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Dire And Diabolical
October 1960 | Volume 11, Issue 6
That this decision must have come hard is evident from jottings in Stimson’s diary, where he referred guardedly to the power which was being developed as “the dreadful,” “the terrible,” “the dire,” and “the diabolical.” But he had learned, from hard experience, the sad things that can happen when (as Mr. Morison puts it) available power is “renounced as an instrument of policy.” Now, in 1945, there was “an available force commensurate with the apparent needs of the occasion, a force that could put an end to an evil situation that would otherwise continue.” In the early thirties he had to work for peace without any weapons that would compel peace. Now he had a weapon that would compel the most recalcitrant. He voted to use it.
He did not stand alone, of course. He followed the recommendation of a carefully chosen advisory committee; and after he had delivered the recommendation, the final determination rested with Harry S. Truman. Nevertheless, it was Stimson who delivered the recommendation. He decided, as Mr. Morison says, that “the bomb was needed and should be used.”
Stimson was fully aware of the sweeping implications of the use of atomic energy as a weapon. It would take everyone, he confessed, “right down to the bottom facts of human nature.” It placed upon the nation a terrible responsibility, still not entirely faced; gave it, also, an opportunity “to bring the world into a pattern in which the peace of the world and our civilization can be saved”—this, likewise, not yet wholly faced. Stimson, in other words, did not make his decision blindly. In that moment of unspeakable crisis America had at least produced a man big enough to see what the epoch-making choice meant; big enough, as well, to leave a final word of warning: “Unless we now develop methods of international life backed by the spirit of tolerance and kindness, viz.: the spirit of Christianity, sufficient to make international life permanent and kindly and war impossible, we will with another war end our civilization.”