The Presidential Path to Hiroshima (‘Foreign Affairs’)

There’s speculation, writes Associate Professor of Government Jennifer Lind, that President Barack Obama may visit Hiroshima when he travels to Japan next month. But it’s not a simple matter of extending his travels, she writes. “Although it’s just a short train ride from Ise-Shima, a presidential visit to Hiroshima would be a complex and controversial journey.

“Some commentators argue that a U.S. reckoning with the atomic bombings is long overdue. For example, Christian Appy, a historian at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, has questioned whether the United States will ever really absorb how the bombs ‘instantly vaporized thousands of victims, incinerated tens of thousands more, and created unimaginably powerful shockwaves and firestorms that ravaged everything for miles beyond ground zero. Will it finally come to grips with the ‘black rain’ that spread radiation and killed even more people—slowly and painfully—leading in the end to a death toll for the two cities conservatively estimated at more than 250,000?’ ”

The reasons for Obama not to visit the atomic bombing site “are already piling up,” writes Lind. “And then there is the election. Democratic Party strategists would likely argue that a Hiroshima visit would be a gift to a currently self-destructing GOP. It would bring conservatives together to condemn another stop on the Obama ‘apology tour’; it also risks angering many voters—not just conservative ones. It’s a lot of noise for a president in a quiet moment, standing before a wreath laid against stone.”

Read the full opinion piece, published 4/8/16 by Foreign Affairs.