Using the Atomic Bomb

The article entitled “Reclaiming Realism for the Left: Gar Alperovitz and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb” written by Peter Kirstein, talks a lot about how the use of the duet of bombs was more of a political move than militaristic.

Atomic Bomb Political Cartoon [2]
Kirstein describes the work of Gar Alperovitz, and his view of why the bomb was dropped. He describes that the bombes were “political, not primarily military in purpose.” [1] He goes on to say that the bomb was a “diplomatic lever to contain Soviet power” in reality.

Pope Paul IV, in a speech during his World Day of Peace, preached that the bombings were “a butchery of untold magnitude.” [1] Calling the bombs “indiscriminate” opened a new view of them to me. They kill “babies, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, hospital patients, doctors, trees and gardens. Classmates, books, animals in zoos, life savings, sidewalks, engagements, marriages, and highways.” [1]

E.H. Carr [3]
E.H. Carr, an anti-imperialist Marxist historian, critiqued the use of the bombs, citing that there is an “international moral code binding on states….[with an] obligation not to inflict unnecessary death of suffering on human beings.” [1] Although there can be causes for dropping the bombs, looking at it from this perspective and being the devil’s advocate can open up some new thoughts.

Alperovitz had 5 major revelations in his writing about the use of the Atomic Bomb:

  1. There were many viable options to end the war instead of using a nuclear weapon
  2. These options were well known high up in government
  3. The Atomic bomb was a political weapon used to intimidate the USSR
  4. Its military purpose was to “preempt greater Soviet influence in Asia” [1]
  5. It was not necessary to win, or prevent high casualties

It seems that overall, the United States publicly used the Atomic Bomb in order to end the war. It just so happened that it also had the effect of intimidating the Soviet Union. The USSR knew about its existence, even before it was dropped, but it still seemed to effect their view of the US, and might have been the leading factor of the start of the Cold War.



  1. Kirstein, Peter N. “Reclaiming Realism for the Left: Gar Alperovitz and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb ” 2013


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