Hiroshima as Gun Control
President Obama's speech at Hiroshima, widely criticized as an indirect apology for the A-bomb, is shown in the text of his speech to be something else. It is an interpretation of recent human history not as a contest between good versus evil, as the World War 2 generation saw it, but as an indictment of poor global human governance. The tragedy of Hiroshima, Obama argues, lay in technology escaping regulation to an intolerable level. He said:
It is not the fact of war that sets Hiroshima apart. Artifacts tell us that violent conflict appeared with the very first man. Our early ancestors having learned to make blades from flint and spears from wood used these tools not just for hunting but against their own kind. On every continent, the history of civilization is filled with war, whether driven by scarcity of grain or hunger for gold, compelled by nationalist fervor or religious zeal. Empires have risen and fallen. Peoples have been subjugated and liberated. And at each juncture, innocents have suffered, a countless toll, their names forgotten by time.
In his view war is old. It was the Atomic Bomb which was new and therefore destabilizing. Those who brought this unregulated thing into the world thus assumed a huge responsibility. It's an interesting formulation, for at a stroke the great moral issues of World War 2 are reduced to a narrative in which everyone -- including militaristic Japan, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Soviet Russia -- were alike victims of age-old human passions enabled by revolutionary weaponry. No one is guilty. We are all just victims. But facts have to be faced, Obama argued. Since a "moral revolution" cannot be effected by the great religions which falsely promise a pathway to love while offering only a license to kill, then man is irredeemable without government.
Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness, and yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill. ... But those same stories have so often been used to oppress and dehumanize those who are different.
Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds, to cure disease and understand the cosmos, but those same discoveries can be turned into ever more efficient killing machines.
The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.
So more government we will have up to any extent necessary to make safety mandatory. The moral drama of WW2 vanishes, leaving the Hiroshima speech as an unvarnished plea for an arms-control bureaucracy; the demand for a global safe space; a call for gun control on a planet-wide scale.
Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well. ...
The United States and Japan have forged not only an alliance but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war. The nations of Europe built a union that replaced battlefields with bonds of commerce and democracy. Oppressed people and nations won liberation. An international community established institutions and treaties that work to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.
The Hiroshima speech is in fact intended as a springboard for more arms-control proposals, but Obama's supporting narrative for more government and a closer control of things is at odds with the contemporaneous recollection of those who actually fought World War 2. For them it was a struggle against what was then called fanaticism, what we would today call ideology.