The Bomb and the American Barbarian

No faithful Catholic could look at the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and be proud of that decision.

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The dropping of the atomic bomb was evil. For the average conservative commentator, this comment automatically causes a knee-jerk reaction with the same old platitudes. For decades, the American Right has been the defender of our usage of the atomic bomb, with either “it saved more American lives” or “it was the lesser of two evils” being some of the strongest candidates. 

Phyllis Schlafly once declared, in a 1982 New York Times article, that “the atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God.” For many years, I would have championed Schlafly’s point, parroting all the appropriate conservative talking points on the subject. I believed that by defending America’s decision, I was somehow being patriotic and defending the nation. I now know I was wrong.  

Russell Kirk, one of the greatest conservative thinkers, disdained America’s use of the atomic bomb. He wrote to a close friend, Warren Fleishauer, “It will not be long before we are reduced to savagery. We are the barbarians within our own empire.” Kirk could not be more correct, for this action and the conservative defense of the bomb has created a generation of American barbarians. 

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Daily Wire CEO Jeremy Boreing, who has been the subject of recent controversies on the Right, ignited the latest addition to the controversy this weekend. On Sunday afternoon, Boreing tweeted, “People who deny the moon landing or suggest America is evil for its use of atomic weapons against Imperial Japan or who say that George Bush was behind 9/11 actually hate this country.” According to Boreing, anyone who questions any immoral action America has done is evil. By that logic, all faithful Catholics must hate America! 

Not coincidentally, this was right after Tucker Carlson went on Joe Rogan’s podcast to claim the opposite point. During the show, Carlson stated, “My ‘side’ has spent the last 80 years defending the dropping of nuclear bombs on civilians…like, are you joking? If you find yourself arguing that it’s a good thing to drop nuclear weapons on people, then you are evil.” Carlson is absolutely correct. 

For eight decades, conservatives have been making their schizophrenic arguments for why decimating one of Japan’s oldest Christian cities was beneficial to winning the war. Have conservatives considered that Japan was on the brink of defeat? General Dwight Eisenhower was against using the bomb, stating, “the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” Do conservatives know that the policy of the Western Allies was unconditional surrender? Can a conservative intellectual articulate how jus in bello can apply to this situation? 

Unfortunately, the American Right has been too latched to their pride and “might make right” attitude to ponder these discussions legitimately. This hubristic pride was the same mentality that justified the usage of Agent Orange or the inhumane treatment at Abu Ghraib. As much as the Right likes to flaunt its moral stance on abortion or transgenderism, it immediately gets undercut on an issue such as this. The American barbarian has no way to justify itself outside of force. 

Where does an ideology like this originate from? The root of the issue comes from a profound perversion of patriotism that acts as a type of “American Messianism.” American Messianism, which has its origins in John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” speech, is the radical belief that the morals of the American nation are better than any nation in the world simply because it is American. The view combines the incorrect Calvinist predestination with the hubristic pride of nationalism for a dangerous ideology. Pope Leo XIII recognized this view as the infamous “Americanist” heresy and warned faithful Catholics not to fall prey to the temptation of this belief.  

Herman Melville, the author of Moby-Dick, once said, in White-Jacket

Americans are the peculiar, chosen people; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world… God has predestinated, mankind expects, great things from our race; and great things we feel in our souls….Long enough have we been skeptics with regard to ourselves, and doubted whether, indeed, the political Messiah had come. But he has come in us.

As America became more secular, especially after the First World War, it was only a matter of time before barbarianism would dominate the dwindling Christian beliefs in the nation. It was a no-brainer for the secularly-inclined leaders of the West to drop a bomb for their consequentialist reasoning. 

America still holds to this ideology of Messianism. The America of 1945 that argued to destroy Japan and rebuild it with Western values is the same America that led an unjust invasion of Iraq for the sake of “freedom” and “democracy.” Even if these countries resist the invaders, the American barbarians will come in and achieve whatever means necessary for American Messianism. 

To call the dropping of the atomic bomb evil does not mean that you hate America. Far from it; it is the most patriotic thing an American can do. American patriots should be able to be honest about their nation’s actions. Patriotism is an extension of charity, and any American patriot should build a nation filled with virtuous leaders rather than barbarians.

As with all things, the Church provides clarity on the subject. From Pope Pius XIII to Pope Francis, the Church has condemned the use of these weapons. Today, the Catechism states on the issue:

Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation [cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 80 §3]. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons—especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons—to commit such crimes. 

No faithful Catholic could look at the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and be proud of that decision. But, the American barbarian could. 

The conservative movement remains in league with the barbarians, but the moral blind spots on the issue are fading. Soon enough, the light of the Faith will illuminate the minds of conservative thinkers.


  • Michael Ippolito

    Michael Ippolito is the co-founder and president of The American Postliberal. Michael graduated from the Catholic University of America with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and minors in History and Theology. He is published in the Daily Signal, The American Spectator, and MRCTV. You can follow him on X (Twitter) @mikeipps.

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