Governing from the Skies: A Global History of Aerial Bombing

Thomas Hippler. Verso, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-78478-595-6
Hippler (Bombing the People), a philosopher and historian at Sciences Po Lyon in France, sidesteps traditional battle history in favor of a thoughtful analysis of bombing’s role in the conduct of political affairs over the past century. He opens his account with Louis Blériot’s pioneering 1909 flight across the English Channel from France to England. The event was widely cheered, but astute observers realized it heralded a new form of warfare. Hippler segues from there into his main theme, the democratization of war in the 20th century. Where warfare had previously been a clash of professionals on the battlefield, with civilians considered innocent bystanders, WWI made it clear that no great power (electoral democracy or not) could fight without the participation of its citizenry. Thus, civilians became legitimate military targets in subsequent wars, and were usually targeted from the air. This erosion of the military/civilian distinction is less revolutionary than it may at first appear, because European armies had already deemed civilians legitimate targets in their colonial wars. The book is a scholarly work and occasionally lapses into academic prolixity, but Hippler writes for a popular audience and delivers a mostly clear, convincing argument that armed aircraft (drones included) have become the weapon of choice for great powers attempting to deter rivals and maintain the world order. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/14/2016
Release date: 01/17/2017
Hardcover - 978-1-78478-598-7
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