Handbook on the Economics of Conflict
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Handbook on the Economics of Conflict

Edited by Derek L. Braddon and Keith Hartley

The Handbook on the Economics of Conflict conveys how economics can contribute to the understanding of conflict in its various dimensions embracing world wars, regional conflicts, terrorism and the role of peacekeeping in conflict prevention.
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Chapter 19: The Strategic Bombing of Germany in the Second World War: An Economic Perspective

Keith Hartley


* Keith Hartley 19.1 INTRODUCTION The strategic bombing of Germany by the UK and USA in the Second World War was, and remains, controversial. It is a topic dominated by myths and emotion, lacking clear and careful analysis and supporting evidence. There are two extreme views. Critics claim that strategic bombing, especially by the UK Royal Air Force (RAF), was a massive waste of resources and was immoral with its terror bombing of German cities and mass murder of civilians, mostly women and children. Advocates of strategic bombing focus on it being the only means for the UK to continue the war against Nazi Germany after the defeat and evacuation of the British Army at Dunkirk: it represented a second front opened by the UK and made a positive contribution to the defeat of Germany (Neillands, 2001). Strategic bombing used military force in the form of air power as an instrument of economic policy. In the Second World War, it involved the use of air power to destroy the German economy, as distinct from the destruction of its armed forces. The aim was to reduce the enemy’s war-fighting capability by reducing its national output (both the level and growth of gross domestic product), the output of its arms industries (for example, production of aircraft, tanks, submarines) and the output of other ‘key’ industries and sectors (for example, aircraft engine factories, ball bearing plants, oil plants and oil fields). These objectives were achieved by using air power to destroy the German economy’s...

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