Targeting Civilians in Wartime

Subject: History
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 618
Topics: Army, Military Science, Pearl Harbor, World War 2

Targeting of civilians remains a huge consideration especially amongst democracies that either want to shift the implications away from the military or pursue further interests on enemy territory. One of the most memorable cases of targeting civilians manifests in the Japanese war whereby the United States settled upon using nuclear bombs that destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Recommendations on the Immediate Use of Nuclear Weapons, 1945). This was definitely contrary to the moral rules of minding the lives of the innocent citizens who had no control of the war that was ensuing. Employing such military use against civilians in spite of the compelling circumstances remains morally wrong.

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The decision maker behind the atomic bombing was the United States in a bid to end the war that was putting some American lives at risk. The United States made an argument that they had an obligation to use the weapons to protect American lives. While the decision appears to have been solid, it is also evident that there was minimal consideration of other methods through which to end the war. Some scientific colleagues had clear expressed the view that the weapon be used for technical demonstration and not direct military use.

The United States as earlier stated felt that they had the responsibility of protecting the interests of the American people that they ought to protect. The United States also felt that she had to act fast following an attack on Pearl Harbor and therefore foreseeing a future of further lives lost in the war. Essentially, the United States anticipated that if the war continued, the numbers of lives lost would have been more not only for the United States but also for Japan. This is partly because Japan was training and giving weapons even to children. It implies that even greater numbers of Japanese people would be part of the war and thus the deaths of more people engaging in the war would be a seemingly normal occurrence.

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The historical context with regard to the Japanese war was the fact that Japan wanted to prevent any interference in the war that was going on in Southeast Asia. This was the primary reason why the Japanese settled upon attacking the American fleet units. Japan felt that she was making significant steps in relation to Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. U.S interference at the time meant frustration of their efforts. Nonetheless, the attack on the U.S at Pearl Harbor was the onset of U.S joining World War II.

It is evident that even if there were not many available options for the United States to exploit at the time, there were still options that would have led to a different outcome. For example, a technical demonstration would have contributed a lot towards showing the capabilities that the United States had (Setting the Test Date, 1945). The United States would have bombed an area within Japan that would cause minimal casualties. If the Japanese refused to surrender after the demonstration then bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki would now be a more informed decision for the country.

In nations with a representative government, it is difficult to conclude that all votes are decision makers. This is largely because in the case of representative government, the majority wins. It is therefore clear that there are still a high number of people who do not get their wish. However, the fact that even those who lose still support the government makes it easy to conclude that a majority of votes are moral actors. Into the bargain, citizens have an ethical responsibility with regard to public policy, as it is essential to view how such policies align with ethical practices.

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  1. Recommendations on the Immediate Use of Nuclear Weapons, June 16, 1945. Source: U. S. National Archives, Record Group 77, Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, Manhattan Engineer District, Harrison-Bundy File, Folder #76. Retrieved from
  2. Setting the Test Date, July 2, 1945. Source: U.S. National Archives, Record Group 200, National Archives Gift Collection, “Diary of Lt. Gen. Leslie R. Groves,” Microfilm roll #2. Retrieved from
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