Back to the Stone Age


Japan Focus has a wonderful article by Nick Cullather about the history of the phrase back to the stone age,” as in, We’ll bomb you back to the stone age!” (most recently attributed to Richard Armitage by Pakistan’s President” Musharraf). The most interesting aspect of the article is the way in which the history of bombing is tied to theories of modernization and development:

The techniques of nation building, in fact, evolved together with theories of aerial bombardment. John Kenneth Galbraith, a development economist and ambassador to India, was a leading figure in the 1945 Strategic Bombing Survey of Germany and Japan. Several economists who pioneered modernization theory in the 1950s—Walt Rostow, Charles P. Kindleberger, and Carl Kaysen—had served during World War II in the Economic Warfare Division of the London embassy as bombing targeters. There they debated how best to dismantle the German economy from the air, whether the whole system had to be taken down together or if there might be specific points—a ball-bearing factory or a refinery—that could be removed, bringing the entire war machine to a halt.

Related: This 2001 review of Sven Lindqvist’s A History of Bombing from The Nation, and a more recent L.A. Times Op-Ed by Tom Engelhardt: Barbarians With Wings.

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