President Obama's Nuclear Non-Apology, Apology.
Barack Obama never said the words “sorry” or “I apologize,” so technically it wasn’t an apology.
As the first sitting American president to ever visit Hiroshima, Japan, the world was focused on every syllable Obama would say.
“Seventy-one years ago” began the president, “on a bright, cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed.”
Of course, seventy-FIVE years ago, on a bright, cloudless morning in Hawaii, death also fell from the sky. But the president — a native son of Hawaii — had not traveled to Hiroshima to talk about World War II’s beginning, rather, its morally complex end.
The president’s critics (and more than a few friends) feared he might apologize for America’s use of atomic weapons to bring an end to the war in the Pacific; so concerned, the White House issued an unprecedented denial in advance, assuring the nation their president had no such intention.
Unfortunately, he did everything but.
In tone and demeanor, it was impossible to watch or read the text of President Obama’s Hiroshima address and not conclude the president regrets President Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb in August of 1945.
“The memory of the morning of August 6, 1945, must never fade,” Obama said.
Neither must the memory of Dec. 7, 1941.
Obama has a history of offering mea culpas for American foreign policy both past and present. He has not only apologized for the actions of his predecessors, he has frequently objected to his own foreign policy, bemoaning his inability to close the terrorist prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while struggling to reconcile his use of drone strikes that also “rain death from cloudless skies” with his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
Barack Obama is hardly the first American president to have grave concerns about the horrific consequences of nuclear weapons. For this reason alone Donald Trump disqualifies himself to be commander in chief. The possibility of nuclear war has kept every president up at night. The possibility that Trump could be president should keep everyone up at night.
“With such weapons, war has become not just tragic, but preposterous,” the president said.
But the president who said this wasn’t Barack Obama. Rather, it was Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower knew war. He understood its horrors. He understood the waste of it all.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed,” said the former Supreme Allied Commander in March 1953.
Yet, while Eisenhower loathed industrialized murder — and that’s what warfare is — he was not a Utopian. Ike’s feet were firmly planted on the ground. Americans trusted him. America’s enemies feared him. There was more to Eisenhower than pretty words.
While Obama seems conflicted about the use of American military power, the men responsible for ending the Second World War had clarity of purpose. With millions upon millions slaughtered, any president, maybe even Obama, would have used any tool at his disposal to bring that war to an end.
To harshly judge his predecessors from the safety of the post-Cold War world they gave us is to diminish what it took to get us here.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekday mornings 5-10 on AM 790. He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.