When in the history of warfare has one combatant adopted a strategy that seeks to maximize casualties among its own civilians?

My sense is that only in the age of TVs, would someone fighting an empathic democracy whose public can be moved by the sight of suffering among its enemy, find it advantageous to adopt such a strategy.

But I may be wrong.

Accepting historical examples.

5 Responses to When in the history of warfare has one combatant adopted a strategy that seeks to maximize casualties among its own civilians?

  1. Rich Rostrom says:

    Many years ago, my wargaming club staged a U.S. versus Sandinistoid Reds game. The battlefield was some Central American city. I was on the Red side, and our commander was given a choice of secret weapon. He chose “war correspondents”. We baited the U.S. forces into an airstrike on a building full of civilians, with Dan Rather across the street.

    Decisive Red victory!

    Which is to say, some of us noticed this syndrome a while back. But yes, in the age of TVs.

  2. Markus says:

    In the last stages of World War II, the Japanese goverment was training its civilian population for a possible amphibious landing by the United States. This would have lead to massive civilian casualties.

  3. Robert says:

    Markus is correct and made the point I wanted to. On the island of Saipan over 12000 Japanese civilians died. Many committed suicide rather than be captured by the US but more were killed by Japanese forces. It’s this kind of behavior that was a major factor in the use of the nuclear bomb.

  4. w.w.wygart says:

    It seems to me that there are three different things we might be talking about here: a military strategy that would necessarily create a lot of civilian casualties as a by-product, say the saturation bombing of German cities in WWII; a culture that prefers death to dishonor and is willing to enforce suicide upon civilian population, as the Japanese did in Okinawa in WWII [mostly to an ethnic minority BTW]; and the use of civilian casualties itself as a military and political strategy for victory. In effect all are terrible, arguably criminal, which path is the more evil?

    The saturation bombing of cities produces the most death and destruction; the second case produces fewer casualties, but is largely of the ‘self-inflicted’ type; the third case produces the fewest casualties, but is heinous in its own unique way because it cynically depends upon your enemy striving to produce the fewest possible casualties among your own population.

    Is there an example of the third case out there, other than in the mid-east in the last few decades: Palestine, Iraq, & etc? I can’t think of one.


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