Among The Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japanby A. C. Grayling
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In Among the Dead Cities, the acclaimed philosopher A. C. Grayling asks the provocative question, how would the Allies have fared if judged by the standards of the Nuremberg Trials? Arguing persuasively that the victor nations have never had to consider the morality of their policies during World War II, he offers a powerful, moral re-examination of the Allied bombing campaigns against civilians in Germany and Japan, in the light of principles enshrined in the post-war conventions on human rights and the laws of war.
Grayling begins by narrating the Royal Air Force's and U. S. Army Air Force's dramatic and dangerous missions over Germany and Japan between 1942 and 1945. Through the eyes of survivors, he describes the terrifying experience on the ground as bombs created inferno and devastation among often-unprepared men, women, and children. He examines the mindset and thought-process of those who planned the campaigns in the heat and pressure of war, and faced with a ruthless enemy. Grayling chronicles the voices that, though in the minority, loudly opposed attacks on civilians, exploring in detail whether the bombings ever achieved their goal of denting the will to wage war. Based on the facts and evidence, he makes a meticulous case for, and one against, civilian bombing, and only then offers his own judgment. Acknowledging that they in no way equated to the death and destruction for which Nazi and Japanese aggression was responsible, he nonetheless concludes that the bombing campaigns were morally indefensible, and more, that accepting responsibility, even six decades later, is both a historical necessity and a moral imperative.
“A probing, thoughtful meditation...The excellence of Among the Dead Cities, however, rests less on Grayling's deductions than his provision of enough information and argument for readers with alternate premises to draw different conclusions. That richness makes wrestling with his views a demanding intellectual exercise.” Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Was the indiscriminate bombing of civilians--in Hamburg, in Dresden, in Tokyo, in Hiroshima, in Nagasaki--justifiable militarily, or was it ‘in whole or in part morally wrong'?... Almost immediately one senses what [Grayling's] answer will be--an unequivocal "Yes"--but he must be given full credit for reaching that conclusion only after a careful, nuanced analysis...If there was no military justification for the bombings, then there cannot possibly be a moral one, and Grayling's judgment that they were immoral seems to me exceedingly difficult to refute.” Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
“In an age of political terror, when it is urgent to come up with a persuasive distinction between legitimate and illegitimate violence, it is hard to overstate the importance of the questions Grayling raises.” Fredric Smoler, American Heritage
“In his timely examination of "area bombing," which targeted civilian populations for destruction during World War II, British philosopher A.C. Grayling brings a fresh perspective to some of the great questions of modern history…and gives answers that should broaden thinking about how the United States conducts its global war on terrorism and its conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.” G. Pascal Zachary, San Francisco Chronicle
“In this book, one of the world's most passionate and articulate humanists attends to one of the twentieth-century's largest unexploded moral conundrums…Grayling's verdict is surprising not in ultimately condemning the attacks but in doing so in an elegantly blunt fashion that simultaneously radiates profound compassion for the perpetrators.” Booklist, starred review
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Meet the Author
A. C. Grayling is Professor of Philosophy at Birbeck College, University of London. He is the author of a number of books, among them Meditations for the Humanist and a biography of William Hazlitt. A fellow of the World Economic Forum and past chairman of the human rights organization June Fourth, he contributes frequently to the Financial Times and the Economist, and appears regularly on radio and television. A former Booker Prize judge, he lives in London.
A. C. Grayling is Master of the New College of the Humanities, UK. He has written and edited numerous works of philosophy and is the author of biographies of Descartes and William Hazlitt. He believes that philosophy should take an active, useful role in society. He has been a regular contributor to The Times, Financial Times, Observer, Independent on Sunday, Economist, Literary Review, New Statesman and Prospect, and is a frequent and popular contributor to radio and television programmes, including Newsnight, Today, In Our Time, Start the Week and CNN news. He is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum at Davos, and advises on many committees ranging from Drug Testing at Work to human rights groups.
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