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Some on the Right Are Having a Moral Meltdown

My disdain for the left began at a young age. From as early as I can recall, I hated evil, and I therefore always hated communism. When I realized the left either supported communism or, at the very least, opposed anti-communism, I understood that leftism was a force for evil. Liberals and conservatives hated communism; leftists did not.

As liberals began their leftward drift in the 1960s—to cite one example, virtually all liberal media condemned President Ronald Reagan’s description of the Soviet Union as “an evil empire”—I came to regard conservatism as a moral refuge in a dark world. In the conservative moral universe, America was essentially a force for good; communism was evil; liberty, most especially free speech, was a supreme value; Western civilization was a morally superior civilization; the Judeo-Christian value system was the moral bedrock of the West; and Islamic violence—as exemplified by al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, Boko Haram, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iranian regime—was the great religious threat of our time.

That conservative moral universe is in decline. Some leading figures on the right are as confused as the left on some of the most important moral issues. This was made manifest last week when Tucker Carlson told Joe Rogan that any person who defends the dropping of the atomic bombs over Japan is evil.

Here is what he said:

“People on my side … on the right, you know, have spent 80 years defending dropping nuclear weapons on civilians. Like, are you joking? That’s just like prima facie evil. … It’s wrong to drop nuclear weapons on people. And if you find yourself arguing that it’s a good thing to drop nuclear weapons on people, then you are evil. Like, it’s not a tough one. It’s not a hard call for me. So, with that in mind, like, why would you want nuclear weapons? It’s, like, just a mindless, childish sort of intellectual exercise to justify — like, ‘Oh, no, it’s really good because somebody else will get it.’ How about ‘no’? How about, like, spending all of your effort to prevent this from happening? Would you kill baby Hitler, you know, famously?”

Given that nearly every liberal and conservative thinker over the past 80 years has defended the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in Tucker’s view, nearly every conservative and liberal thinker of the last 80 years was or is evil.

For those 80 years, the charge that America was evil for having dropped those bombs on Japan has been associated almost exclusively with the left.

Now, an increasing number of America-first conservatives have adopted the position identified for three generations with the America-hating left.

In another column, I will attempt to explain this right-wing moral decline. But here I will confine myself to a brief moral defense of President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the atom bombs on Japan.

  1. The responsibility for the war between Japan and the United States lay with Japan. Every Japanese death was the result of the fascist Japanese government’s decision to attack the U.S., China, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, and the Philippines. If the Japanese military regime had never attacked those countries, not one Japanese would have been killed.
  2. The Japanese were as cruel and sadistic as the Nazis. Because the average American knows little about history, few Americans know how vile the Japanese were during World War II. The Japanese performed grotesque medical experiments on fully conscious Chinese civilians, just as Nazi doctors did on concentration camp inmates. The Japanese used Korean and Filipino women as sex slaves to be regularly gang raped by Japanese soldiers. The Japanese tortured and murdered American, Australian and other prisoners of war.
  3. Possibly over 100,000 Japanese civilians were killed on the night of March 9-10, 1945, in one of the American bombing raids over Tokyo, far more than were killed in the Nagasaki atom bombing. American aerial bombing over Japanese cities between 1942 and 1945 killed between 241,000 and 900,000 Japanese, and such bombing would have continued had the atom bombs not ended the war. Apparently, however, killing far fewer people with an atom bomb is more immoral than killing far more people with conventional bombs.
  4. Invasion was not the more moral option. In the words of Roman Catholic priest and University of Notre Dame professor of history Father Wilson Miscamble, “Truman sought to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two major military/industrial targets, to avoid an invasion of Japan, which Truman knew would mean, in his words, ‘an Okinawa from one end of Japan to the other.’ His assumptions were entirely legitimate.”

More from Professor Miscamble:

“Japanese military and civilian losses had reached approximately three million and there seemed no end in sight. Despite all this, however, Japan’s leaders and especially its military clung fiercely to notions of Ketsu-Go (‘decisive battle’). In fact, the Japanese government had mobilized a large part of the population into a national militia, which would be deployed to defend the home islands.

“Confirming the Japanese determination to fight on is the fact that even after the use of atomic bombs against both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese military still wanted to pursue that desperate option. … It took the unprecedented intervention of a Japanese emperor to break the impasse in the Japanese government and finally order surrender. It was only the dropping of the atom bombs that allowed the emperor and the so-called peace faction in the Japanese government to negotiate an end to

“Japanese losses would have been far greater without the bombs. And the overall casualties would also have included thousands of Allied prisoners of war whom the Japanese planned to execute in case of invasion.”

Miscamble concludes:

“The judgment of history is clear and unambiguous: the atomic bombs shortened the war, averted the need for a land invasion, saved countless more lives on both sides of the blood-soaked conflict than they cost, and ended the Japanese brutalization of the conquered peoples of Asia.”

These quotes are taken from Fr. Miscamble’s PragerU video, “Was it Wrong to Drop the Atom Bomb on Japan?” made 10 years ago.

In Tucker’s view, Fr. Miscamble is just another evil man, as is one of the most morality-driven conservatives of our time, Victor Davis Hanson, who has written:

“To Americans and most of the world 75 years ago, each day in early August 1945 that the Japanese war machine continued its work meant that thousands of Asian civilians and Allied soldiers would die. In the terrible arithmetic of World War II, the idea that such a nightmare might end in a day or two was seen as saving millions of lives rather than gratuitously incinerating tens of thousands.”

What explains the moral confusion of some on this New Right is worthy of another column. But I, for one, have found a silver lining: clarity about a heretofore puzzling development. The inability of many America-first intellectuals, podcasters and their followers to call Hamas evil and morally defend Israel is not necessarily a function of antisemitism. It is a function of a broken moral compass.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His commentary on Numbers, the fourth volume of “The Rational Bible,” his five-volume commentary on the first five books of the Bible, will be released in November 2024 and is available now for presale on Amazon. He is the co-founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.

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About Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest books include The Rational Passover Haggadah and The Rational Bible, a commentary on the book of Genesis. His film, "No Safe Spaces," is now available on DVD and BluRay. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.

Photo: Desolation and dilapidated structures in Hiroshima following the atomic bombing of Japan, 1945. Image courtesy US Department of Energy. (Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).