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The Morality of Bombing:
Psychological Responses to "Distant Punishment"

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by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, USA (Ret)

With the 1921 publication of his book, Command of the Air, Guilio Douhet became one of the world's first recognized airpower adherents, claiming that the disintegration of nations brought about by attrition in World War I would be accomplished directly by aerial forces in the future. Since then airpower advocates have repeatedly proclaimed their ability to win wars solely through what has accurately been termed "distant punishment." But Douhet had an excuse that present day "air barons" do not: his belief was based upon current scientific theory. That is, current as of 80 years ago. A theory which has since been soundly disproven and is no longer accepted by any scientific body.

  • The Origin of the Myth of Distant Punishment......psychiatric casualties were termed "shell shock" and it was sincerely (and quite incorrectly) believed that these casualties were a result of the physical impact of prolonged concussions on the brain.
  • The Real Cause of Psychiatric Casualties......it is very natural and normal to respond to an attacking, aggressive fellow human being with a phobic-scale response. This is a universal human phobia.
  • The Death of a Myth......the myth of distant punishment fulfills a deep-seated need, rooted in the avoidance of personal confrontation and a need to deny the consequences of combat.
  • Immoral and Soon to be Illegal?......small arms fire kills or injures comparatively few non-combatants, but instruments of "distant punishment" (land mines, aerial bombing, and artillery) are responsible for the vast majority of the indiscriminate slaughter of non-combatants in war.
  • About the Author: Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
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