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Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century Historyby Yuki Tanaka
Synopses & Reviews
A groundbreaking historical analysis of indiscriminate bombing, from the 1920s to the present war in Iraq.
"You press a button and death flies down. One second, the bomb is hanging harmlessly in your racks, completely under your control. The next it is hurtling down through the air and nothing in your power can revoke what you have done."—Charles Lindbergh
With contributions from scholars from Japan, the United States, and Europe, Bombing Civilians examines a crucial question: why did military planning in the early twentieth century shift its focus from bombing military targets to bombing civilians?
From the British bombing of Iraq in the early 1920s to the most recent conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon, Bombing Civilians analyzes in detail the history of indiscriminate bombing, examining the fundamental questions of how this theory justifying mass killing originated and why it was employed as a compelling military strategy for decades, both before and since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The book includes major new arguments, such as Japanese historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's bold claim that it was the Soviet invasion rather than the atomic bombs that compelled the Japanese to surrender in the Pacific War.
Combining historical and contemporary analysis, Bombing Civilians makes an important argument about international law and the morality of war.
With contributions from:, Tony Coady, Helen Durham, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Tetsuo Maeda, Tim McCormack, Robert Moeller, Mark Selden, Ron Schafer, Michael Sherry.
"Young, a professor of history at NYU, and Tanaka, of the Hiroshima Peace Institute, bring together eight essays by American, Japanese and European scholars on a disturbing subject: why has aerial warfare, beginning in WWI, emphasized civilian targets? Aerial bombing affects civilian morale, a vulnerable element in a country mobilized for total war. Tanaka demonstrates that during the interwar years the British considered air strikes in Iraq a cheaper, more 'humane' way of maintaining imperial control than conventional ground operations. Ronald Schaeffer, Robert Moeller and Mark Selden each show that area bombardment was regarded, in particular by Britain and the U.S., as a shortcut to victory long after evidence ceased to support the belief. Selden goes so far as to assert that '[m]ass murder of civilians has been central to all subsequent U.S. wars.' Discussing the morality of bombing, C.A.J. Coady is the only contributor who engages the moral principle of double effect: keeping collateral damage under the restraints of morality, reason and law. Still, this is better read as advocacy than scholarship." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
From the aerial bombing of Parisians by German planes in August 1914 to President Obama's escalations of aerial drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the history of 20th and 21st century warfare has been a history of strategic bombing, which invariably kills primarily civilians and is, in the view of editors Tanaka (Hiroshima Peace Institute, Hiroshima City U., Japan) and Young (history, New York U., US), simply terrorism. They present 10 papers that address this sordid history through discussion of the nature of the bombing campaigns of Europe during World War II, the British "humane bombing" of Iraq between the two World Wars, US destruction of Japanese cities and its legacies in American war-making to the present, the justifications given for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese strategic bombing of the Chinese city of Chongqing, bombing and the morality of war, and the current international legal framework concerning aerial bombardment of civilians. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Marilyn B. Young is a professor of history at New York University. She has been a Guggenheim Fellow and is the author of numerous books, including The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990, and co-editor of Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam. She lives in New York City. Yuki Tanaka is Research Professor at Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University. Since the mid-1980s he has been concentrating his research on war crimes and is the author of several books, including Japan's Comfort Women and Hidden Horrors.
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