Hoover and the Bomb

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"Every
August, there are some Americans who insist on wringing their hands
over the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945,"
opens Thomas Sowell's syndicated column
"Trashing our History; Hiroshima."

Victor
Davis Hanson begins his article
on the subject at National Review Online with almost the
exact same words, "For 60 years the United States has agonized
over its unleashing of the world's first nuclear weapon on Hiroshima
on August 6, 1945." They both go on to defend the decision
giving the usual reasons, with Hanson quoting General Sherman in
his defense.

The
purpose of this column is not to debunk their arguments, which Gene
Callahan ably
did
a few days ago. Rather, I merely wish to point out the irony
that the men are fellows at the Hoover Institution, yet they neither
mention that the man who gave the institution its name, former President
Herbert Hoover, was one of those Americans who insisted on wringing
his hands over the horrific decision.

Hoover
had many flaws and was by no means a great president. However, like
most people, he was much better man out of power, and became a vocal
opponent of American entry into World War II. Although like many
Old Right conservatives he occasionally fell for the folly of an
"Asia First" foreign policy, he was a pretty reliable
opponent to of the Cold War as well.

During
World War II, President Hoover was a vociferous opponent of Roosevelt
and Truman administration's demand for the unconditional surrender
of Japan. He met with many military and political leaders urging
them to negotiate a peace with the Emperor. Describing a meeting
with Douglas MacAuthur, he wrote in his diary, "I told MacArthur
of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be
had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished.
MacArthur said that was correct and that we would have avoided all
of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria.”

Two
days after the dropping of the bomb, Hoover wrote, "The use
of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and
children, revolts my soul." He testified to Congress later
that year that the act was "barbaric." President Hoover
was not alone. As Leo Maley III and Uday Mohan demonstrate
at the History News Network, virtually all conservative voices from
Human Events to the Chicago Tribune and even National
Review continued to criticize the decision well into the 1950s.

The
full name of the Hoover Institution is the Hoover Institution on
the Study of War, Peace, and Revolution. The last eight words are
rarely uttered for the sake of brevity, but it may also be in part
that the justification of mass murder by Sowell and Hanson go completely
against its 1959 mission statement that stated

The overall
mission of this Institution is, from its records, to recall the
voice of experience against the making of war, and by the study
of these records and their publication, to recall man’s endeavors
to make and preserve peace, and to sustain for America the safeguards
of the American way of life.

Hoover
believed that only by recognizing the errors of the past, could
we prevent making them in the future. Sowell and Hanson instead
decide to celebrate our mistakes, and unsurprisingly, they are both
vociferous supporters of the war in Iraq.

I
do not want to be too negative because both men, especially Thomas
Sowell, have done important work on domestic issues, and the Hoover
Institution still produces some great scholarship. Nonetheless,
it speaks volumes on the state of the American Right where even
fellows at an Institution founded for the preservation of peace,
become apologists for some of the worst horrors of war.

August
16, 2005

Marcus Epstein
[send him mail] is
a recent graduate of the College of William and Mary. He is currently
pursuing freelance journalism in Charleston, SC. A
selection of his articles can be seen here
.

Marcus
Epstein
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