Hanging irregulars and firebombing Dresden

Friday, March 30th, 2018

Mark Safranski (Zen Pundit) mentioned that we need to start trying and hanging “irregulars” who break the laws of war, I noted how odd it is that this concept has completely disappeared, and Tweet Wiv Me pointedly asked if I’d ever posted anything about Dresden. I had, and this led to a larger discussion of Freeman Dyson and Operational Research during the war — including everyone’s favorite OR story about bombers returning after a run:

For the survey, Bomber Command inspected all bombers returning from bombing raids over Germany over a particular period. All damage inflicted by German air defenses was noted and the recommendation was given that armour be added in the most heavily damaged areas.


Blackett’s team instead made the surprising and counter-intuitive recommendation that the armour be placed in the areas which were completely untouched by damage, according to the survey. They reasoned that the survey was biased, since it only included aircraft that successfully came back from Germany. The untouched areas were probably vital areas, which if hit would result in the loss of the aircraft.

Oddly enough, Dyson never mentions that story, but Douglas Reay (of Less Wrong) traces it back to Abraham Wald:

Wald was a Jewish mathematician from Romania who in 1943 published a series of 8 memoranda via the Statistical Research Group at Columbia University while working for the National Defense Research Committee in America. These were republished collectively in 1980 as “A Method of Estimating Plane Vulnerability Based on Damage of Survivors.” by the Center for Naval Analyses, and are still in use today.

In 1984 Mangel and Samaniego published a fairly accessible summary of Wald’s work in the Journal of the American Statistical Association (Vol 79, Issue 286, June)

Abraham Wald’s Work on Aircraft Survivability

So it seems that Wald is the one who should get the credit for being the first to try to compensate for the evidential problem. Tragically he himself died in an airplane crash, just a few years later (in 1950, aged 48).

The ‘bible’ on this topic, Robert Ball’s “The Fundamentals of Aircraft Combat Survivability Analysis and Design” confirms the problem is a real one, and mentioned the F-4 as an example. When they looked at the F-4s which survived combat, there were no holes in the narrowest part of the tail, just forward of the horizontal stabilizers. They figured out that all of the hydraulic lines for the elevators and rudder were tightly clustered in there, so that a single hit could damage all of them at once, leaving the plane uncontrollable. The solution in that case was, rather than increasing the armour, to spread the redundant lines out to reduce the chances of losing all of them to a single hit.


  1. TweetWivMe says:

    When people talk about targeting civilians I always think of the firestorms. 100k Tokyo residents killed. That’s quite an atrocity. I guess they never prosecuted Bomber Harris for Dresden either.

    Dyson’s comments talk about the massive civilian casualties, when they get the fire so hot they roast people inside their shelters, as a “success”.

    When the Queen visited Dresden a couple of decades age they booed her. So they should.

    It is what it is, a massive slaughter of civilians for questionable military gains with super geniuses figuring out how to replicate the conditions so they can clean out more cities. Maybe it won us the war. Maybe it didn’t.

    The sick part is I am fascinated with the decision making whilst being repulsed by the outcome. Dyson clearly was too, but not enough to stop himself.

  2. Kirk says:

    Yeah, well… Dresden and Tokyo both are lessons in why you shouldn’t let totalitarians take over your country and start wars they can’t win. Color me unsympathetic, knowing how deeply complicit the German people were in the Nazi criminal conspiracy–Anyone with any illusions otherwise needs to go read Adam Tooze’s works, and contemplate just how much nickel-and-dime looting of other countries went on under German occupation–Which the German public was just fine with, right up until Bomber Harris brought the war they’d supported home to them.

    Frankly, given what the Germans did to their victims in all the occupied territories, I’m thinking that the sorry bastards should be grateful they weren’t exterminated at the end of the war, as a salutary lesson to others. Had I been the decision-maker? The death camps would have kept right on running, only with a different clientele–Every single card-carrying Nazi would have been fed into those gas chambers and ovens, to join the rest of their victims.

    Every single sorry German whinger about Dresden ought to get down on their knees and praise God and the Allies that they weren’t fed right into those same ovens they so carefully ignored. Protestations aside, they all knew exactly what was going on, and they all knew they were beneficiaries of a criminal conspiracy to loot first the Jews of Germany, and when the money from that was drained dry, then the rest of Europe that they conquered.

    The petty nickle-and-dime extortion they spread across Europe led directly to the starvation suffered throughout the nations like Holland and France–And, the German people as a whole were entirely complicit, having their sons and fathers send back food and goods that were essentially looted legally at gunpoint. They claimed, of course, that they were paid for, but with Reichsmarks that were drastically inflated in value, and useless to the victims. Nazi Germany was basically a criminal enterprise from start to finish, and to hear the sorry bastards who stood by and enabled the whole sorry enterprise whine about how they were “victimized” by the Allies…? Screw the lot of them. Had I been the decision-maker, they’d have all joined their victims in the mass graves of ashes.

    The miserable pricks to this day live in homes stolen from the Jews, with art stolen from them on the walls, and whine oh-so-much about how they were treated inhumanely. Bluntly put, fuck the lot of them–They were fine when it was Hans sending home hams and butter that he paid next to nothing for, and which led directly to the people who produced those goods starving in the cold.

    Germans should seriously quit whinging about being victims of Bomber Harris and the 8th Air Force–They’re lucky we were merciful enough not to exterminate the lot of them, as a salutary lesson to history about the perils of listening to demagogues.

  3. Adar says:

    When the Israeli got their first shipment of F-4 Phantom the first thing they did was make 500 changes to the warplane, small incremental improvements [such as a rear view mirror] but all those changes in totality adding up to a major developmental advancement in the warplane. This at a point in history when the Phantom already combat tested. Anyone have an idea as to what those changes consisted of or where I can see a list of same?

  4. Lu An Li says:

    “Every single sorry German whinger about Dresden ought to get down on their knees and praise God and the Allies that they weren’t fed right into those same ovens they so carefully ignored.”

    The forced repatriation of ethnic Germans from all parts of eastern Europe to Germany proper, about 15 million persons, resulted in the death of one to two million Germans during the transfer. Coupled with the two million German soldiers killed and German civilians killed by allied bombing plus the German women raped by Soviet soldiers and I would think bill paid more or less in full.

  5. Dan Kurt says:

    re: (((Kirk)))

    Time for Aliyah (((Kirk))).

    You are a bloodthirsty SOB.

    Dan Kurt

  6. Kirk says:

    Lu An Li;

    Wrong Germans. Most of the Nazi party members survived the war with their fortunes intact, and went on to prosper under both the West and the Soviets. Most of the Stasi were former low-level Gestapo, if only as informants.

    The fact is that the so-called “de-Nazification” process ignored the vast majority of the mid-rank Nazis, and actually put most of them back into power in the post-war Germany. Instead of patting them on the back, and saying “Nice try…”, I’d have fed most of them into the same machinery that they built and fed others into.

    Including most of the miserable pricks we snagged up in Operation Paperclip, who were entirely complicit in much of the horror. Von Braun had to have known just what horrors were going on in the V2 production plants, and how much of a damn waste it all was–You don’t want to even contemplate how much food was used to make the alcohol for that program, and all so he could live out his rocket fantasies. To get to space, that sorry sonuvabitch countenanced the murder of we don’t know how many concentration camp inmates, and then he used their efforts to produce tools for mass murder, all to enable his “dream”. He should have been worked to death the same way the men and women who dug those missile plants were, and made to live as they did.

    And, no, I’m not a “nice person”. My operating theory is that if you enable evil, you get more of it. Had we taken the tone that we should have, I can about guarantee you that there would be far less chance of seeing a repeat of Hitler’s madness, if only because we’d have left an indelible imprint on history for what happens when you commit war crimes.

    My real problem with Dresden isn’t that we did it, but that we did it, and then having killed all those innocents…? We turned aside when we had the real criminals in our hands, and left them alive to prosper in post-WWII Germany. Raining faceless death on women and children…? No problem. Rooting out the Nazi party, root, branch, and twig…? Oh, that’s too damn hard; we’ll have to do that face-to-face, and up close and personal… Rather not be the “bad guy”, eh?

    Instead, we let that cancer alive to fester, and the example made to history and the world is that you can get away with murder. Hell, we even gathered up all the data the animals like Mengele and Unit 731 created with vivisection on human beings, and then used it. To make matters worse, we offered amnesty, in some cases, to get it…

    You set out to “do the right thing”, you don’t get down to the knife and then turn aside. Why? Because that makes all the innocents you killed in order to get to victory wasted killings.

    The irony is that we killed indiscriminately to achieve victory, and then, having won? We turned aside and let a massive swathe of the men and women who benefited from the atrocities literally get away with murder. We should have purged the lot of them, if only as an example to history.

    ‘Tis a funny thing… The last time we had big troubles with Arab/Islamic terrorism, back during the Crusades? The Arabs and the Christians just suffered all the attacks, and let it go, more or less ignoring the problems, and letting the Old Man of the Mountain at Alamut warp the conduct of politics. The Mongols showed up, took Alamut, and the only surviving remnants of the Assassin’s sect are the passionately pacifistic Ismaili Sufis.

    See how that works…? You may term it bloodthirsty, but when dealing with these types, the only effective way is to eliminate them without mercy. I’m going to go to my grave convinced that we should have done unto the Nazis what they did unto others, and that the Communists should have been dealt with in a similar manner. Unfortunately, the Russians love their mass-murdering totalitarian leadership, and worship their murderers, grovelling at their feet. In their case, doing the right thing would have entailed dealing with a nation-wide Stockholm Syndrome the likes of which are nearly unprecedented in history.

  7. Graham says:


    I don’t know I agree entirely but that was magnificent and should be praised on its own merits. So I do.

    Back in the mid-90s most of the few Germans I knew in London were the sort who would never have dared protest anything done to their country in the war. One was in a state of near catatonia about being German. I thought that unnecessary and tiresome. One was half-Chinese and had a comedically cynical attitude to the dark sides of the histories of both his countries. But he wasn’t prone to apologetics for either. I liked him best.

    When a statue to Arthur Harris was to be erected, after decades of delay, there were protests. Some mild German official reaction, but the actual protests were the usual protest suspects. Oddly, and perhaps for the first and last time, left antiwar protesters protesting what was done to the Germans. I went to shout praise for Harris. Nothing much ensued.

    I’m actually more sympathetic to the German case than all that, but I don’t make any apologies for our Allied war effort. That and aerial bombing was arguably legal under international law at the time. At least it was a grey area. And the Allies knew that well enough to explicitly exclude it from the bill against the Germans in war crimes trials. So, hypocrisy dodged. I still make no apology, though the weight of evidence seems to have leaned against the military value of it and the value of Allied lives lost. Not entirely without value, but the cost benefit ratio is troubling.

    All that aside, I appreciate your comments as well on two aspects:

    1. That was the old America talking. It’s a pity that America is being dismantled. Always glad to hear from it.

    2. Glad you included communism. That’d win you no favours from the folks ranting about Nazis and Putin today.

  8. David Foster says:

    I wrote about Dresden…both the bombing raid and the 2006 German movie that was set in the doomed city…here:


  9. Kirk says:


    It was the “old America” and “old Britain” that essentially let the Nazis go. Truman, Churchill, all those “great leaders”.

    Same-same as the asshats who allowed Hitler to attain power in the first place–Had his “explorations” in the Rheinland and Sudeten been properly dealt with, we’d have never had WWII to worry about.

    Personally, I think that there should have been a full-on post-war reckoning of all the leadership–I’d have put the crew that were running the show back in the mid-1930s on trial right next to the clowns in the dock at Nuremberg, with special attention granted the sorry individuals who signed off on blocking the MS St. Louis from docking here in the US. There were so many bad decisions made, and lousy policies–The bravest man in WWII was probably Witold Pilecki, who infiltrated Auschwitz as a prisoner, and then escaped to make a report to the Allies, who didn’t do anything effective with that information. Had they even bothered to inform the German government that they’d be held accountable, root and branch? One wonders if lives would have been saved. Widespread broadcast of that information would have been invaluable, but it wasn’t done.

    The prelude to WWII, the war itself, and the aftermath saw so much “moral expediency” that it’s disgusting. The Allies knew what was going on in those camps, and yet… Did nothing effective. Hell, to tell the truth? I think that the Allies were effectively complicit in the Holocaust, top to bottom, on all sides. They wanted those Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs exterminated, and that fact can be ascertained by virtue of the fact that they waited until our troops had overrun the camps themselves, and the evidence was irrefutable about what the Germans had been doing. At one time, I thought that the Germans had done all that in secret, but after a lot more reading, I think that the assholes running the Allied effort just didn’t care to do a damn thing about what they had to have known about. Pilecki’s report was damning, and his reports from inside Auschwitz, by radio no less, were forwarded to the Allies at least as early as 1942. Think about that, for just a moment–There was a Polish Home Army officer making reports from within the camp, and the Allies were still officially insisting that they couldn’t corroborate any of the “rumors” that were circulating in the UK and US Jewish communities…

    “Old America”…? It is to laugh–There never was such a thing as you imagine, nor was there an “old Great Britain”, either. Expediency ruled the day, and millions died. One reads the histories, and you rather start to wonder if they didn’t want it that way, on both sides.

    I’ll grant you that there’s damn little the Allies could have done, besides publicize the whole thing, but they couldn’t even be arsed to do that. How many Jews boarded those trains, thinking that such a thing could not be happening to them–After all, wouldn’t the BBC have warned them…?

    Bastards, one and all. The ones on our side were only slightly less morally culpable, in that they weren’t actually signing the death warrants for millions–But, they stood by while those that did came to power, and then effectively ignored and enabled the mass murder of millions. All they might have done was warn the victims of what to expect, but they didn’t even bother to do that. You wonder how many Jews would have lived, were they aware and chose to resist? Hell, there were a few camp inmates I’ve met over the years who still felt a sense of betrayal over that very issue, much like the Poles in Warsaw who rose before the Soviets stopped their advance. The Germans had a much easier time running their little game on the Jews and others, because their victims had no real idea beyond what they took as wild rumors about what was going on. Pilecki told the Allies; they should have been warning the victims in every broadcast, and telling the Nazis that they would face judgment, as a warning.

    Apparently, ’twas too much trouble. Or, as I mentioned above, the obvious surmise is that they wanted the world rid of those people.

  10. Roger says:

    Several years ago I was able to review some “Weidermachtgut (sp?)” files in the Hessen archives. I was amazed at the current banks that were exploiting the Jewish deportations to make money in those days – agents of the state in renting out the empty houses among other things. I suspect Tooze understated things himself.

  11. Lodi Silverado says:

    Similar to the American, European, Australian and Indian leaders today, nearly without exception, who sell arms to Muslim countries and inject millions of military aged male Muslims along with their families into Western societies, actively settle (implant) them in towns and cities dispersed across our nations, and praise their ideology as ‘one of the world’s great religions’ (Trump) knowing full well what actions against non-Muslims are ordered (not advised) in Islam’s core mamnifesto, The Quran, to be undertaken by every Muslim.

    1400 years of ‘holy’ bloody conquest by Mohamed’s many edicts and the worldwide publication of officially translations of the Quran spelling out the intent of this barbaric ideology of world supremacy have not sufficed as evidence to convince world leaders today of a threat, nor to warn of coming mass attempts at xenocide by Muslims. The Europeans have gone so far as to make it illegal even to speak truthfully, with direct quotes and histories, about Islam and those who follow it.

    The deaths of many millions will result as surely as any massive ideology of murder will produce them, and our leaders today are culpable in supporting this anti-civilizational force, indeed funding and developing it willingly and proactively. Will they ever stand trial for their overt acts of treason? Highly unlikely.

    Perhaps, as has been reasonably suggested in Kirk’s post, like the leaders preceding and during WWII, our leaders today secretly want the slaughter to take place. Or perhaps they simply don’t care, so long as they can conduct business with Muslims that will enrich themselves.

    Watching the course of the Muslim invasion by emigration (euphemized as refugee asylum seeking) of Europe, England, and USA and elsewhere is like watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie in which everyone in the audience knows what’s about to happen and wants to scream to the main characters in harm’s way to, “LOOK OUT!” …but of course the danger strikes.

  12. Graham says:

    Well, here goes.

    When I used the term “old America”, I was thinking more along the lines of your earlier post sounding a bit Kennedy. Not that he and his family and Administration weren’t capable of considerable expediency, themselves.

    To expand the thought, I’m well aware there was never any old Britain quite like that. If in some other context I were to cite the idea of an “old Britain”, I wouldn’t exactly be alluding to a fire-breathing international crusade for liberty and humanitarianism. They did have those aspects, and some of Britain’s actions in the 19th-20th centuries are hard to explain without it, but it was never the dominant feature of their statecraft. Not even rhetorically. Churchill was all about Britain and Britons’ liberty, with some extensions for allies, not necessarily liberty in general.

    On the deeper moral problem you raise eloquently, some semi-sequential thoughts-

    I’ve struggled with it in passing for 30 or so years. I say in passing because I admit it troubles me but not constantly or regularly. There are so many mass murders in history, including the 20th century, and so few if any elicit decisive action in response.

    I concede the Holocaust troubles me the most not so much for scale as for occurring in the heart of Europe by Europeans against other Europeans. Many people I know would not accept a moral hierarchy based on the events occurring within what I consider to be my own civilization or kindred cultures, depending on whether you accept either of those terms. But for me that makes it more important and more horrible. Others’ from other cultures mileage will vary.

    I equally struggle with the mindset of the 30s. Not the expediency as such. More what they knew and what they expected. We judge them rightly, but we can let hindsight take over too much.

    They should have expected Hitler to be militarily aggressive. But they would have expected a wide variety of German governments could emerge that would challenge Versailles after the passage of time and some rebuilding, and tended to think Hitler’s early moves fair. None of them would tolerate permanent demilitarization of territory in their own countries’ comparable in size to the Rhineland. Without hindsight, I can’t seriously imagine either Britain or France in 1936 using force to uphold that, or either having the least public support at home for doing so. Yes, they almost certainly could have done it easily and almost or entirely bloodlessly. Whether or not the governments believed that, their publics would have balked sharply at any initial moves to challenge German re-entry. The governments may themselves not have had a sufficient grasp of German weakness, but even if they did it ultimately amounted to threatening force to uphold one of the least likely elements of VErsailles.

    At that point you get onto the treadmill before you realize it. It’s hard not to think it’s possible most Austrians want anschluss, although I don’t recall what evidence we ever had for that. Presumably they were fine with the Austrofascists and independence for the most part, but I have no idea. Only once you get to Munich and Czechoslovakia do you really start to see more clearly, and even then I have the benefit of more information. It’s not impossible to imagine looking at Czechoslovakia like one of the ramshackle states of Africa today and wondering about the justice of its borders. A Wilsonian era creation to give the Czechs and Slovaks a state free of German-speakers’ rule, now with a large German minority in coherent territory.

    The possible moral/legal case in that era for the Sudeten claims was as strong as any. If anything, Munich was a battle of two versions of expediency. I say it would have been more expedient to bolster the Czechs, preserve defensible borders and their military industry, and gamble Germany was still too weak to win. There is plenty of scholarship to suggest that is right. On the other hand, the French were also stronger than Germany in the spring of 1940 and went down just the same. I can’t quite assume 1938 would have been so much better. Probably, but not so certainly.

    Now all that is on the strategic issues, from the Allied point of view. And the expedient point of view. In rterospect, they all look like fools. We all note it was all there in Mein Kampf. Or something like it was in Mein Kampf. They should have known his ambitions were unlimited. But their historical experience had not taught them to think like that. They had plenty of examples of aggressive imperialist rhetoric, military bombast and so on. They didn’t have the example of such a [sort of] 1 to 1 attempt to actually follow such a script, as their failure now gives us.

    So their expediency was ultimately inexpedient in the extreme, and so we call them fools. Ever since, we treat everything as another Munich. Even that ruling class in Britain did. Eden’s motives in Suez in 1956 were varied and included some cynicism, but he seems to have genuinely, and insanely, believed he had to act to stop Nasser becoming the next Hitler-level threat to peace.

    The moral question for the Allies was more like:

    - we agree in retrospect parts of the Versailles settlement were unreasonable and we want to rectify it before it blows up in our faces
    - the initial German claims are consistent with what we would do or want for ourselves and with key elements of the Versailles settlement concerning ethnic self-determination, or at least need to be considered in that context
    - what can the Germans do that justify us committing to a possible second Great War and risking millions of our own, if we can avoid that?

    We underestimate the power of that last point over them. We might consider that too to be expediency, or selfish. They considered it a moral matter, to the people for whom they were responsible.

    More to come. This was long.

  13. Graham says:

    Now that all addresses points I consider to be important. But it doesn’t address two critical challenges.

    1. They were wrong about Hitler’s anticipated aggressions. Yes, they were. I can only end that by saying that without foreknowledge their expectations of him or the situation were not insane, and we who have gone berserk in the opposite direction several times in the last few generations should recognize that. We are wrong to see so many crises as the next Munich, as they were wrong to not see theirs as the first, so to speak.

    2. The Jews of Europe and everything else Hitler was doing domestically. The structure of my comments notwithstanding, this is obviously the moral rub.

    Here the distinction between the prewar and wartime eras is not trivial. The moral calculus is pretty clear- it was obvious and public that Hitler was building a tyranny, and it was just as obvious he was oppressing Jews in particular by disabling them from society, having his bully boys steal their property and beat them and [IIRC] kill some in the streets. Nobody cared enough to do anything about it. And they could have- these countries had raised such issues diplomatically with countries like Russia in the past, and had taken refugees in the past. They just didn’t care enough in the 30s. Or at least, they took some, but they didn’t care enough to make a point or to take all. The case of the St Louis stands out here, but certainly not alone.

    I suspect two things are true for the prewar era.

    a) They didn’t care about what they knew the Jews and others were suffering in Germany. They could have, and Britain and France had been better on this point in the past. But they didn’t.

    b) They didn’t anticipate the Holocaust. I genuinely can’t say how doing so might have changed their attitude. It speaks poorly of them that it might not have. But I doubt they anticipated it. Not even with past massacres elsewhere like the Armenians, or wartime atrocities in 1914-18. This was a society that could both be bigoted as hell and completely not comprehend the idea of something like the Holocaust. Few people even seemed to know of or believe what Stalin was already doing, even among classes predisposed to dislike him. I have no trouble believing they could not envision Auschwitz or its like.

    That’s a mental universe we can no longer access.

    For the war era, I agree. They could have taken that intelligence seriously. They probably could not have stopped it. But who can be sure- sustained bombing focused on the camps rail networks maybe. I don’t know. The Germans were willing to devote huge resources to that until the very last minute, and the camps were only just under half of victims, I think. But something could have been done. And they could have publicized it.

    I can’t quite figure out an explanation, even from expediency. If they actually believed it, what would they have lost and what not gained by using it as part of their propaganda effort? Homeland bigotry notwithstanding, such a cause would have fit well into the Four Freedoms, United Nations, Democracy, proto-Human Rights language that had evolved to be the main line of the Allied message by 1942.

    With that last in mind, I can’t quite find the satisfactory explanation in Allied anti-semitism or in political expediency.

    In Canadian press over the last 30 years or so, sometimes letters to the editor have appeared from representatives of the Canadian Jewish Congress or maybe B’nai Brith or both, just lightly puncturing Allied self-regard by citing many of your points. Ultimately it boiled down to one basic point- the allied war effort may have been ultimately necessary to end the Holocaust, but the Allies weren’t fighting for that, didn’t claim they were, and shouldn’t claim it now in retrospect.

    That’s fair as both criticism and simple description.

    I suspect this is something Jews everywhere and the Israeli state are all well aware of, still. In their place, I would be.

  14. Gaikokumaniakku says:

    “My real problem with Dresden isn’t that we did it, but that we did it, and then having killed all those innocents…? We turned aside when we had the real criminals in our hands, and left them alive to prosper in post-WWII Germany. Raining faceless death on women and children…? No problem. …

    I’m going to go to my grave convinced that we should have done unto the Nazis what they did unto others, and that the Communists should have been dealt with in a similar manner. Unfortunately, the Russians love their mass-murdering totalitarian leadership, and worship their murderers, grovelling at their feet.”

    It sounds to me like you are groveling at the feet of American mass-murderers. You are willing to worship the men who incinerated Dresden, but you scorn the Russians who resemble you.

  15. Kirk says:

    LOL… A greater mis-reading of what I’m saying would be hard to come by.

    My problem isn’t that I “grovel at the feet of American mass-murderers…”, but that I’m angry they committed mass murder of innocents to win the damn war, and then, when they had the ability to actually deal directly with the people who were actually benefiting from the Nazi regime, and behind it all…? They did nothing at all. The indiscriminate killing is what bothers me; the Nazi party membership? They knew what they were signing on for, and gleefully stuck both hands out to receive the goodies. If they’d have been victorious in the East, they’d have turned everyone who wasn’t German into slaves, and gradually exterminated them.

    Dresden was a case where you can reasonably argue military necessity; the abandonment of principle, when it came to dealing with the Nazis? Not so much. And, mark you, the Soviets weren’t much different: Who manned the Stasi? Who did the Soviets take into the fold, so long as they renounced both national socialism and capitalism? Oh, yes–The f**king Nazis. The whole thing on both sides reeked of expediency, and instead of cutting out the cancer entire, they killed their millions of innocents to get at them, and then let oh-so-very-many of them go.

    To put the Allied effort post-war into perspective? Imagine a terrorist hostage scenario; the counter-terrorists come in and shoot the hostages (the innocent civilians) and then, once they’ve removed the hostages and taken the terrorists prisoner, they release the terrorists, give them a pat on the head, and then tell them “Hey, if you fight for us, you’re gonna be OK…”.

    Totally immoral. You’re gonna kill the hostages to get at the terrorists, then by God, you’d better kill the terrorists, too. Plain and simple.

  16. “That’s a mental universe we can no longer access” carries a lot of explanatory weight here, and not just in Graham’s formulation. Pre-war innocence vs. post-war awareness of evil, yes, but was there not also a post-war ramp-up of supercynicism and distrust of institutions provoked by the same awareness that humans were capable of such things? At the low level, here was only one post-war Battle of Athens; how many more US towns deserved the same treatment, but cynical apathy won out instead? At the high level, the men who won the war believed they needed Stalin precisely because he could *clear minefields by marching armies through them* — how easily could they have been convinced to throw away a resource like von Braun against that same threat, post-war? My law prof Mike Glennon remarked once that Robert Jackson may have been a true moral crusader as far as history’s concerned, but D.C. at the time saw him as a showboating egoist. That’s a lot of historic contemporary cynicism we’ve forgotten in the interval.

  17. To clarify: My understanding is that Jackson intended his Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal performance to be a stepping-stone to the presidency. Glennon’s remarks were in the context of a discussion of the Korean War-era Steel Seizure case; according to him, the court ruled the way it did because the annoying little haberdasher was in the Oval (and, in Jackson’s case, that Jackson wasn’t).

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