Life Without the Bomb: A Little Alternative History

Alternative history is a fascinating way of looking at the world. In my last blog entry, I speculated on a world without the bomb. Some may have assumed that I saw a world of peace and happiness. I did not.

While the bomb took the lives of a great many innocent people, it may have saved the lives of a significantly larger number of others. I am not talking about American forces who might have been asked to invade Japan. Personally, I do not think such an invasion would have been necessary. Japan was close to surrender before the bomb was dropped and conventional bombing was having a devastating affect.

Without the bomb, I think the world might well have fought the infamous World War III that was so popular with science fiction writers of the period, a war that would have been far more destructive than either of its predecessors.

During the Cold War both sides were equally afraid of a nuclear war. As a result, wars during those years were limited to conventional weapons and often involved surrogates, rather than a direct confrontation between the world’s two superpowers. Atomic weapons were a deterrent.

In a world with only conventional weapons, a direct confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union may have been unavoidable. The two nations came very, very close several times.

For example, I think the bomb prevented Stalin from being more aggressive in the late 1940s. After all, at the end of World War II, the most powerful conventional military force on the planet probably belonged to the Soviet Union, not the U.S.

Thinking about the alternatives, I suspect that the bomb saved a great many lives, just not in the way we have always believed. I also believe that a demonstration of the bomb’s power would have been sufficient. Unfortunately, we have not reached the point where we value human life above all else, especially the lives of those we dehumanize during times of war.


  1. I think that our dropping the bomb on the Japanese showed the Russians not only the power of the bomb but that we were blood thirsty enough to use it.

  2. Tom -- Good point. I had never considered your second point.


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