This article explores the history of the legal aspects of targeting, specifically addressing the evolution of the law of war related to strategic bombing and belligerent reprisals - both prior to August 1945 and in the seventy years since. The article examines the interaction between the law of war and United States nuclear weapon targeting policy during those periods. While nuclear targeting policy was consistent with law at the close of the Second World War, it subsequently struggled to justify its conformity with international law norms as they continued to evolve. This struggle is evident when assessing Cold War concepts like city targeting, "bonus damage", and retaliation against law-of-war principles such as distinction and proportionality. Since the end of the Cold War, nuclear threats have become more varied and regionalized. In this new international security environment, the U.S. accepted law-of-war limitations on nuclear weapons. Understanding and applying those limitations, however, is challenging to say the least. The unique nature of nuclear weapons, combined with treaty obligations, has created a lex specialis of nuclear targeting.
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