Petition to the President” by Leo Szilard’s and co-signers (Analysis)
The intention of this letter was to persuade the President of United States not to use a nuclear weapon in the 2nd World War against Japan. As the issue was very serious and important, the letter needed to be convincing, clear and engaging. The letter written by Szilard and co-signers kept the content clear and engaging, but the letter doesn’t sound like a very convincing piece of writing. Initially, the letter was pretty well organized, but when analyzed it was not that persuasive a piece of writing on the whole.
letter, the authors tried to be credible by quoting the fact that they had been working in the field of atomic power for many years. This obviously adds weight to the statement of the authors who are all scientists. But the problem remains that non-scientific reasons to use atomic power against any country exist as well, and to be honest non-scientific ones are more important. The president of a country needs to analyze the situation according to military strategic plans, and he also keeps in mind how the step can have an impact on the image and survival of the state. The letter remains silent about the non-scientific reasons. The authors mentioned no alternative or the reason why their opinion should be given weight in the non-scientific argument.
The authors once again became unconvincing when they said that they had thought about the feasible situation for the usage of the nuclear weapon, and they think this even does not qualify as a situation in which the nuclear weapon should be used. Their claim does not hold up here because they are scientists, and their field of expertise is related just to building a nuclear weapon. They are not a dependable source of information regarding the strategic decisions, and when they ask to give their opinion some weight in such decisions their argument remains unconvincing.
mentioned in their letter to the president that ‘the terms which will be imposed upon Japan after the war are publicly announced, and subsequently Japan is given an opportunity to surrender.’ In this part of the letter, the authors sounded concerned about the good of the people. Engaging an emotional side is a good approach, but it is as convincing as an ordinary social worker is saying something and that is not convincing enough if you are writing to the president of the state. This argument does not add to the credibility of the argument made by the scientists.
They also made an argument that if the atomic weapon is used once it can become a routine thing or an option to be used every time war happens. This argument is also not a very convincing one. Because first of all it has never happened before so predicting the pattern is before time. Moreover, every military commander and politician of the future will have his/ her preferences and take on the usage of nuclear weapons.
Many parts in the letter appealed to the emotional part of the leadership. The letter says ‘Atomic bombs are primarily a means for the ruthless annihilation of cities,’ it seems like an effort to make the leadership realize that a lot of lives are at stake and more careful consideration is needed for this matter. This argument has no new content. The authors already made their point about the humanitarian part of the after effects of the actions. Stalling around the same point and telling the same thing again and again in different ways is never good for formal letters and for convincing someone.
In the end, the authors made a point that the American forces are taking the same ruthless and condemnable actions which were taken by Germans when they came to the cities of England. This argument is quite impressive as it is quoted fact and pointed out the hypocrisy being committed by the Americans in this case. But if we look deeply into the matter, it is in the opinion of the public. It wasn’t the leadership who condemned the actions of the German military and also the military leadership is of the view that this situation is justified for the nuclear action. Moreover, public opinion does not matter when it is a matter of national security. If the public thinks it is not humane to use an atomic weapon, their opinion is not that vital because there are too many facts which they do not know and there are too many factors which the leadership has to account for and the public have no clue about it.
In conclusion, the letter was not very persuasive. When you are writing to convince the president of the state, you need to have enough logical arguments, but the letter mostly depended on the emotional ones. Emotional arguments can work in some scenarios, but when it comes to the national security issues, it is really hard to take decisions by emotions. Such decisions might have their impact on the next few decades, so all the factors needed to be figured out.
Hughes, Phillip S., Spencer R. Weart, and Gertrud Weiss Szilard. “Leo Szilard: His Version Of The Facts.” Contemporary Sociology 9.4 (1980): 551. Web.