RICR No. 859

Targeting the city: Debates and silences about the aerial bombing of World War II

Reading time 6 min de lecture
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AbstractThe article goes back to the early discussions of the morality of city bombing which took place before and during World War II and attempts to analyze both the moral argumentation and its historical context from the 1940s until today. The development of the doctrine of “collateral damage” which recognized that attacking enemy factories was permissible even if it cost the lives and homes of civilians was soon widened beyond its original notion. After the war, the dropping of the atomic bombs became an issue in its own right, to be considered separately from the earlier recourse to conventional bombing — even when conventional bombing achieved equally destructive results. Twin inhibitions have reigned in the issue of what force against civilians was justified: the reluctance of German commentators to seem apologetic for the Third Reich, and the difficulty in the U.S. of seeming to cast any aspersions on those who fought “the good war.”

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