I’ve been having the same debate with the same lefty at two different blogs. It started at Serial Extremist where ELAshley put up several posts in reference to the anniverary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. It also came up during a discussion at Casting Pearls Before Swine. There, Mark was posting on illegal immigration, an issue that always provokes mention of WWII.

So my friend Dan, who is very confused about most things, is very concerned about war crimes. He is insistant that our leaders answer for anything considered outside the mandates of several conventions regarding proper behavior during wartime. He’s a rock. He’s unrelenting. He stands firm for the rule of law without question or exception. (Not really. Only about this.)

For my part, I insist that the action he won’t tolerate might be justified. I think Truman was justified. Dan likes to cite two or three generals of the time who disagreed and I insist there were likely two or three who were in full agreement with Truman. Either way, the decision was Truman’s and Truman’s alone to make. He based it on what he felt were the likely consequences of action vs. non-action, drop the bomb vs. not dropping the bomb, and believed the non-action course to be the most risky to us and our allies.

Since that time, there have been many who claim that the bombings were not justified and that they constituted a war crime based on our own laws alone. Some, mostly those from the comfort and safety of sixty years later, insist that there’s never a reason for such extreme action. Again, considering I was not cursed with making such a decision, I defer to Harry’s judgement.

So the real question here is, what do honorable men do when faced with great risk and few options? Do they abide by the law even when doing so will result in the worse consequences? Or do they do what’s necessary to preserve life, or as much of it as possible? There’s a saying bandied about in the world of martial arts that goes like this: “I’d rather be judged by twelve men, than carried in a box by six.” This has to do with the use of lethal force when confronted on the street and whether it is better to risk one’s life or the judgement of a court of law. The same dynamic played out for Give ‘Em Hell Harry Truman. I have every confidence that the leaders we elect are likely to make such judgements from the same place Truman was when he made his, rather than rashly. Thus, though the life saving actions they take may be on Dan’s and the law’s list of war crimes, rational men will spare them and pray that such decisions need never be made again. It’s a good prayer to pray now.

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