Tuesday, May 10, 2016

President Obama to visit Hiroshima this month

Japan Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe and President Obama pose(Japantimes.com)
Following a G-7 summit this month, President Obama plans to visit Hiroshima, marking the first time a president from the United States has visited the site following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Just after the announcement of Obama's plans to visit, critics questioned the purpose of Obama's visit, and the conservative media has portrayed the trip to Hiroshima as an "apology tour." According to critics, the "apology tour" dampens the American name and allows adversaries to revel in America's relatively weakened stance. Such a label will not be a first for Obama's trips, as some of his visits during his first term to areas such as the Middle East were also criticized for the same reason. In response to the criticism, Obama's deputy national security adviser for strategic communication wrote in a blog post (link attached below), "He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future."

 Objectively, Obama's visit will be symbolic and will elicit many emotions; however, Japanese authority have stated that Obama will be welcomed to Hiroshima. The Obama administration has stated that such a visit actually is in line with "Obama's emphasis to reduce the spread of nuclear arms" among other policies.

 Taking into account the role of the President in terms of foreign policy or as chief ambassador, what do you think of this situation? What should the role of the President be in this situation? How should the President approach this situation? Does the President's justification align with his role in dealing with foreign policy? What ramifications do you envision will result from the visit?

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Ben Rhodes on Medium
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10 comments:

Jessica Yeh said...

I feel that it is a beneficial and apt move for President Obama to visit Hiroshima, especially because no president has visited since WWII. Even if it is an "apology tour" as some media may portray, an apology does not equate to weakness, rather, it can be a beneficial way to fully move on from the past. This visit will reaffirm the US's and Japan's current mutually beneficial relationship, which fulfills Obama's role as chief ambassador. I see that the visit aligns with the goal of reducing spread of nuclear arms; I do not foresee this one visit having any real impact on reducing nuclear arms, but it does spread a positive message of unity.

Charles Cao said...

Conservatives have been bashing Obama for being "weak" since the day he's stepped into office. Whether it's bashing him for "bowing" to world leaders while greeting them or claiming he's weak on ISIS because he secretly loves Islam (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YlXCHh6E5E). Instead of seeing this as what it is, a PR tour that helps build relations between not only Japan but the rest of the world, conservatives instead can't wait to jump at the opportunity to further bash our President.

Arya Habibi said...

The United State and Japan have a very strong relationship, while I personally do not believe that this is an "Apology tour I can see how why conservatives could think that - looking at the first part of Charles' comment. But I agree and think that this trip is something that could make the US and Japan bond even stronger. That being said, this is also the president's job to be the chief ambassador, and to see him fulfilling this requirement is a sign that he is doing his job. I also agree with Jessica that while this trip might not have any effect on reducing the amount of nuclear arms, this does show a sign of peace and unity with the two nations.

Langston Swiecki said...

Hiroshima, as one of two examples of the utilization of nuclear weapons in wartime against an enemy country, has the powerful ability to remind people of the terrible power of atomic weaponry and its dangerous potential. It humanized the impact of such weaponry, taking it out of the realm of the theoretical, where the bomb existed as a symbol of the nation's technological might and as an object with which to crush all opposition, instead making the world realize the dramatic repercussions of such action. Thus, a speech delivered by the president of the country with one of the largest stockpiles of nuclear weaponry would be a public and clear acknowledgement of this destructive potential, and instead of making America look weak, as some of his political adversaries have stated, this action makes America look like the adult in the room and positions us to be a primary leader of a fuller nuclear disarmament. Some might worry about other countries taking advantage of an America less packed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, but a country only needs so much as a deterrent because of a theorized occurrence of nuclear winter, which essentially states that launching a certain number of nuclear weapons can cause increased particulate matter in the air, a giant dust cloud that would decrease the amount of solar energy reaching earth's surface and thus result in plant death: an extinction level event. This might not be the most pressing of worries, but for the common sake of humanity, there should be at least some attempt to address it, and Obama's speech could help start a dialogue.

TJ Bonbright said...

I find it amusing that the conservative media is bashing Obama for something like this, but then again, it isn't anything particularly novel. To call the visit an "apology tour" seems like such a stretch, and actually pretty ridiculous. I don't see anything wrong with the visit, for it helps strengthen American-Japanese bonds, as previous commenters have stated. I agree that an apology is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it takes a special kind of strength to own up to one's own mistakes or try to make things right again. I see Obama's visit as an excellent execution of his diplomatic duties. It sends the message that the U.S. is willing to reach out to other countries and seek paths toward a more peaceful future. This is opposed to the hard-headed approach of puffing out our figurative chests while standing with one foot dominantly resting on a nuclear missile. Perhaps that might appease the ever so critical conservative media.

Tara Young said...

I do not think that this tour is a bad thing. While the connotation of an "apology tour" is a bit weak, I do not think that it will actually weaken our country. As the chief of foreign affairs, it is good that Obama is creating stronger positive bonds with Japan. Then, there will be less likely nuclear bombings in the future hopefully, which is good for the whole world. While the president should be cautious for still angry Japanese citizens, I think he should approach this event with openness. I do not foresee any significant ramifications from this tour.

ETHAN CHAO said...

Calling it an "apology tour" is a really salty move by the Republicans. Of course, it would be awkward for the President, as the face of this country to the world, to outright apologize, but I'm sure he'll imply that in his speech. He could talk about how horrible the atomic bomb was, and how the scientists of the Manhattan Project couldn't sleep well afterwards, and set the tone for the Cold War. Of course, he should look to the future, but while he's there, he should still express sympathy for what happened. This tour is a good thing; the fact that a U.S. President will finally step onto Hiroshima shows that the bombing and context are a thing of the past, that we will move forward but not forget such a horrific incident.

Christopher Duan said...

An "apology tour"? Really? While it is true that the bombs killed over a hundred thousand people, this is a move not so well thought out. He didn't make the decision to drop these bombs, and so accordingly, japan probably understands that this is just for PR's sake. In contrast to Langston's comment, I think that it won't make the United States look like a leader in this field. The irony of such an apology yet to real action or intention towards disarmament is blatant and shows through whatever the president says. I think that the president would be better off trying to mitigate future use of nuclear weapons, and spend this time more constructively.

Jeffrey Song said...

Whilst Obama didn't make the decision to drop those bombs, his predecessor did and thus I don't think it's all that unreasonable to recognize and 'apologize' for the terrible impact it's had on the cities and the nation. I do think it's unreasonable though to call the entire visit an 'apology tour' and a symbol of American weakness. As Langston mentioned, the repercussions of nuclear war -> nuclear winter are global and affects even those not involved. It's not longer the Cold War where whoever had more bombs and was willing to go further with threats had more power; there are more than enough bombs in multiple nations now to blast the whole world to hell and back. I agree with what Jessica said in that this visit itself will do little in terms of actually moving forward in dismantling and regulating nuclear programs across the world, but it is still certainly a positive step forward towards doing so, and is a far cry from being an apology tour meant to showcase American weakness.

Jared Mayerson said...

I completely agree with Jessica that, "even if it is an 'apology tour' as some media may portray, an apology does not equate to weakness." I believe that only good can come out of this visit by President Obama. No president has visited the cities the United States bombed since it happened and I think it should have happened sooner. Even if it does make the United States look bad to admit our mistakes, it benefits us as a nation because it allows us to recognize that what we did in the past had terrible consequences on Japan. In fact, being that we haven't visited earlier could be seen as us not caring about this. President Obama was in no way connected to the bombings but his going there will show as a sign of respect for them.