Duncan MacIntosh
Dalhousie University
This paper argues that culture itself can be a weapon against the disentitled within cultures, and against members of other cultures; and when cultures are unjust and hegemonic, the theft of and destruction of elements of their culture can be a justifiable weapon of self-defense by the oppressed. This means that in at least some conflicts, those that are really insurgencies against oppression, such theft and destruction should not be seen as war crimes, but as legitimate military maneuvers. The paper also argues that in general it is better for wars to be prosecuted by the theft and destruction of cultural property rather than by means of killing and debasing of lives, so that, again, these things should not be disincentivized by being classed as war crimes, but in fact should be the preferred methods of war. This makes it all the more problematic to have these things counted as war crimes when killing and rape are not. In the course of these arguments, the distinction is made between people and their culture; and the question is mooted whether the destruction of cultural artifacts is an evil, and if so, how great an evil. Finally, an argument is given against the view that it is wrong for art and culture experts to give assessments for the value of artifacts because this will be the enabling of the theft and destruction of artifacts and their cultures. If we do not place value on things, we cannot know what is most good and so most worth preserving in cultures and their artifacts. So we must carry on with judging, and then make sure we act to prevent the exploitation of the things we have rightly come to value.
Keywords art  culture  cultural heritage  looting  cultural genocide  cultural artifacts  art works  war  war crimes
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