Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History

Yuki Tanaka, Editor, Marilyn B. Young, Editor . New Press $30 (291p) ISBN 978-1-59558-363-5

Young, a professor of history at NYU, and Tanaka, of the Hiroshima Peace Institute, bring together eight essays by American, Japanese and European scholars on a disturbing subject: why has aerial warfare, beginning in WWI, emphasized civilian targets? Aerial bombing affects civilian morale, a vulnerable element in a country mobilized for total war. Tanaka demonstrates that during the interwar years the British considered air strikes in Iraq a cheaper, more “humane” way of maintaining imperial control than conventional ground operations. Ronald Schaeffer, Robert Moeller and Mark Selden each show that area bombardment was regarded, in particular by Britain and the U.S., as a shortcut to victory long after evidence ceased to support the belief. Selden goes so far as to assert that “[m]ass murder of civilians has been central to all subsequent U.S. wars.” Discussing the morality of bombing, C.A.J. Coady is the only contributor who engages the moral principle of double effect: keeping collateral damage under the restraints of morality, reason and law. Still, this is better read as advocacy than scholarship. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/01/2008
Release date: 02/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 291 pages - 978-1-59558-547-9
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