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Author Topic: Ready for a Nuclear Iran?
SenojRetep
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Ready or not, here it comes.

According to the Washington Post article, based on a sneak peek from an IAEA report coming out later this week, "Iran’s government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon." With a little help from Pakistan, N. Korea and "a former Soviet weapons scientist" named Vyacheslav Danilenko, Iran now appears capable of completely assembling a nuclear bomb. Iranian officials gave non-denial denials.

It's not clear to me from the article how much of the intelligence information in the report is new. The Post's information comes from slides produced on the report by David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector who wasn't involved in generating the report itself, and who's previous pronouncements on Iran's nuclear capabilities have been disputed by other UN nuclear inspectors. That said, 2012 is generally within the time range given by intelligence agencies over the past decade that Iran could obtain a nuclear weapon (although most estimates seemed to feel it wasn't a likely occurrence until 2015 or later).

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Rakeesh
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It's interesting, in a very scary sort of way, how much of an impact this sort of thing could have on world history, not just that of the region. Lately hearing these rumblings I've thought (and I'm sure lots of people have), "Man. This is the kind of thing that people a century from now will be reading about in history books along the lines of 'It started when...'."
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Mucus
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Man, about damn time.
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twinky
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I think it was inevitable that they'd get there eventually. Even expecting it, though, it's still unsettling. [Frown] This must be a shadow of what people who lived through the Cold War felt.
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Rakeesh
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I'm not sure if you're just funnin', or remarking that it's been a long time and expected it sooner, Mucus...?
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Mucus
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A bunch of things:

a) I think that it was fairly certain that Iran would continue to work on WMDs. Having seen what happened (or didn't) in Libya, Iraq, and North Korea would be a pretty good pointer to continue development.

b) Sanctions were fairly inefficient

c) While Iran having a nuclear weapon is a big deal to Europe, Israel, and North America, it really isn't all that much of a big deal to most of Africa and Asia.

Under those conditions, you can slow the thing down with sanctions and computer viruses, but I think that in the end, this is inevitable.

The old world powers are going to have to deal with a world in which power is spread to new powers and perhaps spread more evenly. This is one manifestation of that.

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Blayne Bradley
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Unless we strike first and push them back a decade.

Its one thing to have the peaceful development of nuclear power for energy, but nuclear armaments isn't something that is useful to see seen spread willynilly.

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Mucus
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Who's "we"?

And "useful" varies a lot from country to country depending on who is doing the considering.

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BlackBlade
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At this point all the US can really do is make sure Iran realizes that if a nuclear weapon detonates anywhere populated with people, we can figure out exactly where it came from, and if it traces back to them, we will consider that an act of war.
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Blayne Bradley
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Canada is allied to the United States as a part of NORAD and NATO.
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Rakeesh
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I agree that in the long run it's inevitable, absent a willingness to make it inevitable (which the world in general has). For better or worse-and only time will tell-the world in general has decided that war with Iran now is worse than the possible eventual use of Iran's all-but-certain future nuclear option.

I agree that outside the US, Israel, and to a lesser extent Europe Asia and Africa don't much care. Time will tell whether it's a big deal to those continents or not. *shrug* The government of Iran, insofar as that can even be pinned down, not uncommonly says stuff that's, like, action movie bad-guy level of nutso.

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kmbboots
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Too bad Iran doesn't have a secular Muslim enemy in the region to keep them busy.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
Canada is allied to the United States as a part of NORAD and NATO.

NORAD and NATO don't require us to participate. Example: Canada's non-participation in the Iraq War
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Rakeesh
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quote:
Too bad Iran doesn't have a secular Muslim enemy in the region to keep them busy.
*snort* Because that'd be better? (Not sure if you were just bein' pithy.)
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kmbboots
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Sort of pithy. But, yeah, better. I would rather Iraq and Iran sniping at each other (like we paid Saddam Hussein to do) and the US able to address a nuclear Iran with our credibility and military undamaged by our adventure in Iraq.
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Rakeesh
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Really, kmbboots? I have to admit I'm enormously skeptical that there are many circumstances at all-including this one-in which you'd be anything but strongly opposed to the US 'addressing a nuclear Iran with our credibility and military undamaged...in Iraq'.

I'm also baffled as to how having a really hated neighbor that didn't have WMD right next door to a nuclear Iran would in any way be a good thing.

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kmbboots
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Did you assume that I was talking about "addressing" a nuclear Iran with an invasion? I am pretty sure there are other ways. And I am pretty sure that our invasion of Iraq has made those ways more difficult, too.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
The government of Iran, insofar as that can even be pinned down, not uncommonly says stuff that's, like, action movie bad-guy level of nutso.

They're crazy, but sometimes the crazy is specifically to bait israel.
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Rakeesh
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quote:
Did you assume that I was talking about "addressing" a nuclear Iran with an invasion? I am pretty sure there are other ways. And I am pretty sure that our invasion of Iraq has made those ways more difficult, too.
The second is a different question. As to the first, so you'd support...what, exactly, aside from strongly-worded arguments, to 'address' a nuclear Iran?

(Samprimary, as to that, that's some of what I was referring to in the action movie bad-guy stuff. That strategy is just...well.)

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Lyrhawn
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A couple people have already said most of what I would have said. It was inevitable. US/Euro efforts to stop them from getting a bomb have been totally and entirely ineffective. On the one hand we've used useless sanctions, and on the other we prove to them in our handling of countries like North Korea that getting a bomb would be an incredibly wise thing to do, because we'll treat them much differently in our diplomacy. Bush seriously did not understand how to use carrot and stick diplomacy.

As BlackBlade said, if they actually do set off an attack on us...and at this point they'd have to smuggle the bomb in, or hit something overseas, since their ICBM program, even with help from China and North Korea, hasn't produced a Shehab capable of hitting mainland America yet. But even if they smuggled it in, it wouldn't take long for us to figure out where it came from, and they'd have to expect we'd level Tehran shortly after.

Despite the rhetoric you hear on a daily basis, I've read enough to convince me that while different from us, the leaders of Iran aren't suicidal. They know what would be involved in a nuclear attack, and they would have to know it would virtually guarantee their deaths. They like being alive, and they like lording over unhappy Iranians. Unless there is some sort of escalation over a specific event, I'm not particularly worried. Developing the bomb was a smart move for them, but I think it has far more to do with diplomacy and negotiations than anything, and for that matter, regional power.

Kate mentioned the unfortunate circumstance of not having a regional neighbor to spar with, and while it's try that Iraq is, if anything, more an ally than a villain now, Saudi Arabia is still very, very much a regional antagonist. They hate each other, and Saudi Arabia, while non-nuclear, is still armed to the teeth with US-made weapons, and they've been warily eying Iran's nuclear development program for a decade or more. The last thing Saudi Arabia wants is for Shiite Iran to become the dominate power in the Middle East.

This all might be premature though. Who wants to place bets that Israel launches strikes on Iran before it has a chance to go operational? We can reason this out in the United States. Without a delivery system capable of bringing these things in, and knowing them as we do, we can wring our hands but feel relatively safe. Israel, on the other hand, likely considers the bomb an existential threat. I don't think an attack is out of the question.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
(Samprimary, as to that, that's some of what I was referring to in the action movie bad-guy stuff. That strategy is just...well.)

And I wish I could be confident that it wouldn't be an effective strategy, but we'll see.
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kmbboots
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Depends on the situation. Diplomacy (or strongly worded arguments as you rather tritely describe it), sanctions, carrots as well as sticks. Targeted military strikes with sufficient intelligence. Working with Russia as they have more leverage with Iran. All sorts of things. None of which are easier now. Heck, (and here I am being pithy again) we could have had ol' Saddam do our dirty work. And even pithier, would Iran have had the resources to concentrate on their nuclear program with Iraq harassing them for the last 10 years instead of being a shambles that supports Iran as much as not?
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Blayne Bradley
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
Canada is allied to the United States as a part of NORAD and NATO.

NORAD and NATO don't require us to participate. Example: Canada's non-participation in the Iraq War
HarperGov.
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kmbboots
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Damn.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/30/world/middleeast/tehran-protesters-storm-british-embassy.html

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Mial
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This is highly unsettling. Hopefully a nuclear Iran won't be able to shake things up too much.
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akhockey
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UK withdraws diplomats from Iran, gives Iranian diplomats in UK 48 hours to withdraw. Yikes.
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T:man
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I wouldn't be as worried about Iran attacking the US as much I'd be worried about them attacking their neighbors. They're settled in between countries who are not so friendly to their Shia neighbors.
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Foust
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I figure the future of the human race would be a lot cheerier if time travelers could nix every attempt to develop nuclear weapons, including the Manhattan Project.

'Cause nukes are just a big 'ol shoe that we're all stuck waiting to be dropped.

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Lyrhawn
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T:man, well, I don't think Iraq is a natural enemy, at least not for religion reasons considering Iraq is a Shi'a dominated nation finally out from under Saddam's Baathist secular boot. While that doesn't mean they'll naturally be drawn into Iran's orbit the way a lot of people are fearing, it also doesn't mean that they are going to be the sort of natural enemy that Saudi Arabia, for example, certainly is. Saudi Arabia/Iran is the Sunni-Shiite contest you're thinking of, not Afghanistan or Iraq. The former couldn't possibly care less about Iran, and the latter is really more indifferent given the swirling vortex of political machinations happening there at the moment.

Tom Donilon, National Security Advisor, on Iran at the Brookings Institute

Obama's NSA, Tom Donilon, gave a policy address on Iran last week at the Brookings Institute that was rather unusual and very interesting. It's 40 minutes long, and makes a number of interesting points about the current state of Iran, the political situation over there, the effects of sanctions, and the way forward. I'm not sure if I really buy all of it, but it's an interesting analysis, and a great entry point for a discussion on Iran.

There's also a panel before and after the speech that I haven't listened to yet, where experts discuss Iran.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
I figure the future of the human race would be a lot cheerier if time travelers could nix every attempt to develop nuclear weapons, including the Manhattan Project.

'Cause nukes are just a big 'ol shoe that we're all stuck waiting to be dropped.

You'd dramatically alter the past in incredibly unpredictable ways. Let's ignore the fact that without nuclear power around the world, we'd have an extra half century's worth of emissions from fossil fuel plants, since a lot of people don't buy that argument. The Cold War looks a lot different, and possibly a lot more violent. Without the threat of nuclear power, without the Sword of Damocles hanging from a string over every decision that the Soviets and Americans made, and the fear of what escalation would lead to, there's really no reason why a full-scale conventional war in Europe wouldn't have happened.

Plus Japan wouldn't have existed as it does today. Without nukes to end the war as quickly as it ended, the Soviets would have started invading the Home Islands in August of 1945, the same month the bombs were dropped. Now maybe they just invade Hokkaido, and the Japanese lose the least populated of the four, but maybe they move swiftly and land on Honshu. Now there's a North Japan and a South Japan, and the course of the nation forever changes. Quite simply, the bombs saved Japan from some form of occupation at Soviet hands. Some historians theorize that America's economic pressure and bombing would have forced them to capitulate sometime in the autumn of 1945. Maybe, but they weren't even willing to surrender after Hiroshima was nuked, and the writing was on the wall long before that. American plans to invade Honshu wouldn't have American boots on the ground until at least six months after the Soviets planned to invade. Given the role Japan has played in the world in the last 60 years, it would have led to a dramatic shift in the development of technology across the globe.

Plus it's sort of a meaningless thing to try to stop. Atomic research was always headed in that direction. If not during WWII, then some other time. Or they would have started out with nuclear power and it would have led to nuclear weapons. But given where science is today, you can't really extract nuclear weapons and pretend the world could advance as it has without them.

I think it's unlikely that we escape another century without someone using a nuke somewhere in the world. I don't know if it will be a suitcase bomb in a New York subway, or a full-on war between Pakistan and India, or some other combination of pissy nuclear powers with a grudge, but I think it will happen. I think, though, that by and large we're headed down the right path.

Assuming the New START treaty negotiated by Obama and Mededev actually gets enacted (Putin is trying to sink it in Russia as an issue of the politics of self-promotion regard the U.S. missile shield in Europe), nuclear weapons will continue a slow crawl to obsolescence that began in the 1970s with the first SALT treaty.

I think as long as the United States and Russia continue to lower their arsenals, we're heading for an era where it would be impossible for two powers to reduce the world to rubble and nuclear winter, and the more likely outcome is simply two national either annihilating each other, or a few cities get burned off here and there. Either way, most of the tension these days is East vs. East, rather than East vs. West, when it comes to nuclear anxiety.

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Foust
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quote:
You'd dramatically alter the past in incredibly unpredictable ways.
I'm fully aware of that, which is why I said the "future of the human race." I should have clarified: "long term future." The planet is littered with city-destroying Chekhov's guns; am I alone in thinking it is just a matter of time?

quote:
Plus it's sort of a meaningless thing to try to stop.
I know. I invoked time travelers because that would be the only way to do it. Each time a group began developing these weapons, drop in and dissuade them by whatever means necessary.

quote:
I think as long as the United States and Russia continue to lower their arsenals, we're heading for an era where it would be impossible for two powers to reduce the world to rubble and nuclear winter, and the more likely outcome is simply two national either annihilating each other, or a few cities get burned off here and there. Either way, most of the tension these days is East vs. East, rather than East vs. West, when it comes to nuclear anxiety.
I mean long, long term future. Think in terms of centuries. It is very easy to imagine a future situation in which the "missile gap" once again becomes a thing.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
I figure the future of the human race would be a lot cheerier if time travelers could nix every attempt to develop nuclear weapons, including the Manhattan Project.

You'd dramatically alter the past in incredibly unpredictable ways.
Um, yeah. And I don't take threats to mess with my grandfather lightly. *shows teeth*
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Blayne Bradley
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The Soviets did not have the lift capacity to invade the home islands, in fact they were already invading Japanese occupied manchuria in August, operation August storm in fact. They got as far as incheon before Japan surrendered and is considered the real reason for Japan's surrender.

Google up lensworth papers I'm on my phone.

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T:man
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
T:man, well, I don't think Iraq is a natural enemy, at least not for religion reasons considering Iraq is a Shi'a dominated nation finally out from under Saddam's Baathist secular boot. While that doesn't mean they'll naturally be drawn into Iran's orbit the way a lot of people are fearing, it also doesn't mean that they are going to be the sort of natural enemy that Saudi Arabia, for example, certainly is. Saudi Arabia/Iran is the Sunni-Shiite contest you're thinking of, not Afghanistan or Iraq. The former couldn't possibly care less about Iran, and the latter is really more indifferent given the swirling vortex of political machinations happening there at the moment.

Tom Donilon, National Security Advisor, on Iran at the Brookings Institute

Obama's NSA, Tom Donilon, gave a policy address on Iran last week at the Brookings Institute that was rather unusual and very interesting. It's 40 minutes long, and makes a number of interesting points about the current state of Iran, the political situation over there, the effects of sanctions, and the way forward. I'm not sure if I really buy all of it, but it's an interesting analysis, and a great entry point for a discussion on Iran.

There's also a panel before and after the speech that I haven't listened to yet, where experts discuss Iran.

I wasn't just talking about Iraq, Iran has long felt surrounded by sunni powers an they haven't been so friendly with any of their neighbors.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
The Soviets did not have the lift capacity to invade the home islands, in fact they were already invading Japanese occupied manchuria in August, operation August storm in fact. They got as far as incheon before Japan surrendered and is considered the real reason for Japan's surrender.

Google up lensworth papers I'm on my phone.

Considered the real reason for Japan's surrender to the United States?

I've never heard that from anyone, and on the face of it, it doesn't make any sense at all.

Regardless, Russia was planning to invade the Home Islands. I can't imagine it would have required nearly as much lift capacity as the United States had, given the relatively short distance being traveled, but they had the plans drawn up and were ready to go. If they weren't really planning it, then the nuclear bombings were a colossal blunder given that keeping the Soviets out was one of the biggest reasons for doing so.

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natural_mystic
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
Considered the real reason for Japan's surrender to the United States?

I've never heard that from anyone, and on the face of it, it doesn't make any sense at all.

There's a recent book that argues this. Here's a link:http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2011/08/07/why_did_japan_surrender/?page=full, and a relevant excerpt:
quote:

According to his close examination of the evidence, Japan was not poised to surrender before Hiroshima, as the revisionists argued, nor was it ready to give in immediately after the atomic bomb, as traditionalists have always seen it.…Americans, then and today, have tended to assume that Japan's leaders were simply blinded by their own fanaticism, forcing a catastrophic showdown for no reason other than their refusal to acknowledge defeat.…But Hasegawa and other historians have shown that Japan's leaders were in fact quite savvy, well aware of their difficult position, and holding out for strategic reasons.

Their concern was not so much whether to end the conflict, but how to end it while holding onto territory, avoiding war crimes trials, and preserving the imperial system. The Japanese could still inflict heavy casualties on any invader, and they hoped to convince the Soviet Union, still neutral in the Asian theater, to mediate a settlement with the Americans. Stalin, they calculated, might negotiate more favorable terms in exchange for territory in Asia. It was a long shot, but it made strategic sense.

On Aug. 6, the American bomber Enola Gay dropped its payload on Hiroshima.…As Hasegawa writes in his book "Racing the Enemy," the Japanese leadership reacted with concern, but not panic.…Very late the next night, however, something happened that did change the plan. The Soviet Union declared war and launched a broad surprise attack on Japanese forces in Manchuria. In that instant, Japan's strategy was ruined. Stalin would not be extracting concessions from the Americans. And the approaching Red Army brought new concerns: The military position was more dire, and it was hard to imagine occupying communists allowing Japan's traditional imperial system to continue. Better to surrender to Washington than to Moscow.


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Lyrhawn
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I see what you mean. I'm skeptical of the evidence, for the reasons the author of that article illustrates.

However I do tend to agree with the point about the bombs. Many military historians agree that the war would have been over before the operation to invade Kyushu anyway. America's economic strangulation and bombing campaigns would have forced a surrender around October, before the invasion was set to go off. And the America had approached Japan before to discuss a conditional surrender that might have allowed some of the top command to survive, but there was a diplomatic misunderstanding that both sides too insult too, and the issue of the divinity of the Emperor was also a sticking point that neither was willing to budge on, even as the Emperor increasingly pushed for peace talks.

I don't think the destruction of the bombs had the effect that many people think it did, but I do think it changed the equation from a sense of urgency. America only dropped the bombs because WE knew that the Soviets were poised to invade. I'm actually a little surprised that it was considered a surprise by the Japanese. Certainly it wasn't a surprise to us, it's the entire reason we dropped the bombs.

Soviet interference was merely a matter of timing. They were beaten, and they knew it, it was just about how the war would end at that point. With the Soviets on their doorstep, there wasn't any more room to maneuver, and neither us nor them wanted a Soviet foothold in the Home Islands. In that sense, Soviet interference was sort of meaningless. If not in August, then a couple months later in the autumn.

It would be interesting to view diplomatic cables between US and Japanese diplomats in July and August to see what was being said, and whether or not we warned them about Soviet plans. It would have been a good carrot and stick argument.

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Destineer
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Nice article on this:
http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/4679/4679#more-2016

quote:
Avner Cohen, the historian of the Israeli nuclear weapons program, put his finger on this point about four years ago, in December 2007:

The route of ambiguity is very convenient for Iran precisely because it is a signatory to the NPT. It will gain the political advantages of having a nuclear option, deterrence and prestige, and it will attempt to reduce its friction with the outside world. Iran will continue to claim that its program is for peaceful purposes only, and it has a right according to the NPT to control all the components for producing nuclear fuel, but at the same time it will encourage the rumors that it is on the verge of producing weapons (or even that it has a bomb in the basement), and therefore it should be considered a nuclear nation for all extents and purposes.

quote:
Could Iran someday withdraw from the NPT and test a nuclear device, as North Korea did in 2003? Certainly. And look at where that’s gotten North Korea. For the reasons Cohen articulated in Dec. 2007, Iran is unlikely to follow suit in the foreseeable future, absent some jarring event. Such as, for example, having its nuclear facilities bombed.

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Blayne Bradley
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Soviet invasion of Manchuria gave them significant strategic and political advantages, it restored their czarist influence in China (for a time), allowed them to strip manchuria of its industry which they shipped back home, it gave them a political hand to play to wrest concessions from the Americans especially regarding Korea for concessions in Europe.

And you are vastly underestimating the logistics involved for invading the home islands, the Soviets had the capacity to to take the poorly and lightly defended Kurile islands and Shakhalin but they could never truly dare to invade Japan/Honshu itself, even with the Japanese principly pointed south against the Americans. Your still talking a few million tonnes of shipping capacity that the Soviets just didn't have availiable in Vladivostok; nor amphibious warfare doctrine to do so nor the experience nor the landing craft. It would've been costly, prone to error and beyond the scope of the Soviet Doctrine of Deep Operations.

They might have been able to land something unopposed but not easily the 2-3 armies needed to secure a position.

http://www.cgsc.edu/carl/resources/csi/glantz3/glantz3.asp here

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Lyrhawn
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Considering all Japan had to defend with was sharpened bamboo stakes wielded by old men and peasant women, the soviets would have been fine with a couple regiments of riflemen until reinforcements could start to flow in. Besides, even landing on defenseless hokkaido would have been a major anno
yance.

Your first paragraph must have been nice for the soviets and Chinese, but doesn't matter much in discussing Japan. Even if youre right, that means Russia played even less of a role, for they lacked the capacity to be a serious thread to what mattered most.

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Blayne Bradley
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Ludicrous, the Japanese had easily over 9 divisions totally roughly 600,000 regular servicemen for the defence of Kyushu alone, allied casualty estimates (I assumed developed by McNamara) based on previous island operations placed allied casualties to 1.2 million dead and wounded after 90 days. Hokkaido could have been taken maybe, a light force on northern Honshu around Tohoku but nothing compared to what the Americans have been able to land thus far in earlier island operations.

Second parapgraph is shifting the goalposts, you didn't specify if it mattered to Japan, and rarely are strategic operations of this magnitude considered on the merits of the target alone, but also consider the broader strategic scope of the conflict and geopolitics. The Soviet Strategic Manchuria Offensive was useful to Soviet interests and had Japan not surrendered would have eventually led up to Soviets taken an increased stake in the postwar occupation of Japan.

Was the Soviet invasion of Manchuria decisive to the Japanese surrender? There is much evidence and scholarship to suggest so, as it lost Japan's last bargaining chip to mediate a conditional surrender and was a blow to moral. Could the Soviets have significantly invaded Honshu? No way, no how, it was logistically improbable. A light foothold in Tohoku maybe, taken Hokkaido probably was possible but not by very much.

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BlackBlade
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You are also forgetting that China and Russia very nearly went to war. If Russia had a presence in Manchuria or even Japan, I'm betting that China and Russia would have gone to war. If not then, then Russia and the US during the Korean conflict definitely would have.
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Lyrhawn
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If you want the sort of commonly held view of the war from a military historian's viewpoint, here's a nutshell. This is from a decades long professor of military history (who specializes in Vietnam, in fairness, but is still highly regarded among military historians) who I've been TAing for this semester:

There were four basic factions or ideas in mind for how to end the war. By mid-1945, the war is quite simply over, it's just a matter of negotiating how it's actually going to end. The U.S. navy at this point is sailing uncontested through Japanese waters, and planes flying over the Home Islands are taking virtually zero losses during their bombing and recon runs.

1. Inducement: The idea here is that negotiations which were sort of going on behind the scenes in fits and starts could lead to a settlement if we backed off our demand for an unconditional surrender, perhaps by promising to let people like Hirohito get off without an execution, explain to them that Russia was straining at the leash to attack, and maybe carrot and stick them into peace. There was a vocal peace faction in Japan at this time. The Emperor himself, while more or less at the mercy of the military leaders, was a vocal advocate for peace by the summer of 1945. In fact, he's increasingly frantic in his desire for it. The Soviets don't like this plan because they want a piece of Japan so they can have a major role in the post-war occupation and control. The problem, from the American perspective, is a fear that if they backed off of total surrender, that the militarists in Japan would see it as a sign of weakness, and that it might harden their resolve. There was a peace overture made to the Japanese through the Brits in India/Burma that was misunderstood, and fell apart, and the Japanese made some overtures to the Soviets, which were likewise rebuffed. The US knew about those overtures, likely via MAGIC intercepts in their diplomatic codes.

2. Strangulation: Cut off their access to the outside world (and they had been imported large amounts of food and other supplies before we virtually destroyed their merchant shipping fleet) and simply wait them out. Post-war studies have shown that Japan likely would have capitulated by November/December via this strategy, but with the Soviets poised to attack in August, they simply didn't want to wait.

3. Invasion: Two plans on the table, Operation Olympic to attack Kyushu in November, and Operation Coronet, to land troops on Honshu the following March of 1946. Casualty estimates are with places like Okinawa and Iwo Jima in mind, where Marines had to fight tooth and nail with satchel charges and flamethrowers for every inch as a determined, entrenched enemy fought to the last man. After the war, men like Churchill and Truman write in their memoirs that KIAs would have been upwards of 500K. Wartime casualty estimates for Olympic were 193,000 casualties, with perhaps 40,000 of them KIA. Not great, but compared to losses at Peleliu and other places, not catastrophic.

But there are a number of problems with these estimates. First of all, the all come post-war, not estimates made during the war. There's no agreement about what the estimates actually were. The numbers often bandied about after the war are all gross exaggerations of what reality probably would have been. The invasion of Honshu was simply never going to happen. It wasn't even set to happen for more than six months, and most people figured the war would be over well before then through Japanese surrender.

The estimates themselves also have a lot of problems. Honshu wasn't Iwo Jima. There were tons of open beaches to land on that would have given the US a virtually uncontested landing whereever they wanted to, and for the first time in the war, they would have been able to use more traditional tank and artillery fire and maneuver tactics that had been denied to them on island hopping campaigns, where their superiority in firepower was severely negated. Japan at this point was completely unable to produce weapons of war. They were out of rifles, heavy guns, artillery, and the ammunition to actually fire any of those weapons. They were literally down to spears and sharpened stakes in many places of their civilian corp. The divisions they had organized were largely paper tigers, not real fighting forces.

Also, there WAS a Soviet plan on the books to invade Hokkaido at the end of August.

4. Atom bombs. It's generally agreed that the bombs weren't necessary to win the war. Strangulation and other political maneuvering would have led to a total capitulation which months. The bomb was believed to be a quick end to the war before the Soviets could mount an invasion. Personally I think some of this might be suspect as an argument if we're just looking at body counts, especially given just how powerful the firebombing of Tokyo really was. Pilots reported upon their return that they could smell cooked bodies from thousands of feet in the air. There is, however, a certain psychological element to the atom bombs that might be discounted, just from their sheer destructive total power, and the lasting effects that radiation had on people. There's also the peace faction within Japan to consider, and the nuclear bombings put enormous pressure on the militarist faction to reach a settlement, especially with Soviet invasions pending.

The Japanese military record and documentation is sketchy. At the very least, the documents themselves are incredibly incomplete because the Japanese high command burned or otherwise destroyed so many of the documents. So how does a good historian arrive at a conclusion from such a mixed bag of sources? Hard to say. I'd have to actually read or look at the primary source evidence myself to really see what the limitations are, but on the face of it, the Soviets don't really seem to matter. You can say that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, such as it was, pushed the Japanese to surrender sooner than they might have, but that doesn't really change much.

Dropping the bomb was unnecessary as a war winner under both the previous framework and this new one. The war was always going to end before the end of 1945, and probably without Soviet involvement, because Japan would rather the Americans take over. So whether they attacked or not, the outcome would have been the same, unless, I suppose, they had invaded Hokkaido first.

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T:man
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I have heard also that dropping the bomb was also for flexing at the soviets? Is there any credibility to this, and if so could you point me in that direction?
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Lyrhawn
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That was part of it. A small part if you ask me, though it all sort of tied together to push the argument for using the bomb to the point where it reached critical mass (if you'll pardon the expression).

There's a school of thought that says Truman wanted the Soviets to both know we had it and that we weren't afraid to use it, knowing the diplomatic struggle that was ahead in trying to sort out Europe (and also perhaps looking ahead a bit to Containment). However, I sort of question that just based on how Europe ended up shaking out. The US forced some concessions out of the Soviets, both in how the Soviets culled the Communist parties in France and Britain to leave them for the west, and in how Greece was brutally repressed by the West and given no help from the USSR. But the US also stood back while the Soviets consolidated power over half of Europe, and the Soviets even tried to take Berlin despite the agreement between Roosevelt and Stalin that they'd basically share. So why posture with the bomb if you weren't even willing to show a little leg when the Soviets actually put up a fuss in Europe?

Another point though, in the other direction, is that the Soviets developed their own bomb several years faster that we thought they'd be able to. Some spies were smuggling material out of Los Alamos, I'm not sure off the top of my head what role it played in advancing their program, but our estimates of their program were off by more than half a decade. And our later estimates on when we thought they'd get an H-bomb were also off. So it's possible that Truman simply thought the US would be the world's only nuclear power for longer than it was, and once the Soviets got there, nukes were simply off the table as a unilateral weapon.

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Blayne Bradley
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
You are also forgetting that China and Russia very nearly went to war. If Russia had a presence in Manchuria or even Japan, I'm betting that China and Russia would have gone to war. If not then, then Russia and the US during the Korean conflict definitely would have.

Operation August Storm was done in consultation with Chiang Kai Shek, who had met with and was allied with Stalin, recall that Stalin had basically told Mao "stfu newb and sit down" as he wanted China to be a bufferzone. China and the Soviet Union, much less Chiang's China were at no point even remotely plausibly likely to fight a war. The Soviet occupation of Manchuria, a puppet state of Japan and originally ceded in 1931 by Chiang wasn't even remotely unwelcome in China, only when they took apart its industry and infrastructure (when the PRC was formed) did relations start souring with China.

quote:

Also, there WAS a Soviet plan on the books to invade Hokkaido at the end of August.

Hokkaido isn't Honsho, it is a historical fact that the logistics didn't support a Soviet invasion of the home islands to the extant you believe they could, we're talking of at least a million tonnes of shipping requirement here.

quote:

4. Atom bombs. It's generally agreed that the bombs weren't necessary to win the war. Strangulation and other political maneuvering would have led to a total capitulation which months. The bomb was believed to be a quick end to the war before the Soviets could mount an invasion. Personally I think some of this might be suspect as an argument if we're just looking at body counts, especially given just how powerful the firebombing of Tokyo really was. Pilots reported upon their return that they could smell cooked bodies from thousands of feet in the air. There is, however, a certain psychological element to the atom bombs that might be discounted, just from their sheer destructive total power, and the lasting effects that radiation had on people. There's also the peace faction within Japan to consider, and the nuclear bombings put enormous pressure on the militarist faction to reach a settlement, especially with Soviet invasions pending.

The Japanese military record and documentation is sketchy. At the very least, the documents themselves are incredibly incomplete because the Japanese high command burned or otherwise destroyed so many of the documents. So how does a good historian arrive at a conclusion from such a mixed bag of sources? Hard to say. I'd have to actually read or look at the primary source evidence myself to really see what the limitations are, but on the face of it, the Soviets don't really seem to matter. You can say that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, such as it was, pushed the Japanese to surrender sooner than they might have, but that doesn't really change much.

You're rationalizing, there's very little to substantiate that either the Soviet's "didn't matter" in the face of strong supporting evidence that I have linked and substantiated. Also statements by Robert McNamara and Curtis LeMay (some of which if I recall from fog of war) in addition to the many many many wwii history books I've read do not substantiate the statement that the Japanese were on the verge of surrendering, there was at least one attempted of a coup after the a bombs were dropped iirc to STILL prevent surrender.

Plenty of historians HAVE seemed to have no problem piecing together a consistent picture of the political process that led to Japan's surrender. "Well how can we REALLY know" begins to sound like tinfoil territory.

From wikipedia:


"Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's research has led him to conclude that the atomic bombings were not the principal reason for Japan's capitulation. He argues it was the swift and devastating Soviet victories on the mainland in the week following Joseph Stalin's August 8 declaration of war that forced the Japanese message of surrender on August 15, 1945.[19] Others with similar views include The "Battlefield" series documentary,[2] Drea,[15] Hayashi,[16] and numerous others, though all, including Hasegawa, state that the surrender was not due to any single factor or single event."

->soviet invasion of manchuria->importance and consequences

[ December 02, 2011, 11:10 AM: Message edited by: Blayne Bradley ]

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kmbboots
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Thanks, Lyrhawn. That is good information. It is about using the bomb though. We started developing the bomb before we were even in the war because we were afraid the Nazi's would do it first. Ironically, they probably would have had they not driven out all those nice Jewish physicists. Once nuclear fission was demonstrated, we were doomed. And that was probably inevitable once we knew about neutrons...and so on. There are very few scientific plowshares that can't be beaten into swords.

We didn't have to drop the bomb for nuclear weapons to be a threat; we just had to imagine it.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Hokkaido isn't Honsho, it is a historical fact that the logistics didn't support a Soviet invasion of the home islands to the extant you believe they could, we're talking of at least a million tonnes of shipping requirement here.
Hokkaido is one of the Home Islands. We didn't want them getting any piece of the Home Islands. That's that.

quote:
You're rationalizing, there's very little to substantiate that either the Soviet's "didn't matter" in the face of strong supporting evidence that I have linked and substantiated. Also statements by Robert McNamara and Curtis LeMay (some of which if I recall from fog of war) in addition to the many many many wwii history books I've read do not substantiate the statement that the Japanese were on the verge of surrendering, there was at least one attempted of a coup after the a bombs were dropped iirc to STILL prevent surrender.

Plenty of historians HAVE seemed to have no problem piecing together a consistent picture of the political process that led to Japan's surrender. "Well how can we REALLY know" begins to sound like tinfoil territory.

So from your Wikipedia quote, your position is that no single event or factor caused the Japanese to surrender...except for the invasion of Manchuria. Curious how you make those two things work.

Imagine a baseball game with two players. One player, GI Joe plays for 8 and 2/3rds innings where he racks up countless runs. Then another player, Babe Ruthsky, steps up and hits a one-run double. Then the game ends. From your point of view, the one run hit by Babe Ruthsky is what won the game. Most people think it's the countless runs hit by GI Joe before Ruthsky even picked up a bat.

"How can we really know" isn't tinfoil hat territory, it's what historians DO. It's how we're trained. You're supposed to be critical of evidence, you're supposed to re-examine "facts" to make sure that what other historians are presenting is "accurately" interpreted or represented. I could launch into a spiel about how there's no truth, and no objective fact, in history, but I'll spare you that particular nugget of joy.

But again, the Soviets didn't matter because Japan was already beaten. They would have capitulated within a couple of months anyway, through sheer starvation if nothing else. All the Soviets did was move up the clock on officially surrendering, but the war was over at that point. It was just a matter of getting them to agree that it was over.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Thanks, Lyrhawn. That is good information. It is about using the bomb though. We started developing the bomb before we were even in the war because we were afraid the Nazi's would do it first. Ironically, they probably would have had they not driven out all those nice Jewish physicists. Once nuclear fission was demonstrated, we were doomed. And that was probably inevitable once we knew about neutrons...and so on. There are very few scientific plowshares that can't be beaten into swords.

We didn't have to drop the bomb for nuclear weapons to be a threat; we just had to imagine it.

Yes, and that's an important distinction. Still, once they do exist, it becomes an interesting moral study to ask ourselves how and why we use these weapons.

I think some of this mattered less back in the Hiroshima days, because back then we had conventional weapons that caused nearly as much damage. And stuff like Agent Orange in Vietnam caused more birth defects in the native population than did the lasting effects of radiation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Add to that the fact that, from what I understand, technology today allows nuclear engineers to dramatically reduce the radioactive fallout that results from a nuclear explosion. So the casual use of the bomb back then, as an expedient rather than a necessity, doesn't appear particularly heinous when measured against the other atrocities of war from around the same period.

But given the destructive power of bombs today, I think it makes their application all the more morally reprehensible.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Maybe, but they weren't even willing to surrender after Hiroshima was nuked, and the writing was on the wall long before that.
How do we know that? There were only two days between the bombing of Hiroshima and the bombing of Nagasaki. Do you really think that was time enough for them to understand what had happened at Hiroshima, decide what to do about it and then deliver their surrender to the allies? This wasn't in the age of instant communication. Reviewing the data, many scholars have concluded that the bombing of Nagasaki took place before the Japanese could have reasonably surrendered.

Seven days after the bombing of Hiroshima, Japanese scientists were able to enter the epicenter of the blast and detected high levels of radiation for the first time. The next day, Japan surrendered. We have no way of knowing whether the Japanese would have surrendered if Nagasaki had not been bombed. The US simply did not wait long enough to tell.

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