Area Bombing in World War II: The Argument of Michael Walzer

Journal of Religious Ethics 11 (1):96 - 113 (1983)
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Abstract

This paper is an analysis of Michael Walzer's (1977) argument concerning British bombing policy during the Second World War. Walzer had argued that the British bombing early in the war was morally permissible as an example of a "supreme emergency." The argument here is twofold. First, Walzer's historical reconstruction of the British situation is judged inadequate. Second, even assuming Walzer's factual description, his theoretical argument is incomplete. Walzer fails to appreciate the moral difficulty of the politician who acts in such a way as to initiate an immoral social practice in order to defeat an evil political system, especially when this social practice becomes a feature of our common life. Certain other features of Walzer's account are also explored.

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