland, he resolved to be tougher on the Soviet Union. [Ibid., 31.] Soon afterwards the atomic bomb being used for international affairs by Secretary of War Henry Stimson. [Ibid., 32]

Miscamble however, dismisses the notion that Truman used the bomb purely as ‘show of force’ against the ‘delaying conflict’ with the Soviet Union. [Ibid., 33] Truman also wasn’t the only one having doubts, Admiral Leahy had substantial doubts of the capabilities of the bomb uttering his famous phrase, “…the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.” [Ibid.]

Bernard Brodie continues to discuss the fragile relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States at the end of World War II in "The Absolute Weapon." [Bernard Brodie, The Absolute Weapon (New York, NY: Yale Institute of International Studies, 1946), 111.] Brodie discusses that despite apparent atomic monopoly that the United States (and Great Britain) had, the Soviet Union wasn’t worried that the United States would use it. [Ibid., 114] The Soviets wagered that the United States had used to the bomb to end the war meant the war-fatigue public wasn’t willing to enter into another war with them. [Ibid., 111]

Brodie’s view (in 1946) reflect on the use of the atomic bomb on relations with the Soviet Union at the time. Brodie makes the claim that British and American Statesman had no intentions of using the atomic bomb as leverage against their ‘ally’. [Ibid., 115] However, (according to Brodie) the diplomats were counting on the presence of the bomb to aid in influencing policy, without overtly using it as a threat. [Ibid.] The Miscamble book (unlike Alperovitz and Brodie) takes a favorable look at Truman’s decision making, while seemingly scorning Stimson. However, Brodie asserts that the merits of having an atomic monopoly were used quickly in Soviet-American affairs in the post war period. These both reinforce though, the idea that atomic diplomacy was actually discussed as a way of controlling the Soviet Union in the post war era.

Cover Image Credit: Google Images

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Irish-American History Is Just As Important As Any Other Culture, You Can't Prove Me Wrong

I cherish being Irish and I will not let anyone let me feel bad for that.


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