By Takeshi Yamawaki, American General Bureau chief
With no pilot in the cockpit and no sound of bombs exploding, the “Enola Gay” displayed at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum elicits thoughts about the limits of the human imagination. The exhibit also shows that history is portrayed differently in each country.
The description of the bomber at the museum says that it dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 2045. There is no mention of the fact that it killed 140,000 people, most of whom were civilians.
Various efforts have been made to address the atomic bombing. In 1995, the museum tried to convey the fact that some U.S. military leaders were skeptical about the atomic bombing and to show the horrific scenes after the atomic bombs were dropped. But the museum was forced to give up on its plan to hold such an exhibition due to a backlash from former servicemen and others.
In the United States, the “memory” still lives on of Americans and their families being spared because fighting on the mainland was avoided and there is a historical perception that the U.S. waged a “just war” against Japan. This is a story that many people in the U.S. firmly believe and a line that cannot be crossed by the U.S., which continues to send its young people to the front lines around the world.
The President of the U.S. will visit Hiroshima to send out a message on creating a world without nuclear weapons from Hiroshima to the international community. But we must not forget that his actions are based on realistic calculations from the viewpoint of security.
President Obama declared his vision of a world without nuclear weapons in 2009 in Prague. With the advent of the post-Cold War era, the threat of nuclear proliferation began to spread to North Korea and terrorist organizations. In order to head off such a situation, President Obama advocated nuclear abolition as the ultimate goal. He also proclaimed that the U.S. has a “special responsibility” to achieve that goal.
On the other hand, he did not forget to mention that the U.S. will use its nuclear deterrence to prevent war as long as nuclear weapons exist.
How should Japan respond to President Obama’s visit?
There is a gulf between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which have called for the elimination of nuclear weapons, and President Obama, who avoids delving into the appropriateness or “inhumanness” of atomic bombing.
Despite this, the focus should be on the significance of having found a common goal to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.
The situation surrounding nuclear weapons has become increasingly serious. The threat of terrorism has spread and North Korea is urging the international community to recognize it as a nuclear power. Russia is negative about nuclear reduction negotiations. The number of nuclear weapons held by some nuclear powers has increased.
Although both Japan and the U.S. have areas where they cannot make concessions, the two countries will convey to the world that they are aiming to create a world without nuclear weapons. The question is how they will translate this into concrete actions. This will be a good opportunity to start thinking about it.