The moral question is this: is it ever acceptable to deliberately bomb civilian populations? There are essentially four answers to this question.
An absolutist answer holds that civilians are never just objects of war, since this position would violate both international law and the demands of morality. By this logic, the deliberate death of one civilian would not be justified even if it shortened the war drastically and saved many lives. Consequently, in this view, the city bombing of Germany was thoroughly unjustified.
An extreme relativist answer holds that in conditions of total war (as some say existed during World War II), there is little distinction between a soldier and a civilian, and any civilian whose efforts somehow contribute to his country’s war effort is a legitimate target for war. According to this standard, a campaign that ignored an enemy’s armies and targeted only its citizen would be just. Therefore, the entire World War II bombing campaign – including the destruction of Dresden – was wholly justified.
Between these two extremes, there are two positions that relate the morality of the bombing to the reasons for its adoption and/or to its consequences.
An instrumental or utilitarian approach argues that bombing civilians is just if it saves other people’s lives (both civilian and soldier). This is often the justification invoked for bombing Hiroshima: it saved up to a million or more soldiers and civilians who would have been killed in battle or through conventional American bombing of cities. The difficulty with this theory is that it favours some people’s right to live (those who are spared the invasion) over that of others (those who are killed by the atomic bomb).
The final approach relates bombing to necessity. In this view, bombing civilians is only acceptable if there is no alternative: that is, if it was the only way to wage war against Nazi Germany. Based on this last view, the area bombing of German cities was only justified when there was no other way of hitting Germany: at the start of the war, before the United States and the Soviet Union entered the war.
One´s view about the ethics of bombing civilians depends largely on one´s moral point of view. That said, only the first and most extreme version would justify the bombing of civilians right through to the last year of the war. By any other standard, area bombing was, after some point in the war´s evolution, immoral.
Yes. It was War and the Germans started the bombing of cities but when one stoops to the same questionable moral values as ones enemy, then one must be prepared to be judge by that same set of moral values. Disliking your enemies political policies doesn´t give one the right to kill non policy-making and innocent civilians.
No one in this war came out smelling like roses, least of all the Germans.