British RAF unit responsible for the bombing of Germany has continued to
provoke debate in both countries.
“They are wonderful men ..... They flew seven nights a week over Germany
and were knocked out of the sky like ninepins at the start. They
shortened the war by six months and saved hundreds of thousands from the
gas chambers by bringing it to a halt.” 'Scotty' Scott, 70, campaigner
for a memorial to be built for the crews of RAF Bomber Command, quoted
Guardian newspaper 20th August, 2006.
tremendous courage and sacrifice of Bomber Command is something
to admire. On the other hand, area bombing was a very serious
mistake and a moral crime. Somehow you've got to hold those
facts together. Any memorial is worthwhile, but to think of
applauding Bomber Command in mass murdering civilians night
after night would be wrong.” AC Grayling, a philosopher who
assessed the moral case for the bombings in his book, Among
the Dead Cities quoted in the Guardian newspaper 20th
“The Nazis were to
good as a black hole is to light. The effects of British and
American bombing on Germany and the lands the Germans conquered
were dreadful and it is right that they should be recorded and
remembered. But the Allies’ real crime would have been to hold
back from using any of the means at their disposal to destroy
Hitler and those who sustained his war. The argument over
exactly what Bomber Command achieved will never be settled. One
undeniable success, an awkward one to acknowledge nowadays, is
that it altered Germany’s personality. Saturation bombing may
not, as intended, have broken the Germans’ spirit. But it helped
powerfully to bring about their post-war conversion to peaceful
democracy.” Patrick Bishop, author of ‘Bomber Boys’, quoted on
RAF Bomber Command website,
“The bombing of
Dresden was an example... of the brutalisation of man in
war...History written by individual nations in which each one selects
what he has done well cannot be allowed to continue. If we really want
to unify this Europe, then history must be unified as well.” German
President, Roman Herzog, 1995, quoted in ‘Europe’, N.Davies.
arguments for and against the actions of Bomber Command.
opinion was the bombing of German cities justified?
President Herzog’s comment that “history must be unified”.
Is it possible
to ‘unify history’?
Over 90% of Dresden city centre
The bombing campaigns and
the ongoing controversy illustrate the difficulty of maintaining a
consistent ethical stance in warfare, and indeed to many of those
involved agonising ovar ethics was a luxury that could not be indulged.
Compromises and hard choices become inevitable as one is drawn into
violence to prevent an even greater ‘evil’. Pacifists would argue that
violence can never be justified. The ‘Realist’ theory maintains that
moral concepts cannot be applied to the behaviour of states. However,
the lengths that individuals, armies and states go to in order to
justify their actions and to present them favourably, demonstrate that
even amid the hard realism of war there remains a desire to occupy the
moral high ground.
philosophers have developed ‘Just War Theories’ attempting to identify
the justifiable and unjustifiable uses of armed forces. These can be
divided into establishing the circumstances in which it is right to
fight a war and secondly, justifiable conduct during war. In groups
compile two lists. You may wish to consider some of the following issues....(just
cause, proportionality, legitimate authority, probability of success,
last resort... and during a war ...legitimate targets, proportionality,
military necessity, prisoners, weaponry)
which it is right to fight a war
conduct during a war