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Hutton Honors College

 — Indiana University

COLL-C 103: Killing Civilians: Air War in the 20th Century - History & Morality
Professor William Rasch*
Section 30423 F 10:10-11:00am SPH B10


There is a twofold purpose of this course. First, to teach the history of the development and execution of strategic (area, saturation, moral, and terror are some of the other adjectives used by its proponents) bombing during the course of the twentieth century (WWI to NATO bombing of Serbia). We examine both the theories developed on how best to use the new air weapon, the tactics and technologies that were devised, and the experience of the civilian victims themselves. We will learn what the laws of war say about targeting civilians, the difference between the direct targeting of civilians and so-called collateral damage, and the military and political justifications for using this weapon against civilians.

Second, we will engage with the moral arguments used for and against the direct targeting of civilians. Our case study will be the attack on Hamburg, Germany, because it happened earlier in the war (1943) and because of the work by the philosopher A. C. Grayling (see below), who offers a book-length examination of the moral case for and against saturation bombing.

The ultimate aim of the course is both to trace the history of bombing civilians as a necessary background for students to use in understanding the contemporary use of the weapon; and to introduce them to modes of argumentation (military, legal, moral) that are used to evaluate the realities of killing civilians in wartime, whether deliberately or collaterally. Ideally, the student will emerge from the class with greater knowledge of the history of air warfare and its rationale, as well as a greater facility with modes of argumentation and moral reasoning. The aim is not to instill any single "right" answer, but rather to assist students in their quest to become independent thinkers.

Section 4371
Section 4371