Reclaiming Realism for the Left: Gar Alperovitz and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb


Sixty-seven years after the decision to use the atomic bomb in World War II, controversy remains whether the United States was justified in using fission bombs in combat. Gar Alperovitz, the great revisionist historian, in his Atomic Diplomacy and The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb transformed our knowledge of the geopolitical motives behind the atomic attack against Japan at the end of World War II. These uranium and plutonium-core bombs were political, not primarily military in purpose and motive behind their deployment. His analysis will be compared to realists such as Hans Morgenthau, Kenneth Waltz, Henry Kissinger and George Kennan who for the most part questioned unrestrained violence and offered nuanced views on the wisdom of using such indiscriminate, savage weapons of war. The paper will explore Alperovitz’s classic argument that out of the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the A-bomb drove the incipient Cold War conflict. American national-security elites construed the bomb as a political-diplomatic lever to contain Soviet power as much as a military weapon to subdue Japan. The views of various political and military leaders, President Truman, Henry Stimson, James Byrnes, General George C. Marshall, Admiral William Leahy and General Dwight Eisenhower are assessed.

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Kirstein, P. (2013). Reclaiming Realism for the Left: Gar Alperovitz and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb. Advances in Historical Studies, 2, 46-53. doi: 10.4236/ahs.2013.22008.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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