Tuesday Highlights

Thumbs up on Guardians …  links?

  1. In spite of? The rest of the sports world calls it a “contract year” and typically athletes (oddly enough) excel at such times.
  2. I disagree, lives both American, Japanese and others were saved. How about returning eastern bloc captives (to the Germans) in WWII to Stalin against their protestations or post WWII repairing Kolyma transport ships which we sold them in the first place as unforced “bad things” in our past?
  3. Those many socialist medical advances.
  4. Technology and the poor.
  5. Good or bad?
  6. Training. Which brings to mind the immortal Fausto Coppi quote on training for cycling, “Ride a bike, ride a bike, ride a bike”.
  7. Pretty.
  8. If this administration (or other beltway knuckleheads) ask for “loyalty oaths” … grrrrr.
  9. Possibly confused about the Michael Phelps set, which mixes strength and endurance leaning toward the former, not the latter.
  10. Because our Administration and the Democrats are absolutely certain they don’t want another repeat of the Martin Luther King Jr debacle.
  11. More on Piketty.
  12. Democracy in a nutshell.
  13. Stupid democracy tricks are not confined to this side of the pond however.
  14. A pattern begun.

17 Responses to Tuesday Highlights

  1. #2 I’m a bit perplexed how you reconcile that with our discussion on Hamas/terrorism/war? How is launching several thousand small rockets vaguely pointed at population centers a war crime while dropping a single bomb on a population center that incinerates thousands of people not?

    Your statement seems to indicate that the morality of the decision is premised on making an accurate forecast of the future (computing how many lives would be lost with a traditional invasion of Japan) and deeming the atomic bombing(s) ethical if they produce a smaller projection.

    This seems deficient on multiple levels. First projections are just projections. We don’t really know what would have happened with a full scale invasion. Second, it seems to be a false chose fallacy. What about a policy where Japan was never invaded but a strict naval blockaid was enforced unless/until surrender? What about demonstrating the atomic bomb to a Japanese delgation? How about just a single atomic bombing instead of two? All these could have caused history to have played very differently, how exactly do we reliably project how many lives would have been saved or lost had those options been tried instead? Needless to say Hamas could play the same game, they could project a horrofic future civil war in Israel between Arabs and Jews that would produce hundreds of thousands of dead on both sides. Set against that backdrop, you could justify almost any tactic today that kills innocent people by the score if you could assert it would avoid such a diaster in the future.

  2. Boonton,

    This seems deficient on multiple levels

    An apt description of my very brief remark as well as your reply.

    Let’s try again. The claim is that the worst moral thing (setting aside slavery) that the US did was to drop the two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Your dissent my rejection of that has several points.

    First, you offer dropping bombs on civilians is wrong. OK. So, if that’s what’s wrong with the Atom bomb why aren’t the many many bombings which killed many more people with conventional bombs even worse than that? More died in the fire bombing of Tokyo than the two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

    Second, it seems to be a false chose fallacy. What about a policy where Japan was never invaded but a strict naval blockaid was enforced unless/until surrender? What about demonstrating the atomic bomb to a Japanese delgation? How about just a single atomic bombing instead of two?

    Well, a “strict” naval blockade had been in place for years. Japan’s resolve hadn’t been changed by that, so it is unlikely to expect continuing for another ?? (how long?) would make a difference. There was time between the two bomb drops and Japan refused the surrender so another was dropped. As for the “demo” … I don’t know if relations were such that could be set up. And in the meantime civilian bombardment by conventional arms was at such a pace that it wasn’t the scope and number of deaths and destruction from the atom bomb drops that allowed the end of the war to be considered by the Japan elite but the “this is different” aspect that allowed them to do so without loss of face.

    Needless to say Hamas could play the same game, they could project a horrific future civil war in Israel between Arabs and Jews that would produce hundreds of thousands of dead on both sides.

    Cite? Have they done so?

    How is launching several thousand small rockets vaguely pointed at population centers a war crime while dropping a single bomb on a population center that incinerates thousands of people not?

    The bombing of Hiroshima/Nagasaki according to quick figures I looked at killed just under 200k people. The firebombing campaign killed 500k. Yet you would claim the former was worse. On what basis do you make that claim?

    And finally … are you in agreement with the link? You think the Atom bomb drops were the “worst” thing the US has done? Seriously? Look I think there are arguments on both sides that can be made regarding the Atom bomb drops, and although I think the drop was justified argument is stronger, that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the opposite point of view. But the existence of good arguments on both sides means this isn’t the “worst thing ever”, right? I don’t know of any good reasons to repair Kolyma transports. No argument can be made. Likewise returning millions of Eastern bloc soldiers who didn’t want to return and for whom everybody knew would face at best torture and then at least 10 years of starvation rations and hard labor. Where’s the other side of this argument? Likewise, that’s just two. I’m betting you can find horrific “nobody disagrees this was wrong” examples outside of slavery that will serve as better examples than the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombs.

  3. Boonton
    A wiki snippet:

    A year after the war, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific War) reported that American military officials had underestimated the power of strategic bombing combined with naval blockade and previous military defeats to bring Japan to unconditional surrender without invasion. By July 1945, only a fraction of the planned strategic bombing force had been deployed yet there were few targets left worth the effort. In hindsight, it would have been more effective to use land-based and carrier-based air power to strike merchant shipping and begin aerial mining at a much earlier date so as to link up with effective submarine anti-shipping campaign and completely isolate the island nation. This would have accelerated the strangulation of Japan and ended the war sooner.[180] A postwar Naval Ordnance Laboratory survey agreed, finding naval mines dropped by B-29s had accounted for 60% of all Japanese shipping losses in the last six months of the war.[181] In October 1945, Prince Fumimaro Konoe said the sinking of Japanese vessels by U.S. aircraft combined with the B-29 aerial mining campaign were just as effective as B-29 attacks on industry alone,[182] though he admitted, “the thing that brought about the determination to make peace was the prolonged bombing by the B-29s.” Prime Minister Baron Kantarō Suzuki reported to U.S. military authorities it “seemed to me unavoidable that in the long run Japan would be almost destroyed by air attack so that merely on the basis of the B-29s alone I was convinced that Japan should sue for peace.

  4. Boonton,
    And another thing. “Projections are just projections”. No. Projections in many cases always what you base your decisions on. If I do X vs Y and the projected consequences of choosing one over the other has material and human costs is leading factor in your decision. See also this, which is relevant to the discussion. The point however remains that projections are not irrelevant.

  5. Boonton,
    I might add the poster linked above missed the “bomb shipping (and air drop mines)” mentioned in the wiki post as a strategic choice.

  6. More died in the fire bombing of Tokyo than the two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

    This would be relevant if you agreed with the blogger that the atom bombs were wrong but just were quibbling about what was the worst thing the US ever did morally. Presumably, though, since you justified the atom bombings on the grounds that they saved lives, on a net basis, the same would apply to the fire bombing of Tokoyo.

    Well, a “strict” naval blockade had been in place for years. Japan’s resolve hadn’t been changed by that, so it is unlikely to expect continuing for another ?? (how long?) would make a difference.

    Why would surrender be needed if Japan was effectively locked into their own island? The moral calculus you’re providing here seems flawed because the worse option involves choices by the actor. Just because firebombing cities would kill more civilians than the 1940’s era atom bombs doesn’t make atom bombs a moral decision.

    Japan elite but the “this is different” aspect that allowed them to do so without loss of face.

    Or the elite could have decided ‘this is the test of heaven to see if we are worthy of our faith’ and choosen to dig in and endure more. In fact it seems the only reason that didn’t happen was the fact that a single person, the Emperor, decided against it and an attempted coup failed. If the elite had taken that option would the morality of the bombing have changed?

    Cite? Have they done so?

    So the morality of an action is made by projecting a net saving of life…but you have to project it…if the US just bombed Japan with atom bombs without estimating it would save lives that would be immoral?

    For the record I’m not really sure of the morality of either the fire bombing or atom bombing.

  7. Boonton,

    This would be relevant if you agreed with the blogger that the atom bombs were wrong but just were quibbling about what was the worst thing the US ever did morally.

    Not logically correct. The claim that the blogger makes (that the two Atom bombs were the worst thing) that is internally inconsistent when placed alongside the firebombing and other civilian bombing campaigns which destroyed more and killed more.

    Just because firebombing cities would kill more civilians than the 1940′s era atom bombs doesn’t make atom bombs a moral decision.

    Right. It makes the atom bombs less worse.

    So the morality of an action is made by projecting a net saving of life…but you have to project it…if the US just bombed Japan with atom bombs without estimating it would save lives that would be immoral?

    Irrelevant. The decision was made on the expectation that lives (US and Japanese) would be saved.

  8. Boonton,

    Why would surrender be needed if Japan was effectively locked into their own island?

    Because there is a high cost associated with keeping the blockade in place. You want hostilities to end at some point.

  9. Because there is a high cost associated with keeping the blockade in place. You want hostilities to end at some point.

    Was there really? Japan’s history was one of a self-imposed blockade and that policy was quickly turned on its head after the US ‘opened’ it. It’s not obvious to me that Japan would have responded to a blockade with a policy of multi-generational auturkey.

    And what would be the high cost of a blockade? Without a navy the costs in terms of actual fighting would be non-existant. All the blockade would have to do is inspect what’s going in for weapons and munitions. It would be less costly IMO than East Germany imposed on itself with the Berlin Wall.

    Firebombs vs. atomic bombs

    Right. It makes the atom bombs less worse.

    The comparison then would be one plane conducting a firebomb mission to one plane conducting an atomic bombing mission. When seen in that light the civilian bombing campaigns only look worse because of their great volume.

    Irrelevant. The decision was made on the expectation that lives (US and Japanese) would be saved.

    I don’t get this, does the decision become moral because experts ‘expect’ net lives to be saved or is it moral because you in fact believe net lives were saved by it?

  10. Boonton,

    The comparison then would be one plane conducting a firebomb mission to one plane conducting an atomic bombing mission.

    The atom bomb had something of a big logistical tail which you ignore (the production of said bomb was very very expensive). “one plane compared to one plane” is a useless comparison. If you called it a “atomic bombing campaign” … it would have ended (for a long pause) after fat boy because they had no more in the production pipe line.

    It’s not obvious to me that Japan would have responded to a blockade with a policy of multi-generational auturkey.

    They were not at war with most of the world prior to the “opening”. They were responding to the current blockade with a cost-effective kamikaze campaign. Maintaining submarine and air dropped mine blockades concurrent with destroyers, battleships, carriers and support in the face of kamikaze attacks would have a cost. You ignore that.

  11. The atom bomb had something of a big logistical tail …

    True but so did conventional bombing. To get to a single B-52, for example, you had a long line of investments going all the way back to WWI and even before.

    But the discrete unit here is the individual plane. You can send one bomber over a city or a thousand and what you describe as the firebombing was the result of choosing to send thousands rather than dozens or fewer planes over a city.

    If you called it a “atomic bombing campaign” … it would have ended (for a long pause) after fat boy because they had no more in the production pipe line.

    True but how does this compare to the morality of an atomic attack versus a bombing attack? Conventional bombs can be made to range from low to high power. Atomic bombs are not easy to make at smaller yields than Fat Man.

    Maintaining submarine and air dropped mine blockades concurrent with destroyers, battleships, carriers and support in the face of kamikaze attacks would have a cost. You ignore that.

    Kamikaze attacks were not that cheap. A successful one costs a perfectly good plane and an experienced (at least somewhat experienced) pilot. They are also more or less useless against submarines A blockaded Japan would not be able to trade with the world and without a navy and merchant marine it wouldn’t be able to bring supplies into its economy. Trying to go after ships with kamikaze attacks would not be able to alter that equation.

    I suspect you could have implemented a long term blockade. Putting the capital ships several hundred miles off the coast would have cost Japan a lot of fuel trying to find targets for the kamikaze’s (and radar would have helped the US fend off attacks that did come). Subs closer to the ports could stop any unauthorized efforts to resupply Japan on a large scale. Bombing campaigns targetting Japan’s airfields would further deplete a kamikaze offensive capability. Would people have died? Yes but it would be a fraction of the million or so estimated for a full scale invasion and probably not even as much as the hundreds of thousands who died during the atomic and firebombings.

    You could even make a blockade less deadly by simply ensuring Japan was not allowed to rebuild it’s navy. Without a navy its homeland army would be useless and irrelevant to military affairs. Japan, being an island like the UK, needs to have a navy or else it isn’t a power. A ‘no navy’ orientated blockade would simply consist of sinking any Japanese military ship larger than short range coast guard type patrol craft. Shipyards capable of building capital ships like destroyers and carriers could likewise be destroyed by limited bombing campaigns. Without any ability to seriously project force, there’d be no need to keep many capital ships near Japan hence few targets for kamikaze’s to work with.

  12. Boonton,

    Kamikaze attacks were not that cheap. A successful one costs a perfectly good plane and an experienced (at least somewhat experienced) pilot.

    The success/fail rate economics of the kamikaze made it very effective. Dive and torpedo bombers took a much more experienced pilot and was far less successful than a guy flying a plane to crash in to a ship. And you are forgetting the loss cost of the cruiser and its many hundreds of men who are killed in the attack. These were situations were radar was being used to the best of our ability to fend off attacks. Point is, from a cost perspective, the Kamakazi was effective. Their success rate would make a long term blockade expensive.

    Putting the capital ships several hundred miles off the coast would have cost Japan a lot of fuel trying to find targets for the kamikaze’s (and radar would have helped the US fend off attacks that did come).

    Are you cognizant of the fact that the Kamikaze campaign from the Japanese mainland during the US taking of the Okinawa Island occurred and was effective? Okinawa is 400 miles from Japan.

    You could even make a blockade less deadly by simply ensuring Japan was not allowed to rebuild it’s navy. […] Subs closer to the ports could stop any unauthorized efforts to resupply Japan on a large scale. Bombing campaigns targetting Japan’s airfields would further deplete a kamikaze offensive capability.

    You do realize throughout the war a “blockade” was something we were trying to do. You pretense that this is something we hadn’t “turned on” is naive. All your suggestions of “things to do” were things we were already doing. You know that right?

    I suspect you could have implemented a long term blockade.

    I agree. I said it would be hard and expensive.

    True but so did conventional bombing. To get to a single B-52, for example, you had a long line of investments going all the way back to WWI and even before.

    Yes. But every day during the bombing campaign 400-800 B29’s attacked Japanese targets with conventional bombs. Your comparison pretends that it was conceivable at any point in history to send 400-800 planes with atom bombs at Japan. B-52 were jet based (turbofan not piston driven prop), btw. None in WWII.

    You can send one bomber over a city or a thousand and what you describe as the firebombing was the result of choosing to send thousands rather than dozens or fewer planes over a city.

    We sent as many as we could. Basically of both bomb types.

    But we digress. The question at hand is what makes the Hiroshima/Nagasaki attacks so much more horrific in the context of the conventional bombing campaign. It can’t be “bombing civilians” because then the firebombing campaign was worse than the two atom bombs. What makes it worse?

    Recall also. You rejected the project momentum as a factor in decisions. We spent many millions of dollars, much resources, our best and brightest, and built a super bomb. How is that not like MacArthur planning and getting ready for an invasion/recapture of Luzon and continuing on with it even though strategically at the point at which it was possible it was also strategically irrelevant. Max Hastings suggests once you’ve put in a lot of time and effort to prepare, it is hard not to follow through. Luzon (Burma for the UK) and the Manhattan project might fall in that category. You have been locked in a 5 year struggle with Japan. You have a super bomb. It’s use has a momentum of its own. And in the context of firebombing, again, the logic not to use it is scant if you’re already in the place where the bombing campaign is deemed moral.

    And why is that worse for the US than knowingly participating in the gulag slave camps? Or sending some million prisoners to the same?

  13. Dive and torpedo bombers took a much more experienced pilot and was far less successful than a guy flying a plane to crash in to a ship

    Err yes but after an unsuccessful bomb/torpedo attack the plane and pilot could return and be sent out again. Both Japan and to a lesser extent Germany used kamikaze style attacks but there’s a reason why both countries did not use them on a large scale until the end of the war. They are a desperate and costly tactic.

    I’m also not convinced of their success rate. Send 100 planes out to attack US warships without using kamikaze attacks. Say 50 come back. Send those 50 out again, 25 come back. Keep going until you no longer have enough planes to mount a legit attack (i.e. a single plane is not worth an attack). How many US ships have you sunk?

    Now do the same exercise with 100 Kamikazes. How many US ships will you sink? I’m not convinced it will be much greater.

    The Kamikaze method, though, spares you the need to maintain your airfields, refuel the planes, debrief the pilots, get them to train the younger pilots, repair for the next attack etc. That stuff gets super expensive as you approach the beginning of the end of a war that you are losing.

    You do realize throughout the war a “blockade” was something we were trying to do. You pretense that this is something we hadn’t “turned on” is naive.

    Yes and in WWII the decision was made to demand ‘unconditional surrender’. This was controversial at the time as it essentially precluded either Germany or Japan from attempting to sue for peace. A blockaded Japan would not have achieved the US goal of unconditional surrender and the extinction of Japan’s ruling regime but it would have chocked off their ability to be a credible military threat.

    Yes. But every day during the bombing campaign 400-800 B29′s attacked Japanese targets with conventional bombs. Your comparison pretends that it was conceivable at any point in history to send 400-800 planes with atom bombs at Japan.

    Every major weapon used in WWII began on a small scale and production had to be ramped up. Consider the graph at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_the_United_States#mediaviewer/File:US_nuclear_warheads_1945-2002_graph.png. If WWII had gone on for another 5-10 years it’s quite possible the US would have yielded 800 planes with atom bombs at some point.

    But we digress. The question at hand is what makes the Hiroshima/Nagasaki attacks so much more horrific in the context of the conventional bombing campaign. It can’t be “bombing civilians” because then the firebombing campaign was worse than the two atom bombs.

    I think the word ‘campaign’ gives away your game here. 800 planes with conventional bombs was one firebombing. 800 planes with atomic bombs would have been genocide. Yes say firebombing killed 300,000 people. Well you could kill 1 million people with swords. But all this shows is doing something wrong with a sword dozens or hundreds of times can get you to a point equal to doing something wrong with a single conventional bomb once….or a million wrong things with a sword may be equal to several thousand wrong things with conventional bombs.

    ‘Campaign’ however is a bundling word that brings together a group of actions collectively. But you can drop 1 conventional bomb or 800. The smallest unit there is 1 bomb (or one plane dropping a load of bombs). Leaving aside ‘micro-nukes’, the smallest unit of atomic bombing is an atomic bomb of around a dozen kilotons.

    Max Hastings suggests once you’ve put in a lot of time and effort to prepare, it is hard not to follow through. Luzon (Burma for the UK) and the Manhattan project might fall in that category. You have been locked in a 5 year struggle with Japan. You have a super bomb

    That’s no doubt true, but how should that alter the morality of the action itself? If anything that would seem to question the morality of war to begin with since you’re essentially saying “Once I start down this path for good reasons, I may find it impossible to stop myself from doing horrible things a few years from now”. Well someone may just as well say “When I get drunk I get really nasty and prone towards extreme violence”. Well if he gets really drunk and beats someone to death ‘momentum’ may explain the mechanism of how that happened but does nothing to address the moral problem with it happening.

    Anyway you could argue that the US and USSR should have had a nuclear war, there was certainly a lot of momentum towards it. We ended up producing something like a total of 70,000+ nuclear devices over the course of history, not to mention conventional weapons. Yet despite multiple close calls it never happened.

  14. BTW even with plenty of Kamikaze’s, I doubt you could make a serious prediction that a long term blockade of Japan would have cost even 50,000 lives in combat. Much less than a single atomic bombing or a serious firebombing would kill.

  15. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamikaze provides us with some helpful data in the section on the Battle of Okinawa. At least 30 US ships were sunk or put out of action by the massive kamikaze attacks Japan mounted. Yet no aircraft carrier, battleship or cruisers were sunk. Most ships lost were destroyers or small picket duty type vessels. Some of the major casualities the US suffered appeared to have been caused by wood decked carriers. One US carrier lost 389 men from a single attack but steel-decked British carriers only suffered 20 deaths despite 8 kamikaze hits.

    For this Japan had to send 1465 planes.

    THe USAF analysis said that only 14% of Kamikaze attacks survived to ‘score’ a hit. In that sense kamikaze’s might have been more accurate than conventional attacks but then the comparision should be done not to a single conventional attack but cumulative attacks (in other words about 2800 planes were lost by Japan due to kamikaze attacks resulting in about 392 hits. You should then ask what would happen if you took 2800 non-kamikaze pilots and followed them until they were killed…even though they probably had a lower hit rate for any given attack than 14% the question is what would their cumulative chance of getting hits over their career as combat pilots be?)

  16. Boonton,
    In the battle of Midway our torpedo and dive bombers scored no hits with very high (80% + losses) until they the air cap (enemy planes) were absent. So, the answer is that the non-Kamikaze “career” of Japanese attacks on our planes would have had a lower success rate at a higher cost (planes and pilots for career pilots were both higher).

    You’ve been asking about the wisdom of asking for unconditional surrender and proposing a stalemate would be preferred. Hmm. Have you read about the Bataan death march or the rape of Nanjing? Just asking if you knew much about Japan’s actions during the war toward the places they’d taken.

    But basically you’ve been asking us to “instead of dropping bombs” do the things you’re already doing that haven’t been seen to work very well yet. I’m not sure that’s a good argument.

  17. 1. A stalemate could have been accompanied by the defeat/surrender of all Japanese forces outside of Japan itself…since at this point Japan was essentially dead in the water.

    2. I’m not sure what your metric on midway establishes. You’re saying that conventional air attacks on ships had a very low success rate when you had to contend with enemy air cover. That seems to confuse the issue.

    What we know is in a concentrated use of kamikaze’s, very few hits were scored relative to hundreds of planes lost. We also know that when your navy is made up of hardened carriers and heavier ships, kamikaze hits do little damage (note the experience of the armor decked UK carriers versus the wood decked US ones). Here’s another factor, you accomplish a blockade with a diverse array of ships that can be spread out over a wide span of ocean. The Battle of Okinawa, in contrast, entailed the US having to concentrate many ships in a smaller area to support operations. In other words the Japanese knew exactly where to send their 2000+ kamikaze’s to attack.

    One could reasonably project that a blockaded Japan would have required tens of thousands of planes and, more importantly, a huge amount of fuel to roam the oceans trying to find and kill ships enforcing the blockade. That quite simply would have required resources Japan didn’t have and couldn’t get at that point in the war. A blockaded Japan option would have likewise switched the US navy over to heavier carriers and numerous subs which would have been all but immune to kamikaze attack. Would it have resulted in deaths? Probably but I’d be surprised if your death toll exceeded even 10,000 let alone approached the 100,000+ figure you get from firebombing or atomic bombing.*

    * Keep in mind too that for Japan ‘breaking the blockade’ would only be an initial step. Japan had no allies in the region, having pissed off China, Russia and Austraila. Japan would have to break the blockade and get someone to send them lots of filled cargo ships. Who would do this? Japan’s possessions were either captured or under seige and Japan had no means of paying merchants at this point. Germany was out of the war at this point leaving it alone. The purpose of the strategy then would not be so much to seal up Japan tightly but simply keep them from rebuilding their own navy internally or getting enough resources to make a non-trivial run for rearmament. This would not require the very tight type of blockade that, say, Israel has on Gaze…where even a few truck loads slipping in could mean serious problems for Israel.

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