Ethics during world war i

Friday 27 November Rebecca Simpson Records and research 1 comment Just over a year into the First World War it became clear that more than just voluntary recruits would be needed to win, and conscription was considered. This started a whole new battle; one of ethics, with a number of people opposed to such measures and protests staged across the country.

Ethics during world war i

Volume 12 Issue 37 Number 1 World War II demonstrated an enormous shift in the technological capability of the United States to bring death and destruction to the civilian populations of its enemies through aerial attack. The American air forces undertook strategic bombing campaigns that pulverized and burned numerous German and Japanese cities, culminating in the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This bombing killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

World War I casualties - Wikipedia

Although the massive killing of noncombatants did not provoke widespread protests or recriminations among Americans at the time, the aftermath was not a simple story of acceptance of the practice as a common and legitimate method of warfare in a new technological age of air power.

The experience of the Korean War demonstrated that American moral scruples against targeting civilians did not disappear with the bombing in World War II, as some historians have argued. Only five years later, the Korean War followed the pattern set by World War II of massive civilian destruction inflicted by bombing.

Nevertheless, American leaders continued to claim throughout the war that U. The new bombing capabilities contributed to stretching the definitions of military targets because they brought new portions of civilian societies, such as transportation networks, arms factories, and their workers, within reach and under consideration for targeting.

Having held their former enemies accountable for harming civilians, Americans worked to distance themselves from similar practices, and the international competition of the Cold War only increased the stakes for American identity and political interests.

In short, the broadly accepted moral prohibition against targeting civilians did not disappear with the bombing in World War II and Korea. One of the most significant was the increased importance of intention in rationalizing harm to noncombatants.

For Americans, the crucial dividing line between justifiable and unjustifiable violence increasingly became whether their armed forces intentionally harmed civilians. The difficulties of controlling the violence of air power made common and widespread unintended harm plausible.

American weapons might inflict massive casualties on civilians, as they had in World War II and Korea, but only intentionally targeting civilians remained a crime.

International humanitarian law lagged behind the development of public norms on bombing but did eventually formally incorporate restrictions on bombing and in particular reflected this growing emphasis on intention.

While other changes in thinking about bombing civilians are more difficult to assess because of the changing nature of American wars after Korea, and limited access to sources related to more recent conflicts, Americans did come to accept that certain portions of civilian society that directly supported the fighting capabilities of armed forces, such as arms factories and their workers, were justifiable targets for attack although destroying cities as such remained controversial.

Following Japanese air strikes in China and fascist bombing in Spain, the U. Indeed, judged from the perspective of what American leaders said about the bombing of civilians, little changed during World War II, even at the height of the air campaigns against Germany and Japan.

They continued to talk as if they were trying to uphold the prohibition against targeting civilians, even though the reality of civilian deaths strained the credibility of their claims.

Stimson assured the public: There is still much work to be done to answer the question of whether these statements by American leaders reflected wider public sentiments, or political calculation.

After all, American reactions to the bombing of civilians seem to have been quite muted during the war, and little protest against the bombing occurred. One was the relative novelty of the extensive killing of civilians through bombing, and the limited information that Americans had about the attacks during the war, especially when official sources were continuing to claim that air power was being used precisely.

Another could have been beliefs that the violence in World War II was exceptional even for war, justified as retribution for German or Japanese aggression and atrocities, or because such tactics were a lesser evil than the feared consequences of defeat by the Axis powers.

Although Americans were quiet about the harm to civilians resulting from U.

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Condemnation and prosecution of Axis atrocities after World War II provided the strongest reinforcement of the norm against attacking civilians. The Nuremberg tribunals in Germany and a similar set of war crimes trials of the Japanese focused international attention on the harm that Axis leaders and soldiers had inflicted on civilians and held them criminally accountable for it.

This assertive application of international law and the leading role that the United States played in these prosecutions reinforced the impression that Americans remained committed to the norm against attacking civilians.

Ethics during world war i

However, conscious of the snares of hypocrisy, none of the tribunals prosecuted any of the defendants for promiscuous bombing of civilians.Although collaborating with the enemy is nothing new (and there were a number of examples of it during World War II), its ramifications caused considerable damage to the morale and survival of U.S.

POWs during the Korean War and later the Vietnam War. Don't you think it's weird to see these war scenes associated with some well known brands during World War II? Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II, Michael Burleigh (New York: Harper-Collins, ), pp., $ cloth.

Michael Burleigh is a prolific writer on issues of ethics in history, notably the crimes of Nazi Germany and other totalitarian regimes. Overview: Any imbalance in power makes physical and sexual assault more probable. This is particularly true in the widespread incidences of rape during wartime..

Most of the atrocities committed by Japanese troops during World War II were prosecuted at the Tokyo war-crimes trials. Just War Reconsidered: Strategy, Ethics, and Theory (Battles and Campaigns Series) [James M.

Ethics during world war i

Dubik, Martin Dempsey USA (Ret.)] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. In the seminal Just and Unjust Wars, Michael Walzer famously considered the ethics of modern warfare.

Gadoury, Keara World History II, Cunningham World War I Photo Archive February 12, World War I was serious business between the Central Powers and the Allied Powers, starting with the war from Austria-Hungary on Serbia and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

After this conflict, the US, UK, Germany, Italy, and France were involved.

Strategic bombing during World War II - Wikipedia