Roundup: Editorial opinions from other papers
Obama in Hiroshima
Seven decades ago, the United States dropped the first — and last — atom bombs ever used in war onto two Japanese cities, killing about 200,000 people, hastening the end of World War II and beginning a difficult and painful moral and historical debate that continues to this day. On Tuesday, President Obama waded into that troubled discussion when he announced he would visit the first of those cities — Hiroshima — during a trip to Japan this month. He would be the first sitting president to do so.
The hand-wringing began immediately. Surely the president’s trip will serve as an unwarranted apology for President Truman’s 1945 decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, opponents insisted. Even if he doesn’t apologize explicitly, they worried, won’t his visit suggest contrition? American weakness? Lack of resolve?
This is silliness. The president is absolutely right to visit Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, where aides say he will probably reaffirm America’s strong ties to Japan while reemphasizing his belief in nuclear nonproliferation. And while he will no doubt pay tribute — as he should — to the people, overwhelmingly civilians, who died in the bombings, that’s not the same as apologizing. It is an embrace of history, a recognition of the tragic cost of combat and of the horrors of atomic warfare. That seems entirely appropriate in 2016, when more than two dozen violent conflicts are underway around the globe.
The devastation wrought by Little Boy and Fat Man, the benign-sounding nicknames given to the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, is almost unimaginable. Yet compared with today’s nuclear warheads, those two were insignificant. In 1961, the Soviet Union tested a hydrogen bomb in the Arctic with an explosive force of 50 megatons — more than 3,000 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Such a weapon would kill millions. Currently, nine nations own more than 15,000 nuclear weapons, most of them far more powerful than the World War II bombs.
The overwhelming destructive force of nuclear weapons, and the fragility of peace, are what the president and the world should focus on, rather than wrangling over the symbolism of a visit to a memorial. Consider North Korea, Iran, India and Pakistan. Consider the risk of “loose” Cold War-era warheads falling into the hands of terrorists. The nuclear threat remains real.
The debate may continue forever over whether the shortening of World War II justified the loss of so many civilian lives. Obama need not answer those questions. The president can instead send this unambiguous message: If the world is searching for peace, expanding its nuclear arsenal is the wrong way to get there. The past is not necessarily prologue. Unless, of course, we refuse to learn from it.
Los Angeles Times, May 11
Kenya's tough talk on elephant poaching
Elephant poachers have upped the ante in an attempt to supply Asia’s appetite for ivory. Armed with advanced weapons and utilizing war-like tactics, the poachers have turned the lucrative hunt for elephants and their tusks into a grim, ruthless science. Even in Kenya, where elephants are under the protection of the government, poachers are still able to kill the intelligent creature by the thousands annually.
Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya sent a powerful message that poachers have an implacable foe in Nairobi. Kenyatta ordered that the 105 metric tons of ivory and tusks Kenya confiscated from poachers be ceremonially burned. Message: Ivory is useless if it isn’t attached to living elephants. The president personally lit a pyramid of tusks.
“No one, and I repeat, no one has any business in trading in ivory, for this trade means death — the death of our elephants and the death of our natural heritage,” Kenyatta said. The black market value of the tusks and recovered ivory was in excess of $100 million.
Kenyatta’s point is well taken: The ivory should be considered worthless unless it is attached to living, breathing, thriving elephants. The ivory haul that the president helped burn represents the remains of 6,000 to 7,000 elephants. This is an untenable assault on an intelligent creature that has been on this planet in one form or another longer than humans.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 8