The history of the war from the past one hundred years is a history of bombing
“Tripoli, 1 November 1911: I decided that today I would try to drop bombs from the aeroplane … if I succeed I shall be happy to have been the first.”
—Italian Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti
At its inception, aerial bombardment was a weapon of empire deployed to subdue colonial populations. Soon, during the Second World War, civilians in Europe and Japan came into the bomber’s crosshairs, and ever since non-combatant targets have been at the heart of military strategy. It was a seismic shift in the relations of power: as the state justified the mass murder of civilians, individual combatants, flying high above their victims, were distanced from the act of killing as never before.
The ascendance of drones as an instrument of military power is the latest stage in this cruel evolution, which has led to a perpetual low-intensity war on the global scene. As the technology enabling it spreads through the world, the borders of the conflict will grow in proportion.
In this short and fascinating history of aerial warfare, Thomas Hippler brings together all the major themes of the past century: nationalism, democracy, totalitarianism, colonialism, globalization, the welfare state and its decline, and the rise of neoliberalism. Air power is the defining characteristic of modern warfare; as Hippler demonstrates, it is also ingrained in the nature of modern politics.