The Successful Use of Ad Hominem in “Thank God for the Atom Bomb”

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Paul Fussell begins “Thank God for the Atom Bomb” with a quote from an advertisement: “In life, experience is the great teacher” (13). Throughout the paper, he argues that experience is necessary in order to make informed, pragmatic decisions. Accordingly, he uses ad hominem attacks on people who do not have experience with war yet still preferred invading Japan to dropping the atom bomb. He explains that using the atom bomb was necessary because Japan was not going to surrender – Japan’s war minister wanted to “fight to the bitter end, defending the main islands with the same techniques and tenacity employed at Iwo and Okinawa” (Fussell, 22), and after the Emperor did surrender following the atom bombs being dropped, many soldiers committed suicide because of the dishonor (Fussell, 23) – and an invasion could have had 1,000,000 American casualties (Fussell, 15). The ad hominem attacks are not necessary to support his argument that dropping the bomb was the right decision because he refutes opponents’ arguments before resorting to ad hominem, so the ad hominem must have a different purpose altogether. Instead, the ad hominem adds to his argument about the necessity of experience. Fussell explicitly admits his use of ad hominem attacks, which are valid because they occur after the target’s argument had already been refuted and just help connect the disproven arguments to their owner’s lack of experience, which is further associated with an impractical, idealistic mindset. Fussell brings up the arguments of people who opposed dropping the atom bomb on Japan and then argues that their arguments are not valid because they do not have correct information or experience in war. John Kenneth Galbraith believed that the bomb should not have been dropped because he said that the war would end in only a few weeks (Fussell, 18). Similarly, Michael Sherry also argued that the
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