Sunday, August 28, 2016

America's Nuclear Weapons Need To Be Reduced

Whenever I find my thoughts dwelling on a question of public policy, about whether or not the government should do such-and-such a thing, I always ask myself two questions. First, is the proposed policy necessary and rational? If it isn't, then it probably shouldn't be done. Second, is it affordable? If it isn't than the first question is moot, because the government shouldn't do anything if it costs more than the taxpayers can pay. To my mind, asking these two questions is such an obvious thing to do that I have a hard time understanding why anyone would think otherwise.

We're in an election year and it has already proven to be the most outlandish presidential election in my lifetime. It will no doubt get even crazier between now and Election Day. One thing that has remained the same, however, is that critical issues facing our republic are going unmentioned on the campaign trail, their place instead being taken by meaningless platitudes and vicious personal insults. Indeed, this has been the case in 2016 even more than is usually the case. It is sad to see the civic life in the United States having been reduced to such a state. As I said in my post about gerrymandering, I am engaging in my own personal form of resistance by writing about the critical electoral reforms needed in America. I've also decided to occasionally bring up the neglected political issues facing our country, which are no less important for being ignored. Among those issues is that which I want to talk about today: America's misguided policy on nuclear weapons.

A bit of background first. At the height of the Cold War in the early 1980s, both the United States and the Soviet Union constructed tens of thousands of nuclear warheads, ready to be deployed at a moment's notice from bombers, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), collectively known as the "nuclear triad". The fact that the two superpowers spent literally trillions of dollars to build vastly more firepower than would have been necessary to obliterate the entirety of human civilization many times over was a disgusting absurdity. For the first time in history, the human race had created the ability to destroy itself, and it came close to doing so on more than one occasion. Historians of the future will undoubtedly look back on the Russian and American decision-makers and strategists of the Cold War as the most foolish and dangerous people to have ever lived.

Since the end of the Cold War, both Russia and America have substantially reduced their nuclear arsenals, which is obviously for the good, but both nations still retain several thousand warheads each. Britain, France, China, and Israel all likely have a few hundred warheads each, and India and Pakistan each have built scores of nuclear weapons. North Korea has an unknown number. Carl Sagan referred to nuclear weapons as "genies of death, patiently awaiting the rubbing of the lamps." Though little attention is paid to it by the mainstream media, there can be no denying that the continued existence of large stockpiles of nuclear weapons remains one of the most pressing dangers of the modern era.

Today, the United States possesses more than 4,500 nuclear weapons. The "triad" of ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombs delivered by aircraft still exists. This is obscene and absurd, for there is no rational reason why the country requires such a vast nuclear arsenal. Ostensibly, the purpose of a nuclear arsenal is purely one of deterrence. We are not intending to launch a preemptive strike against any other country, but simply create a situation in which any nuclear strike on the United States would be met with a retaliatory strike that would destroy the attacker. Four and a half thousand warheads constitutes a much larger arsenal than would be necessary to deter a nuclear attack from another nuclear-armed nation. If America were to unilaterally reduce its nuclear arsenal to a few hundred warheads (i.e. the size of the nuclear arsenals of the United Kingdom and France), it would still possess an obvious deterrent against a nuclear attack. since even a few hundred warheads is still more than enough to utterly destroy any conceivable combination of enemies. You only need to destroy your enemy once. In an age of severe budget pressures, it makes absolutely no sense to spend tens of billions of dollar a year to maintain such a bloated arsenal as we currently have.

A truly enlightened and far-sighted policy regarding nuclear weapons would require a radical yet simple shift away from present thought. What we should consider now is unilaterally reducing the American nuclear arsenal to between 300-500 weapons, or around one-tenth what we currently possess. Furthermore, we should eliminate all ICBMs and bomber-delivered weapons, relying only on SLBMs from now on. Submarine-based weapons are the safest and most secure in any event, and their continued existence would serve as an effective deterrent against any power foolish enough to launch a nuclear attack on the United States. The ICBMs and nuclear bombers are entirely unnecessary.

Even if one stretches logic to its breaking point, the only remotely rational reason to possess a large nuclear arsenal is to use the weapons as bargaining chips in disarmament negotiations with Russia (and perhaps other states as well). But if the United States were to unilaterally reduce its arsenal to 500 weapons or less, would Russia see a need to maintain its arsenal of several thousand weapons? I doubt it. They have their own fiscal problems, after all. Indeed, it could prompt Russia and other nuclear nations to consider reducing their own stockpiles and might even persuade non-nuclear countries from initiating programs to obtain nuclear weapons that they might otherwise embark upon.

Even if we completely set aside matters of foreign policy and national security, reducing our nuclear arsenal is an urgent necessity because of the national fiscal crisis. Reducing our nuclear arsenal and eliminating the air and land aspects of the "nuclear triad" would save scores of billions of dollars every year from the budgets of the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, and thereby help ease the budget pressures and runaway deficits which are, truth be told, a greater threat to the American republic than any potential foreign foe. And doing so would not endanger American national security in the slightest, since a smaller nuclear force would be just as effective in its deterrent role.

The long-term goal, of course, should be the entire abolition of nuclear weapons throughout the world. This is no simple matter, of course, and Winston Churchill warned us not to get rid of nuclear weapons until "other means of preserving peace" were in our hands. But to me, the very existence of those warheads, ready at any moment to explode into radioactive fire and consume the whole planet, is an affront to humanity. I often wonder what heroes of mine like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, exemplars of optimism about the human future, would think if they could have seen the creation of nuclear weapons and the threat they pose today. One wonders if it would shake even their immense idealism.

I remain an optimist, and I hope that I live to see the day when the final nuclear warhead is dismantled and the threat of nuclear annihilation is lifted from the face of the world. Unilaterally reducing our own nuclear arsenal to a few hundred weapons deployed on submarines would be a big step in that direction, it would not reduce our security in any meaningful way, and it would bring tremendous financial benefits as well. For all these reasons, it is something that needs to be done by the next President of the United States, whomever that turns out to be. Sadly, considering the two major candidates in the current election, I won't hold my breath.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Happy 100th Birthday to the National Park System

This Thursday will mark the one hundredth birthday of the National Park Service, whose enabling legislation was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916. The first National Parks and National Monuments had come into being decades earlier, but the National Park Service aimed to bring all such institutions under the sole direction of a single agency. It has proven to be one of the great successes in the history of American governance. I hope that, at some point that day, all Americans stop for a moment and reflect on the importance of this anniversary, for the National Park System is one of the great achievements of the United States of America and one in which every citizen should take great pride.

What comes under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service is enough to boggle the mind. Fifty-nine National parks, eighty-two National Monuments, one hundred and twenty-eight National Historical Parks or National Historic Sites, twenty-five historical battlefields, thirty National Monuments, not to mention seashores, recreational areas, nature preserves, and other things. In effect, the National Park Service takes all that is most priceless in America in terms of nature and history and casts a protective shield over it, preserving it for ourselves and our posterity. Most important, it makes all of this easily accessible to American citizens and visitors from around the world.

I count myself among those people who think the federal government does too much and should be scaled back a bit, leaving more matters to state and local authorities. But I certainly don't put the National Park Service in this category. Indeed, I consider it to be one of the best things that the federal government does.

I'm extremely blessed to have been able to visited dozens of units of the National Park Service and it is one of my dreams to eventually check all of them off of my list. When I was a boy, my parents took my sister and I on long road trips across the country, determined to visit as many of the National Parks and see as many of the National Monuments as possible. I have kept up this passion as an adult and am lucky enough to have found a wife who loves the pursuit as much as I do. Some of my happiest memories were formed at these places. My love of history, and especially the history of the American Civil War, was largely sparked by a visit to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park when I was eleven-years-old. Were it not for that trip, I never would have become a writer of historical fiction.

The National Parks are awe-inspiring places. The majesty of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Teton. The haunting mysteriousness of the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde and Bandelier. The strange otherworldliness of Big Bend, Zion, and Bryce Canyon. The lush life of the Everglades and the warm beauty of the Shenandoah. These places are national treasures that must be preserved at all hazards. The National Park Service is not only vital for making these places accessible to us, but for preserving them for future generations.

The same is true for those sites crucial to our understand of our own history. The National Park Service makes it possible for us to walk the very hills where our forefathers fought and died at places like Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Saratoga, and even the tiny battlefield at Palo Alto in the south of Texas. It preserves the homes and birthplaces of most of the men who have served as President of the United States, as well as other men and women who played crucial roles in our nation's history, such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Thomas Edison, and Carl Sandburg.

Places where great events took place have been preserved, such as the Golden Spike National Historic Site that marks the spot where the Transcontinental Railroad was finished or the Jamestown National Historic Site that marks the site of the first English settlement in the New World. Many historical sites protected by the National Park System are devoted to larger concepts than specific events, such as the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which teaches about the conditions in which poor immigrants lived, or the New Orleans Jazz National Historical park, which explores the history of perhaps the most influential American musical contribution to the world.

I think that the efforts of the National Park Service to preserve the mysterious cliff dwelling sites in the American Southwest are especially worthy of note. Of all my trips to NPS sites, my visits to Mesa Verde National Park and Bandelier National Monument especially stand out in my memory. There is something strangely haunting and beautiful in those places, which reminds us that all things eventually pass away.

Then one has the National Forests, National Seashores, and other such designated areas. One sees them all along the highways of this great nation, identified by the light brown signs that always make me smile. There is a narrative telling us that urban sprawl and the clearing away of ever-larger amounts of wilderness is an inevitable, unstoppable process. I like to think that the opposite is true and the efforts of the NPS to preserve wilderness give me hope. Indeed, I see no reason why we can't have more wilderness, rather than less, as time goes on.

The work of the National Park Service is vital to our national identity and natural conservation efforts. In celebrating the centennial of this amazing organization, which has done so much for our nation and the world, we are only acknowledging what should be obvious to everyone. This Thursday, raise your glass to the NPS.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Forgotten Hero: Richard Cobden

Hardly anyone in the early 21st Century, even among those who spend a lot of time studying history, has a clue who Richard Cobden was. Yet I would argue that this virtually unknown, unassuming Englishman ranks as one of the great heroes of the 19th Century and that the ideals by which he lived can serve as an example for our time. I wanted to take some time this week to talk about why I admire him so much.

Cobden was a Sussex boy, born in 1804 to a large farming family. His father lost his farm when Cobden was a young man and he was packed away to boarding school. His uncle, a calico merchant who saw the potential of the intelligent young man, took him under his wing and made him a clerk in his shop. Eventually, Cobden and his brother started their own textile business in Manchester and Cobden began travelling throughout Europe and United States seeking markets for his products. As his business experience grew, it combined with an intense program of reading and self-education to develop a mind that had an intuitive grasp of economics and international relations.

Although Cobden's business prospered, he found himself increasingly focusing on political and intellectual pursuits rather than building his own wealth. He became deeply involved in local Manchester politics and gradually developed a remarkably simple yet profound view of the world, one so grounded in common sense that can't really be labeled an ideology. He believed that it was in the interest of all nations to be at peace with one another and to reduce their expensive military establishments. He believed that nations should not intervene in one another's affairs and should act the part of decent neighbors. Above all, he believed that nations should not be economically protectionist and should instead embrace free trade.

In 1838, Cobden assumed leadership of Anti-Corn Law League. As its name suggests, this was an organization dedicated to the repeal of the notorious Corn Laws, which put up steep tariffs against grains imported from overseas, particularly from the United States. This suited the interests of the wealthy landowners, who did not want to have to compete with cheaper foreign grain, but it was terrible for Britain's poor, who had to pay artificially high prices for their bread. Cobden and his allies wanted the Corn Laws repealed, not only to help relieve the plight of the poor, but to help strengthen the British economy. After all, if people did not have to spend so much money on bread, they would have money to spend on other things, which would be to the obvious benefit of British manufacturers. This, in turn, would increase wages and create jobs, contributing to the well-being of the entire nation.

It was a long and hard political battle. The landowning aristocracy fought the Anti-Corn Law League tooth and nail every step of the way. The League used all the tactics that would come to characterize modern political advocacy: mass mailings, the dispatch of speakers to audiences all over the country, lawsuits, and aggressive lobbying of elected officials. Cobden had by now been elected to Parliament and engaged in the debates directly on the floor of the House of Commons. The Whig Party supported repeal, but the Conservative Party staunchly opposed it. Finally, after years of struggle, Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel dropped his opposition to repeal and brought about a third of the Conservative MPs with him. Combined with the Whig MPs, the House of Commons voted on May 15, 1846, to repeal the Corn Laws by a margin of 327 to 229. The cheap grain from the New World and elsewhere flowed into Britain, reducing the plight of the poor and stimulating a sharp increase in British industry, just as Cobden had predicted. More than any other single individual, Richard Cobden was responsible for the repeal of the Corn Laws, thus contributing mightily to the happiness of his country.

(Incidentally, one could easily apply to lessons of the fight over the Corn Laws to modern debates over farm subsidies and other protectionists policies of the United States government. But that's a subject for another blog post.)

Having achieved a great victory on behalf of free trade, Cobden increasingly turned his attention to foreign policy. He denounced the Opium Wars as immoral acts of aggression and spoke out against war hysteria directed first towards France and then towards Russia. In Cobden's mind, war was not only evil in and of itself, in that it led to the useless loss of thousands of lives, but it made nations vastly poorer by forcing them to spend obscene amounts of money on armies and navies. He also saw it as misguided and counterproductive for powerful nations like Britain to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries. He began to work for international agreements on reducing military establishments and the various peace congresses that took place in Europe in the 1840s and 1850s.

Cobden had a utopian view, shared by many in his time and ours, that war could be abolished altogether if only a proper system of international cooperation could be put into place. I personally don't believe this and sadly have long ago concluded that, as long as there are humans, there will be war. But I also believe that the vast majority of wars are unnecessary and are fought out of misguided fear among policy-makers in the opposing nations. The vast expenditure involved in building up a national military establishment often becomes, as Cobden saw, a contributing cause of the very wars it is ostensibly intended to protect against. Why build such powerful armies and navies, so this thinking goes, if we aren't planning on using them? The First World War, whose centennial we are in the midst of commemorating, is the prime historical example of this.

What better way to ensure peace between nations, Cobden thought, than to bind them together through trade? To that end, he began work on crafting a free trade treaty with Britain's old enemy, France. Few of the many Anglo-French wars over the centuries had been fought over economic issues, but that wasn't the point. Cobden believed that nations which trade more freely and more extensively are simply less likely to go to war. Even if one can point out some glaring exceptions (in 1939, France's largest trading partner was Germany), the logic of Cobden's argument is so obvious that it's hard to take the oft-repeated arguments against free trade seriously.

With the unofficial blessing of the British government, Cobden went to France and began to lobby Emperor Napoleon III and members of his government to agree to a free trade treaty. In this, he was assisted by Michel Chevalier, a French journalist and politician who shared his enthusiasm for free trade. On both sides of the Channel, Cobden and Chevalier faced fierce opposition from threatened special interests, who controlled newspapers and had many politicians in their pockets. The British government and Napoleon III's ministers made the statesmanlike decision that the economic well-being of their respective nations and the increased likelihood of a permanent peace between them was important enough for them to pay the political price of outraging the protectionists. The agreement, known to history as the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty, was concluded in November of 1860.

With the reduction of tariffs between Britain and France, trade between the two nations sharply increased. Exports of French wine and brandy doubled during the 1860s, while British manufactured goods enjoyed full access to French markets. As is always the case, some segments of the respective economies lost market share to the newly empowered foreign competition, but overall the economies of both countries greatly benefited. The Cobden-Chevalier Treaty has been a model of free trade agreements ever since.

Setting aside all economic arguments, though, I think it's worth pointing out that Britain and France, which had been mortal enemies since the 14th Century and fought wars of a global scale against one another for as long as anyone could remember, have not fired a shot in anger at one another since the conclusion of the treaty. Indeed, since 1860, France and Britain have fought side-by-side repeatedly as allies. The Cobden-Chevalier Treaty was a significant factor in transforming these old enemies into good neighbors and friends.

Cobden died in 1865, having, as his last major public campaign, argued against British support for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. Again, he combined common sense with morality, asserting that war with the United States would not benefit Britain and that, in any event, supporting the Confederacy would be akin to supporting slavery. His speeches in the House of Commons played a considerable role in keeping Britain neutral in the American conflict.

The abolition of the Corn Laws and the enactment of the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty were both due primarily to the brilliance and hard work of Richard Cobden. Both of these achievements vastly improved the lives of millions of people and served as examples to policy-makers to come of how the abolition of protectionist policies and the pursuit of free trade can make the world a better place. Cobden was no a national leader, military hero, or religious prophet. He was an intelligent man who simply used common sense to determine the political policy that would be most beneficial and than worked hard to get that policy enacted.

For all this, the whole world is in Richard Cobden's debt.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

What If The Invasion Of Japan Had Taken Place In 1945?

Yesterday was the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. In America, this means we have engaged in our annual tradition of debating whether or not using the bomb was the right thing to do. I've mentioned in the past that I abhor the existence of nuclear weapons and dearly wish that they vanished from the face of the Earth, but I'm not among those who believe that dropping the bomb was the wrong thing to do. What I want to talk about in this piece is the alternative choice that the Allies had to dropping the bomb: an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands.

By mid-1945, the war in Europe was wrapping up as the Americans, British, French, and Soviet armies swept through Germany and closed in on Berlin. However, the war in the Pacific, while running strongly against Japan, appeared likely to continue for a year or more. It had been a long and hard struggle. Following the sweeping and astounding successful Japanese offensive in late 1941 and early 1942, which saw them gain total control over the western half of the Pacific Ocean, the American victory at the Battle of Midway had begun to turn the tide. Through the following two years, in brutal fighting in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, the Gilbert Islands, and the Mariana Islands, the Americans slowly pushed back the Japanese in a series of island-hopping campaigns. Meanwhile, the British struggled against the Japanese in Burma and the Chinese continued their own efforts to expel the Japanese from their territory.

In late 1944, the Americans landed in the Philippines and, in a series of bloody land and sea battles, took the islands back from the Japanese. It was at this point that the Japanese resistance reached the level of desperation, exemplified in the appearance of the kamikaze suicide attackers, who intentionally crashed their aircraft into Allied ships. In February of 1945, the Americans landed on Iwo Jima and, two months later, Okinawa. Both battles were characterized by fanatical Japanese resistance and heavy American casualties. Nearly 7,000 Americans died on Iwo Jima and more than 20,000 died on Okinawa. The closer the Americans approached the Japanese Home Islands, the fiercer the Japanese resistance seemed to become. At the same time, American B-29 bombers had begun to operate from airfields in the Mariana Islands, bringing death and destruction to Japanese cities on a previously unimaginable scale.

Before 1945, the battles in the Pacific War had been characterized by slowly increasing American experience in amphibious operations and a gradual refinement in Japanese defensive tactics. By the time Iwo Jima and Okinawa were invaded, the Allied operations were models of efficiency and effectiveness. For their part, the Japanese had given up the practice of defending the beach and instead allowing their enemies to consolidate on the shore and move inland before engaging them, thereby avoiding the worst of American naval bombardment. Both sides were planning on making the best use of their respective advantages in what was expected to be the largest amphibious invasion of all time.

It was going to be called Operation Downfall, a fitting name if ever there was one. It was envisioned as taking place in two phases. The first phase, code-named Operation Olympic, would be the invasion of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main Japanese Home Islands. The intent was to capture the southern third of the island and to destroy the bulk of Japan's remaining military formations. The target date for the operation was November 1, 1945. Airfields would then be constructed on Kyushu to provide air cover for the second phase of Downfall, code-named Operation Coronet. It would be the decisive invasion of the main Japanese island of Honshu east of Tokyo, driving westward to secure the enemy capital. It was expected to be launched on March 1, 1946.

It would be an invasion on a scale that dwarfed even the Normandy campaign. The United States Sixth Army, which had been fighting the Japanese for years, was selected to lead Operation Olympic. It would consist of fifteen divisions, plus assorted attached units. with a total strength of more than 400,000 men. Backing them up would be the enormous naval forces of the Third, Fifth, and Seventh United States Fleets, which together deployed dozens of aircraft carriers and battleships, not to mention hundreds of cruisers and destroyers. The air power intended for the invasion was similarly massive, with tens of thousands of fighter and bomber aircraft being made ready.

Astonishingly, the forces being prepared for Operation Coronet were even larger. Two complete United States armies, the First and the Eighth, were to be involved. All told, thirty-one divisions would land on Honshu, more than twice as many as were going to land on Kyushu. The same immense naval and air power available for Operation Olympic would be available for Operation Coronet, much of it being based on the captured portion of Kyushu.

Not all of the invasion force was to be American. The British Pacific Fleet, one of the largest forces ever assembled by the Royal Navy, would place its battleships and aircraft carriers at the disposal of their American allies. A very large proportion of the aircraft involved would be provided by Australia. Moreover, a Commonwealth Corps consisting of British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand troops would participate in Operation Coronet, although the participation of Indian units had been vetoed by the Americans. It was even proposed that French troops be involved, if only in symbolic numbers.

The Japanese had pieced together exactly what the Allied invasion plan was going to be, expecting an initial invasion of Kyushu followed by a final attack on Honshu. They decided to position most of their remaining forces for a do-or-die defense of Kyushu. Through the spring and summer of 1945, Japanese troops were moved onto Kyushu in enormous numbers. In mid-June, American intelligence estimated that around 350,000 Japanese troops were on Kyushu. In reality, the number was closer to 600,000.

On Iwo Jima and Okinawa, almost all Japanese soldiers had fought to the death rather than be captured, as had been the case in most previous island battles. There was no reason to think that the troops defending Kyushu would behave any differently. Orders issued in preparation for repelling the invasion specified that units were not to retreat, that no soldier was to stop fighting in order to care for a wounded comrade, and that any unarmed soldier should be prepared to take up the arms of a wounded or killed comrade. Indeed, one senior Japanese officer proposed killing all of the infirm and elderly people in Japan so as to free up food for the fighting forces.

Indeed, the Japanese were going to enormous lengths to ensure that the invasion would be as costly for the Allies as possible. Massive production of aircraft intended for kamikaze attacks was underway throughout 1945 and, by summer, around 10,000 were ready. During the fighting for Okinawa, around 2,000 kamikaze sorties had been mounted, which had sunk dozens of American ships, damaged many others, and killed thousands of men. The kamikaze attacks planned for the defense against the invasion of Kyushu would be five times more massive. Despite their best efforts, the Allies had been unable to provide an effective defense against kamikazes. At Okinawa, the Japanese had inflicted roughly 1.76 casualties per kamikaze sortie, but at Kyushu the attacks were likely to be more effective, for the approach would be of a much shorter distance and almost all of it overland, thus giving American air defenses much less time to respond. It seems reasonable to estimate that the casualty ratio would be as high as 2 per sortie, suggesting that the kamikazes would kill around 20,000 soldiers and sailors at sea during the landings. In addition, the Imperial Japanese Navy was preparing huge numbers of manned torpedoes, essentially underwater kamikazes, to attack American and Allies ships and landing craft.

Civilians were being mobilized in the defensive effort on an unprecedented scale. Women were trained to use weapons, from rifles to bamboo spears, and were expected to act as ammunition carriers during the fighting. Fishing and agricultural implements were fashioned into weapons and given to schoolchildren. Considering the behavior of Japanese civilians on Saipan and Okinawa, where many had preferred to commit suicide rather than turn themselves into the Americans, there was ever reason to believe that the coming invasion would be resisted by a civilian population ever bit as dangerous as the opposing army. American intelligence estimated that more than ten million civilians were being given rudimentary weapons training of some sort. If even one percent of them succeeded in causing an American casualty, one hundred thousand American soldiers would be killed or wounded.

Despite the lavish Japanese defensive preparations, there is no way the American invasion of Japan could possibly have failed. The Japanese were on the verge of starvation, under tight blockade, and so short of fuel that they were engaging in such desperate expedients as trying to liquefy plant roots into gas (which failed miserably). The Allies, by contrast, literally had the resources of the entire world to draw upon. Even the Japanese leadership recognized the hopelessness of their situation. Lacking the resources to repulse the invasion, the Japanese hoped only to cause such massive Allied casualties that some sort of negotiated settlement short of an outright surrender might be obtained. The odds of this happening were only slightly above zero, but it was the only hope the Japanese had on which to cling.

While ultimate success was guaranteed, there can be no doubt that any American invasion of Japan would suffer hideous casualties. Estimates of the number of killed or wounded were controversial even before the end of the war and have only become more so over time, especially in relation to the debate over the use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So how many casualties might have been sustained?

On Iwo Jima, the American invasion force of 110,000 had suffered roughly 7,000 men killed and 19,000 men wounded. This comes out to 6% of the force killed and 17% wounded, for total casualties of around 23%. On Okinawa, out of roughly 250,000 troops landed on the island, 20,000 were killed (8%) and 55,000 were wounded (22%), for total casualties of 75,000 or 30% of the invasion force. Assuming a similar ratio for Operation Olympic, we can assume about 30,000 dead and 80,000 wounded, for total casualties of 110,000. For Operation Coronet, an operation twice as large, we might assume casualties twice as heavy. Added together, we'd get 90,000 dead and 240,000 wounded, for a casualty total of 330,000.

This assumes, of course, that the invasion force would suffer casualties roughly equivalent to those suffered by the Americans on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Considering the vastly more extensive defensive preparations made for the defense of the Japanese Home Islands, the expected participation of a huge and hostile civilian population, and the fact that the invasion of Japan would last much longer than the campaigns on Iwo Jima or Okinawa, I think it's safe to assume that rate of losses would be much higher. Well-informed observers, including Secretary of War Henry Stimson, estimated that American casualties might run close to a million men. Indeed, so many Purple Heart medals were ordered in anticipation of the expected casualties that the stockpile has never been used up; men wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were presented with Purple Hearts that had been made in 1945.

What if the invasion of Japan had gone forward in 1945? We can be sure that it would have been an American victory and that, when the dust settled, the American flag would be fluttering over the ruins of Tokyo. We can be equally sure that it would have been the most nightmarish battle the world had ever seen. It's entirely possible that more Americans would have died in the invasion of Japan than had fallen in all the battles of the Second World War up to that time. Japanese casualties, military and civilian, would have been vastly larger than the total number who lost their lives in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with millions probably perishing. That being the case, we can only thank God that the invasion never had to take place.