Critical Evaluation Essay On Leo Szilard'S Petition To The President
A PETITION TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Discoveries of which the people of the United States are not aware may affect the welfare of this nation in the near future. The liberation of atomic power which has been achieved places atomic bombs in the hands of the Army. It places in your hands, as Commander-in-Chief, the fateful decision whether or not to sanction the use of such bombs in the present phase of the war against Japan.
We, the undersigned scientists, have been working in the field of atomic power for a number of years. Until recently we have had to reckon with the possibility that the United States might be attacked by atomic bombs during this war and that her only defense might lie in a counterattack by the same means. Today with this danger averted we feel impelled to say what follows
The war has to be brought speedily to a successful conclusion and the destruction of Japanese cities by means of atomic bombs may very well be an effective method of warfare. We feel, however, that such an attack on Japan could not be justified in the present circumstances. We believe that the United States ought not to resort to the use of atomic bombs in the present phase of the war, at least not unless the terms which will be imposed upon Japan after the war are publicly announced and subsequently Japan is given an opportunity to surrender.
If such public announcement gave assurance to the Japanese that they could look forward to a life devoted to peaceful pursuits in their homeland and if Japan still refused to surrender, our nation would then be faced with a situation which might require a re-examination of her position with respect to the use of atomic bombs in the war.
Atomic bombs are primarily a means for the ruthless annihilation of cities. Once they were introduced as an instrument of war it would be difficult to resist for long the temptation of putting them to such use.
The last few years show a marked tendency toward increasing ruthlessness. At present our Air Forces, striking at the Japanese cities, are using the same methods of warfare which were condemned by American public opinion only a few years ago when applied by the Germans to the cities of England. Our use of atomic bombs in this war would carry the world a long way further on this path of ruthlessness.
Atomic power will provide the nations with new means of destruction. The atomic bombs at our disposal represent only the first step in this direction and there is almost no limit to the destructive power which will become available in the course of this development. Thus a nation which sets the precedent of using these newly liberated forces of nature for purposes of destruction may have to bear the responsibility of opening the door to an era of devastation on an unimaginable scale.
In view of the foregoing, we, the undersigned, respectfully petition that you exercise your power as Commander-in-Chief to rule that the United States shall not, in the present phase of the war, resort to the use of atomic bombs.
This version received 59 signatures at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory. It was not submitted to the President. In an effort to broaden support for the petition, Szilard rewrote it into the final version of July 17.
My purpose in writing this essay was to show that while “A letter to the President of the United States” was written by someone who was very knowledgeable and signed or approved by many other scientists was not successful. This essay goes to show that sometimes no matter how much valid evidence is presented to an individual regarding why they should not make a decision, they disregard that and make the decision anyway. I hope that the readers are able to understand that the scientists were truly worried about what long term effects the use of the atomic bomb would have on the United States.
Before this assignment, I was unaware that Szilard had written any type of letter to the President. I also have a better understanding of why the United States used the atomic bomb on Japan. In some ways, my perspective did change. I would now like to research what some think may have happened had the United States not used the atomic bomb. While writing this critical evaluation essay, I found myself conflicted as to the results. There was a part of me that wondered why the President had not taken the views expressed in the petition more seriously.
Did the president truly think about the long term effects or was he looking for an immediate solution regardless of the ramifications? Personally, this was not one of my favorite assignments. While I enjoy history and learning more about the subject, this one was hard for me. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had chosen another article to write about. While this letter was able to portray ethos, pathos, and logos it was a short and precise letter. I chose “A Petition to the President of the United States” by Leo Szilard.
I chose this because it was a subject that I was familiar with and I was interested in learning more about the letter and the effects the letter had. I think I have been able to use all of your previous questions to portray to you my feelings regarding this essay. I do not feel this is one of my best writing, and hope to use your feedback to better myself as a writer and to excel in this class. In the article, “A Petition to the President of the United States” Leo Szilard, the author of the petition, discusses why he thinks the use of atomic bombs is not a good idea.
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Szilard’s uses his expertise and knowledge to provide valid points behind his petition. Szilard is a working scientist in the field of atomic power. He also brings up the points of what has been said about the use of atomic bombs against the United States in the past and how the use of this type of weapon would be the first step to a weapon that would become even more powerful in the course of its development. He talks about how the American public also perceives the use of weapons in warfare. Szilard makes some valid points about why the atomic bomb should not be used on Japan.
Szilard uses an appeal to ethos in order to make the petition more creditable. An appeal to ethos relies on the credibility of the author. The first point that Szilard’s makes in his petition is about himself and the fellow scientist, who also signed the petition, and their background in the field of atomic power. “We, the undersigned scientists, have been working in the field of atomic power for a number of years. ” (Szilard, 1945) This is a point that really grabs the attention of the reader. Szilard should have maybe elaborated on this point a little more.
Using more facts that supported his background in atomic power possibly could have made the argument a little better because the reader might not be aware of how powerful the use of atomic bombs could be. Szilard also uses an appeal to pathos. An appeal to pathos relies on the audience’s emotions and feelings. “Atomic power will provide the nations with new means of destruction. The atomic bombs at our disposal represent only the first step in this direction and there is almost no limit to the destructive power which will become available in the course of this development.
Thus a nation which sets the precedent of using these newly liberated forces of nature for purposes of destruction may have to bear the responsibility of opening the door to an era of devastation on an unimaginable scale. ” (Szilard, 1945) In this exert, Szilard is trying to portray the President that the after effects of using the atomic bomb would not only affect Japan, but also the United States, as the United States would have to take on the responsibility of having unleashed this power and could also feel the effects if the atomic bo0mb were to be used against other countries in the future.
The author uses logos, an appeal to the logic, by trying to reason with the president “We believe that the United States ought not to resort to the use of atomic bombs in the present phase of the war, at least not unless the terms which will be imposed upon Japan after the war are publicly announced and subsequently Japan is given an opportunity to surrender. ” (Szilard, 1945) The author used logos reasoning throughout the paper, but it was most pparent in that statement. If Japan was aware of all the negative effects that the atomic bomb would have upon them, would there still be a need for the use of it or would Japan surrender to the United States? The scientist knew that not only would the atomic bomb affect the people that were alive then, but it would also have an effect on Japan for years to come. The use of the atomic bomb affected the land, food, and natural resources of Japan.
Leo Szilard’s “A Petition to the President of the United States” created some very valid points and was written by a very knowledgeable scientist. in the end however, the petition was unsuccessful and President Harry S. Truman decided to use the atomic bombs on Japan. Works Cited Szilard, Leo and Cosigners. “A Petition to the President of the United States. ” Atomicarchive. com. 2011. Web. 11 May 2012.