Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History

Yuki Tanaka (Editor) Marilyn B. Young (Editor)


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 policies 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.

Product Details

$19.95  $18.35
New Press
Publish Date
July 27, 2010
5.25 X 0.75 X 8.0 inches | 0.73 pounds
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About the Author

Yuki Tanaka is a research professor at Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University and a coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Journal. He is a co-editor, with Marilyn B. Young, of Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History (The New Press).

Marilyn B. Young was a professor of history at New York University. She was a co-editor (with Lloyd C. Gardner) of The New American Empire: A 21st Century Teach-In on U.S. Foreign Policy and Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn from the Past and (with Yuki Tanaka) of Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History, all published by The New Press.


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.