Monday, March 27, 2006

Our Criminal Past; Our Self-Deluded Future

Sometimes you just quote:
Mark Brady
Bombing Civilians—Then and Now

Go here to read British philosopher A. C. Grayling's discussion of the deliberate mass bombing of civilians. Go here to read more about Among the Dead Cities: Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime?, his new book on the Allied bombing of Germany and Japan. And go here to read John Charmley's review of the book.
From the first link, by Grayling
Compared to the weight and ferocity of RAF and US bombing, the Nazi "blitz" and its V-rocket attacks of 1944 were small beer. Yet it was not allied civilian bombing that won the second world war, any more than did "shock and awe" in Iraq in 2003. What both show is that bombing civilians is not only immoral, but ineffective. It takes nuclear weapons, delivering absolutely massive civilian extermination, to have the desired effect of reducing a people to submission; but employing such a tactic today would be self-defeating, for all it offers is victory over a radioactive wasteland.
Not to mention that the elements which make wide-area bombing immoral to begin with are even more present with regard to nuclear weapons; the only virtue they have is ruthless effectiveness, and the moral arguments which support using them are the same ones that lead to police states, forced eugenics and slavery.


The Chainik Hocker said...

Sorry, but the thought of the US and her allies bombing the living crap out of Dresden does not exactly bring a tear to my eye.

Although carpet bombing Auschitz would have been a better idea.

Ahistoricality said...

I've brought up the Auschwitz bombing issue before: I think our failure to act will remain an unresolved moral failing for a long time.

The issue of Dresden, though, I can't agree with you. If the point of war is to win, then, as Grayling points out, area-bombing a city like Dresden is largely pointless (as the Nazis discovered, you can do a lot of damage to your own cause by threatening the well-being of people who aren't completely engaged in the war); even atom-bombing cities is worthless unless you're dealing with an opponent that cares enough about their own people to surrender (Hitler didn't and wouldn't; Japan, on the other hand, did).

If the issue is to inflict pain, then I don't see how we are terribly different from any terrorist or gangster.