Few of us ever participate in a moment that truly changes history. I met Dutch van Kirk last week, and Dutch changed history. Dutch served as the navigator for the Enola Gay, the American B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He shared his firsthand experience of the monumental event that precipitated the end of World War II and inaugurated the nuclear age.
Upon hearing Dutch's reflections on the events of August 6, 1945, my mind could not help but go back to a classroom at Emory University in 1989, where I was a young seminary student. I still remember well a lecture from one of my professors, chastising the United States for having dropped the bomb. The professor's sense of guilt and anger toward America filled the room. So, I must admit it was refreshing to hear last week a corrective in Dutch's careful, poignant remarks as he humbly chronicled the failed attempts at peace with Japan. He articulated the strategic, life-saving reasons why the atomic bomb became the best option to end a brutal war that could well have gone on for months, even years, more in Japan, China, and beyond.
Now, more than sixty years after the bomb, we have a President who seems to think that we can put the genie back in the bottle. President Obama last week spoke before 20,000 people in Prague, and shared his vision and hopes for a world free of nuclear weapons. He said, “I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” In essence, Obama made nuclear disarmament the centerpiece of his emerging foreign policy.
In almost incredible irony, at about the same time that Obama spoke, if one stood in Japan, you could have felt the breeze of North Korea's test missile as it soared overhead. Meanwhile, if one snuck a peek into the inner workings of Iran, one would not have to look far to find the nuclear plans of a deranged leadership. And few of us doubt that Syria hides well its nascent plans for nuclear weaponry as well. All the while, Al-Qaeda negotiates and connives to get its hands on such destructive power.
Surely, the President's speech on nuclear disarmament was meant as irony. Does Mr. Obama seriously intend to lead us back to the 1930's? A pre-nuclear age? No time machine can take us back to a time where nuclear weapons were unheard of, nor can any presidential administration.
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