Petition to the President by Leo Szilard’s and co-signers

The letter was intended to dissuade the US president from using nuclear weapons upon Japan during the 2nd world war. Upon analyzing the letter, one may argue that the authors (Szilard’s and co-signers) have written this letter in a clear and engaging way. The letter appears to be effective initially as it leads the readers to think about the issue very seriously. However, on the whole, one may argue that the letter does not appear to be convincing and hence remains unpersuasive for the most part.

For instance, in the second paragraph, the authors argue that their argument shall be given weight because they have had ‘been working in the field of atomic power for a number of years’. The argument adds some credibility to what the scientists are saying. However, the authors fail to mention how and why should the scientists’ argument be given weight in non-scientific matters. For instance, the scientists may be knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the use and substance of the weapons. However, a decision by the US president as the commander in chief also involves military-strategic and political factors which the scientists may be ill-posed to even contemplate. Thus, the argument by the scientists (authors) fails because the argument concerns a sphere of political-strategic decision-making in which scientists pose no authority.

Similarly, the authors argue that they have contemplated the possibility and feasibility of when such weapons may be used, but the current circumstances do not justify the use of the weapons. Here again, the authors (scientists) seem to be making a claim for which they have no authority. A scientist’s area or expertise does not extend to the use of weapons but only to its manufacture or method of deployment. Thus, the argument that the authors have reckoned the possibility of the use of weapons appears unconvincing.

Likewise, the condition the authors propose to the US 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’. Here, the author’s concern for the welfare and peace of the people of both the nations is a well-founded one. However, the scientists do not have any vantage point so as to make their voice any more credible than any other section of the population, let’s say politicians or social workers all of whom are let’s say deliberating on the effects of warfare and its prevention.

Moreover, the authors argue that once atomic bombs are used, the temptation to use them again for the future warfare would be difficult to resist. Such assertion by the authors are again unfounded. It is because, by that time, the weapons had never been used before and thus, logically it was difficult to predict how and whether the future generation of politicians and military commanders may choose to use such weapons.

In the other parts of the letter, the authors desperately try to make use of emotional appeal. For instance, the declaration that ‘Atomic bombs are primarily a means for the ruthless annihilation of cities’ seems to evoke sympathy and a more careful consideration of what is at stake. The use of phrase ‘ruthless annihilation’ is an example of use of evocative language for emotional appeal.  Rather than being a new piece of information or a logical argument, the sentence only repeats what is obvious and already known to the readers.

Lastly, the authors try to appeal to logic when they highlight how the US forces are using the same ruthless techniques which the Germans had used in their attack on English cities, and the techniques which the American public had condemned previously. Here, the argument is somewhat strong as it highlights a contradiction in the American approach. However, the contradiction is actually in the public opinion and not in the opinion of the military leaders. Secondly, the scientists fail to explain why should public opinion (even if it is contradictory (may not be disregarded in times of national emergencies. It is especially because the military and political leaders are better placed to assess the on-ground reality of war and hence are specialist people who are capable of making better decisions than any section of public.

Thus, it can be concluded that the foremost reason why the letter fails to be effective is because the authors resort to using a variety of emotional appeals. The letter, [although it raises a number of important humanitarian principles and values, which the president shall consider before taking the decision] fails to offer sound logical arguments.