Bombing civilian populations is a strategy that continues to fail

Gerry ChidiacIt is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

With the evolution of aerial warfare a century ago, military theorists speculated that the bombing of civilian populations would demoralize the population of the enemy and lead to victory. They apparently still believe this to be true.

In practice, the opposite has been proven virtually without exception. The Nazis bombed civilian populations in the early years of the Second World War. This resulted in the British determination to win the war. Perhaps it was their strong belief in British exceptionalism that led them to think that similar actions against German cities would lower the enemy’s morale.

However, today, many historians suggest that this may have actually prolonged the war. Indeed, Allied air forces would have been far more useful had they blown up train tracks to Nazi concentration camps instead.

Bombing civilian populations

Photo by Maria Bekker

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After the Second World War, despite the newly revised Geneva Conventions labelling it a war crime, powerful nations, notably the United States, embraced the strategy of targeting civilian populations. The American performance during this era has been marked by failure, with far-reaching adverse consequences, including political turmoil and even genocide.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. dropped over 7.5 million tons of explosives on Southeast Asian countries, more than three times the amount used in all of the Second World War. This led to a humiliating defeat for the world’s mightiest military and significantly destabilized Cambodia’s government, ultimately giving rise to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, resulting in the Cambodian Genocide that claimed nearly two million lives.

Following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City in 2001, the U.S. again went on a rampage of foreign wars, using the bombardment of civilian populations as a primary strategy. This approach caused not only significant civilian casualties but also bolstered local resistance, ultimately leading to humiliating outcomes in decades-long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Not only have these bombing campaigns resulted in millions of deaths, but they have also cost trillions of dollars to the American economy, their allies, and the countries that were devastated.

We are again watching the U.S. and its allies (including Canada) provide endless military aid to Israel in their conflict against the Palestinian people. They have already dropped roughly 30,000 air-to-ground munitions on the tiny enclave of Gaza. They claim to be targeting the Hamas terrorist group, but Hamas fighters are safely sheltered in tunnels, so civilians make up the bulk of the more than 20,000 people who have been killed – according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health – thus far.

As a result, support for Hamas is growing because many Palestinians believe that only Hamas can save them from this onslaught. We are also seeing increasing radicalization of other fringe groups in the region, like Hezbollah and Ansar Allah (Houthi rebels). In addition, international support for Israel is plummeting everywhere except among those who currently hold political power in countries closely allied with Israel and the U.S.

If the goal of the current military strategy is to provide security for the citizens of Israel – as it should be – we are clearly headed in the wrong direction.

All of this leaves us wondering what could motivate Israel and its allies to continue bombing civilian populations in Gaza. Is it confirmation of the statement that military intelligence is an oxymoron? Is it the greed of the military-industrial complex? Is it pure vengeance of the Israeli government and military to avenge its failure to protect citizens from the Hamas terrorist attack of October 7? Is it ethnic cleansing or even genocide?

Regardless of the reason, Israeli military attacks on Palestinians are not only war crimes, but they are also counterproductive and simply need to stop.

Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages, genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust.

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