Absolute and relative gains in the American decision to release nuclear weapons over Hiroshima and Nagasaki

A Historical Case Study

Master's Thesis 2014 77 Pages

Politics - International Politics - General and Theories


Table of Contents



List of Abbreviations


I. Theoretical Framework
1.1 Neo-realist and Neo-liberal Views
1.2 Absolute Gains via Absolute Objectives
1.3 Social-constructivism
1.4 Alexander Wendt's Self-Help/Other-Help Antinomy

II. Historical Analysis
2.1 Primary Level Analysis / Literature Review
2.1.1 Military Imperatives
2.1.2 Domestic Concerns
2.1.3 Ideological Motivations
2.1.4 Geopolitical Considerations
2.2 Secondary Level Analysis
2.2.1 Domestic Rehabilitation
2.2.2 International Peace

III. The Primacy of Absolute Gains
3.1 Construction of Reality
3.2 The United States as a revisionist status-quo power
3.3 American Identity and Interests
4. Conclusion
5. Bibliography
5.1 IR Literature
5.2 Historical Sources
5.2.1 Primary Sources
5.3 Web Pages


The question of whether states pursue absolute or relative gains in international politics has divided neo-realism and neo-liberalism for quite some time now. Thus whereas neo-realists contend that states seek comparative advantages relative to other actors, neo-liberal scholars argue that they are primarily interested in the accomplishment of absolute individual gains. In applying social-constructivist ideas, however, this paper will attempt to demonstrate that such a preference for relative or absolute gains is not naturally predetermined, but inextricably linked to the continual 're-construction' of states' national identities and interests. In other words, it is political actors' own conception and definition of international relations which ultimately determines their concern for absolute or relative gains.

By analyzing the decision-making process of the Truman Administration for using nuclear weapons against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, this case study will show that American leaders were altogether much more preoccupied with achieving absolute rather than relative gains. Such absolute considerations were simultaneously influenced by the pressures of an anarchic self-help system as well as by specific domestic imperatives and the personal views of individual policy-makers on how to best handle international problems and exigencies. More concretely, American decision-makers believed that only the realization of absolute gains such as swift socio-economic recovery and the creation of a more stable and peaceful security environment would ultimately ensure their country's long-term international position in both absolute and relative terms.


I would like to thank the academic staff of the Politics and International Relations Department at the University of Leicester for their helpful advice and instructive feedback throughout the entire Master's degree programme, especially Ms. Ashley Dodsworth, Mr. Haro Libarid, Mr. Edmund Brown, Dr. Jon Moran, Dr. Oliver Daddow, Dr. Andrew Futter, Mr. Paul Trickett, Dr. Benjamin Zala, Dr. Jamie Johnson, Mr. James Alexander, and in particular my Dissertation Advisors Dr. Helen Dexter and Dr. James Hamill.

A special thank you goes to my parents, Suzette and Johny Majerus-Lux; my sister, Marylène Majerus; and to Pierre and Michel Leyers.

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt


The debate over the importance of absolute and relative gains in political decision-making remains a central point of contention in IR Theory.1 In essence, the debate revolves around the question of whether states seek comparative gains over international rivals by enhancing their security and power relative to others (neo-realism), or whether they are instead primarily concerned with achieving 'absolute gains' through first increasing their own domestic wealth and power (neo-liberalism). Whereas neo-realists and neo-liberalists accordingly disagree over states' natural preferences, there nevertheless exists some consensus in that the anarchic environment of an international self-help system often compels states to prioritize relative gains, regardless of which type of gain they might have originally favoured. As this paper will argue, however, the historical record does not support the conclusion that a concern for relative gains inevitably follows from international anarchy.2 Instead absolute gains-considerations might just as well inform the decision-making process of individual actors, given that the degree to which they pursue relative or absolute advantages is not an immutable feature of anarchy but, as social-constructivism would submit, ultimately determined by states' distinctive national identities and interests, in particular by how policy-makers themselves define the contents of their national interests according to their strategic surroundings. Hence analytical focus should move away from treating the issue of relative vs. absolute gains merely as an either/or matter and assign greater importance to how actors themselves perceive their national interest to be best served through absolute or relative gains.

By demonstrating the primacy of absolute gains in the United States' decision to employ nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it will be shown that monocausal approaches to statesmen's underlying reasoning and motivations are altogether inadequate for conclusively establishing whether their decisions are guided more by absolute or relative gains-concerns.3 Rather than concentrating on only one particular area, e.g. military objectives or economic profit, such primary level factors need to be incorporated into a profounder secondary level analysis which not only examines the entire scope and extent of states' foreign-policy agenda, but also the close interaction between domestic and international determinants. This, in turn, will require a broadening of the terms absolute and relative gains by not only identifying comparative gains or individual pay-offs, but also ideational, ideological and/or organizational objectives as the mainsprings of political decision-making.

Accordingly, American leaders in 1945 were interested in the pursuit of decidedly absolute gains that would help them perpetuate their country's long-term economic prosperity and national security. The instruments for achieving these ends were seen to reside mainly in the swift accomplishment of such absolute objectives as 1.) socio-economic recovery at home and overseas, 2.) obtaining greater political freedom for addressing pressing problems in world affairs, and 3.) establishing the structural and institutional foundations of a global order more conducive to sustained world peace and progressive international relations. As such, these points were not only functionally interdependent, but they all also presupposed a prompt and satisfactory termination of America's military engagement with Imperial Japan.

In order to substantiate those observations, Part I will set out the theoretical framework by first revisiting neo-realist and neo-liberal views on absolute and relative gains. Following this, social-constructivist theories will be applied to amend their analytical deficiencies and offer a different perspective on that particular issue. Part II consists of the aforementioned historical case study, beginning with a survey of contending primary level motivations attributed to the Truman Administration for using nuclear weapons. A broader secondary level analysis will thereafter supplement the incomplete insights thus gained by integrating the atomic bombings into the wider historical context of the United States' national and international policies of the time. Drawing on extensive primary source material (e.g. unclassified government documents; minutes of cabinet meetings; memoranda, public statements, memoirs, etc...) and secondary literature of a much larger scope than those accounts exploring but the more immediate military or diplomatic circumstances in relation to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Part III will then eventually synthesize earlier findings into a coherent reformulation of the absolute/relative gains-problematic in IR Theory.

I. Theoretical Framework

1.1 Neo-realist and Neo-liberal Views

The terms relative and absolute gains are often employed by IR scholars as two discrete analytical categories characterized more by their inherent dichotomy than the possible interrelation of their underlying propositions. Thus neo-liberalism assumes states to share a natural preference for absolute or individual gains in their interactions with other nations, independent of those achieved by others.4 More specifically, they are above all interested in enhancing their own national power, prosperity and well-being, leading them to consider matters of international import in "strictly individualistic terms" so as to ensure their own highest possible payoff.5 As Jospeh Grieco succinctly recapitulated that position, neo-liberalism essentially expects states to "calculate costs and benefits of alternative courses of action in order to maximize their utility in view of [their own] preferences."6

These views sharply contrast with those put forward by neo-realism or structural realism. Particularly, neo-realists contend that states' primary objective is "not to attain the highest possible individual gain or payoff, [but] to prevent others from achieving advances in their relative capabilities."7 Accordingly, Kenneth Waltz argued that since nation-states want to maintain their relative position within the international system in order to improve their security and thus ensure their survival, it is only once the latter has been assured that they can turn to "such other goals as tranquillity, profit, and power."8 Although offensive realists part with defensive neo-realism in that they regard power maximization as the main driving force in international politics, they likewise assert that relative gains-concerns ultimately outweigh absolute gains-considerations in actors' political thinking.9 Hence both branches of neo-realism hold that states first examine the effects of their decisions on their relative position vis-à-vis international rivals, and thus essentially only thereafter their impact on domestic and/or socio-economic matters (absolute gains).10

While neo-liberalists typically stress the salience of absolute gains, neo-realists do, however, by no means underestimate the value of absolute capabilities for states' security, survival and/or power accumulation.11 Yet in contrast to neo-liberalism, they believe that concerns over absolute gains alone are altogether insufficient in accounting for states' behaviour in international relations. Consequently, they not only add, but also attach greater significance to relative gains-considerations in their analysis.12 Although the realist contention that political units invariably favour relative over absolute gains is certainly disputable-¾and ultimately untenable as a general assumption about states' preferences in any strategic situation¾, the neoliberal notion that states are insensitive to how they fare in relation to other nations appears even less plausible. After all, it is unreasonable to suppose that states are unconcerned about balance of power-relations or others' offensive capabilities even as they themselves are seeking to enhance their position within the international system.

In any event, however, it is premature to trace such a presumed sensitivity to absolute or relative gains to states' a priori preferences for them. Instead the latter must be seen as a direct function of their specific strategic environment.13 In so doing, Robert Powell may be right that the competitive nature of the international system imposes severe structural constraints on states' activities, causing any desire at augmenting their absolute capabilities to often give way to more acute concerns over relative gains.14 Nevertheless, it would be inaccurate to infer from that reality that states' international surroundings will by default compel them to prioritize relative over absolute advantages. Relative gains-concerns undeniably play an important, arguably even pre-eminent role in the reasoning of individual policy-makers. Anarchy and the constant fear for their survival, notably how the latter might be jeopardized by the offensive actions of other units, after all constitute a major cause of anxiety in international politics. Still, anarchy alone does not prompt states to develop a preference for comparative gains;15 nor will the pursuit of power and security perforce cause them to favour relative advantages.16

Yet such a rationale is implicit in neo-realist thought. Although prominent scholars such as John Mearsheimer agree that absolute considerations are important to political actors as well, they nevertheless dispute the neo-liberal contention that states are mainly driven by such concerns, given that anarchy after all guarantees security to be scarce and will therefore heighten "states' concerns about relative gains."17 However, that view betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the very essence of power and national gains in inter-state relationships as Jack Donnelly has conclusively shown.18 In particular, the mere fact that states are evidently much concerned about their relative position must not be taken to signify that decision-makers will as a result invariably think of national gains in relative rather than absolute terms. After all, both power and security are inherently contingent on the development, increase and sustainability of decidedly absolute capabilities, notably economic prosperity and political independence.19 Therefore, as Donnelly concludes, "the fact that power is relative does not necessarily lead states to pursue relative gains."20 Moreover, states¾or rather the individuals in charge of their foreign policy¾may well differ over how much importance is to be assigned to the acquisition of either absolute or relative gains. For even though their preferences may indeed be shaped by their strategic environment, it nevertheless does not follow that states are supposedly all functionally alike in their approach to world affairs.21 Put differently, it is not only a question of how the international system bears upon states' general attitude to relative and absolute advantages, but rather also of how actors essentially judge themselves that system to be one in which their national interests are best served by absolute or relative gains.

Importantly, however, these two categories of national gains never exist entirely independent of each other. More specifically, concern for relative advantages has been demonstrated to often stand in direct relation to the furtherance of a long-term absolute objective as well.22 Thus even neo-realists have conceded that states' inclination to worry over the relative distribution of material capabilities ultimately derives from their concern over "absolute losses", i.e. how a division of gains might empower rival nations to develop the capacity for threatening their own security.23 Thus relative advantages not only constitute the best avenue for maximizing their security, but also for guarding against absolute losses following a disproportionate increase in the power of other nations.

Whereas neo-realism accordingly does not deny that relative gains might serve the accomplishment of an overriding absolute objective,24 it still clearly emphasises the structural limits imposed by international anarchy on states' unhindered pursuit of such absolute gains. More specifically, it argues that since "the anarchic environment of international politics compels states to be concerned at all times with survival," this "requires that they supplant [...] absolute welfare maximization with the instrumental goal of relative resource maximization."25 In short, absolute gains may well figure as the ultimate objective and/or logical preference of states, yet intense security fears nevertheless often lead them to attach greater value to their relative position. Even though relative gains might thus indeed be all about securing absolute gains or averting absolute losses, it is either way a concern for relative capacities that frequently shapes state relations in international politics.

1.2 Absolute Gains via Absolute Objectives

That particular view, however, is ultimately incomplete. For although competition over relative advantages is without doubt a central feature of international relations, that fact alone does not warrant the assumption that anarchy inevitably causes states to first consider their relative share of power within the international system. While it is reasonable to suppose states' preoccupation with relative gains to issue from the latter's effects on their long-term absolute capabilities,26 there has been given little attention to how states might ultimately not only seek to enhance their absolute position via relative advantages over their international competitors, but instead through the realization of a distinctly absolute gain as well. Consequently, it has become the norm in IR Theory to regard relative gains as states' principal instrument for ensuring or preventing absolute gains/losses. Yet in so doing, an important aspect of state behaviour has been left only insufficiently explored, to the extent that absolute gains are almost exclusively conceived of as a national end to be achieved through relative advantages, rather than being seen themselves as a means to improve both a country's absolute and relative position. As a result, such a limited perspective offers an inchoate understanding of the basic reasoning, motivations and decision-making processes behind states' foreign-policy activities. In particular, it is an analytical fallacy to assume that states are either naturally predisposed to relative gains or that their strategic environment will invariably force them to replace their initial concern at absolute gains-maximization with more pronounced considerations in regard to the relative distribution of material capabilities. In reality, absolute gains may well be assigned an equally pivotal significance by individual policy-makers. Not only for the sake of obtaining an absolute gain in its own right, but rather because it are likewise absolute and not relative gains which they might altogether judge most expedient to advancing their country's over-all interests and well-being-¾both in present absolute as well as in future absolute and relative terms.

True, Grieco may be right that states are interested in "achieving and maintaining relative capabilities sufficient to remain secure and independent in the self-help context of international anarchy."27 However, there is no conclusive empirical, much less historical basis for presuming that states will attempt to remain secure and independent through only focusing on their relative as opposed to their absolute capabilities. Instead states might consider a marked increase of their absolute power¾not just military, but economic as well¾to ultimately represent the most practical approach in their concurrent quest for security. In that regard, it simply makes no sense to expect that states will pursue wealth and prosperity only once the overriding goal of national security has been met. This is not to say that policy-makers will value the former more than the latter, but only that they might view them as two equally important objectives, especially since the realization of such an absolute goal might after all be seen as the most beneficial tool for guaranteeing their long-term security as well.

Naturally, such a potential preference for absolute gains does not mean that states will worry less about comparative advantages as neo-liberalists once asserted.28 In this respect, neo-realists were arguably closer to the truth by maintaining that in addition to their individual gains, states must also include the relative advantages made by other nations into their utility function.29 Importantly, however, the fact that decision-makers appraise their competitors' payoffs does not imply that they will seek to augment their own capabilities through relative gains alone. As Powell remarked, the extent to which states pursue relative gains is after all inextricably related to their strategic environment, so that it will vary "from situation to situation."30 Therefore a concern for relative gains should not be assumed a standard feature of states' decision-making processes, but rather be interpreted as something that ultimately only develops as a function of their specific international environment. For while in a self-help world such a propensity for relative capabilities might indeed sooner or later take precedence, states might nevertheless still find some virtue in the idea of first giving priority to the pursuit of absolute gains. At the very least, they might conclude that relative advantages do not represent the only strategy for safeguarding their survival and well-being, but that absolute gains might actually prove just as effective towards that end.

In that context, a seminal question arising from the above discussion inevitably pertains to the exact circumstances and conditions under which a preference for either absolute or relative gains might ultimately be formed. As Robert Jervis noted, however, that area is presently still in need of a more factual investigation and analysis, given that research has thus far largely been carried out only "at the level of theory and prescription, with much less attention to when decision-makers do in fact exhibit relative gains-concerns."31 Yet if the dynamics determining actors' decisions to secure relative gains have only been insufficiently covered, the same is even more true with regard to the circumstances that might prompt them to prioritize absolute goals. More than that, it is often not even appreciated to begin with that absolute gains-considerations might likewise be of paramount importance in their relations to other nations. That absolute gains do matter in many critical and defining a situation, however, therefore constitutes one particularly relevant aspect of states' decision-making which this paper will attempt to illustrate in a more detailed and exhaustive manner.

1.3 Social-constructivism

By shifting analytical focus to absolute rather than (merely) relative gains-considerations, social-constructivism provides an especially useful and instructive approach to such fundamental questions as why or when states will confer greater importance to absolute gains in their foreign affairs.32 In so doing, however, core neo-realist assumptions about the nature and distinctive characteristics of the international system need not necessarily be invalidated in terms of their explanatory power and contributions to the study of International Relations. Accordingly, social-constructivism does not per se dispute the neo-realist contention that states are goal-driven entities concerned above all else with their own survival and well-being.33 Likewise, it cannot be denied that fears over how the latter might be compromised by the relative advantages of international rivals often causes states to protect their position at the expense of others.34 Contrary to established neo-realist thought, however, social-constructivism would argue that the mere fact that states compete in a self-help world does not in and of itself induce a preference for relative gains. The reason for this is that the national identities and interests from which states' concerns for absolute and/or relative gains derive are not irreversibly given, but rather subject to constant change and internal revision.35 Thus simply because states have throughout most of human history acted in a selfish manner does not mean that they are bound to do so in future interactions as well.36

Yet even if one accepts states to have a largely egoistic identity, this likewise does not indicate that they are only able to conceive of their interests in relative terms. Just as identities are not stable, neither are state interests totally 'immune' to ideational transformation and reformulation, notably since they are after all first and foremost a 'matter of interpretation'.37 Hence although survival, security, wealth, independence, etc. will arguably always form the main objectives of states in international politics, the means and ways which they determine most suitable to accomplishing these ends may nevertheless considerably vary from state to state and period to period.38 Put differently, states are very well capable of 'constructing' their interests to include different scenarios and avenues by which to realize them, a process which as such may be said of constituting but the natural corollary of their distinctive national identity and the way they see themselves in relation to other nations.39 From this it follows that absolute gains might be given preeminent significance if policy-makers essentially believe themselves that such absolute goals will ultimately best serve their nation's over-all security and prosperity. Relative gains might still matter greatly, but it are absolute capabilities, not shifts in the comparative advantages among nations, which states might then regard as the most expedient instrument for securing their most vital interests.

As noted earlier, state interests do not exist outside the wider social environment in which actors operate. Specifically, as Alexander Wendt observed, "actors do not have a ‘portfolio’ of interests that they carry around independent of social context; instead, they define their interests in the process of defining situations."40 Since states are strongly influenced by their social interactions with other nations, their interests as well as the methods for realizing them are likewise constituted in direct response to the structural constraints and demands imposed on them by their international surroundings.41 It is that fundamental process of interest formation which is key to understanding why states might favour relative or absolute gains in their relationships with other political entities. Thus a profounder knowledge of the various factors conditioning that process of interest development is indispensable in clarifying if, when or to what extent policy-makers will allow considerations about their absolute capabilities to dominate discussions on matters of supreme national import.

On that note, constructivism not only proposes to explore the social construction of states' identities and interests, but to include the historical, ideational and contextual influences on their appreciation of international relations as well.42 In particular the notion of how statesmen define themselves the scope and contents of their national interests, i.e. in what specific areas do they primarily locate these interests (security, wealth, territorial acquisition, etc.), provides a valuable analytical tool and interpretative basis for examining the strategies employed by them to satisfy these needs. In international politics, this means that states' actions may never be fully grasped without due recognition of how the particular strategic, political, social and/or cultural context in which they act ultimately bears upon their own views and definition of what exactly constitutes such a national interest to begin with. More specifically, one needs to consider that states' behaviour is, as Ian Hurd put it, "premised on their understanding of the world around them,their own beliefs about the world, the identities they hold about themselves and others, and the shared understandings and practices in which they participate."43 Accordingly, their handling of world affairs may not be representative or typical of a supposedly unitary state behaviour across all nations and strategic settings as some neo-realists maintain;44 nor is it solely a logical reaction to the competitive and anarchical structures of the international state system.45 Rather the framing and implementation of their foreign-policy agenda is part of an ongoing process of consciously re-constructing and re-inventing their national identities and interests relative to their particular international environment. As Legro writes, states' foreign policies are after all simultaneously "shaped by pre-existing dominant ideas and their relationship to experienced events."46

In that regard, constructivist emphasis on the formation of different state identities and interests is perfectly reconcilable with the neo-realist claim that states are power-seeking and interest-calculating entities.47 Yet in addition, constructivists also draw attention to how policy-makers construe themselves the sources and contents of these interests, and this essentially not only to explain their genesis and ideational development, but above all to illustrate "the possibility that different constructions of states could lead to radically different types of states and patterns of state behaviour."48 Since state interests are thus in significant part contingent on social contexts as well as on actors' distinctive perception of defining situations, this prompts the conclusion that neither are the strategies by which they will seek to meet and protect these interests¾i.e. through absolute or relative gains¾independent of their social environment and the way they themselves judge these gains to impact upon their country's over-all well-being.49 Put differently, state interests and the methods used to achieve them do not exist separately from the values and meanings assigned to them, but are constantly evolving and re-defined according to individuals' unique interpretation of the geopolitical conditions surrounding them. Consequently, relative gains might thus not by default be seen as the only approach to ensuring vital interests and objectives, be they security, prosperity, influence or all of them at once.

1.4 Alexander Wendt's Self-Help/Other-Help Antinomy

Regarding the problematic of absolute vs. relative advantages, one may, moreover, also gain further valuable insights by drawing an analogy with Alexander Wendt's discussion of the self-help/other-help-antinomy. In essence, Wendt therein contends that the competitive self-help character of the international order is not given by nature, but man-made as a result of process and interaction, so that it could ultimately be re-made into a less aggressive one as well.50 The main thrust of that position is perhaps best rendered by the following statement:

".self-help is not given exogenously to processself-help and power-politics do not follow logically or causally from anarchy and that if today we find ourselves in a self-help world, this is due to process, not structure. There is no logic of anarchy apart from the practices that create and instantiate one structure of identities and interests rather than another one; structure has no existence or causal powers apart from process. Self-help and aggression are institutions, not essential features of anarchy. Anarchy is what states make of it."51

Self-help is thus ultimately but a product of the actions and practises developed by human beings and, at the same time, sustained by their own definition of international anarchy. Since the conduct of international relations is socially constructed,52 there could accordingly emerge other types of anarchy characterized by less frequent recourse to war and aggression than the generally assumed "Hobbesian" one.53 While it may prove difficult for states to escape the pressures exerted on them by the latter, it is nevertheless not entirely inconceivable that other forms of anarchy might at one point come to replace it, given that what kind of anarchy prevails is after all in large part dependent "on the conception of security [that] actors have" and "on how they construe their identity in relations to others."54

Yet if anarchy is not an immutable feature of international politics, then arguably much less so are the different types of gains which states will pursue within it. To recognize this fact, however, one need not necessarily subscribe to the idea that the present self-help system could indeed be substituted with a less competitive one. Rather the above analogy merely serves to show that just as different national identities and interests might produce foreign-policy practices more beneficial to the establishment of a less intensive security environment,55 so too can these different identities and interests generate other than invariably relative concerns in states' relationships to other nations. Even in a world in which self-help is a prevalent characteristic of state interactions, that condition does not mandate a predisposition for relative gains all by itself. Just as self-help and aggression are not a necessary feature of anarchy,56 neither are relative gains-considerations a self-evident and logical consequence of self-help. Although that principle may indeed be firmly ingrained in inter-state relations, it need nevertheless not per se induce a preference for comparative advantages, but might ultimately just as well work itself out through the realization of absolute gains instead. In sum, relative gains do not a priori inform the reasoning and decision-making of individual actors; they only do so if they are widely held to best assist the accomplishment of a state's pre-defined objectives and/or national interests. By implication, it is possible that relative gains-concerns might thus not weigh predominantly in states' global affairs and designs, but that the explicit pursuit of an absolute goal might instead be regarded most advantageous to guaranteeing their long-term domestic and international position.

II. Historical Analysis

2.1 Primary Level Analysis / Literature Review

Drawing on mainly constructivist theory, the subsequent case study sets out to determine the extent to which 'absolute' and 'relative' concerns influenced the decision-making process of the Truman Administration for releasing nuclear devices over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. In so doing, it will become apparent that American decision-makers clearly valued the realization of absolute objectives over any specific relative gains-considerations. In the process, a number of relevant questions will need to be addressed in greater detail, notably such as: What were the primary reasons and/or ulterior motives which governed that decision? Were they mainly dictated by relative gains vis-à-vis international rivals or rather informed by the accomplishment of an overriding, absolute objective? And: how did such a correlation between short-term and long-term goals impact upon the reasoning of individual policy-makers?

Before turning to these questions, however, it is necessary to first revisit the principal motivations traditionally ascribed to the Truman Administration for employing nuclear weapons. In that regard, academic debate on the atomic bombings has undeniably produced a myriad of conflicting theories that sharply differ in terms of their underlying propositions, historiographical significance, analytical soundness and methodological falsifiability.57 As such, they all largely form part of a primary level analysis that mostly investigates the more immediate motivations of American authorities. At the same time, however, some of them also provide the conceptual basis for the secondary level analysis in the next chapter that seeks to transcend the solitary focus on individual reasons by examining in how far the decision to use atomic bombs ultimately also related to considerations of a more universal and less one-dimensional nature.

2.1.1 Military Imperatives

The arguably most often cited reason by 'orthodox' scholars for detonating atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki pertains to the American need for bringing the Pacific war to a swift conclusion.58 Following Nazi Germany's surrender on 8 May 1945, American military forces were still engaged in a gruelling conflict in East Asia which to many contemporary observers seemed poised to rage on with unbridled ferocity for an unspecified period of time. Consequently, American leaders felt an increasing urgency for finally achieving total victory over an intransigent enemy which even after three years of relentless warfare, large-scale devastation, socio-economic deprivations and an unbearably high toll in both civilian and military casualties vehemently refused to admit to its defeat.59 Unwilling to accept an "unconditional surrender"60 on American terms,61 Japanese decision-makers instead focused all their energy, men and resources on denying the Americans additional operating bases for attacking Japanese cities. As a result, American troops met with especially fierce resistance as they attempted to seize the strategically important, yet heavily fortified islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.62 Although both islands were eventually captured, the prohibitively high number of fallen GI's made American officials realize even more how costly a prolonged war, in particular a full-scale assault on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu scheduled for November 1945, would presumably turn out to be.63

It was in light of these bleak and discouraging prospects, notably the desire to avoid the death of countless American servicemen in an invasion of the Japanese homeland,64 that many historians find plausible explanation for why the Truman Administration resorted to nuclear warfare. Following the widely perceived exhaustion of viable alternatives for concluding the war expeditiously,65 American leaders grew increasingly convinced that only a tremendous psychological shock would be capable of bringing the intractable Japanese war machine down once and for all.66 Seen from this perspective, the detonation of nuclear weapons was ultimately but an extension of the area bombing campaign against Japanese cities that had sought to break the enemy's fighting spirit through an application of sheer military force.67 More specifically, it was an attempt to eliminate whatever capabilities Imperial Japan still had left at its command for resisting defeat, hoping that by decisively shifting the relative material balance in favour of the United States, Japan's over-all ability for making war would be radically diminished as well. This, in turn, would then likewise secure an absolute gain, or rather avoid the suffering of an absolute loss, by saving the lives of many American combatants and East Asian civilians in the process.68

2.1.2 Domestic Concerns

In addition to military objectives, American decision-makers were also influenced by certain domestic reasons. One such consideration allegedly concerned the need for recovering the financial costs of the Manhattan Project¾69 the research programme by which the country's leading scientists and engineers had endeavoured to develop an operational nuclear device ahead of enemy countries.70 Yet although such considerations must not be dismissed out of hand, thoughts on the financial pay-offs of the Manhattan Project were ultimately, however, hardly representative of the over-all motivations of US officials.

By contrast, concerns in regard to public morale and opinion played a somewhat more pronounced role. Above all the potentially dire long-term implications of a protracted conflict on national sentiment and social cohesion, especially on the American people's willingness to keep up the demanding war effort indefinitely, were duly registered by their leaders.71 As Secretary of War Henry Stimson later remarked, the US government could not possibly have justified any more fatalities in the face of public opinion once it would have become known that it had in fact possessed the means for averting such a national tragedy in the first place.72 This and concerns that the United States might eventually experience a nation-wide battle fatigue as well were consequently of more than merely secondary importance to ruling authorities.73 On that note, it was thus likewise the prevention of an 'absolute loss' which figured as an added incentive for bringing the war to a speedy conclusion.

2.1.3 Ideological Motivations

Some historians have also called attention to racial prejudices in regard to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.74 In that context, it is certainly true that many Americans had a particularly low opinion of the Japanese race as a result of the brutality exhibited by its armed forces in occupied territories.75 Ever since Pearl Harbour there had, moreover, also existed a distinct retaliatory attitude towards the Japanese that was only further amplified by the much publicized reports on the mistreatment of American prisoners in Japanese captivity.76 Again, however, a careful reading of the available documentary evidence does not substantiate the conclusion that such a purported wish at retaliation acted as a central motivation for releasing atomic bombs over Japan.

In comparison, ideological considerations of an altogether different order did assume a much more pre-eminent significance. More specifically, American policy-makers regarded their "unconditional surrender"-policy not only as an efficient instrument for dismantling Japan's material war-making capacities, but for simultaneously also eliminating the very spirit of Japanese militarism and imperialism which had fuelled that capacity to begin with.77 As long as the latter would not be decisively discredited as a legitimate means for pursuing Japan's national interests in its relations with other sovereign nations, American authorities were categorically opposed to any arrangement which failed to guarantee that Japan would never again pose a threat to international peace and stability.78 Since intercepted military cables on Japanese preparations for a final, nation-wide stand, however, clearly indicated that its leaders would not ground arms of their own volition,79 it was expected that their acquiescence could only be obtained once they themselves would cease to believe in the success of a prolonged armed resistance.80 Only then would it be possible to re-order Japanese society along the lines of a political philosophy no longer rooted in the idea of racial superiority and the legality of subjugating other people.81

Since conventional warfare had as yet been unable to achieve that goal,82 American policy-makers reckoned that only the aforementioned 'psychological shock' would be able to undermine the inveterate military doctrine which presently still obstructed a peaceful settlement with the Japanese government.83 Hence it was not only victory on the political and military, but likewise on the ideological front which significantly informed the United States' decision to conclude the war with nuclear weapons. The importance of accomplishing such an 'absolute' goal through eradicating a corrosive political philosophy must accordingly not be underestimated in any analysis of the atomic bombings. What's more, that objective actually went far beyond the purpose of defeating Japanese militarism merely for its own sake, given that it was, on a secondary level, also inextricably linked to absolute gains-considerations of a much wider, international scope.

2.1.4 Geopolitical Considerations

Finally, it is imperative to also briefly explore the revisionist allegation that America did not use atomic bombs to shorten the war with Imperial Japan, but rather that in view of mounting tensions within the Great Alliance, it ultimately did so in order to enhance its relative position vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. More specifically, it was supposedly hoped that by pre-empting its entry into the Pacific war, Russian leaders would be denied a stronger bargaining position in the territorial re-shaping and/or ideological re-alignment of both the East Asian and East European political landscape. This so-called "Atomic Diplomacy"-hypothesis, first advanced by historian Gar Alperovitz,84 accordingly argues that the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki above all served to 'impress' upon Soviet leaders the awesome military power recently acquired by the United States, trusting that such an exhibition of sheer military might would ultimately make them more compliant partners in international affairs.85

In response to these assertions, there can be no doubt that a collision of interests between both powers was judged unavoidable in some areas.86 Also, the fact that the atomic bomb might provide the US government with a not immaterial leverage in future dealings with Moscow was likewise duly recognized.87 However, that was not the principal reason why it dropped atomic bombs over Japan. For one, American decision-makers did not believe that political and/or ideological divergences had to inexorably result in a situation in which armed conflict was of necessity bound to overshadow their relationship with the Russians.88 Secondly, American diplomacy was surely not contingent on armament capabilities alone, but was arguably even more influential in terms of the material assistance and financial aid it could offer to or, for that matter, withdraw from the Soviet government.89 Finally, the mere fact alone that policy-makers such as Secretary of State Byrnes trusted that the atomic bomb would "make Russia more manageable" does not lend validity to the claim that altering the relative balance of power between both countries was consequently the chief motivation for attacking Hiroshima and Nagasaki.90 As will be seen, that decision was rather indeed primarily guided by the need of quickly ending the war in the Pacific, notably as it would essentially only thereafter be possible for American authorities to address in earnest any matters relating to post-war international affairs¾including the resolution of whatever grievances existed with the Soviet Union. Accordingly, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's contention that by employing atomic bombs, the United States sought to compromise Russia's bargaining position does not hold up to closer historical scrutiny, if only because American officials had after all on several occasions clearly advocated a participation of the Soviet Union in the war.91

Altogether, nuclear weapons were thus not used to merely achieve a comparative advantage over the Soviet Union. Instead America's relative position vis-à-vis the latter was of at best ancillary relevance to that decision, notably since it was the defeat of the Japanese Empire which was before anything else regarded as the one seminal and indispensable factor upon which all subsequent developments and international relations fundamentally depended.

2.2 Secondary Level Analysis

It is legitimate to say that none of these monocausal motivations for employing nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki is ultimately compelling enough to explain that decision all by itself. Instead they all formed, to varying degrees, part of a much larger process working towards the achievement of a higher absolute end. Accordingly, it is essential to more thoroughly examine in how far exactly that decision fitted in to the over-all agenda of American policy at the time.

In so doing, it will be shown that American reasoning was altogether not shaped by merely relative gains-considerations, but instead by objectives of a less tangible order which especially when analysed against their broader historical background ultimately figured all the more prominently in American leaders' decision-making process. More specifically, relative gains-concerns were widely seen as but one of many aspects of America's much more ambitious, overarching grand strategy for the post-WWII world order. In particular, US officials discerned an intricate interplay between current events and domestic considerations on the one hand, and domestic concerns and future international developments on the other. As a result, a secondary level analysis of the decision to use nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki will need to investigate the functional interaction between 1.) the perceived necessity to end the Pacific war at the earliest possible moment on account of that objective being an indispensable prerequisite for domestic consolidation and economic recovery, and 2.) the cessation of hostilities simultaneously also serving as a necessary precondition for successfully engaging other pressing issues of geopolitical import. Starting from that premise, it will be argued that American authorities expected to encounter substantial difficulties in meeting the various challenges and exigencies of a re-structured international system unless a prompt termination of the war with Japan were to allow them the time, power and resources to satisfy both their nation's domestic interests, as well as for laying the structural and institutional92 foundations of a more peaceful global order modelled on mainly American ideas and visions.

2.2.1 Domestic Rehabilitation

All things considered, it is only reasonable and in keeping with the common pressures of modern state governance that in their decision to use nuclear weapons, American policy-makers should also have contemplated the long-term effects of current international developments on matters that ultimately went far beyond the scope of military operations alone. Such considerations were, however, not indicative of a supposedly ulterior motive for obtaining relative gains vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. Instead a timely conclusion of the Pacific campaign was judged to be of seminal importance to America's long-term national interests on an infinitely more complicated scale, one which consequently assumed an all the more critical standing in their thinking. As seen earlier, a repeatedly invoked reason for why an expeditious end to the war was sought was the need to save the lives of American soldiers who in the event of an open-ended conflict were believed to before long fall victim to the Imperial Army as well. Although historians still debate the exact number of American losses that would have been incurred in an invasion of Japan,93 there can be no doubt that conflicting casualty projections notwithstanding, American officials had ample reason to assume that the total body count might well reach unacceptable proportions.94

Yet as significant as casualty estimates undeniably were, an early ending of the Pacific struggle on American terms was ultimately not only from a military standpoint deemed vital for their citizens' well-being. In addition, domestic problems and concerns were arguably just as pivotal to their reasoning, and this essentially not only because of their repercussions on the American society as a whole, but also on account of their close interrelation with processes of a much wider, geopolitical reach. Particularly, American authorities worried that with each additional month the war went on, America's all-out economic transition from war to peace-time production would likewise have to be further postponed, notably as funds and resources allocated to ongoing combat operations could then still not be entirely re-committed to the establishment of a stable and thriving post-war economy. In that regard, US policy-makers perfectly realized how crucial a healthy economy ultimately was not only for America's domestic prosperity, but also for meeting its international obligations and demands.95 The Second World War had propelled its industrial production to unprecedented heights and, in the process, had helped it to attain a level of economic growth not seen since before the Great Depression.96 Yet the ghosts of economic recession still haunted the minds of many government officials entrusted with the shaping of America's economic policies.97 Accordingly, acute concerns in relation to economic welfare and stability occupied their thoughts to no small degree, so that the requirement of at last placing their society on a sound socio-economic foundation was given even greater priority by them. After all, many questions in regard to an uncertain future remained to be clarified.98 For instance, could the more disciplined domestic order by which the New Deal had promised to curb unfettered capitalism and protect individuals from arbitrary deprivation be maintained after the war?99 How would the relationship between government and big business, between private and public consumption thereafter be organized?100 Would returning veterans find ample job opportunities and decent housing?101 And, critically, could increasing labour tensions be prevented from affecting other vital areas such as investment and corporate pricing?102 In short, it was expected that whatever grand designs the United States might have for the post-war world would ultimately be unable to carry any truly substantial weight in international affairs if it essentially failed to first consolidate its own domestic position through initiating in due course the proper steps for a strong, viable and resilient economy to back its internationalist agenda.


1 Major works in the debate include: Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in World Political Economy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984); Robert Powell, "Absolute and Relative Gains in International Relations Theory," The American Political Science Review, Vol. 85:4 (December, 1991), pp. 1303-1320; Robert Powell, "Anarchy in International Relations Theory: The neorealist-neoliberal debate," International Organization, Vol. 48:2 (Spring, 1994), pp. 313-344; Joseph M. Grieco, "Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of the Newest Liberal Institutionalism," International Organization, Vol. 42: 3 (Summer, 1988), pp. 485-507; Joseph M. Grieco, Cooperation among Nations: Europe, America, and Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1990); Duncan Snidal, "Relative Gains and the Pattern of International Cooperation," The American Political Science Review, Vol. 85:3 (September, 1991), pp. 701-726; John C. Matthews III, "Current Gains and Future Outcomes: When Cumulative Relative Gains Matter," International Security, Vol. 21:1 (Summer, 1996), pp. 112-146; David L. Rousseau, "Motivations for Choice: The Salience of Relative Gains in International Politics," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 46:3 (June, 2002), pp. 394-426.

2 In IR Theory, "Anarchy" refers to the absence of an overarching authority or central governing body invested with the supreme power to universally enforce agreements and settle disputes between individual nation-states. For definitions of the term "Anarchy", see in particular: Oliver Daddow, International Relations Theory: The Essentials (London: SAGE Publications Ltd., 2013), p. 66.

3 On the inadequacies of monocausality in theorizing international relations, see John G. Ruggie, "The Past as Prologue?: Interests, Identity, and American Foreign Policy," International Security, Vol. 21:4 (Spring, 1997), pp. 124-125.

4 Keohane, After Hegemony, p. 27.

5 Grieco, Cooperation among Nations, pp. 34-36.

6 Grieco, Cooperation among Nations, p. 35; Keohane, After Hegemony, p. 27.

7 Grieco, Cooperation among Nations, p. 39.

8 Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1979), p. 126.

9 John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001), p. 83. See also Randall L. Schweller, "Neorealism's Status Quo Bias: What Security Dilemma?", Security Studies, Vol. 5:3 (Spring, 1996), p. 101.

10 Waltz, Theory of International Politics, p. 105; Jack Donnelly, Realism and International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 58.

11 Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, pp. 109-110.

12 Grieco, "Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation," p. 487, 500.

13 Powell, "Anarchy in International Relations Theory," pp. 335-338.

14 Ibid; see also Powell, "Absolute and Relative Gains," pp. 1303-1320.

15 Powell, "Anarchy in International Relations Theory," p. 337.

16 cf. John J. Mearsheimer, "Back to the Future: Instability in Europe after the Cold War," International Security, Vol. 15:1 (Summer, 1990), p. 12, 44-45.

17 Ibid, pp. 44-45.

18 Donnelly, Realism and International Relations, pp. 58-63.

19 Ibid, pp. 60-61.

20 Ibid, p. 61.

21 See Robert 0. Keohane, "Realism, Neorealism and the Study of World Politics," in: Robert O. Keohane (ed.), Neorealism and Its Critics (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1986), p. 14.

22 Donnelly, Realism and International Relations, p. 60.

23 Waltz, Theory of International Politics, p. 105.

24 Snidal, "Relative Gains and the Pattern of International Cooperation," p. 704; Matthews, "Current Gains and Future Outcomes," p. 120.

25 Emerson M. S. Niou and Peter C. Ordeshook, "'Less Filling, Tastes Great': The Realist-Neoliberal Debate," World Politics, Vol. 46:2 (January, 1994), pp. 212-213.

26 Donnelly, Realism and International Relations, p. 60.

27 Joseph M. Grieco, "Understanding the Problem of International Cooperation: The Limitations of Neoliberal Institutionalism and the Future of Realist Theory," in: David Baldwin (ed.), Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 303.

28 Some key proponents of that school of thought, notably Robert Keohane, have since self-critically re-examined and amended that position themselves. Robert O. Keohane, "Institutional Theory and the Realist Challenge after the Cold War," in: David A. Baldwin (ed.), Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 292.

29 Grieco, "Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation," p. 500.

30 Powell, "Anarchy in International Relations Theory," p. 336.

31 Robert Jervis, "Realism, Neoliberalism, and Cooperation: Understanding the Debate," International Security, Vol. 24:1 (Summer, 1999), p. 47; Robert Jervis, "Realism, Game Theory, and Cooperation," World Politics, Vol. 40:3 (April, 1988), p. 335.

32 Major constructivist publications include: Nicholas Onuf, World of our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1989); Alexander Wendt, "Anarchy is What States Make of It: The Social Construction of Power Politics," International Organization, Vol. 46:2 (Spring, 1992), pp. 391-425; Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999); Martha Finnemore, National Interests in International Society (New York, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996); Maja Zehfuss, Constructivism in International Relations: The Politics of Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

33 Grieco, Cooperation Among Nations, p. 36; Waltz, Theory of International Politics, pp. 91-93; John J. Mearsheimer, "The False Promise of International Institutions," International Security, Vol. 19:3 (Winter, 1994-1995), p. 11.

34 Waltz, Theory of International Politics, p. 105. See also Jonathan Mercer, "Anarchy and Identity," International Organization, Vol. 49:2 (Spring, 1995), p. 231.

35 Mercer, "Anarchy and Identity," pp. 231-233; Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, p. 21.

36 Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, pp. 238-243, 314, 363-364. For a detailed discussion of structural change and collective identity in international relations, see Wendt, Chapter 7, pp. 313-369. Martha Finnemore has also produced a particularly revealing study on the transformative nature of state interest. Martha Finnemore, National interests in International Society (New York, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996).

37 Jutta Weldes, "Constructing National Interest," European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 2:3 (September, 1996), p. 279.

38 This is one area where constructivists differ among themselves about the dynamics of interest formation. Thus whereas Alexander Wendt sees the latter primarily as the result of inter-subjective interaction, Jutta Weldes attaches somewhat greater significance to the cultural and historical contexts in which individual state identities and interests are shaped. See Weldes, "Constructing National Interest," p. 280.

39 Martin Griffiths, Terry O’Callaghan and Steven C. Roach, International Relations: The Key Concepts (London/ New York: Routledge, 2008), p. 51.

40 Wendt, "Anarchy is What States Make of It," p. 398.

41 Ian Hurd, "Constructivism," in: Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of International Relations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 303.

42 See in particular Weldes, "Constructing National Interests"; Finnemore, National Interests in International Society; and Peter J. Katzenstein, The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1996).

43 Hurd, "Constructivism," pp. 312-313.

44 See Mearsheimer, "The False Promise of International Institutions," p. 48; Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, pp. 10-11, 17-18.

45 Powell, "Anarchy in International Relations Theory," pp. 329-334.

46 Jeffrey W. Legro, Rethinking the World: Great Power Strategies and International Order (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005), p. 4.

47 Hurd, "Constructivism," p. 310.

48 Ibid.

49 Wendt, "Anarchy is What States Make of It," p. 398.

50 Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, p. 183.

51 Wendt, "Anarchy is What States Make of It," pp. 394-395.

52 Zehfuss, Constructivism in International Relations, p. 40.

53 Wendt identifies three possible cultures of anarchy: an aggressive "Hobbesian" anarchy of intense, near-constant enmity between states; a restricted "Lockean" anarchy of rival states exercising some self-restraint and respecting other nations' sovereignty; and a peaceful "Kantian" anarchy in which non-violence and mutual assistance are considered the norm in inter-state relationships. See Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, pp. 246-312.

54 Zehfuss, Constructivism in International Relations, p. 40.

55 Ibid, p. 41.

56 Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, p. 249.

57 For a critical overview of the historiographical debate on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, see J. Samuel Walker, "Recent Literature on Truman's Atomic Bomb Decision: A Search for Middle Ground," Diplomatic History, Vol. 29:2 (April, 2005), pp. 311-334.

58 Major 'traditional' interpretations on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been provided by: Robert H. Ferrell, Harry S. Truman: A Life (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1994); Robert P. Newman, Truman and the Hiroshima Cult (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 1995); Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar, Code-Name Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan¾And Why Truman Dropped the Bomb (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1995); Robert J. Maddox, Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1995); Wilson D. Miscamble, The Most Controversial Decision. Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

59 The nation's urban population had been subjected to an intensive carpet bombing campaign that had left entire areas in near total ruin. Moreover, the country was also in danger of being cut off from vital supplies and materials as a result of the US Navy's interdiction of nearly all shipping to Japanese harbours. See Richard B. Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1999), pp. 20-82; 149-163.

60 The Allies "unconditional surrender"-policy essentially called for the complete elimination of German and Japanese militarism through foreign occupation, disarmament, the prosecution of war criminals, and the payment of reparations. See Maddox, Weapons for Victory, pp. 12-13.

61 Allen and Polmar, Code-Name Downfall, pp. 263-266; Maddox, Weapons for Victory, pp. 84-85.

62 On the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, see: Eric Hammel, Iwo Jima: Portrait of a Battle: United States Marines at War in the Pacific (St. Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2006); and Bill Sloan, The Ultimate Battle: Okinawa 1945—The Last Epic Struggle of World War II (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2007).

63 Newman, Truman and the Hiroshima Cult, pp. 3-6.

64 On casualty projections, see in particular: Dennis M. Giangreco, "Casualty Projections for the Invasions of Japan, 1945-1946: Planning and Policy Implications," Journal of Military History, Vol. 61:3 (July, 1997), pp. 521-582.

65 Alternative options ranged from a peaceful settlement over intensified saturation bombing to an eventual collapse of the Japanese economy. Michael Kort, The Columbia Guide to Hiroshima (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2007), pp. 82-92; 104-106.

66 Henry L. Stimson, "The decision to use the atomic bomb," Harper's Magazine (February, 1947), pp. 105-107; "Notes of the Interim Committee Meeting, Thursday, 31 May, 1945." Source: RG 77, MED Records, H-B files, folder no. 100. http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/12.pdf [accessed 5 August 2014].

67 On the American Air Bombing Campaign against Japan, see: Michael S. Sherry, The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987); Barrett Tillman, Whirlwind: The Air War against Japan 1942-1945 (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2010).

68 Kort, The Columbia Guide to Hiroshima, p. 106; Maddox, Weapons for Victory, p. xi.

69 Dennis D. Wainstock, The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1996), p. 40.

70 Initially it was feared that Nazi-Germany might succeed in devising an atomic bomb ahead of the United States. On the origins of the Manhattan Project, see Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1986).

71 Newman, Truman and the Hiroshima Cult, pp. 3-4.

72 Stimson, "The decision to use the atomic bomb," p. 106.

73 John D. Chappell, Before the Bomb: How America Approached the End of the Pacific War (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1997), pp. 39-41.

74 In particular Ronald T. Takaki, Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Bomb (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company, 1995), pp. 93-100.

75 Chappell, Before the Bomb, pp. 23-38. In that regard, President Truman once characterized the Japanese people as "savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic." "Truman Diary Entry, 25 July, 1945." Printed in: Robert H. Ferrell, Off the Record: The Private Papers of Henry S. Truman (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1980), p. 55.

76 J. Samuel Walker, Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), pp. 31-32.

77 Maddox, Weapons for Victory, pp. xii-xiii, 15.

78 Ibid, pp. xii-xiii; 12-13; Miscamble, The Most Controversial Decision, pp. 12-13. Allied resolve on this point was further reaffirmed in paragraph 6 of the Potsdam Declaration issued on 26 July, 1945. Document available online at: http://www.ndl.go.jp/constitution/e/etc/c06.html [accessed 4 August 2014].

79 On the Japanese military build-up prior to Hiroshima, see: Douglas J. MacEachin, The Final Months of the War with Japan: Signals, Intelligence, U.S. Invasion Planning, and the A-Bomb Decision (Washington, D.C.: Center for the Study of Intelligence, 1998), pp. 5-10; and Edward J. Drea, MacArthur's ULTRA: Codebreaking and the War Against Japan, 1942–1945 (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1992), pp. 202-225.

80 See, for instance, ""MAGIC" - Far East Summary No. 494 (SRS 494), 27 July, 1945." Source: Record Group 457, "Record of the National Security Agency," NARA. Printed in: Kort, The Columbia Guide to Hiroshima, p. 274.

81 Maddox, Weapons for Victory, p. xii.

82 Walker, Prompt and Utter Destruction, pp. 27-34.

83 Stimson, "The decision to use the atomic bomb," pp. 105-106.

84 Gar Alperovitz, Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1965); Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).

85 Other notable revisionist historians who partially reaffirmed Alperovitz's contentions include: Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed. Hiroshima and the Origins of the Arms Race (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1987); Kai Bird and Lawrence Lifschultz, "The Legend of Hiroshima," in: Kai Bird and Lawrence Lifschultz (eds.), Hiroshima’s Shadow: Writings on the Denial of History and the Smithsonian Controversy (Stony Creek, CT: Pamphleteer's Press, 1998); Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005).

86 David McCullough, Truman (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1992), pp. 455-460.

87 High-ranking US officials indeed professed views that the atomic bomb might also significantly bear upon their relations with the Soviet government and that, as Henry Stimson put it, the United States thereafter "held all the cards" for handling the Russians more efficiently. See "Henry L. Stimson, Diary Entries of 14 and 15 May, 1945." Henry Stimson Diary, Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library. http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB162/7.pdf [accessed 28 July 2014].

88 Maddox, Weapons for Victory, pp. 159-161; John L. Gaddis, Strategies of Containment. A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy during the Cold War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982/2005), p. 16; David Reynolds, From World War to Cold War. Churchill, Roosevelt, and the International History of the 1940s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 271-273.

89 "Henry L. Stimson, Diary Entry of May 14, 1945," op. cit. The diplomatic friction that resulted from the temporary suspension in May 1945 of the US' economic Lend-Lease programme, of which the Soviet Union was a major beneficiary, also clearly highlights Russia's reliance on American assistance. Wilson D. Miscamble, From Roosevelt to Truman. Potsdam, Hiroshima and the Cold War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). On the over-all importance of the Lend-Lease programme, see Albert L. Weeks, Russia's Life-Saver: Lend-Lease Aid to the U.S.S.R. in World War II (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004).

90 "James F. Byrnes, 'Conversation with Leo Szilard,' May 1945," in: Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 6.

91 Michael Kort, "Racing the Enemy: A Critical Look," in: Robert J. Maddox (ed.), Hiroshima in History: The Myths of Revisionism (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2007), pp. 190-198.

92 John J. Mearsheimer defines institutions as "a set of rules that stipulate the ways in which states should cooperate and compete with each other." Mearsheimer, "The False Promise of International Institutions," p. 8.

93 Walker, "Recent Literature on Truman's Atomic Bomb Decision," pp. 315, 318, 321-325, 333; Barton J. Bernstein, "Reconsidering 'Invasion Most Costly': Popular History Scholarship, Publishing Standards, and the Claim of High U.S. Casualty Estimates to Help Legitimize the Atomic Bombings," Peace and Change, Vol. 24:2 (April, 1999), pp. 220–248.

94 "JWPC 361/1, 'Details of the Campaign Against Japan,' 15 June, 1945." Printed in: MacEachin, The Final Months of the War with Japan, Appendix C; "Minutes of Meeting held at the White House, 18 June, 1945." Printed in: Dennis Merrill (ed.), Documentary History of the Truman Presidency. The Decision to Drop the Bomb on Japan (Frederick, MD: University Publication of America, 1995), pp. 149-157; "Henry L. Stimson, 'Memo for the President: Proposed Program for Japan,' 2 July, 1945." U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: The Conference of Berlin (The Potsdam Conference), 1945, Vol. I (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1960), pp. 888-892. On this issue, see also Maddox, Weapons for Victory, pp. 69-71; Merrill (ed.), Documentary History of the Truman Presidency, pp. 510-526; Robert P. Newman, "Hiroshima and the Thrashing of Henry Stimson," The New England Quarterly, Vol. 71:1 (March, 1998), pp. 26-27.

95 Harry S. Truman, Memoirs by Harry S. Truman. Year of Decisions, Vol. I (New York, NY: Signet Books, 1965), pp. 249-252.

96 "Economic Consequences of War on the U.S. Economy," IEP Publications, February 2012 (Institute for Economics and Peace: Washington, D.C.), pp. 7-9. http://economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/The-Economic-Consequences-of-War-on-US-Economy.pdf [accessed 7 August 2014].

97 Byrd L. Jones, "The Role of Keynesians in Wartime Policy and Post-war Planning, 1940-

1946," American Economic Review, Vol. 62:2 (May, 1972), pp. 129-130.

98 On these and other questions, see Robert Griffith, "Forging America's post-war order: domestic politics and political economy in the age of Truman," in: Michael J. Lacey, The Truman Presidency (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 57-88; and Robert Higgs, "From Central Planning to the Market: The American Transition, 1945-1947," The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 59:3 (September, 1999), pp. 600-623.

99 Griffith, "Forging America's post-war order," pp. 58-59.

100 Ibid, pp. 58-60. "Harry S. Truman, Domestic Affairs," American President: A Reference Source (Miller Center, University of Virginia: Charlottesville, VA). http://millercenter.org/president/truman/essays/biography/4 [accessed 7 August 2014].

101 Ibid, pp. 59.

102 John Harris, The Right to Manage: Industrial Relations Policies of American Business in the 1940s (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982), pp. 41-128; David Brody, Workers in Industrial America: Essays on the Twentieth Century Struggle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), pp. 173-214.


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absolute american hiroshima nagasaki historical case study



Title: Absolute and relative gains in the American decision to release nuclear weapons over Hiroshima and Nagasaki