St. Augustine of Hippo in “Tutti” – #fratellitutti

I was asked in email what I thought of the use of St. Augustine’s Letter 229 in the section on war in the new encyclical, risibly entitled in Italian Fratelli tutti.

The encyclical says that wars are bad.   I think we can agree.  He therefore concludes that nothing justifies any way.  I don’t think we can agree.  Let’s see some of this.  My emphases:

258. War can easily be chosen by invoking all sorts of allegedly humanitarian, defensive or precautionary excuses, and even resorting to the manipulation of information. In recent decades, every single war has been ostensibly “justified”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the possibility of legitimate defence by means of military force, which involves demonstrating that certain “rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy”[239] have been met. Yet it is easy to fall into an overly broad interpretation of this potential right. In this way, some would also wrongly justify even “preventive” attacks or acts of war that can hardly avoid entailing “evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated”.[240] At issue is whether the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the enormous and growing possibilities offered by new technologies, have granted war an uncontrollable destructive power over great numbers of innocent civilians. The truth is that “never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely”.[241] We can no longer think of war as a solution, because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits. In view of this, it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a “just war”. Never again war![242]

“… allegedly…” 

Firstly, I don’t think war is “easily chosen”.  And the point about manipulation of information is probably a shot at these USA for Iraq.

“In recent decades…”

How many decades?  Sorry, but the history of war goes back more that “recent decades”.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the possibility of legitimate defence by means of military force” … 

In other words… war?

“… new technologies…” 

There is a good point here.  New technologies do change the impact of war.  The Roman pike, English longbow, repeating rifle each in their turn changed the impact of war.   But then came airplanes and bombs, nuclear weapons, etc.  Biological weapons were used in ancient times, but with today’s open and swift travel, and the possibility of engineering weapons, the impact is quantitatively so much greater now that it is a qualitative shift.  However, the fact that, for example, the Chinese might be ready to unleash some biological weapon on the rest of the world could be argued as a darn good reason to act so as to prevent the attack.

“…never has humanity had such power over itself…”

Now that we live in a time when the Gospel has, in fact, been in some way brought to the whole world and we have the ability to communicate to the entire globe instantly, and we have the ability to destroy life as we know it on this planet… when will the Restrainer stop restraining?

We can no longer think of war as a solution, because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits. In view of this, it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a “just war”. Never again war![242]

This is not good.  “… probably… very difficult…”   As clear as mud.  This hedging within the statement leaves the door open to the possibility of “just war”.

Footnote 242… this is where we find the quote of Augustine of Hippo.

[242] Saint Augustine, who forged a concept of “just war” that we no longer uphold in our own day, also said that “it is a higher glory still to stay war itself with a word, than to slay men with the sword, and to procure or maintain peace by peace, not by war” (Epistola 229, 2: PL 33, 1020)

The quote says that we “no longer uphold” the concept of the “just war”.  That’s patently false.  This note is added to a patently hedged sentence (“… probably… very difficult…”) and it contradicts what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in that same paragraph!

By the way, if Francis thinks that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is wrong, he should change it, like he did with the bit about capital punishment.  But THAT was a train wreck as well.   Things are not true because they are included in the Catechism.  Things are true because they can be demonstrated to be true by the force of the argument and the foundations on which they rest.  I digress.

Back to Augustine.

What Francis did NOT quote from Augustine’s ep. 229 is the very NEXT SENTENCE:

“it is a higher glory still to stay war itself with a word, than to slay men with the sword, and to procure or maintain peace by peace, not by war.  After all, even those who fight, if they are good, undoubtedly seek peace, but they still do so by means of bloodshed.

Augustine’s fuller thought about war and seeking peace was perhaps more complex than Francis wanted it to be.  So, … just leave that last part out!


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  1. Tom says:

    The Holy Father does make some good points worthy of consideration. Just wish it had a Latin title. All I can think of when I hear anyone talking about this is the Little Richard song… Tutti frutti oh rootie! Wop bop a loo bop a lop ba ba! Interestingly enough, Little Richard also sang a song called ‘Ready Teddy’. I’m ready to see the Vatican’s report on Teddy.

  2. samwise says:

    Pius XII’s role in CHURCH OF SPIES was a case-in-point of validity of just war theory.

    As for “Frat-toot”, Dr Sam Gregg gives the fairest critique from an economist’s standpoint

  3. Benedict Joseph says:

    Just leaving the last part out is itself a sort of defining characteristic of the entire pontificate. What doesn’t suit an ideological purpose can be discretely laid aside or concealed in a footnote. Deception, misrepresentation, mischaracterization and surgical editing bespeak mendacity. The future will not regard kindly the operations presently in place.

  4. Chrisc says:

    Yes. There is a kind of lawfare or at least logical limit to the horizon. One makes their case by selecting certain passages that support ones preconceptions. As such there is not a trying to think with the tradition, but merely conform it to a line of thinking.

  5. haydn seeker says:

    It seems to be written entirely in bishop-ese. What hmm embarrassment.

  6. crjs1 says:

    I have only read the encyclical once so far and was very pleasantly surprised. The Holy Fathers reflections on contemporary economics, individualism, mass communication etc were in my view very timely. The whole encyclical felt right for the time of Covid.

    The best chapter on initial reading was chapter two and the meditations on the Good Samaritan. It was beautiful.

    In saying that though there are far too many ‘probably’ ‘supposed’ ‘most likely’… stream of consciousness type phrases, which don’t provide the clarity you would expect in a papal encyclical – No where more so on the paragraphs on war.

    Overall though I do think it a really good document and is a clear summarisation of Francis’s papacy. For that reason alone a lot of Francis critics will reflectively criticise it – before even reading it no doubt.

    Though can we ditch the 2 prayers at the end, they just seem well cheesy.

  7. samwise says:

    “Self-absorbed Promethean Neopelagian”

  8. Adelle Cecilia says:

    I’ve noticed that, quite often, if one included the next sentence/verse in their “gotcha” arguments against Catholics, they would see the ridiculousness of their argument.

    However, I’m not always certain that these people actually even know that such would be the case. “If Catholics actually read the Bible…” they’d know that you’re cheating by misquoting out of context?

  9. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z wrote: “The [Fratelli tutti] encyclical says that wars are bad. I think we can agree. He therefore concludes that nothing justifies any war. I don’t think we can agree.”


    St. Augustine:

    “After all, even those who fight, if they are good, undoubtedly seek peace, but they still do so by means of bloodshed.“

    Good point.

    This pontificate would benefit by sitting down quietly for two hours and watching “Sgt. York.” The U.S. in 1917 entered the war by sending troops to France, which had been invaded by Imperial Germany in 1914. The ten-minute scene in “Sgt. York” known as “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17) is particularly apt.

    Speaking of encyclicals, Pope Leo XIII writing in his 1895 encyclical “Longinqua”:

    “We highly esteem and love exceedingly the young and vigorous American nation, in which We plainly discern latent forces for the advancement alike of civilization and of Christianity.”

    “All intelligent men are agreed, and We Ourselves have with pleasure intimated it above, that America seems destined for greater things. Now, it is Our wish that the Catholic Church should not only share in, but help to bring about, this prospective greatness. We deem it right and proper that she should, by availing herself of the opportunities daily presented to her, keep equal step with the Republic in the march of improvement, at the same time striving to the utmost, by her virtue and her institutions, to aid in the rapid growth of the States.”


    Now, in A.D. 2020, those Utopians who demand Heaven on Earth (“Never again War!”), be they socialists, pacifists, or misguided (temporarily, one prays) clergy, should be ignored. In this Fallen World there will be trouble (John 16:33), there will be wars and rumors of war (Matthew 24:6).

    In His infinite wisdom God has granted us a glimpse of Heaven, of the New Jerusalem. As Fr. Neuhaus writes:

    “For Christians, the supreme act of prolepsis [in which the hoped-for future is present] is the Eucharist, in which we take bread and wine in obedience to the command of Jesus and “do this” in remembrance of Him.”

    God and Country. Faith and Reason.

  10. Pingback: Fratelli tutti: because you should always have an opinion on a papal encyclical before you’ve read it | Pluot

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    Fratelli tutti 258:

    “We can no longer think of war as a solution, because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits.”

    The problem with that utopian sentiment is that in this Fallen World there are various regimes and violent groups who certainly think of war as a solution.

    “In view of this, it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a “just war”. Never again war!”

    That is an appeal to utopianism and despair. “Difficulty” is not a sufficient reason to abandon centuries of Catholic thought and teaching on Just War. “Invoking rational criteria” can be done, James Turner Johnson wrote a book on this very topic: “The War to Oust Saddam Hussein: Just War and the New Face of Conflict.”

    In feudal Europe the Catholic Church did not give into despair or utopian fantasies. The Church developed a method to limit feudal warfare: the Peace of God and the Truce of God.

    Si vis pacem, para bellum.

  12. Semper Gumby says: there are various regimes and violent groups who certainly think of war as a solution

    There are indeed groups (within Islam) who think that causing vast disaster will result in their apocalyptic aspirations.

    How do we reason with that?

    When someone (aka Biden voter) attacks and burns my neighbor’s property, I must stand by and watch?

    When a vicious regime, which attacks its neighbors, starts to slaughter in systematic genocide a sector of the people, we should jam our hands into our pockets and think nice thoughts?

    Original sin is entirely pervasive. Solutions for the results of Original Sin will themselves be flawed. The only try iustum will be in heaven. Until then, we have to do our best.

  13. acardnal says:

    I seem to recall the Church being involved in something called the Crusades.

  14. Semper Gumby says:

    acardnal: You recall correctly, sir. After centuries of a rampaging Islam, Pope Urban II called for a counterattack: the First Crusade.

    Fr. Z: “When someone (aka Biden voter) attacks and burns my neighbor’s property, I must stand by and watch?”

    Fr. Z is, of course, being rhetorical. If the mob burns your neighbor’s house, help your neighbor. Such an event should be taken as a hint that your house is next. There is a biblical and natural right to self-defense.

    Certainly, we do not want to “live by the sword,” as Jesus warns against, and transform ourselves into the Genghis Khan of Maple Tree Lane and count coup on every random passerby.

    However, we can live with a sword (Luke 22:36, but don’t turn Maple Tree Lane into a free-fire zone, see Luke 22:38- proper training, marksmanship, and fire discipline is important).

    Exercise your 2nd Amendment rights and equip yourself for self-defense, and for the occasional pre-emptive foray against the nearby camp of a zombie motorcycle gang getting hopped up on meth around a campfire before marauding through Maple Tree Lane.

    For “in extremis” situations: Being aware of the presence of a mutant zombie gang nearby requires regular patrolling at some distance from the houses of you and your neighbors. Proper tactical patrolling, deploying obstacles and traps in the path of marauders, shortwave radio usage, and employing other signalling devices are acquired skills.

    Christianity is not a suicide pact. Christus Vincit.

  15. Semper Gumby says:

    Fratelli tutti 258:

    “At issue is whether the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the enormous and growing possibilities offered by new technologies, have granted war an uncontrollable destructive power over great numbers of innocent civilians.”

    More specifically, not “war” but certain regimes and violent groups who develop, control and may use those weapons possess that destructive power. Whether it’s “uncontrollable” depends on the situation and the actions taken by legitimate governments to deter, hinder, pre-empt or stop such use.

    The phrase “new technologies” does not fully capture the dynamic. Terrorists with box cutters and hand-to-hand combat skills transformed jetliners into cruise missiles. They could have selected other targets.

    Abandoning the Catholic Just War tradition would not improve the world’s situation, rather, it would remove a valuable tool from the toolbox.

  16. Veronica scriptor velum says:

    And where would we be today were it not for the valiant men of the Holy Catholic League who fought the sword-wielding Muslim Turks in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 (449 years ago today!) and won? The victory at Lepanto was attributed to Our Lady from the millions praying the Holy Rosary. Would the Mother of God have helped the Christians to victory if there were no such thing as a Just War?

    As we all know, Lepanto became the turning point of Islamic invasions into poor besieged Europe, the cradle of Christendom…. but not forever! Heretical Islam is once again invading Europe, only this time, finding us weak and worldly, and thus unsuspecting, their invasion is by slow stealth. Sinister and far more dangerous!

  17. Semper Gumby says:

    Fratelli tutti addresses nuclear weapons in the “War and Death Penalty” section.

    First, though, today at First Things an article by John Keown, “Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Christian Ethics at Georgetown University” which attempts to take George Weigel to task over the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

    Briefly, Keown fails- he has not done his research. Keown directs readers to a flawed article at The Nation claiming “The War Was Won Before Hiroshima—And the Generals Who Dropped the Bomb Knew It.” The problem is, the “generals” were wrong.

    From The Nation:

    “Asked on August 17 by a New York Times reporter whether the atomic bomb caused Japan to surrender, Arnold said that “the Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell, because the Japanese had lost control of their own air.””

    False, Imperial Japan had not “lost control of their own air.” Imperial Japan had thousands of kamikazes prepared to attack the Allied invasion fleet. Additionally, rather than flying to Okinawa and facing Allied Combat Air Patrols and picket ships that attrited the number of kamikazes before they struck U.S. ships off Okinawa, the kamikazes would simply fly several miles off their coast to strike the Allied landing.

    False, “the Japanese position was hopeless.” Arnold may have viewed it as hopeless, but Imperial Japan clearly did not, and that is what matters. Imperial Japan rejected the Potsdam Declaration, and “Operation Ketsu-Go,” the preparations for defense of the “Home Islands” was well underway.

    Then Keown pulls a stunt, he writes:

    “But here is not the place to play armchair admirals or pretend to be presidents or adjudicate between historians, for our present concern is not tactics but ethics.”

    So, after raising the topic he backs away, and unwittingly highlights his lack of research by dismissing “tactics.” However, the situation in the summer of 1945 was not about tactics, it was about strategy and courses of action- this is an important distinction with which Keown is obviously unaware.

    Keown then writes:

    “For if one accepts that good consequences (such as shortening a war) can justify the intentional killing of innocent civilians, then one is buying into a consequentialist ethic in which the ends can justify any means.”

    No. Keown failed to grasp Weigel’s point: every course of action, without exception, would lead to the loss of innocent life. It’s called war. If one wants to be specific about “targeting,” every course of action “targeted” innocent life.

    The predatory regime of Imperial Japan, for numerous reasons, had to be destroyed and, having rejected the Potsdam terms which kept the Emperor in place, the sooner the better.

    Keown’s use of “nuking” and “incinerating” are graphic words meant to virtue signal, strengthen his argument emotionally, or both.

    Keown has failed to do the research and also grapple with the hard fact that every other course of action was far bloodier and would have taken far longer. Keown, whose comments rely on later writings from St. John Paul II and Prof. Elizabeth Anscombe, has resorted to being an “armchair ethicist.”

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  19. Semper Gumby says:

    Fratelli tutti 262, quoting:


    This message is dated March 2017, the message itself is footnote 244 to Fratelli tutti 262.

    “In this context, the ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons becomes both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative…Growing interdependence and globalization mean that any response to the threat of nuclear weapons should be collective and concerted, based on mutual trust. This trust can be built only through dialogue that is truly directed to the common good and not to the protection of veiled or particular interests”.

    Any reasonable person would agree that life on Earth would be improved by the absence of nuclear weapons.

    The problem, of course, is that there are some seriously unreasonable people in this Fallen World. There are proliferation networks (e.g. the AQ Khan network) and proliferation regimes (several of which no longer exist). Some regimes have sent students abroad to study theoretical nuclear physics, while holding their families accountable to ensure the return of the student upon completion of their doctorate.

    The writers of Fratelli tutti should note that countries which do not share “mutual trust” and also differ on the “common good” are still able to cooperate on non-proliferation projects because these countries in fact do share “veiled or particular interests.”

  20. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z wrote regarding Fratelli tutti 258: “Firstly, I don’t think war is “easily chosen”. And the point about manipulation of information is probably a shot at these USA for Iraq.”

    Indeed, Fr. Z. A lengthy response, if I could. Double asterisks are used below to highlight key points.

    First, a quote from Fratelli tutti, the preceding paragraph 257:

    “”If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and peoples. To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of **the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm”**[Footnote 238, Francis’ Address to the UN in 2015]. The seventy-five years since the establishment of the United Nations and the experience of the first twenty years of this millennium have shown that the full application of international norms proves truly effective, and that **failure to comply with them is detrimental.** The Charter of the United Nations, when observed and applied with transparency and sincerity, is an obligatory reference point of justice and a channel of peace.”

    The removal of the Saddam Hussein regime met Catholic Just War criteria and Francis’ UN-specific criteria.

    Pres. George Bush’s Address to the UN in 2002:

    “Above all, our principles and our security are challenged today by **outlaw groups and regimes that accept no law of morality and have no limit to their violent ambitions.** In the attacks on America a year ago, we saw the destructive intentions of our enemies. This threat hides within many nations, including my own. In cells and camps, terrorists are plotting further destruction, and building new bases for their war against civilization. And our greatest fear is that terrorists will find a shortcut to their mad ambitions when an outlaw regime supplies them with the technologies to kill on a massive scale.

    “In one place – in one regime – we find all these dangers, in their most lethal and aggressive forms, **exactly the kind of aggressive threat the United Nations was born to confront.**

    “Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation. And the regime’s forces were poised to continue their march to seize other countries and their resources. Had Saddam Hussein been appeased instead of stopped, he would have endangered the peace and stability of the world. **Yet this aggression was stopped — by the might of coalition forces and the will of the United Nations.**

    **”To suspend hostilities, to spare himself, Iraq’s dictator accepted a series of commitments.** The terms were clear, to him and to all. And he agreed to prove he is complying with every one of those obligations.

    “He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations, and for all his pledges. **By breaking every pledge — by his deceptions, and by his cruelties — Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself.”**

    Background papers to Pres. Bush’s 2002 Address to the UN include the following observations:

    -The Saddam Hussein regime repeatedly violated UN Security Council Resolutions 678 (**November 29, 1990 – authorizes UN Member States “to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 and all subsequent relevant resolutions”**), 686, 687, 688, 707, 715, 949, 1051, 1060, 1115, 1134, 1137, 1154, 1194, 1205, 1284 (December 17, 1999).

    -The UN Security Council also issued **at least thirty statements from the President of the UN Security Council** regarding Saddam Hussein’s continued violations of UNSCRs.

    -Saddam Hussein has repeatedly violated sixteen United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) designed to ensure that Iraq does not pose a threat to international peace and security. In addition to these repeated violations, he has tried, over the past decade, to circumvent UN economic sanctions against Iraq, which are reflected in a number of other resolutions. **As noted in the resolutions, Saddam Hussein was required to fulfill many obligations beyond the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Specifically,** Saddam Hussein was required to, among other things: allow international weapons inspectors to oversee the destruction of his weapons of mass destruction; not develop new weapons of mass destruction; destroy all of his ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers; stop support for terrorism and prevent terrorist organizations from operating within Iraq; help account for missing Kuwaitis and other individuals; return stolen Kuwaiti property and bear financial liability for damage from the Gulf War; and he was required to end his repression of the Iraqi people.

    In March 2003 Saddam Hussein rejected the Coalition Ultimatum that he and his two sons leave Iraq within 48 hours.

  21. Semper Gumby says:

    Edward Feser, “Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College,” like John Keown above, attempts to rebut George Weigel’s “Truman’s Terrible Choice” article.

    In his attempt, Feser wheels out the usual suspects such as consequentialism, a Vatican II document and Anscombe’s writings. Feser attempts, but fails due to his lack of knowledge, to show practical application of these writings to the situation in 1945.

    Feser writes: “Weigel’s main theme is the standard one that an invasion of Japan would have been vastly bloodier than the bombings.”

    First, Feser displays no knowledge of the military situation in 1945. Second, Feser shows no interest in recommending a different course of action, his article merely harrumphs about what was done in 1945 without grappling with the hard facts of the situation.

    Third, the invasion is “standard” for a reason, it serves as a standard to measure other courses of action. Feser’s article appears to thirst for the blood of many millions from a ground invasion in order that a philosophy professor in 2020 can virtue signal from an air-conditioned office about “consequentialism” and “Anscombe’s natural law case.” Feser’s excursion into “double effect” is pointless because, again, he does not grasp the situation in 1945.

    Feser’s article is also characterized by mental laziness, one example:

    “Second, whether or not Japanese civilians would have been turned into combatants at some point, they were not in fact combatants at the time of the bombings. So, if that is Weigel’s point, it is also completely irrelevant.”

    Feser is wrong. He has not done basic research into, for example, Operation Ketsu-Go. Feser’s lack of knowledge regarding Japanese culture and military operations in 1945 is glaring. He should research the situation in 1945 Imperial Japan where “civilians” (including teenage girls) were being trained as combatants. One example among many: suicide swimmers and scuba divers stationed in underwater bunkers armed with explosives in order to attack Allied landing craft.

    Feser: “The reason an invasion would have been so bloody is largely due to the Allied policy of unconditional surrender…With the atomic bombings, the Allies “solved” a problem that they had themselves created.”

    Feser, like many before him, is repeating a lie. Feser should hit the books and read the short text of the Potsdam Declaration (“unconditional surrender of the **armed forces**) and its origins. Furthermore, Feser should acknowledge that the Allies did not create the situation in 1945, that situation was created by the predatory regime of Imperial Japan.

    Catholic Just War Theory is a valuable tool. It’s purpose is to limit both warfare and casualties. But it is still theory, its practical application matters. Misusing Catholic Just War Theory to prolong a war and produce many millions more casualties is not only stupid, but strays into evil.

  22. Semper Gumby says:

    Tribal Catholics whine incessantly that the reasons for the Catholic demographic decline in these United States are “liberalism,” “Americanism,” “capitalism” and other such things.


    Certainly, modernity is a challenge, but God never promised us a rose garden, quite the opposite in fact.

    Primarily the causes of this decline are poor catechesis of the faithful, poor formation of clergy and religious, poor knowledge of Holy Scripture, a hierarchy in the U.S. and in the Vatican that often preaches Leftist politics or weird theology and, most importantly and too common, vapid liturgy.

    Another reason for Catholic decline is exemplified by Keown’s and Feser’s articles which were written for the greater glory of “consequentialism.” Those two articles, thirsting after an additional million American casualties and ten million Japanese casualties, do violence to common sense.

    God bless Pres. Truman and Fr. O’Callahan, USN, MOH.

    Faith and Reason.

  23. The Masked Chicken says:

    Not to prolong an already long discussion, but one of my best friends is a military historian who taught strategy and tactics at SAW (School of Advanced Warfighting) at Marine Corps. University for almost 20 years. I brought up this topic during a conversation and he told me that the Japanese had their own atomic program, which had the same problem as the German program – they could not get enough fissile material. They had understood the consequences of nuclear chain reactions by 1938, so the atom bomb was no surprise. They did not know that the U.S. was so far along, however, but as my friend put it, as soon as they saw the damage at Hiroshima, they knew that we had the bomb.

    How we came to drop the bomb on Hiroshima was probably not really Truman’s deliberation. In June of 1945, Nobel Prize winner James Franck headed a committee that issued a paper, eventually called, The Franck Report, that predicted the arms race if we dropped the bomb on a civilian population. Their idea was to demonstrate the bomb to the world so that Japan would know we had the bomb by dropping the bomb on an island or exploding it in the air.

    As Hippel reports:

    Compton was also a member of the Scientific Panel that advised Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s Interim Committee, which was deciding US nuclear policy. On June 12, 1945, Compton transmitted the Franck Report to Stimson, who responded by asking the Scientific Panel (Compton, Fermi, Ernest Lawrence, and J. Robert Oppenheimer) for its collective view. On June 16, the panel made two recommendations:

    1) Instead of the Franck Report’s proposed demonstration for the United Nations, the United States should inform Britain, Russia, France, and China that the US had made progress on nuclear weapons, might use them in the current war, and was open to suggestions “as to how we can cooperate in making this ·development contribute to improved international relations.”

    2) Disagreeing with the Franck Committee’s prioritization of post-war nuclear arms control, the group stated that as “we can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war; we see no acceptable alternative to direct military use.”

    The rest is history.

    It seems that Truman may have just gone along with the Science Panel recommendation. It is NOT, however, clear that if the suggestions of the Franck Report had been implemented, that the Japanese command would not have capitulated and the lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki been saved. What was the U. S. threatening – to drop up to 15 atom bombs on Japan (this was one plan)? The resulting radioactive contamination of the soil would have made it a Pyrrhic victory, because no one would have been able to approach that region of the world for up to a century. Most people have very little understanding of just how little we actually understood about the atom bomb and ionizing radiation in 1945.

    We can’t replay history. What is done is done. Oppenheimer wanted to end the war, but I think that Franck saw farther. It is odd that the U. S. was willing to nuke a Japanese city, but would not have used poison gas to accomplish the same objective. It is interesting to speculate why. The U. S. did have poison gas; Churchill would have used it himself as a last ditch effort if the Germans had used it or gotten too close to overcoming England. The Japanese, likewise, had gas. What they didn’t have was the bomb. Apparently, Oppenheimer and the Science Panel thought that only a brutal demonstration would suffice. They, apparently, did not understand the significance of Hirohito being a cosmopolitan traveler in his youth, because they misjudged how much he understood about the West. He and his scientists would have recognized the bomb for what it was, even if dropped on a deserted island. There were other options than either bombing Japanese cities or making a direct military attack. We will never know if any of the other options would have led to a different sort of history. Hirohito understood the significance of the bomb. That is clear. What is not clear is if he would have had enough sway to end the war if the immediate danger to human life had not been demonstrated. We will never know.

    The Chicken

  24. Semper Gumby says:

    Masked Chicken:

    1. The decision was Truman’s, see the abundant documentation.

    2. The “arms race” obviously began before 1945, James Franck was naive. He was also apparently unaware of: Enormoz and the penetration of Los Alamos, Venona, the Cambridge Five, the NKVD XY Line and other related matters.

    3. A demonstration bomb that flattened some trees would not have resulted in surrender of the predatory and death-cult regime in Tokyo, see the Magic intercepts relating to Ketsu-Go preparations and related matters. Additionally, the death-cult regime may have interpreted the explosion as a thermobaric bomb.

    4. The so-called “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” also publishes the melodramatic nuclear “Doomsday Clock” that in 2007 advanced their “clock” because of “global warming,” in 2016 because of Trump’s election and in 2017 because of his Inauguration. BAS has no credibility.

    5. Whether and when Hirohito understood the “significance” of “the bomb” is irrelevant, see the Potsdam Declaration. The problem was the Japanese death-cult regime and the armed forces. Even after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Kyujo Incident still occurred. Furthermore: in August 1945 the Japanese Army still fought in Asia; Asians were dying at an estimated rate of several hundred thousand a month due to Japanese occupation; Japanese Holdouts surrendered for decades after Japan’s surrender.

  25. Semper Gumby says:

    Today two more professors have attempted to rebut George Weigel’s First Things article. At Commonweal the authors are: “John Schwenkler is a professor of philosophy at Florida State University” and “Mark Souva is a professor of political science at Florida State University.”

    These two have not done the historical research, they obviously do not understand the military situation in 1945, they promote Anscombe (one of these two apparently wrote a book on Anscombe), and, of course, these two blame the victim (the Allies) for “unconditional surrender.”

    As quite a few others have noticed, there is something deficient regarding the reading comprehension of these professors. Perhaps there is a template these professors e-mail each other to churn out disinformation, as these three articles (see above for the other two articles) continue to commit the same basic errors.

    The Potsdam Declaration:

    “We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the **unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces,** and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action.”

    Additional information on this topic is provided in the discussion above and in the discussion here:

  26. NOCatholic says:

    While I lean toward agreeing that dropping the bombs was justified, the counter arguments that cite Just War doctrines are still disturbing. The one unequivocal objection to those arguments I have, is the (unstated, but implied) assertion, that Truman and his advisors were guilty of a monstrous war crime and moral outrage. What is abundantly clear is that the environment in which Truman made that decision was morally ambiguous, extremely so, in light of the apparent if not actual militarization of Japanese civilians, as well as the many atrocities committed by Imperial Japan that raised the urgency of ending the war as quickly as possible.

  27. Semper Gumby says:

    NOCatholic: You might be interested in this article by James Turner Johnson, “Paul Ramsey and the Recovery of the Just War Idea.” The “Recovery” seems timely in light of the problematic Footnote 242 (see above) of Fratelli tutti.

    “First, Ramsey’s two books from the 1960s began the recovery of the just war idea that has proceeded vigorously for the last half-century. When Ramsey wrote these books, no one had produced a scholarly, theologically based volume on just war for over three and a half centuries, **since the publication of Francisco Suarez’s lecture De Bello, first delivered in the academic year 1583–84.**”

    “By the time Ramsey wrote in the 1960s, not only had the moral idea of just war long faded from the scene, but so had the specifically religious stake in this moral idea. One important result was **the drift of the churches and Christian individuals either toward acceptance of the international order as an expression of moral imperative or, as regards war, to a pacifist rejection of all war in international relations.**”

    “As Ramsey developed his understanding of just war **he largely, if not entirely, left the matter of just resort to war to the arena of statecraft, arguing that as a moralist he had neither the expertise nor the status required to lead a political community into war—a caution other moralists and theologians have not often heeded.** His position on this mirrored the thought preserved in **classical just war tradition, where the necessary authority for resort to just war lies not in the spiritual realm but is specifically temporal: the classical just war requirement of sovereign authority as necessary for just resort to force correlated directly with the responsibility such a sovereign authority has for the good of the political community as a whole.**”

    Speaking of sovereign authority and good of the political community, see my 11 October comment above regarding Pres. Bush’s 2002 speech at the UN regarding the Saddam Hussein regime. The writers of Fratelli tutti and Francis fail to understand that situation.

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