Should we, half a century later, reconsider the morality of Hiroshima? “No,” will retort apostles of what may be called “Patriotic Correctness.”(I borrow the phrase from Robert Hughes.) For these PCers, self-questioning is always tantamount to anti-Americanism.
But a democracy must always ask itself troubling questions, even about a war in which our side was so clearly in the right. This is why it is vital to think through “principles governing the conduct of war…of democratic peoples,” as John Rawls writes in a symposium on Hiroshima in this Dissent. Moreover, historical memory is essential to a polity’s self-understanding. “The morality of memory,” notes Michael Walzer, “applies to us” no less than to other countries....
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