I have a question. Let us, just for a moment, ignore the implausibility of this scenario and discuss it purely from a moral standpoint, disregarding the implications it would have for our actual capabilities and possible alternatives.
What if at midnight, August 6, 1945, instead of dropping the atom bomb, the US had deployed the 7th Marine Regiment to conduct a night raid on the city of Hiroshima. During this raid, it was known with 100% certainty that the Marines would not conduct acts of rape or torture. Instead, beginning with the the population of the Shima surgical hospital, they moved in an expanding circle, killing patients, then pedestrians, and then moved house by home by home, building by building, block by block, instantly, mercilessly, and indiscriminately killing every man, woman, and child they encountered, painlessly and effortlessly, at a ratio of at least four civilians for every soldier, and that only because of a military base on the edge of the city. Imagine that these Marines actually killed 20 POWs from their own country because of their unceasing killing spree.
Imagine, that the longer they went on with this task, the more fatigued and sloppy they got, resorting to melee, looted, and improvised weapons as they ran short on ammo, so that while they managed to kill those in the hospital instantly and without detection, by the time they made it 500 meters from their initial location, They left 10% of their victims grievously wounded, but alive. By the time this death squad made it 2 km from their initial drop point, their fatality rate lowered to about 50%, simply maiming these civilians, leaving many with grotesque injury and a variety of devastating infections from their dirty knives and bayonets, sometimes manifesting in the form of painful deformations or even birth defects years later for those “lucky” enough to survive this rampage.
Imagine that they had killed 90% of doctors in the city when they did this, along with cutting all communication lines, and set off timed explosives and incendiary devices so that by the time they reached their extraction point just before sunrise, these Marines had killed around about 100,000 people, maimed countless more, and left the city a ruin.
Now, setting aside that such a feat would be quite difficult even if you had 2000 amoral Captain Americas, and that if we could conduct this raid, our military situation must not be quite so dire as we claim.
Would you consider this to be a moral action? What would you say about the person who ordered this raid? If Japan refused to surrender, so this death squad was deployed to a second city, this time only managing to slaughter half as many people as they did the first time, would that be moral?
And if it was declared after the fact that such an act was justified because had we not ordered the razing of these settlements, we would have had no choice but to send in even more soldiers to conduct an invasion the old fashioned way and killed even more Japanese people, so that really we were doing the Japanese a favor, because killing those children was payback for what the Japanese Navy did to our military base at Pearl Harbor (an attack that also killed civilians and we immediately recognized as morally unjustifiable), would we nod our heads and agree that truly Harry Truman was benevolent beyond measure for all of the lives that he saved when he gave the Japanese a taste of their own murderous medicine?
After all, the media would say, we know that the Japanese military had inflicted countless atrocities and humiliations upon innocent people all over the Pacific Rim, razing settlements to the ground, marching POWs to death, raping women on one hand while tearing out fetuses with bayonets and shooting infants in their mother’s arms. And since such an evil cannot reasonably be allowed to exist in any world that claims to care for justice, it was only fair that we liquidate tens of thousands of innocent Japanese to show the Japanese military the error of their ways, and then doing it again when the first mass murder failed to sway their hearts.
Tell me, in this world, where a gun and a bomb are inanimate objects, no more or less moral than the person that wields it, would it be OK if we wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the brave men and women who serve in our military? Or is it only OK to do it because a President giving an order to a pilot with a bomb is somehow more moral than a group of men with guns, knives, and grenades who accomplish the same task?