Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Is Behind in Kentucky?: Live from The Roasterie LXXXXIII: February 10, 2014
Liveblogging World War II: February 10, 2014

Anticipatory Monday DeLong Smackdown Watch: I Don't Want to Think What I Am Thinking. Can Anybody Help Me?

Robert Farley on Richard Overy's *The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945:

Overy is not shy about pointing out that the two most democratic major participants in the Second World War also undertook the most murderous strategic bombing campaigns. It is hardly unreasonable to point out that the Axis powers, nevertheless, accounted for the vast majority of civilians deaths in the war, although the extent to which this justified the CBO should be in some dispute.... With respect to the overall impact of the Bombing War, Overy’s answer can best be summarized as follows: the Bombing War destroyed Europe and the Luftwaffe, but not German industry or warmaking capacity.  This is a complicated answer, of course, but Overy supports it with strong data....

With the partial exception of Italy, strategic bombing never ruptured the relationship between civilians and politico-military elites sufficiently to bring about a surrender, or even a significant disruption in the warmaking effort.... Overy also discusses the impact of the CBO on the Luftwaffe at some length. The CBO undermined German airpower both directly and indirectly, destroying German fighter strength while also denuding the tactical theaters of air support. It shifted significant German resources to air defense, reconstruction, and damage response. For Overy, this is the key contribution that the CBO made to Allied victory in World War II. The Wehrmacht, deprived of air support and even of air defense in the latter stages of war, was much easier to bring to the edge of defeat that it would have been without the CBO....

Overy does not, however, dwell at any length on how alternative airpower approaches might have produced the same effects at considerably lower cost.  The offensive counter-air campaigns on the Eastern Front and in the Mediterranean also devastated German airpower, despite concentrating mostly on operational and tactical effect. Consequently, I struggle to believe that the most efficient way to defeat the Luftwaffe was to send extraordinarily expensive four-engine behemoths over Germany, with the purpose of incinerating German cities....

RAF Bomber Command lost nearly 55000 dead during the war, constituting a death rate of nearly 41 % of all Bomber Command aircrew.  The USAAF lost about 30000 dead....

It’s hard for me to dissent from A.C. Grayling’s evaluation of the strategic bombing campaign:

Was area bombing necessary? No.

Was it proportionate? No.

Was it against the humanitarian principles that people have been striving to enunciate as a way of controlling and limiting war? Yes.

Was it against general moral standards of the kind recognized and agreed in Western civilization in the last five centuries, or even 2000 years? Yes.

Was it against what mature national laws provide in the way of outlawing murder, bodily harm, and destruction of property? Yes.

In short and in sum: Was area bombing wrong? Yes.

Very wrong? Yes...

And yet, and yet.... I find myself thinking that under the counterforce counter-Luftwaffe planes tactical air war Farley wishes had been fought all of the artillery barrels that were in the Reich pointing skyward would have been on the Russian front pointing east. And it seems to me that in the terror of World War II any American-British policies that set out to save even as many as ten German civilians at the cost of one Russian soldier were not moral policies.

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