June 1, 2016
The centre of gravity of today’s nuclear world is shifting to the Asia-Pacific. The number of nuclear players has grown, and asymmetry in doctrines and arsenals makes the search for security more elusive
On May 27, Barack Obama became the first serving American President to visit Hiroshima, 71 years after nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States, the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons. Richard Nixon visited Hiroshima in 1964, four years before he won the presidential election, and Jimmy Carter had visited in 1984, three and a half years after he left the White House. Mr. Obama’s historic visit will go down as part of his nuclear legacy, which remains a mixed one. Though the visit took place when he has no more elections to fight, it was nevertheless an act of political conviction reflecting his deep disdain for the “Washington playbook”.
Obama’s nuclear legacy
Since the fateful decision by U.S. President Harry Truman in 1945 to use the nuclear bomb, none of Mr. Obama’s predecessors has been willing to court the inevitable controversies that would surround a presidential visit. The most significant was the question of an “apology” which the Obama administration laid to rest early on by making clear that there would be no revisiting the 1945 decision, and, consequently, no apology. Yet, the symbolism of the imperative for moral reflection was very apparent, both in President Obama’s speech and his gesture of meeting the hibakushas (atomic bomb survivors).