Thursday, June 23, 2011

US Military Spends a Million Dollars to Save Buddhist Artifacts from Chinese Miners

Does anyone else think something is wrong with this picture?


If ancient culture is so important to Afghanistan, why are the Afghans allowing a Chinese Mining Company to dynamite an important Buddhist archaeological site? And why is the US Military rather than the Chinese spending $ 1 million on rescue archaeology?


Cultural Property Observer said...

Bill Pearlstein asked me to post this:

Well, Class we've identified at least 5 sets of values in play:

1. US Gov't: Win local hearts and minds by spending US taxpayer dollars on local rescue archeology projects deemed to be a good investment in winning hearts and minds.

2. Afghan Gov't: Indifferent to local archeology; indifferent to winning hearts and minds. Focus on immediate priorities of avoiding assassination and skimming foreign aid pending assassination.

3. Chinese mining concern: Indifferent to everything except payment in cash and dollar/yen exchange rate and related hedging opportunities.

4. Afghan Population: pro-Taliban when the Americans are gone; pro-American when the Taliban is gone. Indifferent to local archeology except for opportunities to skim and pad the payroll at the dig site.

5. US military personnel: Huh? My life is on the line because some twink at State wants to win hearts and minds? I hope the diplomatic convey hits an IED.

Have I missed any perspectives? Inaccurately described any of the above? Discuss.

Unknown said...

What is objectionable here is not that the U.S. is assisting in a salvage archaeology project. I’m all for archaeology and the salvage kind is better than nothing. If the Afghan government wants to place exploitation of a substantial mineral resource above preservation of an archaeological site – well, it won’t be the first time that a government has made that decision.
What is objectionable is that governments that place infrastructure development above preservation of cultural heritage almost invariably fail to explore ways of enhancing and expanding protection by sharing these threatened archaeological resources. These same governments won’t consider joint exploration – or joint salvage – and partage with institutions in other nations. Or they engage in vitriolic denunciation of anyone who criticizes holding all antiquities within their source countries alone – a perspective that proved disastrous in Afghanistan when the Taliban ordered destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas and the materials in the Kabul Museum.
This is hypocrisy, just as it is hypocritical for the U.S. government to embrace cultural nationalism as the best method of preserving archeological resources and then to assist the Afghan government to dismantle an archaeological site in the interest of economic development.

Cultural Property Observer said...

It can be revealed that "unknonwn" is attorney and former CPAC member Kate FitzGibbon.