This week, Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, incinerated and vaporized by American nuclear bombs 71 years ago. For the U.S., as with Japan’s own wartime atrocities that still deeply rankle the emotions of its Asian neighbors, the profound apology that matters is not about the past but the future. It is about taking convincing actions today that ensure what happened in the past never happens again. That future-oriented apology remains lacking all around.
Writing from Tokyo, Ryan Takeshita is not looking for an apology or blame, for which he says Japan’s own actions are not exempt. He proposes that, “talking about war as a general evil while not naming a particular country depoliticizes the issue. This approach may be helpful if it encourages the leaders of the world to stop pointing fingers and instead work together as a team for world peace and nuclear non-proliferation.” These GIFs show Hiroshima then and now.
Historian Gar Alperovitz argues that, seven decades after the American bombing, the record is clear: the use of nuclear weapons did not lead to Japan’s surrender and was not necessary. Rather, the Japanese military feared above all the imminent invasion of the Soviet Red Army. He also cites key U.S. military commanders at the time, such as Admiral William Leahy, who abhorred the decision. “‘It is my opinion,’” he quotes Leahy as saying, “‘that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. … My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.’”
Writing from Beijing, Zhang Zhixin says Obama’s visit to Hiroshima sends the wrong message to China. In his view, it allows Japanese conservatives to play the “victim” card and fortifies Japan’s role as the front line state in containing China’s rise. Coming on the heels of Obama’s visit to Vietnam, where he lifted the embargo on arms sales, the Chinese have cause to worry that mending one old war wound is portending a new one. As Sam Roggeveen writes from Australia, though Obama said his action was not aimed at China, “Precisely no one, including the Chinese, believes this. So what was achieved by maintaining this fiction?”
Former French defense minister Paul Quilès calls for President Obama to convene “a multilateral nuclear disarmament process” in the wake of his Hiroshima visit. His worry is shared by many others concerned that a new arms race is underway as all nuclear powers — the U.S., China, Russia, India, France, Pakistan and Great Britain — are competitively upgrading their arsenals. MIT’s Max Tegmark and Frank Wilczek point out the “trillion dollar question” — the amount the U.S. is now spending on modernizing its nuclear forces — none of the presidential candidates are addressing.
Writing from Istanbul, WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones reports on United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s frustration that no leader of the advanced nations, except Angela Merkel, attended this week’s humanitarian aid summit. She also reports on the civilians trapped in Fallujah, where U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are trying to take back the city from the self-proclaimed Islamic State. This video of a “sea cemetery“ commemorating the deaths of Syrian refugees fleeing the war movingly highlights the ongoing human tragedy. The former British prime minister, Gordon Brown, was at the Istanbul summit in his role as U.N. special envoy for global education. He writes that a new fund — “Education Can’t Wait“ — has been set up to help educate children whose forced exile often lasts years in which they receive no schooling. In this week’s “Forgotten Fact,” we look at how Libya is saving migrants at sea only to trap them in dire conditions on land.
Oxford’s Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna see anxiety gripping the world as war, refugees, inequality and falling wages dominate the headlines. Yet, they argue, the “age of discovery” in science and technology promises a new renaissance if everyone shares the benefits. Taking up the issue from the standpoint of Mark Zuckerberg’s “Free Basics” offer to Africa, John-Paul Iwuoha asks: “If Facebook’s intention is to make Internet access more affordable and available to more people on the continent, how come it doesn’t have any data centers in Africa? Why isn’t it investing in physical infrastructure and technologies that will bring down the cost of Internet data in Africa?”
Writing from Istanbul, Kaya Genc thinks the new prime minister under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Binali Yıldırım, may prompt a new turn in Turkey’s foreign policy as he seeks to increase the number of the country’s friends and decrease the number of its enemies. Genc also says Yıldırım will likely be “the last prime minister” as Erdogan consolidates executive power. Mohammad Taqi reflects on the recent killing of the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mansour inside Pakistan. “Pakistan cannot have its jihadist cake and eat it too,” he writes. “It either controls the Taliban and is responsible for their deadly actions or should act against them. Letting its soil serve as a bridgehead against Afghanistan and then crying foul when it is called out for it cannot go on forever.” The U.S. Army War College’s Ehsan Ahari explores how Islamophobia breeds extremism, bidding up the stereotypes and hatred on both sides.
Writing for HuffPost Italy, Roberto Sommella regards the election results in Austria — in which the Green Party candidate defeated the anti-immigrant Freedom party candidate by a smidgen of the vote — as a “sigh of relief.” The real test for Europe will come from the Brexit vote next month, he says. Writing from Berlin, Alex Gorlach sees the Austria vote as an “appetizer” of what’s next in upcoming referendums and elections in Great Britain, France the United States and Germany — all societies highly polarized between different visions of their own identity. Christian Durr raises another challenge coming Germany’s way: the wall of debt that will have to be paid down through current income in the future by a shrinking population. “Successful German businesses would rather invest abroad than in an aging Germany,” he writes. “As a result, fewer jobs and less value are created at home. Only the rich can afford a shrinking society.”
In a video interview, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis makes the case for a “yes” vote in the upcoming Swiss referendum on basic income. Because of job displacement by robots, he envisions an “endowment” for all citizens that shares the wealth created by the new technologies — a public “trust fund” with dividends paid to all. In this haunting photo essay titled “Memory of a Future,” French photographer Laurent Kronental captures portraits of the elderly residents living in the huge, concrete “grands ensembles” housing estates around Paris that were built as a modernist experiment after World War II.
HuffPost “Talk Nerdy To Me” host Karah Preiss speaks with Caltech’s Rana Adhikari about how one day we will be able to hear the rumble of the first microsecond of the “Big Bang” through gravitational waves. Siddhartha Mukherjee worries about the eugenic “fantasy of perfection” in a Zocalo discussion about his new book “The Gene: An Intimate History.” Finally, our Singularity series looks at how all economic activities in the future might be fragmented into free agent tasks much like Uber today.
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