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Why Obama and Abe Revisit Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor


“As the prime minister of Japan, I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place.”

With these carefully chosen words, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe yesterday paid his homage to the fallen in Pearl Harbor in the attack by the Imperial Air Force of Japan in December 1941. The surprise air raid brought the United States to war against the Empire of the Rising Sun and into World War Two.

He was reciprocating the visit by that other master of politics, Barack Obama, who last May became the first U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, where his country dropped the first of only two atomic bombs ever used in a military conflict. The bomb over Hiroshima fell on August 6, 1945. Three days later, the U.S. struck Nagasaki (the mushroom cloud rising over the city after the bombing is pictured above).

Ever since, the deterrent of nuclear warfare has been based on the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, or M.A.D, as the acronyms aptly describe it. It’s the deadly logic of the irrational.

For the dewy eyed, it is not only morality that’s driving Abe and Obama to exchange flowers over the tragedies both nations inflicted on each other. That they did not apologize is beside the point, and not tremendously relevant in terms of political importance.

Foremost among their concerns is the ascendancy of China and its undisguised geopolitical ambitions. This is an unprecedented development in the history of an empire that has never sought to expand beyond what it considered its natural boundaries, marked by the Inner Mongolia to the north and by Tibet to the southwest. The other shared concern by the U.S. and Japan is North Korea, a communist dictatorship run by a madman armed with a nuclear arsenal, who rules over a starving population.

Indeed, Kim Jong Un has his match in the future tenant of the White House, both in his lunacy and his short fuse. Kim has “banned sarcasm” in his country – no joke – as the buffoon about to take over from Obama would too, if U.S. institutions allowed him to. But more importantly, both Kim and the tweeting charlatan are completely unpredictable.

Hence these closing remarks by Obama at Hiroshima should guide our moral compass in the challenging years ahead:

“The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”


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