Will the world do nothing to stop extremist groups from destroying some of civilization's most treasured monuments?
The question has confronted Western governments with stark urgency in the weeks since the Islamic State released a video of militants smashing ancient sculptures at the Mosul Museum. In early March, following reports that extremists attacked the ancient Assyrian sites of Nimrud and Hatra, Iraqi officials pleaded for American airstrikes to stop them. But so far the United States and its allies have wrung their hands.
Secretary of State John Kerry described the devastation as "one of the most outrageous assaults on our shared heritage that perhaps any of us have seen in a lifetime." Irina Bokova, the director general of Unesco, said: "This is not just a cultural tragedy. It's also a security issue, with terrorists using the destruction of heritage as a weapon of war." The United Nations Security Council condemned the "targeted destruction of religious sites and objects" by the Islamic State and the Nusra Front.