On any reasonable view, Allied saturation bombing of German cities in the Second World War inflicted severe injustice on civilian populations. A Nazi victory, on the other hand, would have spelt the complete death of justice in Europe. Leaving to one side the case that Allied bombing made that dreadful outcome less likely - despite clever-silly arguments to the contrary, I believe it may have helped - there is here an intractable moral dilemma.If Gray really wants to cast contempt ("clever-silly") on contrary arguments, and really thinks that the carpet bombing made German victory less likely, then is it really enough to say that he "believes" it "may have helped"?
In the rest of the paragraph, we get from "maybe helping" or "making Nazi victory less likely" to a rather stronger conclusion:
However one describes this dilemma - as a quasi-utilitarian trade-off between injustices of differing degrees of severity, or a tragic choice in which the injustices involved were of such different kinds as to be incomparable - one thing is clear: a readiness on the part of the Allies to sanction grave injustice was a precondition of any kind of justice surviving in Europe, and perhaps the world.That's just fantasy. Carpet bombing *may* have shortened the war and saved some Allied lives, though I do not think that it did; but only a theorist deeply ignorant of the war would think it arguable that the killing of thousands of civilians was "a precondition of any kind of justice surviving in Europe, and perhaps the world."
Carpet bombing was not a precondition for winning the war. It wasn't even close. The grim fact is that the Russian drive from the east, and the Allied invasion from the west, could have been carried out without carpet bombing a single city. Hitler's war was lost when he invaded Russia; there was never, after that, any realistic prospect of the Nazis ruling Europe, much less "the world." Hell, given the injustice of the Soviet system, and the fear it inspired in the Cold War, Gray could argue more plausibly that the alliance with Stalin was an example of competing principles of justice.
(That's not to say that civilian casualties were avoidable -- they never are. The Normandy invasion was preceded by bombing of the French transportation system that killed hundreds of French civilians. But that's genuine collateral damage, not the deliberate targeting of civilians for its own sake as in carpet bombing.)
If that's the best example Gray can muster, then the powers of reason are looking pretty good.