Cultural Heritage, Ethics and the Military






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Publication: Naval War College Review
Author: Demy, Timothy J
Date published: April 1, 2012

Stone, Peter G., ed. Cultural Heritage, Ethics and the Military. Woodbridge, Suffolk, U.K.: Boydell, 2011. 228pp. $90

When the National Museum of Iraq (originally the Baghdad Archaeological Museum) was damaged and looted in 2003, along with archeological sites across Iraq, international concerns were raised by a wide variety of political, military, and other professional leaders regarding the protection of historical and cultural treasures. Observers around the world were reminded that the consequences of military operations across the spectrum of war are far-reaching and long lasting. So too are the responsibilities of political and military leaders during conflict. Proponents of the justwar tradition have long understood this and have thus shaped ideas regarding the parameters of actions before, during, and after a conflict. But there is sometimes a failure to appreciate fully the breadth of responsibility. The editor of this collection, Peter Stone, addresses several of the many issues pertaining to protecting and maintaining the cultural heritage within the space of a battle. The work also addresses questions surrounding the tension (and sometimes hostility) between the military and civilian specialists from, for instance, the archeological, anthropological, religious, and medical communities. Drawing from a wide range of Western and non-Western authors, the editor has assembled a useful volume for both military and nonmilitary professionals.

The volume consists of fourteen chapters on various ethical challenges and professional responsibilities of parties involved in the preservation of cultural heritage in war zones. After an introduction, in which the editor (who served as an archeological adviser to the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence in 2003) provides context, there are essays on restitution, World War II, African perspectives on cultural preservation, academia and the military, archeology in war zones, and case studies from Lebanon and Iraq.

Three essays stand out as particularly helpful for gaining perspective: Margaret M. Miles provides a historical overview of the issue of restitution in "Still in the Aftermath of Waterloo: A Brief History of Decisions about Restitution"; "Christian Responsibility and the Preservation of Civilisation in Wartime: George Bell and the Fate of Germany in World War II," by Andrew Chandler, shows the influence of the Anglican bishop of Chichester, who as a member of the House of Lords and vocal cleric was an outspoken critic of area bombing and the decision to pursue the unconditional surrender of Germany; and Fritz Allhoff 's "Physicians at War: Lessons for Archaeologists?" looks at ethical dilemmas of medical professionals with respect to military ethics, medical ethics, and torture in an endeavor to provide insight and parallels for other professions.

Whether one is interested in archeology and cultural preservation in a war zone, the archeology of military and battle sites, the erection of military monuments, or considerations for military planners and those who subsequently execute their plans in combat zones, there is much to consider in this book. The final chapter consists of a series of responses from archeologists to queries concerning relations between them and the military during the war in Iraq. Some of the respondents have had experiences both in Iraq and with the military, and some have not. However, the respondents all have connections with the preservation of cultural heritage, and their comments show that professionals outside the military must also evaluate the ethics of their own disciplines with respect to war. For example, should a member of a community outside the military, such as an archeologist, provide information and advice before a conflict commences, or only later? Though these are not questions for the military professional, military professionals should be aware of them. Stone is to be commended for bringing together in a single volume essays and perspectives on this important issue. Interested readers will not be disappointed.

Author affiliation:

TIMOTHY J. DEMY

Naval War College

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