Like a growing number of critics, Brinkley argues that raising a nation from poverty requires an effective government,...




An excellent though dispiriting account of a country whose historic poverty, exacerbated by the Vietnam War, remains remarkably unchanged.

Former New York Times Pulitzer-winning journalist Brinkley (Journalism/Stanford Univ.; Defining Vision: The Battle for the Future of Television, 1997, etc.) explains that Cambodia was a backwater, powerless to prevent North Vietnamese forces from establishing bases inside its borders after 1965. America’s devastating bombing nurtured the Khmer Rouge insurgency, which took power and launched the well-known genocidal horrors after the United States withdrew in 1975. Vietnam’s 1979 invasion ended the killing, but since Vietnam was a Soviet ally, America denounced the new government. Matters changed after 1989 when the Soviet Union collapsed and Vietnamese troops withdrew, leaving an impoverished nation led by Vietnam’s Cambodian protégé, Hun Sen. America encouraged the UN in an audacious, multibillion-dollar nation-building campaign. The author cynically notes that nothing impresses Western nations than a free election. Cambodia dutifully held one in 1993, and Hun Sen won. Proclaiming success, the UN withdrew, but aid continues to pour in despite a stunning lack of progress; nearly half of Cambodia’s children are malnourished. Few deny that corruption is responsible, and Brinkley’s book is less history than an angry journalistic description of Cambodia’s kleptocratic leadership, its universally bribable officials and the donors who facilitate them. Readers will squirm as Brinkley describes a yearly pledge meeting where international donors denounce endemic corruption, and Hun Sen (still in charge) promises reform, whereupon donors pledge another year’s aid.

Like a growing number of critics, Brinkley argues that raising a nation from poverty requires an effective government, democratically elected or not. Otherwise, aid is money down the toilet.

Pub Date: April 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58648-787-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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