Hiroshima after the atomic bomb

Does Morality Have A Place In Strategy

Morality through the blurred lines of leadership

Leadership is a job of contradictions. You want to be tough, but not too tough. Strong, but not inaccessible. This fuzziness can leave leaders in a constant state of internal conflict and sometimes even morality gets pulled into the fray.

When Napoleon invaded Italy he allowed his troops to heavily pillage one of the first towns he conquered.

Napoleon did this to convince subsequent cities to throw down arms and surrender without a fight. This strategy was also used by Julius Caesar who allowed his legions to slaughter all the people of Avaricum for the same reason.

In both cases these actions, although atrocities, were rationalized because they saved lives.

This isn’t just something that happened in ancient times.

Truman ordered the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima which killed 170,000 people. Another 80,000 people died a few days later when Nagasaki was bombed.

Truman believed that Japan would not surrender unless bombed and an invasion would have cost 500,000 American lives. In 1944 a study by the Joint Chiefs Of Staff agreed with this figure and estimated far more people would have been wounded.

The Joint Chiefs Of Staff study is a hell of a rationalization that I’m sure helped a lot of people sleep better at night. Good thing it was written after the fact.

Some speculate that the dropping of the bombs was really a message to the Soviets indicating that conflict with America would mean absolute devastation.

Regardless of the real reason, Truman’s decision was strategic.

And the above proves that what is strategic isn’t always moral.

This is just a reminder that, as leaders, the pressure to act against our morals is another thing that we need to manage.

How are you doing managing this blurred line?

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