Sixty-nine years ago this week the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing thousands of civilians. President Harry Truman’s decision to use the ultimate weapon was praised by many, especially American soldiers in the Pacific. As one tearful Marine put it, “I suddenly realized I didn’t have to die.”
Though it brought a quick end to history’s worst war, Truman’s decision also got, and still gets, condemnation by some critics and historians who argue that killing so many noncombatants was unnecessary and immoral. Even Gen. Douglas MacArthur was not pleased to hear of the bomb’s existence because it meant he had to scrap his plans for an invasion of the Japanese mainland. President Truman, however, to his dying day, never flinched in his resolve that he had done the right thing to save thousands of American (and perhaps millions of Japanese) lives.
My point here is not to give you a history lesson on World War II. However, we see today in the Middle East, a somewhat parallel situation. For the past several months, the state of Israel has endured a constant daily barrage of missiles on several of its most populated cities. The only thing that has prevented a huge loss of Israeli lives is the remarkable anti-missile system they call the “Iron Dome”. The attacks come from batteries located in Gaza manned by members of a notorious terrorist organization called Hamas. Hamas is funded and armed primarily by Iran. Its charter clearly states that it is dedicated (as is Iran) to the total annihilation of Israel. Hamas intentionally locates the missile batteries near homes, schools, and hospitals as human shields and to promote anti-Israeli propaganda. Of course, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is forced to retaliate to take out the missile sites and destroy underground tunnels used to kill and kidnap Israeli people.
Unfortunately, despite all their best efforts to avoid it, civilians get caught in the cross-fire. This has created a moral dilemma for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his military leaders who seek to avoid civilian casualties. They have even gone to the point of announcing in advance where they intend to strike so the people can evacuate.
In 1945 the Japanese made plans for their defense of an American invasion. Records found later revealed they had recruited as many as 40,000 kamikaze suicide pilots to sink American ships and landing craft. Can anyone doubt the death toll that an invasion would have wrought on American soldiers? (Which means some of us would not be here today!) Truman’s decision to use the bomb, in that case, makes sense. Likewise, how can anyone argue that Israel does not have the same responsibility to its citizens to stop Hamas’ unwarranted missile attacks and waves of suicide bombers coming from underground tunnels?
So the question remains, can this conflict ever have a final resolution? I fear not in our lifetime. So long as Hamas and other radical Islamic groups continue to practice and teach their children hate for Israel and the Jewish people, peace will remain elusive. That’s why we must…“pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6).