Originally Posted by Zeitgeist
None of those target destinations had any military significance. Each was designed to inflict maximum civilian carnage. They were political hits, and nothing more. That's terrorism, straight up.
They were all very necessary in order to send a message to the population directly that would not be filtered through their government propaganda structures.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki prompted unconditional surrenders from a nation that was not disposed to surrender under any circumstances. The first bomb demonstrated the futility of continued fighting and the second proved that the first was not a fluke. Every population centre in Japan could have been levelled if the US chose to. The Japanese people got the message, which probably saved untold tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of lives.
Dresden must be considered in the same light, but in order to understand why it was necessary you need to go back to 1918. When WW1 ended, it ended with no significant Allied incursion into German territory. The German people didn't know the horrors of war that their nation had inflicted upon the countries that saw all the fighting. Because of this, the population really didn't know they were defeated and when they learned about the conditions of the peace of Versailles, the population considered them to be oppressive and unjust, especially considering they felt the war ran out to a tie. This helped lay the groundwork for the intense rise of German nationalism that Hitler was able to capitalize on, leading the world into 6 years of war that was more destructive than the first time.
Dresden let Germany know it was beaten, in no uncertain terms. It helped create the climate necessary for an easy occupation and successful nation building exercise. If Germany knew it was beaten the first time around, we may not have had to go through it the second time around. If we did, it might not have been as bad because the population wouldn't have been as easy to brainwash. How many lives would have been saved under those circumstances? We'll never be able to answer that question, but we do know that we didn't have to worry about a Fourth Reich.