Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Stewart Bombs Out

Generally, I like Jon Stewart and the Daily Show.  But last night, he said something so dumb, my jaw dropped.  It’s about five minutes into this clip.

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Cliff May Unedited Interview Pt. 2
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He says that Harry Truman was a war criminal for dropping the A-bomb on Japan.  According to Stewart, we should have dropped one off the shore of Japan to demonstrate it.

Just to explain my bias: I am loathe to apply retroactive judgement to historical decisions.  I force myself to remember that hindsight is 20/20 and that people usually don’t make bad decisions because they’re evil or stupid.  They often don’t have complete information.  In this case, let’s punt for the moment on the wisdom of the A-bomb.  Truman had no way of knowing about long-term radiological effects.  The devastation did not seem particularly worse than what fire-bombing had inflicted on Tokyo.  We were in a brutal war that had dragged out for four years.  Truman knew an invading army would face thousands of kamikaze planes and millions of armed civilians.  It’s possible to argue that Truman did the wrong thing.  But it’s not possible to say it was an indefensible decision.  And war criminal?  Truman didn’t vaporize two cities because he hated Japanese people.  He did it because he thought it would end the war.  And, while there’s controversy aplenty, there are solid reasons to believe that the bombing did end the war.

Moreover, Stewart is also specifically ignorant about the situation.  Jon, we only had two bombs.  Would Japan have surrendered after an offshore test? Are you willing to expend half your nuclear arsenal trying out that theory? There’s very good reason to doubt they would have surrendered even after Hiroshima.

People are praising Stewart for the interview in general, but I wasn’t terribly impressed—I’m usually not when he tries to play serious pundit.  He muddles the arguments against torture and can’t really respond to much of what Cliff May is saying.  I tuned out before I could hear if Stewart pointed out that MacArthur was insistent on humane treatment of Japanese prisoners—even after the horrors of Bataan.

Stewart is a funny guy and a good talk show host.  He’s good at satire and getting in the occasional good point.  But put him in a serious debate and he’s out of his element, Donnie.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 04/30/09 at 06:53 PM (Discuss this in the forums)

Comments


Posted by on 04/30/09 at 08:55 PM from United States

The simplest justification for why dropping the bomb was the right call was that we had to do it twice.

After, the first bomb, they STILL wouldn’t surrender.

Posted by on 04/30/09 at 08:59 PM from Germany

I’ve heard this particular line of bullshit from leftist revisionist America-haters since the early 70’s, and I’m sure it was old fucking news by then.

As far as destruction went - we’d been firebombing Japan for weeks/months at that point, and the amount of devastation and loss of life was staggering.  Dropping the bomb on Japan most likely saved many, many thousands or millions of lives as it presented Japan with a way to surrender sooner rather than later.  Considering that Japan was essentially defeated and was still fighting, it was a good bet that anything short of a genocidal invasion was not going to garner a surrender.

Posted by Aaron - Free Will on 04/30/09 at 09:09 PM from United States

I saw Stewart do standup about three weeks ago, and this is dead on:

Stewart is a funny guy and a good talk show host.  He’s good at satire and getting in the occasional good point.  But put him in a serious debate and he’s out of his element, Donnie.

He does a really good job at being the Everyman, most of the time, and that’s a vital viewpoint, because often times, he’s capable of being the guy in the room who says “you’re all being stupid”. Sometimes, though, it just leads to the simplistic.

Posted by on 04/30/09 at 09:14 PM from Germany

People are praising Stewart for the interview in general, but I wasn’t terribly impressed—I’m usually not when he tries to play serious pundit.

Clown nose off?

Seriously, though--people are praising Stewart because people are morons.  His popularity is just as indicative as Jerry Springer’s, in just how intellectually stunted this country is right now.  Put him outside his trained-seal audience, and he tries to pretend to be a serious pundit until someone calls him on his bullshit--then he’s a “comedian”. (Clown nose on)Stewart’s “comedy” commentary isn’t even that funny, unless one considers consistent prissy hand-to-mouth gestures as the height of hilarity.

In short, Stewart’s a pussy who maintains his credibility by acting like a dumbshit college student, which ought to tell serious people just how weak his positions really are.

Posted by Sean Galbraith on 04/30/09 at 09:19 PM from Germany

Stewart apologized for the comment on his show tonight first thing.

Posted by Aaron - Free Will on 04/30/09 at 09:20 PM from United States

Stewart apologized for the comment on his show tonight first thing.

I don’t know, man, that one’s pretty far out there.

I’m thinking a lot of people who really liked his Jim Kramer interview are going to be just a little disenchanted.

Posted by Sean Galbraith on 04/30/09 at 09:24 PM from Germany

True.
Mind you, in admitting he made a mistake and apologizing, he is still heads and shoulders over just about any other pundit/host on real news TV. Others would have just yelled louder.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 04/30/09 at 09:38 PM from United States

It’s my understanding that there was an attempted coup against the Emperor after the first bomb was dropped which may have delayed their response. That aside, Truman had to make a judgement call. He was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.

I notice that people never call FDR a “War criminal” for authorizing the Manhattan Project in the first place.

Posted by on 04/30/09 at 09:39 PM from United States

Put him outside his trained-seal audience, and he tries to pretend to be a serious pundit until someone calls him on his bullshit--then he’s a “comedian”.

Exactly. Stewart never has to actually defend his positions. If someone bothers to respond to his arguments, if they point out that what he’s just said is idiotic or makes no sense at all, he simply makes another wisecrack and moves on. He’s a comedian, after all, not a serious commentator, so that’s not his job… And then he’ll make another baseless, retarded accusation.

Jon Stewart’s a moron. I’m not sure why he has serious guests on to begin with instead of just sticking with other entertainers… But if he’s ever said anything insightful during any of these pointless blow-ups of his, I’m sure it was entirely by accident.

Anyway, I think the recent fiasco with Jim Cramer/CNBC was even more ridiculous and shameful than this.

Posted by on 04/30/09 at 11:26 PM from United States

Mind you, in admitting he made a mistake and apologizing, he is still heads and shoulders over just about any other pundit/host on real news TV. Others would have just yelled louder.

Dude, most of that interview was Stewart talking over his guest and not giving him a chance to respond.  If he’d have talked any more, that segment would have been a monologue.

Posted by on 04/30/09 at 11:40 PM from United States

Stewart and Maher have the worst studio audiences.  When ever either of those two is on their heels they just make a Bush or Republican crack and the audience ROARS in laughter and applause that pretty much shuts up whomever is debating a point.

Mahers is worse though.  The kooks in that crowd are so eager to applaud anything progressive or anti-republican that they jump the gun sometimes and end up starting to applaud for no reason.

Posted by HARLEY on 05/01/09 at 04:55 AM from United States

It’s my understanding that there was an attempted coup against the Emperor after the first bomb was dropped which may have delayed their response. That aside, Truman had to make a judgement call. He was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.

the coup attempt was
by generals, who wanted to keep the war going.............

A for war crimes, id say that the fire bombing of Japanese and German cities would probably qualify, as for the many German and Japanese that were sumeraly executed in the field.

Posted by InsipiD on 05/01/09 at 07:20 AM from United States

I’m glad that some of Stewart’s insanity is revealed.  I read once that about 20% of men 18-30 get their news exclusively from The Daily Show.  I would’ve actually found this less disturbing back when Kilborn hosted and the show didn’t take itself as seriously.  I found Kilborn more fun anyway.  I quit watching it as much about 2003 and I have not missed it.

Posted by on 05/01/09 at 07:21 AM from Germany

I am pretty sure that John Bolton, bless his heart, came close to arguing that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki were war crimes.

Lest anyone think he was going all warm and fuzzy, he was using it as a reason why the US should not join the ICC.

After all, the law isn’t much good if it stops you from doing what you want, is it?

Posted by Aaron - Free Will on 05/01/09 at 07:43 AM from United States

The law isn’t much good if it’s imposed by non-sovereign, unaccountable, politicized entities.

The treaties on war crimes contemplate the killing of civilians if they happen to be in the way of a legitimate military target. (In fact, they make it a war crime to try to shield legitimate military targets by putting your own civilians in the way, or deliberately moving them into a location where civilian casualties are inevitable.)

In turn, the controversy about Hiroshima and Nagasaki isn’t the use of the atomic bomb on a city, it’s whether the intended goal was to destroy the underlying infrastructure (legitimate) or to destroy the people living there (not legitimate).

Written records, at least, suggest that Hiroshima was chosen as “an important army depot and port of embarkation in the middle of an urban industrial area”, while Tokyo was spared because, despite the psychological value, it was of “less strategic value”.

However, I’ve seen numerous instances of UN bureaucrats describing the “supreme responsibility of militaries to avoid civilian casualties”. While that’s admirable, it’s completely contrary to the agreed upon rules and I do think there’s reason to not want international bureaucrats imposing them.

Posted by Sean Galbraith on 05/01/09 at 08:12 AM from Canada

The law isn’t much good if it isn’t enforced domestically either.

Posted by on 05/01/09 at 08:25 AM from Germany

The treaties on war crimes contemplate the killing of civilians if they happen to be in the way of a legitimate military target.

The hypocenter in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki was above the city center, well away from most of the industrial and transport areas. I read somewhere that about 70% of Hiroshima’s industrial capacity was unaffected by the bombing.

Posted by on 05/01/09 at 08:38 AM from United States

The irony of the war crimes for dropping the A-Bomb debate is that nobody thinks Truman should be tried as a war criminal for firebombing ALL the other major industrial cities in Japan with incendiaries which led to more destruction and death--just slower.

Posted by Aaron - Free Will on 05/01/09 at 08:52 AM from United States

The law isn’t much good if it isn’t enforced domestically either.

Very, very, very true.

The hypocenter in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki was above the city center, well away from most of the industrial and transport areas. I read somewhere that about 70% of Hiroshima’s industrial capacity was unaffected by the bombing.

I believe (and I could be off the mark) that the contemplated target was an arsenal, with the drop-point shifted toward an area where it would still have strategic value (crippling the city) even if it failed to destroy the primary target.

That said, I think the question would be very different if we were talking about this in a contemporary context: the technology available in WWII essentially mandated significant civilian casualties if you targeted anything in an urban area.

Today, we have tools available to minimize those casualties while destroying designated targets, and that changes the calculus significantly. For comparison purposes, the generous version of the civilian casualties from the entire American invasion of Iraq, including the “Shock and Awe” bombing of Baghdad, was about 6,000. For D-Day and the invasion of Europe? Some estimates suggest ten times that number.

Frankly, if the choice were between destroying Berlin entirely and saving tens of thousands of French civilians plus so many Allied troops? That’d be a worthwhile discussion. However, I don’t think that’s the question anymore in modern warfare.

Posted by Aaron - Free Will on 05/01/09 at 08:55 AM from United States

The irony of the war crimes for dropping the A-Bomb debate is that nobody thinks Truman should be tried as a war criminal for firebombing ALL the other major industrial cities in Japan with incendiaries which led to more destruction and death--just slower.

I actually deleted that thought from what I just wrote because I didn’t want to bother with answering the only marginally relevant questions it might raise, but you’re right.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are targeted for criticism not because the critics are opposed to death and destruction, but because they’re opposed to nuclear weapons. The alternative to using the atomic bomb was to flatten the city through other means. That, essentially, was what I was getting at about the clumsy technology of the time.

I think it’s reasonable to assert that just about everyone killed by the atomic bombs had a non-trivial chance of dying in Operation Downfall as well, along with just about everyone else.

Posted by on 05/01/09 at 09:41 AM from United States

Yep, we’re guilty, who gives a shit? Fact is, WWII was all about bombing civilian targets, and every country that had the fire power to do so pretty much did it. The problem is we still care too damn much what the rest of the world things of us, but if anyone notices every action we’ve taken good or bad has been spun to make us into the worst. So who gives a shit?

Posted by on 05/01/09 at 09:54 AM from United States

“The law isn’t much good if it isn’t enforced domestically either.”

Very, very, very true.

Very, very, very false.

Compared to the ideal--uniform enforcement--it is certainly not “much good” if the law is not being applied at all times. But that’s not reality, not now, and not ever.

If you don’t think the law is much good because it’s not being enforced in some subset of situations, then you must think it’d be better to have no law at all. That would more accurately reflect what you perceive as reality, so if we’re picking between two polar opposites, you’d prefer to pick no laws instead of the “sham” we have.

That’s silly, of course. Thus the relevant question is whether, despite the flaws, the law is still good on the whole given the alternative of no laws at all.

Posted by on 05/01/09 at 10:06 AM from United States

Stewart apologized for the comment on his show tonight first thing.

What did he apologize for?  Saying something that he believed in?  Getting bated to say something that he didn’t mean, meanwhile he spent half the ‘debate’ doing that very thing?

Posted by on 05/02/09 at 03:06 PM from Canada

Whoa that other guy is a total douche, classic semi-smart dittohead who is used to bullying his way through an argument. I thought Jon ripped the guy into little tiny shreds, nearly as bad as Huckabee. The best part about Stewart’s style is he usually destroys you fairly gently which makes the other guy nearly always look like the dick.

Jon’s points about prisoners and criminal suspects pretty much demolished the entire argument the guy was attempting to build.

The Truman comment is just the result of a bleeding heart who has never been in a war. In a rosy sunshine world his plan would have worked but in a war you shoot for the throat not the knee. Besides, the Nips woke the dragon they can’t bitch about getting burned.

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