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The Fine Print

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Jim Harrison

People always assume that the critical thing the bombs did was change the minds of the Japanese; but over and beyond the fact that the Russian invasion of Manchuria surely had a lot to do with it, there was also a change on our side, namely the decision to modify the doctrine of unconditional surrender to allow the continued reign of the emperor. I've thought for a long time that the real error of American policy in the last months of the war lay in not deciding earlier that we could agree to let the Emperor stay. An earlier decision on that point might not only have forestalled the use of the bomb, it might have prevented or shortened the horror that was the invasion of Okinawa.

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