Bryan Caplan  

The Popularity of Atrocity

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Ralph Raico's Great Wars and Great Leaders seems to suggest that in World War II, the American public was even more vicious than the German.  According to Raico, the American people clearly backed the nuking of Japan:

The political elite implicated in the atomic bombings feared a backlash that would aid and abet the rebirth of horrid prewar "isolationism." Apologias were rushed into print, lest public disgust at the sickening war crime result in erosion of enthusiasm for the globalist project. No need to worry. A sea-change had taken place in the attitudes of the American people. Then and ever after, all surveys have shown that the great majority supported Truman, believing that the bombs were required to end the war and save hundreds of thousands of American lives, or more likely, not really caring one way or the other.

The German people, in contrast, not only genuinely didn't know about the Holocaust...

[E]veryone connected with the killing of the Jews was bound by Führer Order no. 1, as well as by special orders from Himmler, mandating the strictest silence, under penalty of death. So it should not be surprising that, for example, the former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, during the war a Luftwaffe officer, testified that he had never heard or known anything of the annihilation of the Jews; or that Countess Döhoff, publisher of the liberal paper, Die Zeit, should state that, despite her connections to many key people during the war, she knew nothing of the mass-killings in the camps, and that "I heard the name 'Auschwitz' for the first time after the war."

...but would have opposed it had they known.  Raico approvingly quotes historian Sarah Gordon's conclusion that most Germans opposed the far milder atrocities of Kristallnacht.  And he lauds Konrad Adenauer's hypersensitivity to the suggestion that the Germans ever abandoned the norms of the civilized world:

Some thirty years ago, when Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, at a dinner in Jerusalem, expressed to Konrad Adenauer his confidence that "under your leadership the German people will return to the community of civilized peoples," the old Chancellor retorted: "Mr. Prime Minister, what you think is of no concern to me... I represent the German people. You have insulted them, and so tomorrow morning I shall depart." It is impossible to imagine any recent German leader, in particular, the lickspittle former Federal President Richard von Weizsäker, responding with such unabashed patriotism, especially to an Israeli.

I'm afraid that Raico fails to make his case.  Official secrecy is only weak evidence that the public would disapprove if it knew.  Raico makes this very point about the U.S. government's efforts to conceal the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The bombings were popular despite the official cover-up:

[T]he U.S. occupation authorities censored reports from the shattered cities and did not permit films and photographs of the thousands of corpses and the frightfully mutilated survivors to reach the public. Otherwise, Americans--and the rest of the world--might have drawn disturbing comparisons to scenes then coming to light from the Nazi concentration camps.

Furthermore, the fact that the Nazis gained power by largely democratic means makes it hard to believe that bitter anti-Semitism wasn't widespread in the German public.  During wartime, this kind of hatred readily grows into acceptance, approval, or affirmative desire for genocide.  Finally, as Timur Kuran's work reminds us, we should heavily discount people's stated opposition to the policies of a defunct, defeated regime.  We expect random Germans after World War II to say "I didn't know about the Holocaust" and "I would have opposed it" - no matter what their true knowledge and feelings were.

The right lesson to draw, I'm afraid, is that the atrocities of both the American and German publics enjoyed at least the tacit approval of their respective publics.  The man in the street might be vague about the details, but at the end of the day he rarely faults his government for injustice toward the Other. 


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COMMENTS (30 to date)
Mark Bahner writes:

"...is that the atrocities of both the American and German public's..."

I don't see how the bombing of Hiroshima or even Nagasaki could be considered an "atrocity of the American public."

I would guess that, at the time of the dropping of the Hiroshima bomb, less than 10 percent of the U.S. public knew what an atomic bomb was. You could legitimately call the bombing of Dresden on Tokyo "American public" atrocities, because it was well known that they were occurring, but not the nuclear bombs...at least not at the time they happened.

However, even 40+ years later, there are plenty of people in the U.S. who would say that the atomic bombings were justified. (Especially the poor souls who were going to have to invade and conquer Japan without those bombs.) So perhaps they have become "atrocities of the American public."

[broken link fixed--Econlib Ed.]

Jeff writes:

To even entertain the notion that the entirely correct bombing of Japan in a war it started is somehow in the same league with the Holocaust is obscene. The moral obtuseness of this post is unbelievable.

Bill Drissel writes:

I was twelve at the end of WWII. I followed the war every night in the Washington DC newspaper. My father and grandfather worked for the government. Neither of them nor anyone else we knew were aware of the bomb before its use on Hiroshima. No one we knew had the slightest reservation about the use of the bomb to end the war.

After Okinawa and Iwo Jima, everyone who paid attention was aware of the casualties on both sides that resulted from amphibious invasion.

Japan is an island nation. There would have been no place for civilians to hide from an invasion. Women my age - 12 at the time - were trained to attack American soldiers with bamboo spears.

The war with Japan was forced upon us - at a time that a "peace" mission was conferring in Washington. The sneak attack on Pearl Harbor justified relentless war in the eyes of everyone.

Thinking people should raise their guards whenever moral equivalence arguments start.

Regards,
Bill Drissel
Grand Prairie, TX

Alex J. writes:

The proper comparison is not with Germany's then-recent behavior, it's with Japan's. Given the Nanking, Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Okinawa and all the rest, it's easy to see why the American people supported the bombing then and do so today as well.

David R. Henderson writes:

Bryan,
I think I have a counterexample that shows some moral fiber among the British. As I recall--and I could be mistaken--"Bomber" Harris quit the terror bombings of German cities after the British public reacted with outrage against the fire-bombing of Dresden. Does anyone know if I'm right or am I remembering incorrectly?

Phil Rothman writes:

Jeff wrote, 'The moral obtuseness of this post is unbelievable.' QED.

ajb writes:

Sadly Caplan's fanaticism on this point reveals the limits of rationality in discussing morality. Sins of commission so dominate sins of omission or any notions of a just war for BC that at some point you have to treat him like a Muslim fundamentalist. If you think the Hiroshima bombing was justified, at this point there is no way to find common ground with those who share Caplan and Raico's beliefs. There is no argument that would lead to agreement on both sides. This also shows the limits of a diverse community because at some point, hard decisions like this will have to be made and there is no "compromise". I will side with those who go against Caplan and if another war were to require such bombings I would fight to prevent Caplan and his kind from stopping such actions.

BTW, all these posts of Caplan do more than any debate about economics to show the limits of pacifist libertarianism as a viable policy for a nation that contained a reasonable number of average Americans or Germans or of any people that shared the moral intuitions of the median voter in the Western world. If you wanted proof that BC's politics are just not serious, this is as good as it gets.

Salem writes:

There are reasonable arguments that Hiroshima was justified.

But then what about Nagasaki? Perhaps it was done to punish the Japanese, or scare the Russians, or simply flex muscles, but it's hard to view it as anything other than an atrocity.

"This wasn't war anymore... this was show-biz."

Richard writes:
BTW, all these posts of Caplan do more than any debate about economics to show the limits of pacifist libertarianism as a viable policy for a nation that contained a reasonable number of average Americans or Germans or of any people that shared the moral intuitions of the median voter in the Western world. If you wanted proof that BC's politics are just not serious, this is as good as it gets.

Five years ago I would've agreed with you. Today, I understand that I simply believed that the other side was self-evidently worse because it's what I was taught to believe. There's no reason to consider the Nazis on a different level of evil from our allies the Soviets, no matter how bad you think the Germans were.

mike shupp writes:

You might want to read Max Hastings' Retribution: The War for Japan 1944-1945.

Hastings makes two points: (a) other than the Doolittle Raid, Japan was hardly touched by Allied bombing until the last half of 1944. (b) Both Germany and Japan clung to the notion that despite the appearance of defeat, the effete Allies would tire of the war in the end and concede victory to their stubborn opponents. The actual response was that citizens and soldiers and political leaders in the Allied Nations grew intensely ANGRY at that sort of recalcitrance. As they saw things, the war, with its costs and horrors and dangers, should have been over and only madness could explain the Axis unwillingness to end the fighting. From that, they eventually moved to the conclusion that if nothing but monstrous violence would break through that sort of fanaticism then monstrous violence must be employed.

I.e., if the Axis had surrendered in 1944, after D-Day, or perhaps after the Battle of the Bulge, when it was clear to most people that the Allies ahd won, Germany and Japan would have escaped the worst of their suffering. Continuing the conflict well past sanity was the Axis choice -- and miscalculation.

Much of the cruelty of the final months of that war -- the forced repatriation of peoples to Stalin, the mass rapes in eastern Germany, the fire bombing of Japanese cities and then the annilhiation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- makes unhappy sense from this perspective.

Thomas writes:

@ Richard: I tend to disagree with your notion of the Germans being on the same or even similar "level of evil" than the Russians (or if you ask older German and Eastern European generations, they would often rather name the Ukrainians, rather, as those were particularly feared on their way West). While certainly Russian troops, as so many troops of nations engaged in war, have committed terrible atrocities, I would put the German government and the German people of the time in a different spot. A political system promoting anti-semitism, xenophobia and hatred, an aggressive expansionism creating many wars on many fronts, and indeed a population that by way of by and large democratic means supported this aggression – that is yet a different form of guilt.
I believe the best answer to the question how much an average German person at the time knew about concentration and death camps is: it does not really matter how much of the details were known. Most of the people I talked to knew about hostility, about violence and they realised that their Jewish, Sinti, Roma or politically active friends and neighbours were disappearing. The saying “you better behave or they will take to Dachau” was used to scare kids. Did everybody know what exactly happened in Dachau, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen or Treblinka? Few did, I guess, but that is a very limited excuse for accepting what people actually did know.
@Bryan Caplan: As for the starting claim of the quoted book: I have never lived in war times in my own region, but my family has. From their tales, and from what I read and see about public attitude to war and violence around the world, I can only come to the conclusion that supporting an act of long-lasting violence such as the nuclear bombing of a city can only come from people who have never been exposed to violence and cruelty and who have severe limits of imagination. Supporting such acts in situations where they do not even contribute anything to the conflict at hand (and both Nagasaki and Dresden were mentioned in the comments) can, I truly believe, only be understood in terms of political economy, namely domestic policy (spinning, as we would call it today) – or in terms of ulterior motives such as rage and revenge. Those emotions occur to all of us at times, I think. What strikes me as odd is how hard it seems to be for many people and governments of today to concede that some of the decisions of decades ago were terribly ill judged. The US seems to be not very good at that, but then again, there is plenty of company, maybe you want to have a chat with the Japanese government about their role in China.

Evan writes:
To even entertain the notion that the entirely correct bombing of Japan in a war it started is somehow in the same league with the Holocaust is obscene.
What Bryan is questioning is bombing the people who live in Japan in retaliation for a war that that the Japanese government started. Bombing someone just because they lived in the same area as a government that started a war is like shooting some random person because you were recently mugged in the neighborhood they live in.

You seem to be thinking of Japan as some sort of hive-mind that makes decisions collectively. I know many Japanese people and let me assure you that this is incorrect. Japanese people are not the Borg, they do not have a hive mind, and hence cannot be held collectively responsible for anything their government does. "Japan" did not start a war. The government that controlled it did.

You can justify collateral damage to civilians as a necessary evil to bomb an evil government, in the same way that you could justify it if the police were to open fire on an armed gunman, even if they risked hitting civilians, because if they didn't the gunman might even kill more people. But you can't justify it by claiming that every single last person in the country was morally culpable for what the government did. Even if the government was 100% democratic, there were a lot of children killed in the war who were to young to vote.

Did all those napalm and atomic bombs result in less casualties than an invasion? Maybe, maybe not, no one can say for sure. But the point Bryan is making is, many of the American people in 1945 likely wouldn't have cared. The only casualties they likely would have been morally bothered by were their own.

Richard writes:

@Thomas When the Nazis had their last democratic victory none of the atrocities they were famous for had started. As a matter of fact up to 1939 or so the Germans hadn't killed 1/1000th as many people as the Soviets. As far as the government "promoting anti-semitism, xenophobia and hatred," while all that is pretty bad I don't see why it's self-evidently worse than communism. At least hatred of other races can leave a decent living standard and basic rights for some part of the population as opposed to a system that sought the enslavement of everybody. No one can deny that Nazism never reached the body count that Leninism had and through holding on to much of the capitalist system provided a higher standard of living for the majority of the population.

@ mike shupp The reason the Axis powers fought to the bitter end is because of the Allies' demand for unconditional surrender left them no choice. See page 87 of the Raico book linked to in BC's post.

Mark Bahner writes:

"But then what about Nagasaki? Perhaps it was done to punish the Japanese, or scare the Russians, or simply flex muscles, but it's hard to view it as anything other than an atrocity."

A couple things about Nagasaki:

1) If the U.S. dropped only the Hiroshima bomb, who can say definitively that the Japanese government would have surrendered? Maybe the U.S. could have dropped the second bomb deliberately outside a city (e.g., outside Tokyo)...but unless it appeared that the atomic bombings would never stop, it seems at least plausible that Japan wouldn't have surrendered.

2) If Japan had not surrendered in early August, it might not have been too many more months before the U.S.S.R. would have attacked. Certainly, the people of eastern Europe (e.g. East Germany) can attest to how much better it was to surrender to the U.S. than to U.S.S.R.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

If you through your own action, or inaction, allow your country's monopoly of power to fall into the hands of those who would use it to start stupid wars, you will be a target.

The age of the separation of civilian and military combatant is over - in fact, it never truly occurred, it only was a shadow in the ages when the average person could not afford the steel weapons of war. Today, except in the poorest countries, any person can afford a gun, IED, or home made rocket.

See Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine.

Because the separation of civilian and combatant has always been a bit of a lie, in "total war" lies the truth that peace is good for every citizen - and that democratic, civilian control of the organized military is a good idea. The people should control the means that could bring on their own destruction.

Evan writes:
If you through your own action, or inaction, allow your country's monopoly of power to fall into the hands of those who would use it to start stupid wars, you will be a target.
Does being five years old count as inaction? There is no possible way to rationalize civilian casualties, other than a utilitarian calculation that some casualties now will result in less in the future. Trying to somehow assign moral responsibility to everyone in a country will always fail, if only because every country has children in it.
The age of the separation of civilian and military combatant is over - in fact, it never truly occurred, it only was a shadow in the ages when the average person could not afford the steel weapons of war. Today, except in the poorest countries, any person can afford a gun, IED, or home made rocket.
Actually, I'd say that the age is just beginning. Advanced countries are striving like never before to avoid civilian casualties. Our military leaders today (both Republican and Democrat)would have been damned as bleeding hearts back in WW2.

In fact, the only real reason insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan work is because we're no longer willing to slaughter thousands of civilians in the hope of getting one bad guy. In the future we'll presumably be trying even harder to avoid harming civilians.

Ak Mike writes:

Evan - I didn't see any reference by Prof. Caplan or anyone else to "retaliation." The point that Mike Shupp made, and you appear to be missing, is that all the evidence by the summer of 1945 was that the Japanese were set on a suicidal defense that would kill millions of American/Allied soldiers, even despite the impossibility of winning. Such suicidal defenses, extracting many thousands of American deaths, had been mounted all through the Pacific theater. The last straw was the kamikaze suicide bombings, which caused the American people to lose any remaining sympathy for the Japanese.

The Americans reasonably believed that the only way to avoid the horrific toll that an invasion of Japan would entail (on civilians as well as soldiers) was to prove to the Japanese that the Allies had weapons so powerful that resistance would be impossible. Although even more controversial than the first bomb, the Nagasaki bombing is defended as showing the Japanese that the atomic bomb was not merely a one-shot, but that the arsenal was stocked with them.

You may disagree with this reasoning, but in a war in which tens of millions of civilians were killed (many by the Japanese), the desire to bring at last the bloody fighting to an end even by killing tens of thousands is defensible. The bombing was in no sense retaliation. It was an earnest and successful attempt to end the war.

Evan writes:

I am not really arguing that the atomic bombs were unnecessary to win the war (I think the first one at least might have been), I am merely agreeing with Bryan that even if they had been totally unnecessary at the time (and again, I'm not saying that they were) a large percentage of Americans at the time probably wouldn't have cared. You almost make the point yourself:

The last straw was the kamikaze suicide bombings, which caused the American people to lose any remaining sympathy for the Japanese.
in a war in which tens of millions of civilians were killed (many by the Japanese)
Both of these were things the Japanese military did. A purely rational person would not lose sympathy with innocent civilians (especially children) just because they happen, by pure chance, to live in the same area an evil military operates out of.
Although even more controversial than the first bomb, the Nagasaki bombing is defended as showing the Japanese that the atomic bomb was not merely a one-shot, but that the arsenal was stocked with them.
I think the people defending it that way are trying way too hard. Proving we had more A-bombs could easily be accomplished by dropping one on a less inhabited area than Nagasaki, or in the ocean off the coast of Japan.

My own opinion was that the only way to get unconditional surrender from the Japanese was either the A-bomb or an invasion. So to get unconditional surrender, the bomb was probably more humane. However, I am becoming increasingly unsure that unconditional surrender was necessary. The reasons given for it (like that the Axis needed to know they were totally beaten) seem to pale in comparison to all the lives lost.

Hyena writes:

I really don't know that I'd take Caplan seriously on "atrocity". Unless we had reason to believe that Japanese or German ambitions would have resulted in a more horrifying world than we actually got, Caplan's stock utilitarianism commits us to the conclusion that defending against them was an atrocity in itself.

After all, tens of millions died fighting the war, not in death camps or what have you.

Thomas writes:

@ Richard: you are right on those facts, but I would like to stress again that hatred, xenophobia and antisemitism was not only realised in those actions, but did start way earlier as propaganda, as political PR. The NSDAP did not hide their attitude. The "Stuermer" paper was out in the open since 1923, and was an important and widely known instrument of party propaganda and of all the topics the party stood for. Whoever wanted to know what this party was about had easy access. Physical and public violence came later, and maybe the Reichspogromnacht of 1939 was a turning point on this, hence indeed after elections played a role. In a world of bounded rationality, indeed you can argue that a case can be made that possibly many citizens eliminated the knowledge that was to be found right in front of their noses. My argument then would be: that makes them guilty.

Jeremy, Alabama writes:

At least Raico has the decency to offend everybody.

DRH previously mentioned that Raico's take on Churchill was "eye-popping". To summarize, Raico's view is that Churchill started the war, refused to negotiate a peace, and was a mass murderer on the same scale as Hitler.

Raico's writes "history" as an extreme pacifist. Naturally, all historians have prejudices, but I judge Raico to be like, say, Howard Zinn, having a specific political axe to grind.

Raico is so faithful to his prejudice that he is forced to see all Americans as bloodthirsty killers. I am happy for him that he has the freedom to publish his view.

Brian Clendinen writes:

I think what we tend to forget is the pressure and knowledge the leaders had at the time. From all appearances, the whole Japanese nation revered the emperor as a God. The Japanese believed whatever the emperor decreed it would happen. There were rare expectations but from what the leaders could tell, most of the population was still supporting the war. It was interesting that the leaders in surrendering actually cared more about the emperor still being in place and having power than anything else.

Secondly, if one wants to talk American atrocities. How about all the leaders that were responsible for the whole sale slaughter for no valid military reason of Chinese. We never had Nuremburg trials for the Japanese because we thought they had good science on chemical/biological weapons they tested on Chinese. So we let them get off if they would give us the info. Turned out the science was junk science. All the Japanese were allowed to go free in the name of chemical/biological warfare development even though they were mass murders who used humans as test subjects. Now that is perverted.

The Nukes were a mercy to the Japanese people, let alone it saved countless American lives. So Bryan if killing one Civilian saved a million soldier life you are saying it would not be justified. Now I am not saying killing a million enemy troops let alone civilians to save one of your soldiers lives is justified either. Assuming it was 100% know (which the unknown risk and trades off in war would never happen). At what point is it justified to kill civilians to save your own soldiers lives? One to One? At what point is it justified to kill civilians to save more civilians lives in the long run, 1 to 2? There has to be some point if one took each scenario and was able to assign correct probabilities to it that you would say killing x people to save y people would be justified? Now I think the evidence would have to be good and not a gut feeling or just a lame alibi (which in Japans cases there was very strong evidence on the allies side). However, in the end there will always be uncertainty and improvable counterfactuals. That is the nature life but is especially true in war due to the chaos.

Hyena writes:

Evan,

I believe the logic of unconditional surrender was to prevent a repeat within 15 years, as happened with World War I.

Mark Bahner writes:

"I think the people defending it that way are trying way too hard. Proving we had more A-bombs could easily be accomplished by dropping one on a less inhabited area than Nagasaki, or in the ocean off the coast of Japan."

Suppose the U.S. government had dropped 10 atomic bombs off the coast of Japan? Would that really have convinced the Japanese Emperor and military to surrender? It's not obvious to me that it would have.

For example, if one watches fireworks, one can imagine that they're pretty powerful, but if one seems them actually kill or seriously injure someone, the impression would certainly be much greater.

Stan Greer writes:

The "man in the street" in the U.S. might well have believed that fewer civilian Japanese would die as a result of the atomic bombings than would die as a result of an invasion of the mainland.

The man in the street might also have believed that, for the future peace of the world, a total Japanese surrender was necessary.

To achieve total surrender, as opposed to a negotiated peace, many historians believe atomic bombing, nonnuclear bombing virtually equally destructive of noncombatants' lives, or invasion of the Japanese mainland was necessary.

I agree with Caplan that deliberate targeting of whole cities is a horrifying military tactic, but I think he fails to give ample consideration to the fact that, arguably, it was one of four horrible choices, and there were no others.

That hardly means one can't still conclude that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were atrocities. But first one should make the argument why taking the key relevant facts into account.


Stan Greer

Chris T writes:

The atomic bombs were terrible until you realize the alternatives were even worse. The two other options on the table were either invasion or blockade and aerial bombardment which would have likely led to mass starvation (the average calorie allotment was already dangerously low).

The timing of Nagasaki is questionable to me. A longer delay between atomic bombings would have allowed the Japanese government to fully absorb what happened at Hiroshima and may have prompted a surrender before a second bombing was necessary.

Stan Greer writes:

The "man in the street" in the U.S. might well have believed that fewer civilian Japanese would die as a result of the atomic bombings than would die as a result of an invasion of the mainland.

The man in the street might also have believed that, for the future peace of the world, a total Japanese surrender was necessary.

To achieve total surrender, as opposed to a negotiated peace, many historians believe atomic bombing, nonnuclear bombing virtually equally destructive of noncombatants' lives, or invasion of the Japanese mainland was necessary.

I agree with Caplan that deliberate targeting of whole cities is a horrifying military tactic, but I think he fails to give ample consideration to the fact that, arguably, it was one of four horrible choices, and there were no others.

That hardly means one can't still conclude that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were atrocities. But first one should make the argument why taking the key relevant facts into account.


Stan Greer

Ak Mike writes:

Evan - I think the view of nearly everyone on all sides during the war was that the war was total, that it was not just government against government, but nations/peoples against other nations. The Japanese were completely committed to their war effort - for example, kamikaze pilots received belts of a thousand stitches with each stitch made by a different woman. Kamikaze were widely publicized in Japan and the pilots were considered national heroes.

I'm not so sure a purely rational person would make the distinction you make between actions of the Japanese military and those of the civilians who supported the war and created the weapons. It's an interesting and, I think, complex topic.

Brian Clendinen - you are mistaken about not having trials like the Nuremberg trials for the Japanese - there were numerous trials after the war at which nearly a thousand Japanese were condemned to death for war crimes, and thousands more sent to prison.

Jaap writes:

Going back to German:
- the NSDAP never had a majority of the votes, and where actually on their way back down when leadership was thrown in Hitler's lap. all alternatives had proven futile, unworkable, and Von Hindenburg saw no other solution to get a stable government for Germany but to give Hitler power. alas that proved fatal.
- plenty of Jews already saw it coming, and packed their bags. esp. after Kristalnacht a lot left the country. common Germans must have seen this too.
- communism had already taken root in Germany, with the Radenrepubliken in a.o. Bavaria. it was a serious threat, with just a weak, marginal middle-road, when faced with two evils, what would you choose? it turned out communism was on an equal level of atrocity. you'd have to be in their shoes to understand the choice. the extreme-left or -right parties held over 50% of the vote.

Andy Hallman writes:
The atomic bombs were terrible until you realize the alternatives were even worse. The two other options on the table were either invasion or blockade and aerial bombardment which would have likely led to mass starvation (the average calorie allotment was already dangerously low).

This is a common view, but wrong. The alternative you do not mention is a conditional surrender, which the Japanese sought for several months before the atomic bombings. The Americans never showed an interest in conditional surrender.

As historian Dennis D. Wainstock explains it in The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb:

Wainstock: By April 1945, Japan's leaders realized that the war was lost. Their main stumbling block to surrender was the United States' insistence on unconditional surrender. They specifically needed to know whether the United States would allow Hirohito to remain on the throne. They feared that the United States would depose him, try him as a war criminal, or even execute him (page 124).

...
Unconditional surrender was a policy of revenge, and it hurt America's national self-interest. It prolonged the war in both Europe and East Asia, and it helped to expand Soviet power in those areas (page 132).

This is a helpful link. So is this and this

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