Saturday, February 23, 2008

February 23

What important events occurred on February 23?

According to Wikipedia, we can include the following:

Whoa! Back up there.

The raising of the (2nd) American flag over Mount Suribachi was a monumental achievement. The battle for Iwo Jima was fierce, deadly and prolonged. Heroes were born there; heroes died there, usually unrecognized and unheralded, on both sides. A few heroes, all of them American, were recognized by (as usual) the winning side; this is defined as 'those who ended up in possession of the land'.

The battle for Iwo Jima was necessitated by the need for American forces to find a spot of land from which they could launch B-17 Bomber attacks against the Japanese mainland, within the fuel range limits of the B-17 which also allowed them to carry a significant bomb weight and, if damaged during attacks, to limp to safety. It's arguable that the number of Americans who died taking Iwo Jima were greater than the number of Americans who would have died because they were crew members on bombers who ditched and were lost because they could not return to American-controlled air bases.

But in the larger picture, the loss of crew wasn't as important as the heavier bomb-load and the recovery of damaged aircraft.

Was the Iwo Jima campaign worth the loss of thousands of Americans?

In the final deciding event, the Enola Gay was launched from the island of Tinian, using a B-29 launched from the island of Tinian. The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the final final series of catastrophic events which forced the Japanese to capitulate unconditionally. President Truman had determined that conventional troop landings on the Japanese mainland would result in hundreds of thousands of American deaths, and probably at least as many Japanese deaths.

Why? Because the Japanese civilian population had been conditioned to defend the Japanese mainland 'to the last man, woman and child'. Only when it was demonstrated that American forces could reduce the entire infrastructure to rubble, and the entire population to radioactive corpses, did Japan accept defeat.

The slaughter due to firestorm attacks from Iwo Jima, and Nuclear attacks from Tinian, forced the Japanese political and military leadership to accept the literally devastating consequences of continued resistance. The result of the Japanese surrender, while it signalled the downfall of the Japanese Bushido-based culture, preserved the bulk of the Japanese population to find their destiny in the necessary evolution of a new culture based on more 'western' priorities.

Did Japan benefit from this forced evolution? That's debatable, unless you consider the current economic and cultural advances which were the ultimate result of dragging Japan kicking and screaming out of the 17th century. Certainly the demonstrated loss of life, and economic well-being, and destruction of infrastructure as a result of mass waves of bombers from Iwo Jima proved that Western forces could ultimately defeat the military might of Japan ... although the consequences to America and Japan both would be little short of genocide.

That America also demonstrated that "Death From the Sky" had a new meaning with the advent of the Atomic Bomb was a convincing argument that resistance would, indeed result in effective genocide ... certainly 'death of the culture".

Is it better to lose the infrastructure of a nation, as well as its population, to salvage it's perceived National Pride and Culture? Or is it better to lose the National Pride and Culture, and retain the infrastructure and the population?

That was the question which was, with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (remember that nobody know how many atomic bombs were available to The Americans), presented to the Japanese leadership.

Wisely or unwisely, Japan chose to continue its existence as a Nation, and capitulated to Western forces in August, 1945.

The situation was, by any measure, a tragedy. So why am I proud of the taking of Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945 (my birth date)?

Because it served to demonstrate that Japan's declared enemies, who had been subjected to the most craven of sneak attacks on December 7, 1941, had both the will and the ability to either devastate the nation of Japan by an extended series of 'conventional' attacks through bomber bases on nearby islands, or by a shorter series of nuclear attacks from bases far away from any chance of Japanese reaction. (Remember that by this date the Japanese Navy had been reduced to a few ineffective ships and submarines, mostly operating without any effective defenses against Allied predation.)

The Nuclear Option was a bold decision by President Truman, and one which haunted him for the rest of his life. If the Japanese had been unwilling to accept defeat, the only recourse would have been an invasion supported by numerous and effective air attack from near islands. The death rate would have been much higher, not only among American forces but also among the Japanese general population as they threw themselves into the lemming-like counter-attacks by civilians as prepared and encouraged by the Japanese General Staff.

Without the Atomic Bomb, it would have been impossible for the Allied forces to discourage this fanatical last-ditch defense of the Homeland.

But without the availability of near-island air bases, it would have been impossible for Allied forces to reduce the resistance to invasion at all ... and the attacks would have continued until only a primitive survivalist society remained in the Japanese Homeland.

I'm proud of the American determination to show their aggressor the Two Faces of American Retaliation: Bad, and Worst.

You choose.

In the current contretemps between Western Civilization and Islamo-Fascist terrorists, the decisions are even more horrific.

Without a Host Nation, it's impossible to impose force upon the aggressors. The kind of Force on Force solutions which were available during the Second World War are no longer available.

It's simply not acceptable, for example, to apply Atomic Bombs on Tehran simply because the Iranian government 'might' develop and use the same or similar weapons against us. For one thing, there are too many Irani citizens who oppose their government's development of Weapons of Mass Destruction. For another reason, such application of ultimate force weapons would serve more to alienate potential allies (and enervate avowed enemies) than to discourage governments from desisting in their planned terrorism on a national level.

The loss of life, which was a significant criteria in WWII, is even more striking today. We lack the National Will to incinerate civilian populations, and I think that, while it handicaps our list of alternations, it is an advance in global responsibility.

We may consider WWII as "the last 'clean' war", but we must not forget that there was nothing 'clean' about it ... only a series of easily definable, legitimate targets for the deployment of WMDs.

Today, we are required to give much credence to the 'political' options to war. I'm not entirely certain that this will result in a victory for Western Civilization, but at least we can console ourselves that we fought a 'Clean War", sans nuclear weapons.

This may be a Pyrrhic victory. But at least our decedents, while they toil in dhimmitude, can console themselves that their slavery is consistent with a Higher Moral Value.

That will, no doubt, be a great comfort to my grand children.

In the meantime, I'm 63 years old today.

With any luck at all, I'll be dead before I have to see my grandchildren curse their Grandfather for his lack of determination.

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