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January 24, 2014

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The reality is that in both Germany and Japan the civil population was a prime strategic target, and they were killed deliberately. If we had lost the war, Roosevelt, Truman, Lemay, Eisenhower and Nimitz would have been war criminals.

Of course, the two biggest killings were Nanking and Manila, which the Japanese committed. And then there was Leningrad. The atomic bombs were small cheese compared to the other bombings.

So tell me, liberal japonicus, why the firebombings of Tokyo (and other cities too, I assume) have no official commemoration.

Well, these are my first thoughts. The memorials are primarily for Hiroshima and a lesser extent for Nagasaki. In fact, Nagasaki always seems a bit embarrassed (is so much as a city can be embarrassed) by the attention and tends to deflect the date quite a bit. It's really only Hiroshima that memorializes its event, and in a lot of the discussion, that notion of that this can be seen as a single moment (obviously aided by the whole idea of nuclear fission) where everything changed is prominent. On the other hand, the firebombing was a campaign, so there is no 'date' to affix (interesting fact, the town where I live was firebombed twice, once on 1 July and a second time on 10 Aug, a day after Nagasaki was bombed (Kurume, a town about 40 minutes down the road, was bomb on 11 Aug)

I'm not convinced by Sand's assertion of the families of the Tokyo firebombing victims and their anger at the Emperor are somehow linked to the lack of memorialization. I'll have to look at Matsuura's work, but I think it was published in the 70's and 80's to _reveal_ the delay in air raid warnings, whereas the commemoration of Hiroshima was going on during the late 50's and early 60's (it was 1964 that Malcolm X met with the 3 hibakusha journalists).

Furthermore, the focus on Hiroshima provided a useful defocussing, in that 1964 was the year of the Tokyo Olympics when Tokyo was reinventing itself. Tokyo has never prided itself on its depth of history (almost all of Japan is like that, though they give the impression that they do, but it is a selective focus on particular aspects of history) The Japanese were certainly helped along with the historical amnesia by the US, who promulgated the Reverse Course, which had the effect of bringing out all of the folks left of center immediately after the war, but then replacing them with conservatives (and identifying them so the left could be isolated and demonized) This is a neat article from the Journal of Historical Geography that talks about 'A Cartographic fade to black', which mirrors the way firebombing disappeared down the memory hole.

Those are just some first thoughts, and I'll try to give you more later


There also doesn't seem to be much in the way of a memorial regarding the Dresden fire bombings. (At least, a cursory Google search didn't turn up anything beyond the fact that Dresden has, since Germany was reunited, been rebuilding some of the buildings that were destroyed.) And those were as damaging as the fire bombings of Tokyo.

There is a different sort of memorial for Dresden: Daniel Bukvich's Symphony No. 1 (In Memoriam, Dresden, 1945) . Played it all the way back in high school (1983?). It is an important part of symphonic band reptoire. Worth a listen not only as a good example of non-traditional uses of instruments, but for the issue discussed here.

Program notes:

Symphony No. 1 (“In Memoriam Dresden, 1945”) was written as Dan Bukvich’s master’s thesis. The piece was originally conceived by Dan to fulfill the requirements of a composition assignment he had dealing with contemporary notation and “using sounds beyond normal instrument sounds. It had to deal with the realization of an entire piece of music from one germ of an idea,” says Bukvich. This work succeeded in launching the career of Dan Bukvich into national prominence.

The idea for the symphony derived from a conversation he once had with the legendary jazz artist Louie Bellson. They were talking about the music of Duke Ellington, and a favorite chord he often used, based on the pitches C, Db, E, G. The harmonic and melodic elements of the piece are based primarily on this chord.

There is a program underlying Symphony No.1. It is meant to depict the fierce Allied bombing attacks on Dresden, Germany, on February 13–14, 1945, which, according to most recent estimates, killed between 25,000 and 30,000 people. The four movements, “Prologue”, “Seeds in the Wind”, “Ave Maria”, and “Firestorm”, are derived from “The Destruction of Dresden”, an historic account of the bombings written by David Irving. Through modern notation, the human voice, and unusual adaptations of traditional wind instruments, Bukvich creates powerful, haunting timbres which evoke many of the emotions surrounding this tragedy. By both accident and design, Bukvich created a contemporary work for winds and percussion which, to this day, is considered amoung his most important contributions to the band repertoire. Bukvich downplays the significance of the piece saying, “I didn’t have any message in the Dresden symphony; I had to complete an assignment on graphic notation.” Although extramusical symbolism and unconventional techniques are used by the composer throughout this programmatic work, Bukvich was not trying to make any revolutionary musical statements. Nevertheless, “Symphony No.1” was a trend-setting piece that would mark the style of music wind conductors would come to expect from Bukvich, and demand from him in numerous, subsequent commissions.

I find it very odd that this firebombing is now regarded as "forgotten" when I knew about it by the time I was about 14 years old.

LeMay specifically said that if we lost the war, he'd be regarded as a war criminal. I suppose he'd have argued that this was about crippling the Japanese economy and therefore their ability to wage war. At the time, strategic bombing wasn't working very well, and I suppose they were still trying to find a way to make it work. However, the firebombing didn't work to cripple the Japanese ability to make war, and was certainly an atrocity. Hiroshima and Nagasaki appear to be the only instances of terror bombing working, and even that is controversial.

I cannot understand why the Japanese would give any award to LeMay and not commemorate the firebombing of Tokyo.

So it goes.

I agree with johnw that the B-29 city firebombing raids in WWII are far from "forgotten." Anyone familiar with the history of WWII, and of American "strategic bombing" in Europe and Japan, knows of the decision LeMay made to drop all pretense of "daylight precision bombing" in the Pacific, and basically to adopt the RAF's area bombing strategy against Japan. American moral reservations were eroded as the war continued past the point where the Axis powers knew they had lost but continued fighting anyway. PBS's "American Experience" episode, The Bombing of Germany (available on Netflix) documents this evolution pretty well.

As a career Army Air Forces general committed to the creation of a separate Air Force after the war, there was no way LeMay was going to let the AAF's enormous investment in the B-29 program fail because of humanitarian considerations. Showing the the bombers were "successful" in defeating Japan without an invasion was critical, even if it meant abandoning high altitude daylight bombing and going down to 5000' at night to drop hundreds of thousands of incendiaries and burn tens of thousands of civilians.

As for "state memorials," I think this campaign IS downplayed in the US relative to the European campaign, where the 8th AF suffered huge casualties. That makes 8th AF history and memory more appealing.

As for the Japanese, frankly I think they were embarrassed and still playing "mollify the occupying power" as late as 1964. After all, they started the war, and were guilty of horrific atrocities when they were winning in places like China, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific archipelagos in 1941-42. They continued to commit major atrocities right up to the end of the war.

We allowed them to go the denial-of-war-crimes route (compared to the Germans) and I think there was a "less said about it the better" attitude in the 60s that still exists today to a great extent. Hiroshima was an exception, where they could feel especially sorry for themselves, and current, more nationalistic attitudes (relative to China) are the product of a different time.

Well, I believe that Japanese industrial production was not on a Western model, so rather than central factories, there were distributed workshops for most war material, often within urban districts and when the war was going badly, rather than try and build new factories, work was often distributed to these workshops. The exceptions were airplane factories which required a large assembly areas and these were attacked relatively early. Thus, a policy of urbicide seems like the "logical" approach that one would take.

Also, there seems to have been no moral restriction on causing fires, at least in Japan, the 'bat-bomb' was suggested in early 42 and taken up in 43.

Whatever the merits of Bukvich's symphony, it is unfortunate that he associated it with the bombing of Dresden as described by David Irving. Irving's account inflated the death toll by a factor of 10 and was the first milestone in this strange historian's progression toward holocaust denial and overt antisemitism. (The casualty figure cited by bc is the one now accepted.)

The events of that night were horrific, but note also that Dresden's Jews in "mixed" marriages and their children were *not* deported the next day as scheduled--or for the rest of the war. See Henny Brenner, _Das Lied ist Aus_.

Roger: I just cut and pasted the notes from Bukvich's website and did not catch the Irving connection. "Unfortunate" is generous. I am troubled by even my inadvertent republishing of that association.

The narrow escape of Dresden's Jews is fascinating and not something I knew. I read a bit more about it, and came across this interesting commentary from a Jewish artist living in Dresden about how there is not only a lack of a memorial for the bombing, but for the deportation as well:

"Two days before the bombing, the last Jews in Dresden were to be deported, but because of the bombing the deportation was postponed. To this day, the public feels traumatized by the destruction of the city — even though little of that destruction remains. The deportation of the Jews from the city has been lost. I feel that the city has not memorialized both narratives — the destruction of the city and the deportation of its Jews."

Artists work (I think this is it)representing the two narratives is here

The German relation to the WW2 bombings is complex too and was different in both parts, although the result was the same. In the GDR there could be no official mourning esp. about Dresden because it did not fit the political doctrine about WW2. Additionally it was a minefield because it touched on the question of the war coalition between the evil imperialist West and the glorious Soviet Union. Mixed signals. Should one mourn because Dresden got destroyed by the evil Anglo-Saxons, cheer because it was just punishment for fascism or be silent because there was the assumption that it happened to support the Red Army?
In the West there were mainly two reasons not to talk too much about the bombing campaigns:
1) the bombers were now allies
2) It was seen as 'reaping the whirlwind for sowing the wind', in other words 'we 'Coventried'* them and they Dresdened/Hamburged us in (more or less just) retaliation.
Those sentiments are still strong today.
A new factor after the reuni(ficati)on is that 'Dresden' became a war cry of the neonazi movement (Irving played a role there of course) and part of its campaign to push German victimhood. So, to mourn Dresden was seen as potentially playing into the hand of neonazis and was/is thus a risky business. Don't forget: we love to wallow in our guilt and get angry when anybody tries to take even some part of it away**.

*the term got coined by Göring, the head of the German airforce. He threatened to 'coventry' all British cities until Britain would sue for peace.
**just recently the historian Christopher Clark noted that Germany is the only country where he really gets attacked for being too German-friendly, esp. now for 'The Sleepwalkers' (his books on Prussia and Wilhelm II, otherwise praised, drew some criticism on that front too).

Well, I believe that Japanese industrial production was not on a Western model, so rather than central factories, there were distributed workshops for most war material, often within urban districts and when the war was going badly, rather than try and build new factories, work was often distributed to these workshops.

Yes, that's the conventional wisdom. As a kid in the 1950s watching CBS's vintage "Air Power" series, I can still hear Walter Cronkite at his authoritative best airing this justification while the teevee showed small workshops in bamboo buildings. Actually, it's not too different from Bomber Harris's justification of city area bombing that "de-housing" the urban industrial work force would disrupt German war production.

As a child I was a lot more credulous about it, and besides I grew up in an Air Force family! As an old man today who's studied the bombing campaigns most of my life as an historical hobby (and even written a couple of books about the 8th AF) I'm a lot more circumspect about the subject. I do like aviation historian Donald Miller's explanation that "Wars fly out of control. We think we can control them at the outset, but * * * "

I'm not criticizing anybody who's posted on this subject but to me there is precious little to be gained from ex post facto discussion about the "morality" of what the Allies did in WWII in the bombing campaigns. My one exception is to say that Harris should have been sacked when Bomber Command developed far better methods of precision bombing at night, and he persisted in wanton area bombing at the expense of more effective means of attack that would kill fewer civilians.

The theoreticians of air war before WW2 were even more inhumane than what actually happened. The likes of Douhet were in favor of air war against civilians and culture only with poison gas the preferred agent for the former. And I believe the main reason not to use bio and chemical weapons was the fear that the other side would retaliate with stuff worse than what the own side had in stock. As a result (at least in Europe) it was 'just' traditional explosives and incendiaries. Morality played little role there. But all sides were prepared to escalate, if the other side had started using the nasty stuff.

I think the destruction of Korean cities by the US has a much better claim to be the forgotten air war than anything done by the Allies in WWII. Many years ago, after reading Bruce Cumings, I went to local libraries and went through the indices of books on the Korean War--the ones written by Americans typically (though not always) stressed the purely military conflict, and as far as atrocities were concerned they'd mention the massacres committed by the communists and the brainwashing of American POW's. The British authors would speak in a straightforward way of the aerial campaign that utterly demolished Korean cities and killed anywhere from hundreds of thousands to perhaps millions of civilians. Bruce Cumings, of course, being a lefty, is the exception (though he's apt to be a bit too understanding of the communist side for my taste).

There was documentary by Thames Television on the Korean War made back in the late 80's. Cumings wrote a book on this-_I read it a long time ago. There was a section on the bombing--according to youtube, this part was not shown on American TV.

link

There's footage from North Korean propaganda sources here, but the pictures of demolished towns speak for themselves.

But I think things are changing--in the past ten years or so it's not unusual to see mainstream sources speaking about the atrocities committed by our South Korean allies (which were on a horrendous scale) and our bombing campaign. But I don't know if the average person thinks of Korea when speaking of bombing campaigns that destroyed entire cities and slaughtered at least hundreds of thousands.

Yes, that's the conventional wisdom.

I'm hoping you can expand on this a bit. Do you mean you don't think it was true that Japanese industry was distributed rather than concentrated? Or that even though this was true, the real reason for the campaign was because of the fact that it was carried out against the Japanese?

My own personal view is that it is really impossible to disentangle the threads of logical thinking and racism, so I don't think a discussion of racism as a motivator of strategy helps us understand much. One of the interesting things in the link I gave up above to the article in the Journal of Historical Geography is seeing the basic planning that went into the incendiary attacks. It also notes that Billy Mitchell observed in 1928 that Japan was especially vulnerable to air power because of the Japanese construction. I don't think this absolves anyone, but it makes it a lot more complicated.

Also, the scribd account that the journal is from has 464 documents related to the Air War on Japan, so you may want to check all that out if that is a topic of interest.

There was also this, that I first saw via LGM, which is gun camera footage from WWII. It seems to be arranged chronologically, so the first scenes are air to air combat and then, as the Japanese no longer defended against air sorties, you see all kinds of ground targets. When I watched that film, I thought it was likely that some of the places being strafed were places that I later visited.

Hartmut, since I've been annoying people no end lately, let me just tell you how much I appreciate your perspective from Germany. To be my age(ish) and to be German: your experience is a huge fascination for me.

to me there is precious little to be gained from ex post facto discussion about the "morality" of what the Allies did in WWII in the bombing campaigns.

I agree. It's no trivial matter that the allies thought they might lose WWII. They felt that they needed to win until they actually did. These days, whatever war we happen to be in, we do a cost/benefit analysis and "pull out" if the costs are too high. I can't really imagine that as an option in WWII.

A cost/benefit analysis makes sense if you feel like you have an option. If you are in an existential war, a war for survival, the option to stop doesn't exist.

That is, the benefit of survival is worth whatever price it takes. And that was the way World War II was seen: as a war for survival.

But we (the United States) haven't really had a hot war like that since. The Cold War was arguably such a war, so while we didn't fight pitch battles (directly), we were willing to pay whatever it took for that as well.

Not to excuse LeMay for his area bombing strategy against Japan, but there was still hope that "bringing the war home" to Japan might eliminate the need for an invasion of the home islands. This was a pointed argument, particularly so since the horrors of an invasion of Kyushu and Honshu would have eclipsed Iwo Jima, which was going on at the same time as the Tokyo firebombing.

These events should be memorialized to remind us that war is not an easy solution to our problems but a Moloch ready to destroy everything. We human beings are too ready to believe our leaders when they say that this war will be quick and easy...we'll be in Moscow in six months, or we'll be in Baghdad in six weeks, or we'll hit the Americans so hard that they just collapse and withdraw. In fact, when weapons are used, the other guys' response is resistance and revenge. We, ordinary citizens, need to absorb the suffering of people who were parboiled in the Sumida river when trying to escape the Tokyo firestorm in order to disarm the Sen. McCains on our side that seem to think that bombing somebody is the solution for all international disputes.

Nanking didn't justify firebombing Tokyo, and the two are different in kind. A strategic bombing--if you can call WWII levels of bombing sophistication "strategic"--campaign has a different intent and application than person-to-person violence at the point of a bayonet. On the limited moral scale applicable to such things, strategic bombing is less awful than personally focused violence on civilians.

Whether you agree with that or not, there was not a handy oracle laying around in the 1943-45 time frame to guide Allied strategy on the mores of progressive thought 70 years and in a very much safer world away. The poor, ignorant yokels of yesteryear had to get by on their own limited perspectives.

My dad died 6 years ago. But before he taught high school and before he went to law school (he was two years behind me at U of Houston), he was a career naval officer, Annapolis, Class of '44. His class got out a year early to fight. He went to sea on a destroyer. After Normandy (being on a destroyer at Utah Beach meant pretty much being in the giving and not receiving end of things), his ship went to the Pacific. In early 1945, his destroyer was hit by a kamikaze while patrolling in some obscure part of the Philippine Islands. He was wounded--at age 21--and many others including his ship's captain were killed. A very short time later, his ship was at Okinawa, and thereafter they were training for the invasion of the Japanese mainland. Destroyers *screen* fleets, meaning they are the outermost layer of ships surrounding the capital ships--battleships and aircraft carriers. Destroyers absorbed a disproportionate amount of Japanese air borne attention, perhaps because that late in the war, the quality of the Japanese pilot corp was severely depleted and the much less experience pilot corp couldn't distinguish between destroyers (small, low value targets) and capital ships. Okinawa was particularly hard on destroyers, given the heavy use of kamikaze attacks, although Dad's ship only had near misses.

Anyway, he told me that the intelligence forecasts for the invasion were 4,000,000 Japanese casualties and 1,000,000 Allied casualties. Keeping in mind that computers had not yet been invented and that no one really had a clue what invading the mainland would entail, it is enough for me that the subjective belief at the time was that 5,000,000 lives would be lost achieving the war goal of *unconditional surrender.* This ratio, as it was explained to naval officers at the time, was based on past experience in which the ratio of dead Japanese to Allies was roughly 4:1. Again, we can only imagine the crudeness of the body counting, but that's the way things were back then.

Strategic bombing along with sinking every Japanese ship that might be bringing food to the mainland, or fuel, or what have you, and essentially starving the civilian population were a part of war, back then--not dissimilar to laying siege to a city even farther back in time.

Regarding the end of WWII, the historical record is clear. No one knew either atomic bomb was going to work and very few even knew about them. The US and its allies were gearing up for an invasion and follow on campaign that was going to dwarf Normandy. Unlike the Germans, the Japanese did not have 12,000,000 Soviet troops bearing in from the east.

But for the game-changer of two atomic explosions, the conventional end to WWII was going to be awful No one can say how awful, only that *awful* is what was in the cards. Dad and millions of others on the US side never regretted the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Very few who had actual skin in the game did.

Seventy years later and in a world in which the US faces no external, existential threat, we have the luxury of second-guessing. We do that a lot.

It is amazing the number of people who, with no experience (and apparently no historical knowledge) second guess the use of the atomic bombs. Certainly the belief among those alive at the time (my father included) was that their direct military effect was trivial compared to their effect in giving the Emperor leverage to force the Japanese General Staff to surrender.**

That was why the bomb on Nagasaki was important. One bomb is very impressive, but could be a one-off. But get hit with a second one, and you have to think there may be more in the pipeline.

** From what I've read, one of the things which haunted Hirohito after the war was the thought that perhaps he could have ordered the surrender earlier. And spared both sides a whole lot of deaths. But at the time, he apparently didn't think he could do so and get obeyed.

It might be cynical reasoning post festum but I think that the use of these two atomic bombs on a civilian population probably saved mankind from nuclear war. I have a very low opinion of some of those that made the decision* (independent of my views whether the decision was reasonable/justifiable/justified/just) but there can be no doubt that the results were so shocking and concrete (as opposed to the rather 'abstract' Trinity test, that later decision makers could not avoid to take it into consideration (and those that would not did not get control of the red button). That imo played a large role in the Muffleys holding their ground under the pressure from the Turgidsons.

*Oppenheimer himself later regretted what he said right after the news came in of the successful bombing, so he is partially excused, but there were some that actually feared that Japan could surrender before one could 'test' the bomb on them because otherwise there would be little chance to do it in the forseeable future. It was the once-in-a-lifetime chance for a test on human guinea pigs on that scale.

but there were some that actually feared that Japan could surrender before one could 'test' the bomb on them because otherwise there would be little chance to do it in the forseeable future. It was the once-in-a-lifetime chance for a test on human guinea pigs on that scale.

Somewhere along the line, I must have missed these particularly vile individuals. Who were they and what is the proof they made these statements?

Usually, victories are much easier to remember than atrocities. For example, the Vietnamese are heavy on celebrating the memory of their successful anti-aircraft units. If you visit the museum of the American War in Hanoi, there's much more about AA than on the consequences of bombing to the civilians.

Similarly, almost every Finnish city has a memorial for the anti-aircraft units that protected the city during the WWII. This is mostly due to a few facts:
* The air defence of Helsinki was surprisingly successful in countering the three strategic-scale bomber offensives that the Soviet Union sent there in 1944. The city was not destroyed, so it could be seen as an actual victory. Helsinki has 15 AA troop memorials.
* The AA guns used in air defence during WWII were retired from service in 1980's, making such memorials cheap to build in 1990s, when the political climate became amenable.
* The gun emplacements were outside the cities, typically on hill tops, which later became suburban parks. As they often lack art, such could be cheaply provided by raising an AA gun on its WWII-era concrete pedestal.

"Whether you agree with that or not, there was not a handy oracle laying around in the 1943-45 time frame to guide Allied strategy on the mores of progressive thought 70 years and in a very much safer world away. The poor, ignorant yokels of yesteryear had to get by on their own limited perspectives."

That's not really true. In the 30's in the context of the Spanish Civil War it was agreed that bombing civilians was a terrible horrible thing to do. If you read Shaw's play "Heartbreak House", which takes place in WWI, people were discussing the morality of the tiny air raids on civilians that the Germans conducted then--there were also occasions when German warships bombarded English coastal towns and killed civilians. People have the morality they think they can afford, so when Westerners thought it would save Allied lives to do the same things to German and Japanese (and Korean) civilians, their views changed. Also, of course, any defense of the bombing of civilians when conducted by Westerners completely undercuts the moralizing that Westerners are fond of doing when discussing acts of terrorism. If your homeland is under occupation, you've already suffered military defeat and loss of freedom. Faced with a serious possibility of that happening, then I think Americans would do anything. We did everything short of using nuclear weapons in Korea, which, I have noticed, is not part of the US.

That said, I don't particularly feel the urge to moralize about the civilian bombing of WWII--in Korea it seems indefensible. And I always think of the denunciations of Palestinian terrorism whenever someone defends Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Tokyo.

One other point--there were people during WWII who criticized the bombing of civilians, but they were (obviously) ignored. And some military men were critical of the atom bombings, though it's been awhile since I read Guy Alperowitz and the other historians and don't recall who. Admiral Leahy, perhaps, might have been one, but I'm not sure.

A link to Elisabeth Anscombe, a rather prominent mid-20th century philosopher with access to time travel, which enabled her to adopt the views of early 21st century progressives on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Anscombe was a devout Catholic, I gather (famous to C.S. Lewis fans because she wiped the floor with him in a philosophical debate once).

link

Oh, the link to Flood (where I found the Anscombe paper) is there because it popped up near the top of a google search--I'm not familiar with this anarcho-capitalist.

People have the morality they think they can afford, so when Westerners thought it would save Allied lives to do the same things to German and Japanese (and Korean) civilians, their views changed.

True, there were people who said, rightly, that bombing civilians was wrong. The part they left off, was advising "how do you win a world wide existential war?" without killing civilians.

As for Germans, Japanese and Koreans, weren't these civilians believed to be living in close proximity to legitimate military targets, or are you contending that it was US/Allied strategy to simply bomb civilians wherever they might be? And, if I'm not mistaken, in all three instances, their governments started the fight. One might assume that, but for picking and losing a war, the number of civilian casualties suffered by all three countries would be zero.

Also, of course, any defense of the bombing of civilians when conducted by Westerners completely undercuts the moralizing that Westerners are fond of doing when discussing acts of terrorism.

To a point, yes. There is a distinction between, e.g. bombing Hanoi Harbor where war materials are present with foreseeable attendant civilian casualties and bombing Hanoi suburbs because that is where people are most vulnerable. Similarly, there is a distinction between bombing Hanoi Harbor during a time of open hostilities and flying commercial airliners into office buildings for no apparent reason.

Conflating unintended collateral damage with intentional targeting of civilian targets such as office buildings and shopping malls is a common error in some quarters. Which is a different topic from whether our gov't makes sufficient efforts to mitigate collateral damage.

McKinneyTexas, Secretary of State Stettinius has, according to a protege of his said: "If Japan bows out, we will not have a live population on which to test the bomb."
Afaict, this is a single-sourced quote though.
I had not heard of either of these guys but this is the first hit google gave me.
It has been many years since I read Alperovitz' study on the topic and I could likely find which of the military guys* voiced similar sentiments in there**. His work is also hotly debated*** but to my knowledge no one has reasonably accused him of lying.
Oppenheimer said (on the day the first bomb dropped) that he would have preferred to use the bomb on Germany which had regrettably become impossible due to German surrender (he later apologized for that iirc), which is a related but different cynicism. There seem to be several independent witnesses for that statement.

*and I am pretty sure that what I had in mind came from one of them
**if you give me a month or so. That book is rather thick.
***for his conclusion that the decision was heavily influenced by geopoplitical considerations, i.e. to preempt and impress Stalin

The British did a lot of reverse reasoning on the topic of bombing civilians. I think it is not too far from the truth to say that they found it impossible to hit only 'legitimate' targets* while not reviving the Royal Suicide Corps and then went looking for a justification why they hit mostly civilians. More than a bit of "We have either to admit that we fail miserably or we claim that we planned it that way in the first place. Now we just need a legal reason for it. Any ideas?". Then they stuck with it.
On the German side it was mainly lack of patience and some British provocations that caused the switch from attacks on airplane factories and airfields to cities. I have read British estimates that the RAF would have lost the Battle of Britain if Göring had not made that switch and proceeded with the previous strategy for just a few more weeks. In a sense the Blitz saved Britain.

*early in the war only 50% of bombs fell within 5 miles(!) of the intended targets

"As for Germans, Japanese and Koreans, weren't these civilians believed to be living in close proximity to legitimate military targets, or are you contending that it was US/Allied strategy to simply bomb civilians wherever they might be? "

I've never heard anyone claim that the Tokyo firebomb raid was meant to destroy legitimate military targets, except in the sense that if you kill enough factory workers, destroy enough homes and demoralize the enemy, it might shorten the war. Freeman Dyson worked for Bomber Command in WWII and in "Disturbing the Universe" he says that after Hamburg, the Brits tried to do it again--that is, start a massive firestorm, but it turns out to be difficult. They didn't succeed again until Dresden. You start firestorms in cities or try to do it if you want to kill people on a massive scale. At Tokyo the US used an early form of napalm--do you really think that they dropped napalm in massive quantities on a huge flammable city and didn't intend it to kill civilians in gigantic numbers? The same is true in Korea--virtually every town in North Korea was leveled.

In North Vietnam, there was more care taken in Hanoi not to destroy the city,which is where the diplomats lived, but Western reporters who managed to travel in the southern part of North Vietnam said it was a moonscape--every town leveled. People lived underground. My source is Michael MacClear's "The Ten Thousand Day War", which is a mostly non-judgmental account of the war, not a leftwing Chomsky-style condemnation.

As for deliberate killing vs. collateral damage, the distinction is real, but in WWII, Korea, and to a lesser degree in Vietnam, civilians were targeted Since then I think the West has gotten a bit sneakier--targeting civilian infrastructure and then imposing sanctions so it can't be repaired, as was done in Gulf War I. Death toll goes up, the government is pressured (not that it had any effect on Saddam) and there is plausible deniability. It's gone out of fashion to admit one is deliberately trying to kill civilians, so I think the collateral damage excuse is deployed. This is moral progress, but it can be exaggerated. Not that the term "collateral damage" is always an excuse, but when, for instance, Israel uses white phosphorus in urban areas or dumps cluster munitions all over southern Lebanon in the closing days of the 2006 war, that's state terror.

Examples where it isn't an excuse--I think it's clear that in the Iraq War and in Afghanistan the US didn't use the level of indiscriminate firepower that it used in Korea and Vietnam. If the US had, then the death toll in Afghanistan under the US would have been what it was under the Russians (or what it was in Vietnam). Clearly we didn't carpetbomb towns in Afghanistan. (Fallujah in Iraq was partly leveled, but Fallujah probably got hit the hardest. I never have figured out what to believe about the death toll in Iraq.)

On the terrorism front, the tactic is always wrong, but I wouldn't lump the Palestinians in with Al Qaeda. The Palestinians kill civilians for much the same reason Westerners do--they perceive it as a legitimate tactic to win their freedom--if you think Americans wouldn't target enemy civilians if there was a chance it would keep us from being conquered then we have rather different views of what Americans are like.

A link to Elisabeth Anscombe, a rather prominent mid-20th century philosopher with access to time travel, which enabled her to adopt the views of early 21st century progressives on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Kind of misses the point: Ms. Anscombe wrote in 1956, 11 years after WWII was safely over. Even then, in the fairly immediate aftermath of WWII, Ms. Anscombe's views were well and truly on the fringe. Today, progressives seem to instinctively *know* that using the atomic bomb was both unnecessary and wrong at the time and seem have no problem imposing that view retroactively on those who would have had to pay the price for such discernment.

In fact, Ms. Anscombe may be one of the original perpetrator's of the myth that the Japanese were on the verge of surrendering. Per Ms. Anscombe, the source of this news was Stalin, who reported that the Japanese wanted him to mediate a surrender, so perhaps we have a gullibility issue as well. She barely blinks at the internal inconsistency of claiming, as stated, that surrender was imminent, with the then Japanese gov't rejecting the Potsdam Declaration, which preceded Hiroshima.

Ms. Anscombe notes in passing that the invasion of Japan would be hugely expensive in cost of lives, but fails to square that sad fact with the much smaller number of lives that were lost and which led directly to the end of the war.

She is not a pacifist. She is worse, actually: she is the kind of busy body who, after the shooting is over and it is safe, comes out with rules of warfare that would making winning more costly and take longer, if, under her rules, the war could be won at all.

She posits, if I am reading her correctly (I did not scrutinize every thought), that any civilian death, regardless of how unintended, is murder and that the number of deaths is simply a matter of degree and that, implicitly, only war that kills enemy combatants is morally permissible.

This useful piece of nonsense ranks right there with unilateral disarmament, and pacifism, as the least likely ideas ever to deter war.

The problem with her thinking, if it takes hold, is that it would only take hold in a country completely disinclined to go to war in the first place. So, you have a passive, peace-loving country who, in advance, limits its willingness to defend itself. Imagine that as a strategy against Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany.

And, if I'm not mistaken, in all three instances, their governments started the fight. One might assume that, but for picking and losing a war, the number of civilian casualties suffered by all three countries would be zero.

And if I'm not mistaken*, quod jus ad bellum, jus in bello non est.

*Given my grasp of Latin, I'm pretty sure this rhetorical flourish unfortunately isn't all that rhetorical on a grammatical level.

early in the war only 50% of bombs fell within 5 miles(!) of the intended targets.

Hartmut, the Norden bombsight was something that the Americans had, but the British (and Germans) lacked. With it, targetted bombing was at least roughly possible -- the probably error was just over 1,000 feet (in combat conditions). Without it, accuracy was so low, as you note, that only saturation bombing had any reliable effect.

She is not a pacifist. She is worse, actually: she is the kind of busy body who, after the shooting is over and it is safe, comes out with rules of warfare that would making winning more costly and take longer, if, under her rules, the war could be won at all.

She posits [...] that any civilian death, regardless of how unintended, is murder and that the number of deaths is simply a matter of degree and that, implicitly, only war that kills enemy combatants is morally permissible.

This useful piece of nonsense ranks right there with unilateral disarmament, and pacifism, as the least likely ideas ever to deter war.

So McK, you're suggesting that it's foolish and amoral to regard warfare tactics which result in civilian casualties, intended or otherwise, as immoral when avoiding them would make victory difficult or impossible?

I've never heard anyone claim that the Tokyo firebomb raid was meant to destroy legitimate military targets, except in the sense that if you kill enough factory workers, destroy enough homes and demoralize the enemy, it might shorten the war

Which is entirely different from someone finding a historical document that authoritatively states, in effect, "the Allied policy of area bombing is to attrit the civilian population to the point where, as a country, it ceases to exist." In other words, genocide. Because if the plan were really genocide, civilian attrition on a mass scale, I'm pretty sure of two things (just for starters). First, that would have been written down somewhere. Second, the bombing campaigns would have flown over much less defended targets routinely.

do you really think that they dropped napalm in massive quantities on a huge flammable city and didn't intend it to kill civilians in gigantic numbers? The same is true in Korea--virtually every town in North Korea was leveled.

In addition to my points immediately above, the difference between 'expected' and 'intended' is germane. If rail yards, diffuse war-making light industry, harbor facilities and communications infrastructure are legitimate military targets residing in a civilian environment, there is indeed a moral dilemma: does one conclude a war by prolonging the enemy's means to resist when the enemy encapsulates its industrial capacity with civilians or does one take the enemy as one finds it and act accordingly. A lot of the answer has to do with who pick the fight, how that belligerent signaled it intended to fight the war and why that belligerent started the fight.

So, I might expect civilian casualties even if I would prefer and intend otherwise.

Examples where it isn't an excuse--I think it's clear that in the Iraq War and in Afghanistan the US didn't use the level of indiscriminate firepower that it used in Korea and Vietnam.

Or in Gulf War I, for that matter. Let me repeat my initial comment on this thread:

Nanking didn't justify firebombing Tokyo, and the two are different in kind. A strategic bombing--if you can call WWII levels of bombing sophistication "strategic"--campaign has a different intent and application than person-to-person violence at the point of a bayonet.

Gulf War I was the first war fought with satellite surveillance, high definition targeting and a host of other advantages that were light years in the future even in Viet Nam. As a proximate result of needing massive force multipliers to overcome the Warsaw Pact's numerical superiority across the board, we built smarter and ever smarter weapons with ever more increasing means of targeted delivery.

Those awesome advantages didn't exist in WWII or Korea. I think the main flaw in revisionist thinking is inferring policy or intent from outcome. Dresden, Tokyo and any number of other events--after the fact, at a time when the measure of destruction can be seen, and when the shooting has long since stopped--are almost impossible to explain. Quasi-pacifists infer that these outcomes could only be the result of conscious intent (if that were true, then we could all agree that Obama and the Democrats intended the ACA roll-out to be a travesty because, you know, outcome = intent). As I intimated earlier, if that were the case, someone in a position to set policy would have likely written that down and then that written policy would have been disseminated far and wide to ensure that it was carried out. We would have a name, if not several names and those would be names that we know from history, probably the names of presidents, for starters. No such evidence that that happened exists.

The simplest explanation is usually the best: bad shit often happens when people are confronted with overwhelming and unprecedented horror. War in 1930's was different from war in '40's and was different again in Korea. It was killing at great distances on a mass scale. No one knew, until they did it, what outcomes would be. Holding back was not on the agenda. Just the opposite. People were afraid and they wanted the war over. The tools of war were very crude by today's standards and the ability to discriminate among targets was reflected in the reality of how wars were fought.

So McK, you're suggesting that it's foolish and amoral to regard warfare tactics which result in civilian casualties, intended or otherwise, as immoral when avoiding them would make victory difficult or impossible?

I follow your question right up to 'as immoral when avoiding them would make victory difficult or impossible.' I can't connect the meaning of this part of the question with the predicate, sorry.

But, what I am saying are these: (1) civilian casualties, given our much more sophisticated modern capabilities, should be avoided as much as is reasonably possible; (2) hard and fast, black and white rules of virtual purity in war-fighting tactics are morally and practically wrong even today and much more so in the context of WWII and Korea and (3) the moral scales tilt less harshly on the party attacked than they do on the party starting the fight. I guess a 4th and a 5th statement would be that people who are never going to have to live with the consequences of rules they would impose on others have the least standing to speak with authority and, yes, sometimes, killing a disproportionate number of civilians to achieve a military end can be justified morally depending on the end and depending on the means.

I believe there is something to be said that a big factor in the decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima was a demonstration to Russia and we had to drop the second to show Russia we had more than one.
Russia was on the way in full force to give us a hand to pound on Japan.
Not sure how to measure the cost/benefit of scaring Russia with nuclear confrontation.
What seems amazing to me is that when Japan surrendered it was a complete surrender with no die-hard insurgence during the occupation.

In addition to my points immediately above, the difference between 'expected' and 'intended' is germane.

[...]

So, I might expect civilian casualties even if I would prefer and intend otherwise.

The legitimacy of the doctrine of double effect is hardly a settled matter in ethics. And with good cause. Especially when you leave out two of the strongest supporting cavaets in its favor: requirements for military necessity and proportionality. If you're relying on military expediency and jus ad bellum to take the place of those notions, double effect becomes a despicable fig leaf with nothing to recommend it.

Or in Gulf War I, for that matter.

And yet, despite this, you had Iraq's civilian infrastructure bombed back from a respectable second-world-ish level to that of a broken third-world state. You have the DoD publically trotting out arguments of dual use to justify smashing water and electrical facilities (or worse), while anonymous DoD sources and civilian officials (well, not always anonymous, TYVM Ms. Albright) coyly crowing about how this will "accelerate the effects of the sanctions" on the civilian populace and suchlike.

All that precision doesn't make things a bit better if you use it to inflict indirect, plausibly-deniable civilian casualties.

"Which is entirely different from someone finding a historical document that authoritatively states, in effect, "the Allied policy of area bombing is to attrit the civilian population to the point where, as a country, it ceases to exist." In other words, genocide. Because if the plan were really genocide, civilian attrition on a mass scale,"

This is just confused. I never said that the object of the bombing campaigns was to wipe out the entire country--the object was to kill enough people and do enough damage to the civilian infrastructure that morale would collapse. This isn't exactly news. LeMay used incendiaries on Tokyo because he wanted to burn as much of the city as possible. He wasn't horrified by the results--he got the results he wanted.

"A lot of the answer has to do with who pick the fight, how that belligerent signaled it intended to fight the war and why that belligerent started the fight.

So, I might expect civilian casualties even if I would prefer and intend otherwise."

You're having it both ways is what you're doing. It's one thing to try precision bombing and avoid civilian casualties if possible. Paul Fussell talks somewhere about how when the Allies invaded France there were thousands of French civilians killed. Obviously that wasn't intended. But LeMay loads hundreds of B-29's with incendiaries and dropped them on a city with the intent of burning it to the ground. I don't feel any particular need to moralize about it 70 years later, but the pretense that there was no intent to kill civilians here is just fatuous. If you can persuade yourself that there wasn't I want you on my defense team next time I deliberately burn a city to the ground.

And who picked the fight is a separate question from who gets to target civilians. You can have the best cause in the world and you still don't have the right to target civilians--a moral stand most people find crystal clear when it comes to terrorism aimed at people like us, but one which quickly becomes murky when we or someone like us wants to do it.

"It was killing at great distances on a mass scale. No one knew, until they did it, what outcomes would be"

This is simply false. People were speculating about the terrible consequences of the new means of warfare from fairly early on in the 20th century. And when the war came, they were trying to burn cities down. Freeman Dyson, who I cited upthread, mentions how when he joined Bomber Command they were elated at the firestorm in Hamburg--it was a tremendous success and they hoped to duplicate it again, but it turns out to be difficult to start firestorms. Here's a link to where he talks about this-

link

And historical evidence aside , there's a certain common sense element here. LeMay dropped thousands of tons of incendiaries on a highly flammable city -- it doesn't exactly require a genius to see that the intent was to kill on a massive scale. You're the first person I've ever read who tried to deny this. I think there's some need here to deny that Westerners could ever sink as low as to do something like that. To me it's just business as usual--people do what they think they have to, and rationalize it as necessary.

"I guess a 4th and a 5th statement would be that people who are never going to have to live with the consequences of rules they would impose on others have the least standing to speak with authority and, yes, sometimes, killing a disproportionate number of civilians to achieve a military end can be justified morally depending on the end and depending on the means."

If applied consistently, this has much wider applicability than I think you want it to. You probably mean the wriggle room there at the end to enable you to justify Western killing of civilians, but I think others can and will apply it in ways you don't like.

What's ironic to me about this, btw, is that I just had my latest bout of impatience with people at another blog over the issue of bombing and shelling cities because there are terrorists there. I think it's wrong, and some of them don't. One or two thinks that to fight terrorists you have to do what is necessary. And no, I'm not talking about Israel and Gaza, but Assad and the Palestinian refugee camp at Yarmouk.

(1) civilian casualties, given our much more sophisticated modern capabilities, should be avoided as much as is reasonably possible;

Agreed.

(2) hard and fast, black and white rules of virtual purity in war-fighting tactics are morally and practically wrong even today and much more so in the context of WWII and Korea

I'm normally relatively circumspect with my tone, but... I'm sorry, McK. This is absolute bulls#|t. Hard and fast black and white laws of war and rules of engagement - particularly in terms of targeting civilians - are absolutely practical and moral today. And I'm not saying this as someone who never put skin in the game, or faced potential consequences for said rules. I'm saying this as someone who deployed to Afghanistan as Army JAG Corps personnel assigned to an Infantry unit. You are completely and utterly full of s#|t, and suffering from the precise sense of misleading abstraction you're decrying in those who disagree with you.

You set hard and fast rules. You strive to see them followed. You know they won't always be followed, and in situations of true military necessity they'll go out the damned window. But you still impose them and enforce them with zeal no matter how much risk-adverse force-protection advocates want to throw them in the trash. You limit the frequency and impact of violations as much as you can, and you make sure violations don't become systematic and doctrinal. And wonder of wonders, you still accomplish the mission.

You know why we haven't seen the same levels of indiscriminate "collateral damage" in OIF and OEF as we did in earlier conflicts? Because of those damned hard-and-fast, black-and-white rules you're decrying so loudly.

(3) the moral scales tilt less harshly on the party attacked than they do on the party starting the fight.

Again, your implication that jus ad bellum relieves a party of jus in bello obligations is, to attempt to come back to a more typical and cooler tone, troubling.

someone in a position to set policy would have likely written that down and then that written policy would have been disseminated far and wide to ensure that it was carried out.

McK, I think you are overlooking a phenomena, exemplified by conspiracy theorists (in my experience) but not limited to them. The view seems to be that, while the government is inept (not to mention evil, in most versions) at everything else, it is positively brilliant at keeping secret its various nasty conspiracies. Not that it can keep most other stuff secret successfully, mind. But secret conspiracies are its one true skill.

Once you buy into the view, it is entirely possible to believe that anything bad that happens was intended. Whether it is massive loss of life in Tokyo or the botched rollout of Obamacare -- if you think it was bad, someone must have deliberately caused it to be bad. Because, you know, without evil intentions (and secret conspiracies to implement them), the world would be just about perfect all the time and everywhere.

Oh, yes. And anyone who doubts this is a fool, deluded successful by the various secret conspiracies.

I believe there is something to be said that a big factor in the decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima was a demonstration to Russia and we had to drop the second to show Russia we had more than one.

This is also historical revisionism and minimally supported, mostly through inference, in the historical record.


Especially when you leave out two of the strongest supporting cavaets in its favor: requirements for military necessity and proportionality. If you're relying on military expediency and jus ad bellum to take the place of those notions, double effect becomes a despicable fig leaf with nothing to recommend it.

I'm not sure where it is taken as received wisdom that 'military necessity' and 'proportionality' are the strongest guiding decision drivers in the morality of war-fighting. They strike me as subjective pretexts to second guess the people whose asses were on the line, after the fact and for political reasons. But don't let that keep you from taking the high moral ground from any who dare disagree with you. Or from imputing to others your own unkind take on their thought processes.

And yet, despite this, you had Iraq's civilian infrastructure bombed back from a respectable second-world-ish level to that of a broken third-world state.

Sure, and the real reason was, you know, a lust for killing innocent civilians. Good sleuthing. Gulf War I began with bombing Baghdad and that certainly caused considerable civilian casualties. However, Baghdad was also a command and control center, a communications center and a logistics center. Shitty things happen to civilians when their leaders (1) start a fight and (2) locate legitimate military targets in civilian population centers. It's a huge tragedy, but it is foolishly unwise to increase one's own casualties and to prolong a conflict to allow Anscombe's rule to drive tactics and strategy.

All that precision doesn't make things a bit better if you use it to inflict indirect, plausibly-deniable civilian casualties.

Again, equating outcome with intent, and here, a specifically base intent when alternative theses are available and at least as likely.

Also, what Donald Johnson said. Your points 4 & 5 point right back to the point of view that lead to my (confusing?) blanket attempt to sum up the consequences of what you've been saying:

you're suggesting that [it's foolish and amoral to [regard [warfare tactics which result in civilian casualties, intended or otherwise,](1) as immoral] when avoiding them(1) would make victory difficult or impossible]

[Explicit scope/anaphoric resolution added.]

I'd agree with DJ that your statements pretty much are going to take you to places you don't wanna go unless we assume some fairly specific enthymemes.

I'm not sure where it is taken as received wisdom that 'military necessity' and 'proportionality' are the strongest guiding decision drivers in the morality of war-fighting. They strike me as subjective pretexts to second guess the people whose asses were on the line, after the fact and for political reasons. But don't let that keep you from taking the high moral ground from any who dare disagree with you. Or from imputing to others your own unkind take on their thought processes.

Traditional just war theory is pretty damned clear those are overriding principles, but in particular when attempting to generate subjective post hoc justifications grounded in double effect, they're pretty well regarded as being critical. They also come up an awful damned lot in modern law of war, if you'd trouble yourself to consider it. I dunno. It might be relevant here. What do you think?

What actually tends to be debated is what precisely comprises proportionality and necessity. But your implication that these are notions that I've arbitrarily decided are important is not exactly credible, and it would behoove you to provide some basis for your assertion that they're irrelevant, given their widespread use as primary factors for considering the lawfulness/morality of acts of war in both LoW and ethics.

I never said that the object of the bombing campaigns was to wipe out the entire country--the object was to kill enough people and do enough damage to the civilian infrastructure that morale would collapse. This isn't exactly news.

And where is that a stated policy of the air war? I've done my share of reading on this topic, and I've never come across anything like that. Whether the city was Hamburg or Tokyo, there were militarily valuable targets, which is not the same as targeting civilians and their infrastructure. The issue with Dresden, IIRC, is that there were no militarily significant targets. I do not deny that civilians, hundreds of thousands, were killed incidental to saturation bombing attacks. Are you saying it was established Allied policy to bomb civilians without regard to militarily legitimate targets for the purpose of breaking civilian morale? I'll need a cite to an original document, not an historians inferences.

You probably mean the wriggle room there at the end to enable you to justify Western killing of civilians, but I think others can and will apply it in ways you don't like.

Actually, I intend it as a one-size-fits-all rule and I would expect to be held to it. There is a huge element of subjectivity in all of this, and I as much as most people am fully aware that pretty much any principle can be argued in pretty much anyway someone chooses.

I'm normally relatively circumspect with my tone, but... I'm sorry, McK. This is absolute bulls#|t. Hard and fast black and white laws of war and rules of engagement - particularly in terms of targeting civilians - are absolutely practical and moral today. And I'm not saying this as someone who never put skin in the game, or faced potential consequences for said rules. I'm saying this as someone who deployed to Afghanistan as Army JAG Corps personnel assigned to an Infantry unit. You are completely and utterly full of s#|t, and suffering from the precise sense of misleading abstraction you're decrying in those who disagree with you.

Good for you for being in the JAG corp. You're a lawyer, so am I. You aren't the first to mount the moral high horse, nor the first to move the goal post or to change the context of the discussion. You are, I infer purposefully, but am willing to be corrected, misstating my position.

First, I think you are saying "we have hard and fast rules, but these can be overridden by military necessity". Which is another way of saying "we have hard and fast rules, sort of."

Second, I think you are referring to ground combat rules of engagement, not general war-fighting limitations of the specific kind I was criticizing. There is no military value in, for example, raping civilians. Or shooting them in back while they flee. Or burning their homes whether they are inside or not. Hard and fast rules, fine, I get that. That is how I would write the rules. But that isn't even remotely what was under discussion.

The issue is civilian collateral damage when legitimate military targets are being bombed, specifically under the limitations extant in WWII and Korea.

In that context, there is no military value in a hard and fast rule that says "no military operation can be justified if innocent civilians will be killed", which was Anscombe's point that I was addressing, if you have followed this thread with any degree of detail. And, such a rule is actually immoral, depending on context.

Anscombe created her logic to argue that Hiroshima and Nagasaki could never be justified because of the attendant civilian deaths. I think she was conveniently late in her moral grousing, wrong and dangerous in her thinking.

you're suggesting that [it's foolish and amoral to [regard [warfare tactics which result in civilian casualties, intended or otherwise,](1) as immoral] when avoiding them(1) would make victory difficult or impossible]

Let me try this: It is foolish and amoral to disavow tactics and strategies that assume but do not intend civilian casualties particularly when those tactics or strategies have the intent of shortening the duration and intensity of the fighting (which should be the intent anyway).

Traditional just war theory is pretty damned clear those are overriding principles, but in particular when attempting to generate subjective post hoc justifications grounded in double effect, they're pretty well regarded as being critical. They also come up an awful damned lot in modern law of war, if you'd trouble yourself to consider it. I dunno. It might be relevant here. What do you think?

Sure, in the context of after the fact judging whether somebody went to far in burning down a village.

If I was talking about rules of engagement at the company and platoon level, I'd agree with you. If we were talking about artillery taking out the wrong village, I agree someone needs to account for why the intelligence was so bad or why someone fired without adequate intelligence.

My whole thesis addresses foreswearing, prior to hostilities, certain classes of tactic and strategy--a completely different topic.

You're a lawyer, so am I.

In the interest of transparency, no. I served as a paralegal. So yes, I fall into the wretched and treacherous class of semi-SME. However, by all appearances, this does not in any way, shape, or form mean I have less familiarity with military law than you. It just means IANAL, whereas YAALWOYAOE (You Are A Lawyer Well Outside Your Area Of Expertise).

You are, I infer purposefully, but am willing to be corrected, misstating my position

Your position has been far less clearly and unambiguously stated than you appear to believe it has. You have tightened it up considerably since I wrote the above, though.

First, I think you are saying "we have hard and fast rules, but these can be overridden by military necessity". Which is another way of saying "we have hard and fast rules, sort of."

"We have hard-and-fast rules, but the people on the ground are not so disciplined that they'll never break them. When they do, there will be consequences, with possible mitigation based on circumstances."

I'd argue there's far too much mitigation, and far too weak consequences, but that's me.

Second, I think you are referring to ground combat rules of engagement, not general war-fighting limitations of the specific kind I was criticizing.

No. This applies to artillery/aerial bombardment and air strikes as well. I obviously have less familiarity with operational strictures/RoE in those areas, but they are broadly addressed in the laws of war, and in findings derived therefrom. Proportionality and military necessity are considerations.

In that context, there is no military value in a hard and fast rule that says "no military operation can be justified if innocent civilians will be killed", which was Anscombe's point that I was addressing, if you have followed this thread with any degree of detail.

Again, it's far from clear this was what's being discussed. This has looked an awful lot more like a discussion of whether targeting civilians is legitimate. Not whether civilian collateral damage illegitimatizes an attack, but whether attacks explicitly targeting civilians to advance strategic-level objectives is justifiable. We've not been discussing whether Pearl Harbor was bad because 50-80 civilians died; we've been discussing whether dropping bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki - or firebombing Tokyo - IOT pressure the signing of an unconditional surrender and forestall invasion were legitimate.

Sure, in the context of after the fact judging whether somebody went to far in burning down a village.

No. In well-before-the-fact crafting of laws of war addressing whether e.g. aerial/artillery bombardment is lawful. And in shortly-before-the-fact legal reviews determining if a particular operation is lawful. So yeah, no. Proportionality and military necessity are considered in such matters - before the fact - at a higher (strategic) level, before being considered again in greater detail at a lower (operational) level. I'd say that I'd be much happier were the meanings of those terms construed more tightly than they are, but they are used as deciding factors and not merely justifying ones.

Look. I get that you don't have any experience with the details of how legal matters work in modern war, but there are lawyers embedded all through the chain of command doing legal reviews of operations. You want to sit back and bloviate from your moral high horse about how unrealistic it is to consider civilian casualties when making strategic or operational war plans, fine. That's not how it actually works. These things are considered. Not necessarily as much as I'd like, but by the sounds of it discernibly more than you think is necessary, or possibly even appropriate.

My whole thesis addresses foreswearing, prior to hostilities, certain classes of tactic and strategy--a completely different topic.

It might be worth your while to look into international law of war - which you had best believe informs how the DoD operates, though again, I'd prefer they tightened their interpretations rather a lot - before making broad, blanket statements like this. Proportionality and necessity are cited in limiting how targets of bombardment can be selected. There are black-and-white rules about this. The devil is in how these concepts are interpreted, and how anyone can hold the winners of a war to account for those interpretations if they won't do it themselves.

"This is also historical revisionism and minimally supported"

I am merely a opinionated carpenter and make no pretense to be a historian but I am certain impressing Stalin was a consideration. No way to know how much of a factor it was in the decision to drop the bomb.

The ungodly awesomeness of it has been a factor in not using them since.

What I am curious to understand is the Japanese total pacification to every last man, and if some cultural sense of honor factors in?
Why no diehards?
From recent experience it seems improbable.

"I think she was conveniently late in her moral grousing ...."

Such is the plight of a philosopher (and historians) living in linear time.

I don't expect Truman rang Anscombe up before Hiroshima and Nagasaki to give her a shot at stopping the bombing beforehand.

She probably had to think about it awhile after hearing the news on the wireless and then collect her thoughts, as philosophers do.

Anscombe's ethics, if I understand correctly, were deeply informed by her Catholic faith.

In fact, the use of the word "progressive", he sniffed, here to include Anscombe and everyone else who questions/second guesses the degree of intent in wartime civilian casualties would probably cause Abscombe to forswear her ethics and begin a pogrom against those civilians who call her a "progressive", to wit (from Wikipedia):

"She scandalised liberal colleagues with articles defending the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to contraception in the 1960s and early 1970s. Later in life, she was arrested twice while protesting outside an abortion clinic in Britain, after abortion had been legalised (albeit with restrictions)."

War, it is said, is hell, and I can't get around believing that Truman and the military were correct that strategic use of the atomic bomb would and did avoid much greater human carnage by other means, and you may factor in that my Dad would probably have been involved somehow in an invasion of Japan after nearly four years in New Guinea (Army Corps of Engineers, so probably mop up and cleanup after the invasion).

Still, there is something about the tone of word "progressive" used here that reminds me of this conversation from "A Hard Days Night", in which Ringo has the relevant punchline for McTX, his derby stowed and casting his eyes about at what has became of the England he fought for:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0WP8zGCqNs

Also, regarding the bombing of Dresden, there may well have been intent to damage civilian populations. Strategic intent perhaps, but intent nonetheless:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Dresden_in_World_War_II

Relevant passage:

"On 31 January, Bottomley sent a message to Portal saying a heavy attack on Dresden and other cities "will cause great confusion in civilian evacuation from the east and hamper movement of reinforcements from other fronts".[22] British historian Frederick Taylor mentions a further memo sent to the Chiefs of Staff Committee by Sir Douglas Evill on 1 February, in which Evill states interfering with mass civilian movements was a major, even key, factor in the decision to bomb the city center. Attacks there, where main rail junctions, telephone systems, city administration, and utilities were located, would result in chaos. Britain had learned this after the Coventry Blitz, when loss of this crucial infrastructure had longer-lasting effects than attacks on war plants."

Naturally, as in a movie, it had to be "Sir Evill" who raised the subject. No doubt the "progressive" on the joint staff who pooh-poohed bombing Dresden was one Colonel Percy Killjoy.

We "progressives" do an awful lot of second guessing, it's true, but mostly in response to, say, the nearly universal sentiment among "conservative realists" that, for example, Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran and whomever else might be in the way in recent years should be "turned into glass", which I imagine would not have so good for civilians.

The intent of most of my fine conservative friends and even some moderate to liberal ones after 9/11 was to kill every f*cking towelhead that moved and I'm pretty sure I could pop over to a comment section at Redstate right this minute on any Middle Eastern subject and find the same sentiment.

I imagine the attitude and intent of our civilian population in 1945 was much the same toward the Japs, the Nips, the Slant-eyes, perhaps for good reason, but still intent, if they'd had their way.

The intent of some American soldiers and military policy in Vietnam, even against the South Vietnamese civilian population, our supposed allies, you know, the gooks, is well-documented.

I am just relieved and feel somewhat off the hook, as a Progressive, and after the fact, that we didn't give everyone smallpox on purpose.

McKT wrote:

"My whole thesis addresses foreswearing, prior to hostilities, certain classes of tactic and strategy--a completely different topic."

What of poison gas and germ warfare? Aren't we party to reams of treaties which forswear quite a few tactics and strategy?

By the way, I'm quite certain that were aliens from outer space to invade the United States and attempt to bring us a higher culture and civilization, a better way of life, a more pristine form of democracy, and better-tasting fast food and enlightenment by high-minded force that all of us here would fight dirty against the invasion, fashioning IEDs, crude nuclear devices, and homemade poisons, not to mention the AR-15s all of us own, to thwart the aggressor, regardless of their good intentions, because this is home sweet home.

No tactics would be forsworn, no international wartime conventions obeyed.

They'd be forced to retreat into orbit and death-ray us from space because we didn't say thank you instead.

So there is that.

and you may factor in that my Dad would probably have been involved somehow in an invasion of Japan after nearly four years in New Guinea (Army Corps of Engineers, so probably mop up and cleanup after the invasion).

Want to hear more about this, actually. The fact is that just as there is a generation gap among those (babyboomers) who were born 1946-1951, and those who were born 1952-1956, and thereafter, it really matters what the parents were doing as to what the kids think.

Parents who were in the thick of things had kids who know that the moral "issues" were live or die. I don't blame them a bit. What I take from that for the future is different, because they, the participants, created the UN. Something that was meant to prevent those horrible "issues" for the future.

Not only the UN, but the post-war Marshall Plan in Europe and the MacArthur occupation of Japan which sought to rebuild, despite their attendant drawbacks, rather than exact punitive economic tolls as was done to Germany by France, England and to some extent the United States following World War I, which led in part to the cult of victimization which Hitler exploited.

Yes, learning occurred.

You might call it progress. By Progressive thinkers. Realistic Progressive thinkers. Even Conservative Progressive Realistic thinkers, back before Frank Luntz and company shat on the language.

I imagine the attitude and intent of our civilian population in 1945 was much the same toward the Japs

apparently US servicepeople would occasionally send Japanese body parts home to family members as some kind of souvenir.

it seems to me that the bombings of hiroshima and nagasaki were horrifying acts of mass brutality against civilian populations, and were also the best available option, in the sense of least loss of life overall and quickest way to bring the war to an end.

it seems to me that that kind of brutal calculus is inherent to waging war. war is f****d up. war, and WWII specifically if I'm not mistaken, is where the expression FUBAR comes from in the first place.

it also seems to me that if you find yourself in a war, it's pretty important to win. that imperative often forces moral choices that are, in fact, abhorrent.

i wish that folks, rather than look back in judgement on decisions that other folks made in circumstances that we would be kind of hard pressed to imagine, would instead let the history and memory of what war actually is inform the choices they make now.

we haven't really fought anything like an existential war since WWII. maybe the cold war, which was more of a combination of chess game and russian roulette, but not a real shooting war.

i think that has allowed us to forget, or ignore, that all wars are existential to somebody.

Maybe this is a tangent or maybe most of this discussion is really a case of fundamental attribution error gone wild but the following by McKinneyTexas left me gobsmacked:

"Similarly, there is a distinction between bombing Hanoi Harbor during a time of open hostilities and flying commercial airliners into office buildings for no apparent reason."

Do you really think that those 19 men killed themselves, and a few thousand other people, on a lark, without a reason? Whether or not they finally resort to murder, I find people caught up in any kind of fundamentalist fervor hard to understand, but I think it's a mistake not to recognize that they tend to have clear reasons that to them are very powerful. Osama/Al Qaeda's whole shtick is that "The West", and the US in particular, is an existential threat to Islam. That's about as far from "no particular reason" as you can get as humans have historically judged things.

"My whole thesis addresses foreswearing, prior to hostilities, certain classes of tactic and strategy--a completely different topic."

Well so. The ends do justify (certain classes of) the means. Thanks for clearing that up.

"i think that has allowed us to forget, or ignore, that all wars are existential to somebody."

And it is very crucial for us to remember that.

"Whether it is massive loss of life in Tokyo or the botched rollout of Obamacare -- if you think it was bad, someone must have deliberately caused it to be bad."

That's one of the weirdest comparisons I've ever seen. I'm not sure what particular sort of crackpot thinks the botched rollout of Obamacare was a conspiracy--not sure who was supposed to benefit, but I guess if one thought long enough one could come up with something. But we're supposed to think that when people drop thousands of tons of incendiaries on Tokyo that killing 100,000 people was just some incidental side effect--collateral damage. The term has absolutely no meaning at all if we accept this sort of reasoning. It does let me know just how far some Westerners will go. I sometimes wonder why I hang out at some far left blogs, since some of the people there can be a little whacked, but then I see what good mainstream Americans think and it comes back.

As for generational thinking, which sapient brought up, my father and uncle were stationed in the Pacific and both were overjoyed by the bombing. I don't blame them in the slightest. I'd have felt the same I'm sure. And my father was never personally offended by the revisionist thesis. He avidly read books about WWII from both perspectives--I was first introduced to the whole topic when he let me read a Japanese account (translated, of course) on the Battle of Midway and then later John Toland's "The Rising Sun". Not everyone goes into these discussions with the thought that because my life experience was X, I must think Y. Of course, some do, which is why so many people can come to the conclusion that when Those People kill civilians it's because they're evil, whereas when we burn a city to the ground with incendiaries only a conspiracy theorist would assume that part of the point was to kill people and lower morale among the survivors.

And speaking of that, wasn't that part of the whole theory of strategic bombing? I've always read that. The wikipedia article starts out saying that lowering morale is part of the reason for it--

strategic bombing

Oh, and look at the Churchill quote. -- The controversy stirred up by the Cowan news report reached the highest levels of the British Government when on 28 March 1945 the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, sent a memo by telegram to General Ismay for the British Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff in which he started with the sentence "It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed...."[13][14] Under pressure from the Chiefs of Staff and in response to the views expressed by Chief of the Air Staff Sir Charles Portal, and the head of Bomber Command, Arthur "Bomber" Harris, among others, Churchill withdrew his memo and issued a new one.[14] This was completed on 1 April 1945 and started instead with the usual British euphemism for attacks on cities: "It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of the so called 'area-bombing' of German cities should be reviewed from the point of view of our own interests....".[15]--

It is amazing the number of people who, with no experience (and apparently no historical knowledge) second guess the use of the atomic bombs.

Really? This is an utterly fantastical statement. Perhaps all historical scholarship should cease forthwith...after all, what more can possibly be learned beyond the certitude of your prejudices?

As for the push-back against the 'revisionist' narrative surrounding the deployment of the A-bombs, the case is far from closed, the controversy lingers. For those of you interested in a brief synopsis of the dispute: http://www.uky.edu/Centers/Asia/SECAAS/Seras/2009/25_Yagami_2009.pdf

I would have said the same about how unlikely it would be for someone to think that the botched Obamacare rollout was the result of a deliberate conspiracy. Then I ran into one. I couldn't follow the "logic" well enough to reproduce with any reliability. But it seemed to involve making Obamacare fail in order to drive the country into a single-payer model for health care. I think.

Chuck Yeager said in his autobiography that there was one mission where he was ordered to strafe civilians during WWII. I remember seeing that while looking at the book in a grocery store many years ago, and it stuck in my mind but I didn't buy it. But through the miracle of wikipedia, here's part of the quote from the wiki Yeager biography--

"In his 1986 memoirs, Yeager recalled with disgust that "atrocities were committed by both sides" and went on to recount going on a mission with orders from the Eighth Air Force to "strafe anything that moved."[8][9] During the mission briefing, he whispered to Major Donald H. Boschkay, "If we are going to do things like this, we sure as hell better make sure we are on the winning side."[8][9] Yeager further noted, "I’m certainly not proud of that particular strafing mission against civilians. But it is there, on the record and in my memory."

wj way upthread:

"McK, I think you are overlooking a phenomena, exemplified by conspiracy theorists (in my experience) but not limited to them. The view seems to be that, while the government is inept (not to mention evil, in most versions) at everything else, it is positively brilliant at keeping secret its various nasty conspiracies. Not that it can keep most other stuff secret successfully, mind. But secret conspiracies are its one true skill."

Yet another phenomena is the view that while the government is inept (not to mention evil, in most versions) in all of its endeavors, from issuing drivers licenses to running Medicare (another phenomena is that the government should stay out of my Medicare), it is positively brilliant at running the American war machine and shall not be second-guessed or questioned regarding its performance or intentions at the time it is being positively brilliant nor at any time into the future. The government couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, say the usual suspects, as they pause the handful of popcorn halfway to their mouths and watch, on CNN, a cruise missile dip thru a window in Baghdad and hit a guy right smack dab in the eye.

Was that a civilian? And what's with the bridesmaids?

No, you limp-wristed commie, that was a bullseye brought to you from Uncle Sugar hisself!

I've heard Obamacare compared to the Ukraine, Pearl Harbor, the Rape of Nanking, and Yankee perfidy at Fort Sumter, but never to the fire-bombing of Tokyo.

But John McCain was just compared to Neville Chamberlain in his home state the other day by our domestic al Qaeda affiliates, so I suppose anything is like anything else.

McCain seems to have stopped working quite so hard as in the past at keeping moving to the right. With the result that he finds himself moving briskly to the (relative) liberal end of the Republican constellation. Having help to sow the wind, he is now looking at reaping the whirlwind.

Here's an interview with Conrad Crane, a historian of bombing. This interview is about the firebombing of Japan. There are parts that support McKT's position, but from my POV are just part of the doublethink that Westerners engage in when they kill civilians and wish to rationalize it. But in LeMay's defense he did drop warnings. To me that's not much of a defense.

link

Towards the end Crane goes into the psychology at work--the Japanese boast about how their whole population is a nation of kamikazes and the 5th Air Force issues a directive saying there are no civilians in Japan. So there's a dynamic where the Japanese govt says everyone is a potential kamikaze and the Air Force gladly agrees. Back home almost nobody is upset by the bombing.

I think I most likely would have felt the same back then. And it's long past and some of what we've done since is much less excusable, so I lost most of my interest in the whole revisionist argument about WWII bombing--there are more pressing things to worry about. It just seems funny how easily some Americans can justify our civilian killing and get so righteous about that of others, when sometimes those others have at least as much excuse to use unsavory tactics as we have.

For some reason I'm reminded of lobbying when it comes to statements like this: Are you saying it was established Allied policy to bomb civilians without regard to militarily legitimate targets for the purpose of breaking civilian morale? (which happens to have been posted by McKinney)

When someone is lobbying to get some specific law or provision enacted that would be favorable to them, it's not like they waltz into Congressperson X's office and state "vote for this because it's good for me!" That would be crass and stupid (although I'm sure it happens). Rather, they build the overall case, preferably some form of "it's good for America!" or "it's good for your state!" or "it's good for your district!" The "good for me" can go without stating.

So, "there are military targets there!" is the "good" reason, whereas the "bad" reason - killing civilians to sap population morale - can go unmentioned, or mentioned only in passing.

Further, it seems to me, that where there is any sufficiently concentrated population of civilians worth bombing there will also be enough "infrastructure" to provide a military reason for the bombing.

This has been an interesting thread to follow, and not one I can really contribute much to.

What I keep thinking of, though, is LJ's one gadget thread and its inspiration (at least, the published version...I understand the facts are under contention).

SEALs capture some goat herders while on a covert mission. They could kill them and remain undetected, in gross violation of the RoE, and I'm sure many would condemn them for it. They could not kill them, and run the risk that they alert the Taliban...the SEALs, and others, run the risk of dying.

Part of the problem in that situation, and the allied bombing efforts during WWII, is the uncertainty.

Visit known atrocities now in fear of atrocities visited on you. Or being forced into visiting worse ones later. Or both.

It must be an especially horrible form of calculus in making those decisions.

And, in many cases, you're stuck making those decisions under time pressure. Sometimes, as with your SEAL example, it's a decision you have to make in minutes. Other times, as with Truman and the atomic bomb (which he hadn't even heard of before FDR died), you may have hours or days and a larger and even less clear decision.

But it's rarely a situation where you can sit back and meditate on the ethics pro and con. That's left to the Monday Morning Quarterbacks with lots more information, 20/20 hindsight, and months to weigh the situation.

I've heard Obamacare compared to the Ukraine, Pearl Harbor, the Rape of Nanking, and Yankee perfidy at Fort Sumter, but never to the fire-bombing of Tokyo.

Don't forget the Holocaust. I can't count the occasions where someone on the Right claimed that Hitler gave Germans health insurance in preparation for his extermination plans against the Jews (and the Christians and those who would not become gay). It's of course the far more apt comparision since firebombing cities is a rather impersonal form of mass killing while both Obamacare and Auschwitz happen on a much more hands-on personal level. Not that Big O is against dropping nukes on US cities but he gets foiled every time by some of the few remaining patriots in the armed forces (no, I am not making that up. That is a real claim/conspiracy theory on the RW fringe).

Hitler gave Germans health insurance

Ok, then.

You know, I really have a special place in my heart for Austrians. Because as you know, an Austrian killed Hitler.

But then again, an Austrian killed the man who killed Hitler. So maybe not.

Americans on the Right also tend to confuse Bismarck and Marx while anyone else of course knows that the former was a herring (not a red one) and the latter a false moustache.

Seriously, I have encountered (on the net) people that believe that the old reactionary O.v.B. was an archcommunist (who else could have invented that devilish device, the welfare state?).

Yes, the Holocaust. How did I forget that slur?

I will say this for Hitler, however. At least he didn't mislead the Jews and Gypsies into believing they could keep their prior lousy health insurance policies they'd been suffering with since the days of von Bismarck.

The German and Polish trains ran most efficiently to the hospitals (getting back home was a tad problematic, yes) and the Death Panels met on time and hit their benchmarks and quotas for sign-up, unlike the rocky start with the ACA website.

Deductibles could be paid in gold, art, and jewelry, thus providing flexibility.

There was a dental plan as well, including free extraction.

Most of all, the Holocaust Death Panels made house calls to each and every patient (the needs of their entire families and neighbors were considered) to mete out special treatment for those with identifiable pre-existing conditions, and if a patient required further treatment they were escorted to the train depot for a supervised ride to the doctor where you could pet the dogs and receive a complimentary shower.

Try getting a shower or a petting zoo from Medicaid.

I will say this for America, however. At least our legislators included themselves into our Obamacare Holocaust, unlike the German politicians and leaders, who kept their own health plans and in fact seemed completely oblivious of the very health insurance scheme they constructed for the Volk.

And we have examples like Louie Gohmert of Texas who know what's coming and refuse health insurance all together, unlike his Nazi counterpart, Hermann Goering, who finally committed suicide rather than face the music.

Gohmert is just like Anne Frank in his bravery and nobility, except for the former's frequent public pronouncements in front of the microphones.

For some reason, Ms. Frank kept a low profile as she tried to avoid Adolphcare.


Pete Seeger is dead.

In other news, Erick Erickson isn't yet.

Still, there is something about the tone of word "progressive" used here that reminds me of this conversation from "A Hard Days Night", in which Ringo has the relevant punchline for McTX, his derby stowed and casting his eyes about at what has became of the England he fought for:

My use of the word "progressive" as compared to Republican vermin and conservatives generally?

As for the push-back against the 'revisionist' narrative surrounding the deployment of the A-bombs, the case is far from closed, the controversy lingers.

It always will. My favorite alternate thesis is that the decision to drop the bomb was grounded in racism--the man who integrated the armed forces was a racist.

There are parts that support McKT's position, but from my POV are just part of the doublethink that Westerners engage in when they kill civilians and wish to rationalize it.

Donald, this conversation may be over, but if it isn't, I'd like to ask why the focus on 'Westerners'? My sense is that any and everybody, when the shooting starts, plays by the principal rule of expediency, and justifies their actions after the fact. So, why limit it to Westerners?

Let me also clarify a point about Allied bombing policy in WWII. Deliberate targeting of civilians independent of a military target was not, based on all I've seen, Allied policy. That said, I am confident there were many who viewed collateral civilian damage as an aid to victory in reducing civilian morale, production capacity and a source for additional soldiers.

Today, we treat collateral damage as regrettable and something to be avoided. Even today, I'm not sure that is a uniformly held view.

NV--I am glad to know the legal department vets operations. That is new, AFAIK. That said, none of the factors you mention are blanket prohibitions on tactics (which is what operations are). My premise is more focused on predetermined limitations. For example, we don't use nerve gas. We have it, but we don't use it. In WWII, by agreement, gas was not used.

But it seemed to involve making Obamacare fail in order to drive the country into a single-payer model for health care. I think.

I've heard that one, too, wj. You're not crazy...well, at least not for thinking you heard that theory.

i've heard it often - maybe even here.

Obamacare is said to be a way to deliberately wreck the healthcare system. and then once it's wrecked, the govt will step in and take over the whole thing.

for example:

As we have said all along, the entire structure is designed for failure. It’s a Trojan horse for an eventual government takeover of health care in the vacuum of a collapse in health insurance, forced into failure through government regulation.

hsh, what you're saying is that I may be crazy, but I'm not delusional. I can accept that diagnosis. Although I would note that, when it comes to crazy, I'm not in a league with the conspiracy theorists. ;-)

I adopted the term "Republican vermin" after reading Frank Luntz's list of recommended labels for liberals and spending time mucking about in conservative comment sections and Erickson posts at places like Redstate, figuring I needed some labels, too.

I don't know who started it, but it wasn't me. Like the NRA, my language weaponry are held in self-defense only.

I never shout out the word "vermin" in movie theaters, however or patrol my neighborhood looking for them.

Sean Hannity can pronounce "progressive" in such a way that it sounds spat forth like a bolus of hatred, so I used him as a model.

Same with Limbaugh's name-calling.

The late, fallen Dinesh D'Souza's pedantic clipped fake Indian inflections were particularly suited to meaning "vermin" without actually using the word.

I'd have a word with them if I were you about all of this, since they've somehow confused their brand of hateful vermin conservatism with your legitimate, reasonable, eloquent, principled Eisenhower conservatism.

They set the bar and I'm happy to limbo underneath it.

Anyway, McTX, I wouldn't take it personally because there's a meal in the balance. ;)

I just think the incivility of the real world as practiced and perfected by the Republican Party over the past 35 years needs to intrude here on occasion.

If it's good enough for C-Span, why not here?

'Bout 40 years ago, in college, I called the Symbionese Liberation Army the "real pigs", which some of my lefty friends took personally, not that they had any idea how that group of haters thought they represented the legitimate Left.

It just seems funny how easily some Americans can justify our civilian killing and get so righteous about that of others, when sometimes those others have at least as much excuse to use unsavory tactics as we have.

It would be different if there were a clear-eyed assessment openly based on self-interest, rather than moral superiority. I can deal with that. Those f*ckers who did 9/11 killed Americans, so I don't like it. It bothers me way more than than the civilians "we" killed in WWII, because killing those people saved American lives and the lives of our allies.

This isn't based on nationalism, per se. It's that, being an American, my friends and family are almost all Americans. For all the faults I see with this country, I still am glad to be an American and enjoy the life I live as one. America is my home and, all in all, it's a good one.

So I'm biased. I sometimes favor actions for subjective reasons of self-interest. I don't need to feel as though I'm morally superior to my enemies in order to wish to defeat them. It's just better for me and the people I care about. It's not that hard. There's no need to pretend God is on our side or that we're special or that the other side is evil (even though they can be, but so can we).

McKinneyTexas,

You speak a lot about "encapsulating" military infrastructure in the middle of civilian landscape. It would be important to note that most, even vast majority of, such placement was not done to misuse the protection of civilians to shield military targets.

For example, before the advent of widespread ownership of motorcars, factories were built regularly near their workers and worker housing near factories. Similarly, railway switchyards, freight stations and harbours were near workimg-class neighbourhoods because that was economically efficient. (Even better neighbourhoods were within walkable distance.)

It could not be otherwise. Such city planning was an integral consequence of available technology and carried no moral significance. Thus, it cannot really be used as a defence for bombing these targets with wildly inaccurate weapons. The targets were not shielded by choice.

The question here is whether the killing of a hundred thousand civilians to disable a railway switchyard and a couple of telephone switchboards is proportional.

we can just read the words of the people who made the decisions as to where the Bombs should go.

Minutes of the second meeting of the Target Committee
Los Alamos, May 10-11, 1945

here's what they thought about Kyoto:


(1) Kyoto - This target is an urban industrial area with a population of 1,000,000. It is the former capital of Japan and many people and industries are now being moved there as other areas are being destroyed. From the psychological point of view there is the advantage that Kyoto is an intellectual center for Japan and the people there are more apt to appreciate the significance of such a weapon as the gadget. (Classified as an AA Target)

today, the phrase "shock and awe" would've been used somewhere in the document, instead of "the people there are more apt to appreciate the significance of such a weapon". it was a wordier time.

Kyoto managed to get off the list, due to the same cultural significance that got it on the list. some people thought it would be better to preserve it instead of vaporize.

Hiroshima:

(2) Hiroshima - This is an important army depot and port of embarkation in the middle of an urban industrial area. It is a good radar target and it is such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged. There are adjacent hills which are likely to produce a focussing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage. Due to rivers it is not a good incendiary target. (Classified as an AA Target)

8. Use Against "Military" Objectives


A. It was agreed that for the initial use of the weapon any small and strictly military objective should be located in a much larger area subject to blast damage in order to avoid undue risks of the weapon being lost due to bad placing of the bomb.

the word "civilian" does not occur in the document.

the document talks about following-up the a-bombs with a round of incendiary bombing, because the enemy's fire-fighting system would be in shambles. they decided to see what the bomb would do on its own, first.

they were different times, and there was justification. but there should be no doubt these bombs were intended to shock and awe by doing exactly what they were made to do to as many people as possible.

my thoughts go about 10 different ways on this issue.

imo the bombings of hiroshima and nagasaki were beyond brutal. they did not just kill thousands of people, they literally caused them to cease to exist.

but there is also the fact that the war was the result of the cruelty greed and ambition of the fascist powers. their aim was the subjugation and enslavement of their neighbors, and as much of the world as they could grab.

it wasn't just their aim, they were well on their way to making good on their ambitions.

it was total war, with little quarter given by either side. to a large degree, the means were total because the stakes were total.

we haven't really seen that since then. thankfully. we didn't see it in the cold war because 'total war' in the nuclear context was unthinkable.

all of it puts me in mind of sherman's letter to the mayor and councilmen of atlanta, explaining why he was going to burn that city to the ground.

or if you like, sherman in a shorter form:

War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.

and, in the case of atlanta, the specific message that if you didn't want your city burned down, you should not have started the war. what did you think was going to happen?

i don't know if we had to firebomb tokyo, or nuke hiroshima or nagasaki. 'had to' is a hard thing to prove.

at the time, somebody did the calculus, and (mostly likely correctly) decided that it would take a serious level of brutality to compel the japanese to give up the war.

so yes, shock and awe, because the japanese were very very tough and very proud, and would quite likely have fought well past the point when it made sense anymore.

we own the responsibility for the bombings. the japanese (and germans, in their own context) own responsibility for embracing fascism in all of its arrogance and cruelty, and for initiating warfare, and for persisting in what was clearly becoming a wasteful lost cause.

there were thousands of innocent victims in tokyo and nagasaki and hiroshima, as there were innocent victims everywhere.

war is a horrendous, brutal, cruel, destructive practice. it's hell, come to your very own neighborhood. if you think you can engage in war without bringing the most extreme possible pain, destruction, suffering, despair, and sorrow on people, then you don't understand what it is.

Anyway, McTX, I wouldn't take it personally because there's a meal in the balance. ;)

Never, ever personal, Count. I'm thinking late May or July.

The question here is whether the killing of a hundred thousand civilians to disable a railway switchyard and a couple of telephone switchboards is proportional.

I agree that many, many valid targets lie in civilian areas without design but rather as a result of unintended circumstance. But, I also see the question you raise as being in a bit of a vacuum. The moral calculus begins with why the war is being fought and who is being bombed. It includes how the war has been waged by the party about to be bombed.

but there should be no doubt these bombs were intended to shock and awe by doing exactly what they were made to do to as many people as possible.

Well, as you note, the word 'civilian' does not appear. It is self evident to the Nth degree that atomic bombs were built to shock and awe, to wreak massive damage. As opposed to area bombing, however, you have to place the bomb with reasonable accuracy. I see nothing in what you've posted that suggests anything other than an objective evaluation of which target makes the most sense, it being a given that whichever target it is, one hell of a massive explosion will ensue.

and, in the case of atlanta, the specific message that if you didn't want your city burned down, you should not have started the war. what did you think was going to happen?

Precisely.

He started it!

. I see nothing in what you've posted that suggests anything other than an objective evaluation of which target makes the most sense

objective, yes. but the sticky part is in what the specific objectives were. and it looks to me that something like "killing as many people as possible, in as spectacular a fashion as possible" was one of the objectives.

i assume this is patently obvious to you and that you're more than fine with it. i'm not.

To make it even more patently obvious:

7. Psychological Factors in Target Selection

A. It was agreed that psychological factors in the target selection were of great importance. Two aspects of this are (1) obtaining the greatest psychological effect against Japan and (2) making the initial use sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it is released.

Also, too:

He has surveyed possible targets possessing the following qualification: (1) they be important targets in a large urban area of more than three miles in diameter, (2) they be capable of being damaged effectively by a blast, and (3) they are unlikely to be attacked by next August.

Ugh, I would also add, with respect to the nuclear weapons:
B) making sure that we give the impression that we have more of the same available. So the Japanese can figure out for themselves what will happen to the rest of their cities if they don't surrender.

We didn't have more, of course. But with psychological warfare, what matters is not what you have, but what you can convice your emeny you have.

Also, too:

He has surveyed possible targets possessing the following qualification: (1) they be important targets in a large urban area of more than three miles in diameter, (2) they be capable of being damaged effectively by a blast, and (3) they are unlikely to be attacked by next August.

i assume this is patently obvious to you and that you're more than fine with it. i'm not.

I am 'more than fine' with ending WWII quickly and with much less loss of life than if the invasion had taken place, for the reasons stated initially. With exactly one bomb in reserve, are you contending the bomb should have been dropped in a minimally populated area to minimize casualties in the hope that the explosion would have been impressive enough to compel a surrender? I'm not tracking here--you agree there was justification, so what exactly are you saying?

so what exactly are you saying?

by the words of the people who made the decisions, the targets were not military targets. they were chosen, at least in part, explicitly for maximum psychological impact. for demonstration purposes.

the target of the Hiroshima bomb was a downtown bridge. it wasn't a shipyard, or an armory or a munitions factory. it was a civilian bridge, in the middle of a city.

so this:

Deliberate targeting of civilians independent of a military target was not, based on all I've seen, Allied policy.

is not quite right.

the bombs were, in fact, dropped on civilian targets.

cleek:

I think a key aspect of McK's sentence you missed was "independent of a military target"

From the target committee:

"2) Hiroshima - This is an important army depot..."

From Truman's diary:

"This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children.

[...]

He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one..."

from:
http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/bomb/large/documents/fulltext.php?fulltextid=15

I think much can be said about the use of nuclear weapons, and many other tactics, during WWII. But I don't think

"killing as many people as possible, in as spectacular a fashion as possible"

is a particularly accurate portrayal of the decision to deploy nuclear weapons at Hiroshima.

Cleeks words:

by the words of the people who made the decisions, the targets were not military targets


The very first sentence from Cleek's "in their own words" description:

(2) Hiroshima - This is an important army depot and port of embarkation in the middle of an urban industrial area.

Three items here: army depot, port of embarkation and urban industrial area--all three are bona fide military targets.

Plus, what Thompson said.

Sounds pretty figleafy to me.
And the cynic whispers into my ear that there is always a terrorist in any wedding or funeral assembly when it gets blown up.

That said, none of the factors you mention are blanket prohibitions on tactics (which is what operations are). My premise is more focused on predetermined limitations. For example, we don't use nerve gas. We have it, but we don't use it. In WWII, by agreement, gas was not used.

McK, please stop. First rule of holes. You normally make intelligent, cogent, and well-informed arguments, but you truly have no idea what you're talking about here; you're shooting from the hip by way of your fourth point of contact. To wit:

Army Field Manual 27-10 Ch. 1 §1-3 (1956, but still extant, with Change 1 added in 1976)

3. Basic Principles
a. Prohibitory Effect. The law of war places limits on the exercise of a belligerent's power in the interests mentioned in paragraph 2 and requires that belligerents refrain from employing any kind or degree of violence which is not actually necessary for military purposes and that they conduct hostilities with regard for the principles of humanity and chivalry.

The prohibitory effect of the law of war is not minimized by "military necessity" which has been defined as that principle which justifies those measures not forbidden by international law which are indispensable for securing the complete submission of the enemy as soon as possible. Military necessity has been generally rejected as a defense for acts forbidden by the customary and conventional laws of war inasmuch as the latter have been developed and framed with consideration for the concept of military necessity.

b. Binding on States and Individuals. The law of war is binding not only upon States as such but also upon individuals and, in par-ticular, the members of their armed forces.

(Emphasis added.)

Selected paragraphs from FM 27-10, Ch. 2 §3 Forbidden Means of Waging Warfare

33. Means of Injuring the Enemy Limited
a. Treaty Provision. The right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited. (HE, art. 22.)
b. The means employed are definitely restricted by international declarations and conventions and by the laws and usages of war.
[...]
38. Chemicals, and Bacteriological Warfare [revision from Change 1] [discusses US adherence to Geneva Protocol of 1925, with reservations thereto]
[...]
39. Bombardment of Undefended Places Forbidden [revision from Change 1]
a. Treaty Provision. The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited. (HR, art. 25.)
[provides interpretation of what construes "undefended"]
40. Permissible Objects of Attack or Bombardment [revision from Change 1]
a. Attacks Against the Civilian Population as Such Prohibited. Customary international law prohibits the launching of attacks (including bombardment) against either the civilian population as such or individual civilians as such.
[...]
41. Unnecessary Killing and Devastation [revision from Change 1]
Particularly in the circumstances referred to in the preceding paragraph, loss of life and damage to property incidental to attacks must not be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage expected to be gained. Those who plan or decide upon an attack, therefore, must take all reasonable steps to ensure not only that the objectives are identified as military objectives or defended places within the meaning of the preceding paragraph but also that these objectives may be attacked without probable losses in lives and damage to property disproportionate to the military advantage anticipated. Moreover, once a fort or defended locality has surrendered, only such further damage is permitted as is demanded by the exigencies of war, such as the removal of fortifications, demolition of military buildings, and destruction of military stores (HR, art. 23, par. (g); GC, art. 53)
42. Aerial Bombardment
There is no prohibition of general application against bombardment from the air of combatant troops, defended places [defined in 40], or other legitimate military objectives.
[...]
45. Buildings and Areas To Be Protected
a. Buildings To Be Spared. In sieges and bombardments all necessary measures must be taken to spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not being used at the time for military purposes. [...]

(Emphasis added.)

There's also higher level discussions of classes of tactics which are forbidden; e.g., defining treachery/perfidy, limits on false-flag operations, forbidding improper use of Red Cross insignia. This stuff informs the preparation of everything from general strategies to ROEs all the way on down to individual operations. So yeah, no. Plenty of predetermined blanket prohibitions on tactics. Again, this is basic Law of War stuff.

The moral calculus begins with why the war is being fought and who is being bombed. It includes how the war has been waged by the party about to be bombed.

I don't know how many times this will need said, but jus ad bellum does not jus in bello make. For a war tactic to be morally justifiable, it has to be justifiable on its own virtues and faults. Tell me, had Iraqi insurgents - let's say the Mahdi Army - during the Surge successfully sent infiltrators to blow up 5-10 federal buildings containing Military Entrance Processing Stations in major American metropolitan areas, with the concurrent forseen-but-unintended hundreds or thousands of civilian deaths, would you have been all "Oh, sneaky! I'm upset that you did that, but we had it coming for invading you!", or would you have been screaming bloody murder about cowardly, murderous acts of terrorism?

Having a just cause to engage in warfare does not mean any sort of warfare you engage in is just. Hell, it doesn't even mean the bar is lowered for you. If Canada annexes the US side of Niagara Falls, we don't get to nuke every Canadian city with a population over 100,000 and flay any captured soldiers alive just because "They started it!!!". Proportionality and military necessity remain, as has long been customary, guiding principles for determining both the ethics and legality of given tactics in warfare. Not, I might add, convictions of righteousness and a zeal to punish those who you perceive to "have it coming".

"Sounds pretty figleafy to me."

Maybe. I personally have a hard time comprehending how you would go about those decisions.

Russell's comments upthread strike me as apt. War is brutal.

We demo the bomb? Maybe that's enough, maybe not.
We take out a small, isolated military target? Maybe that's enough, maybe not.

There was talk about using the early nukes not as psychological warfare, but purely as a component of the invasion...release multiple bombs in the early stages of the invasion. What's the human cost there?

What's the alternative? Conventional invasion of the main islands? Allow the Soviets to occupy Japan? A long war of attrition until the Japan is crushed under the weight of a destroyed industrial and agricultural base? Hope the generals yield and the emperor decides to end the war?

I can't stand in judgement of that type of decision.

(As a preemptive counter to a possibly overlooked implication in my last paragraphs above, I, custom, and the traditions do of course recognize the value in tit-for-tat in-kind retaliation for violations of the customs and laws of war, which could be (but I suspect is not) what your "how the war has been waged" line was referring to. That can and should factor into a "on its own virtues and faults" calculation. But that's not really germane here, though. You've not been talking about escalation aimed at causing deescalation. You've primarily been talking about escalation for the sake of military expediency, where any "how the war was waged" wouldn't rise above "you shot first".)

I think I just dropped a small (no, really!) and at most marginally important slightly-paranoid addendum comment into the spamory hole.

"spectacular" was NOT cleek's word.

See:

http://history1900s.about.com/od/worldwarii/a/hiroshima.htm

Relevant passages:

"There had been four cities chosen as possible targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Nagasaki, and Niigata (Kyoto was the first choice until it was removed from the list by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson). The cities were chosen because they had been relatively untouched during the war. The Target Committee wanted the first bomb to be "sufficiently SPECTACULAR for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it was released."3

"Staff Sergeant George Caron, the tail gunner, described what he saw: "The mushroom cloud itself was a SPECTACULAR sight, a bubbling mass of purple-gray smoke and you could see it had a red core in it and everything was burning inside. . . . It looked like lava or molasses covering a whole city. . . ."4 The cloud is estimated to have reached a height of 40,000 feet."

Also:

"Unlike many other bombing raids, the goal for this raid had not been a military installation but rather an entire city. The atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima killed civilian women and children in addition to soldiers. Hiroshima's population has been estimated at 350,000; approximately 70,000 died immediately from the explosion and another 70,000 died from radiation within five years."

I would say that, regardless of the military nature of the target, it is no stretch of the language to state that "killed as many people as possible", including women and children and fetuses, is an accurate description of what happened when ONE bomb, the most powerful weapon in human history, fell out of ONE airplane in 1945 and killed 70,000 people in a few minutes, with another 70,000 dying from the after effects.

Now, there were @300,000 combined German/English/French fatalities at the Battle of the Somme during World War I, but it took a few days. The sheer productivity of "Little Boy" was, dare I say it, SPECTACULAR.

The crew of the Enola Gay, while steadfastly maintaining that the bombings saved American AND Japanese lives in the bigger picture and thus had no regrets about carrying out their orders, testified as witnesses (there are places to look this up) to the carnage that they sat in stunned silence as their plane circled and turned away afterwards.

"My God, what have we done!" was the consensus.

O.K., if you don't accept "spectacular", how 'bout "holy f*cking sh*t", which was probably an off-the-record response on the plane, though those were more civil times when nuclear bombs could be dropped but bad language was frowned upon.

These days, we try to avoid nuking folks, despite wishful thinking among some in the world, but our language has gone to pot.

We're much worse now, what with the progressive loosening of the language and our reluctance to drop the big one.

As far as the high command trying to minimize civilian casualties, what about the deliberate nature of placing both military and civilian personnel near nuclear test sites on American soil to kinds ascertain, scientifically what might happen.

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