In 1969, Richard Nixon ordered the secret bombing of Cambodia to destroy North Vietnamese sanctuaries in that formally neutral nation. Today, a decade later, Nixon is a President driven from office and Cambodia a country devastated by civil war and occupied by the Vietnamese army. Shawcross, a former Indochina correspondent of the Sunday Times (London), vividly reconstructs—from documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and published sources and interviews—the process that led to this dismal two-part denouement, for it was the secret bombing which necessitated the wiretaps and other illegalities that culminated in Watergate. Shawcross traces the troubled history of Cambodia from the glories of the Angkor kingdom through the establishment of a French protectorate to its independence under the unpredictable Sihanouk. Long a pawn of the Thais and Vietnamese, the Cambodians managed to achieve a tenuous level of stability under the Prince, but Shawcross also takes note of internal political factions and mixed anti-monarchist opposition, though he discounts the strength of this opposition—until the bombing, that is. Sihanouk was powerless to prevent the Vietnamese from using Cambodian territory, but their presence was concentrated in a small border area. Placing the bombing in the context of American overkill, Shawcross argues that the attack—involving B-52 carpet-bombing of areas inhabited by Cambodian villagers—merely dispersed the Vietnamese and their Khmer Rouge allies deeper into the country. The U.S. escalation which followed the coup against Sihanouk progressively undermined Cambodian sovereignty, in Shawcross' view, and bred corruption by rapid militarization. The "sideshow" is what Cambodia came to be contemptuously called in Washington, where its destruction served not only U.S. aims in Vietnam, but the career interests of key Americans, of whom Kissinger looms the largest. Shawcross also chronicles the increasing extremism of the Khmer Rouge—he has monitored leaders' writings over the years—which issued in the repressive Communist regime. A penetrating study of Nixon-Kissinger rule and of its effects on one sad country, this is possibly the best treatment of the legacy of the Vietnam war in Indochina.

Pub Date: April 1, 1979

ISBN: 081541224X

Page Count: 515

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1979

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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