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The ancestry of the nuclear bomb

Guest post by Noel Hamel of Kingston Peace Council / CND.

A virtually unknown warmonger’s ideas led to the development of nuclear weapons. After the First World War it was realised trench warfare simply led to carnage and stalemate. Italian General Giulio Douhet, 1869–1930, argued for an airforce to bomb the enemy and bypass troops on the ground. His ideas for aerial warfare clashed with the military establishment and he was sacked.

In 1921 Giulio Douhet published “The Command of the Air” (still available on Amazon) insisting that future wars would be won by air supremacy. He believed in total war, not simply bombing the military, industry and communication but also cities and civilians. His plan was to use explosives, incendiaries and gas to spread terror and despair till civilians rose up and demanded surrender. In the USA, Germany and the UK there were other less extreme advocates of aerial warfare. In 1932 proposals for an international ban on bombing withered for lack of interest. After World War 2, though targeting civilians is clearly a war crime, no one was tried for bombing raids since the victors were the worst offenders.

Douhet’s theory was tested in places like Guernica, Coventry, London Docks, Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo. The main effect was to harden civilian resolve. In Japan Hiroshima and Nagasaki were discounted as just another two cities destroyed. Hence a thoroughly discredited theory?

Today nuclear bombing would certainly destroy all side’s citizens, and innocent citizens not involved, with blast, radiation poisoning and atmospheric damage. Is Douhet’s theory of air supremacy due a rethink after 70 years? Trident submarines have 40 warheads, each 8 X the Hiroshima bomb.


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