Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: The Art of Precision Bombing

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Art of Precision Bombing

Precision bombing in World War II was anything but precise. Paul Fussell brings to the forefront stories of incredible inaccuracies in bombing. Through propaganda, the governments on both sides of the struggle used their ability to bomb accurately as selling points for the people. Not only did stories of precision bombing perform the act of selling the war to the people, but they also keep the public confident in the progress of the armed forces. One must pose the question- Is this a good thing? When reading stories about falsehoods conjured by the government and its agencies, one tends to get angry. The common man usually feels that being lied to is a crime when it comes from the top. However, it can be argued that stories of the governments' confidence in its precision bombing, whether false or not, provides an important service to the people in wartime. Rather than inundate citizens with more fear than they already have, it might be necessary to tell them what they want to hear. From personal experience, I remember the first Gulf War very well. I remember seeing a precision bombing exhibition on CNN. A bomb was dropped with the aid of night vision down the chimney of a building. Reflecting upon it almost fifteen years later it occurs to me that I have no idea what that buildings' significance was. Was it a military target? Was it an armory? Was it a hospital? Was it a school? At the time, these question did not matter. I was put at ease by this exhibition. That is precisely the service to the citizens that I mentioned earlier. It just seems to me that people do not need a front row seat to watch a war. Those fortunate enough to not have to engage in armed struggle ought to remain ignorant of its perils. It is essential in wartime to remain confident in the soldiers that we support.
That being said, the fact that these precise bombs are being dropped at all is the crime. The danger of the propaganda regarding precision bombing is the fact that often times the government believes its own hype. They are in fact victims of their own propaganda. The truth is that these precision bombs hit almost everything but the targets. For the same reason i believe citizens should be ignorant of the perils of war, i believe that citizens should not be casualties of bombs that are supposed to be precise. The difference between today and World War II, is that ordinary citizens like you and I can see the destruction that follows these bombings that we get a far aweay glimpse of on CNN. Back then, it was in the nations best interests to believe we were more powerful than we were. Now, we know the bombs aren't as precise as advertised but we are still told so regardless.


Blogger A. Mattson said...

A very good, substantive post.

It is a complicated issue. The smart bombs and missles are increasingly accurate. It is a fact that our military has made great strides in reducing unintended casualties.

In the gulf war, precision munitions were actually a very small proporation of the tonnage dropped on Iraq. The Pentagon played up their precision weapons and made it sound as if the war was being fought with surgical precision. The reality was far different.

In the current war the amount of smart weaponry has increased. Unfortunately precise targetting based on inaccurate or corrupt intelligence produces "collateral damage" and human error will never be eliminated.

The Pentagon media campaign presents an image of a clean precise war that is an impossiblity. Our military does try to keep the number of civilian casualties to a minimum because it clearly aids the enemy's propaganda campaign which portrays us as a savage army of occupation that care little for Iraqi casualties.

That said, war means death on a mass scale and even our professional, well trained, high-tech army will never be able to fight a war without killing civilians, that's just the cost of a real war. The inevitable accidents, friendly fire and necessary "collateral damage" that occur during wartime keep the pentagon public affairs people hard at work managing our image at home and around the world.

3/09/2006 10:58 AM  

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