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Cambodia’s Curse

by Joshua Kurlantzick
June 29, 2011

UN peacekeepers from Indonesia patrol the streets of Phnom Penh in an armoured personel carrier on August 27, amid the morning rush hour traffic

UN peacekeepers from Indonesia patrol the streets of Phnom Penh in an armoured personel carrier on August 27, 1993, amid the morning rush hour traffic. (STR New/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past two decades, Cambodia has served as a kind of test case of humanitarian intervention. At the end of its civil war in the early 1990s, the United Nations launched its largest ever (to that point) rebuilding effort in Cambodia, which was followed by enormous contributions by other Western donors and aid organizations.

Has it worked? In the new book Cambodia’s Curse, veteran journalist Joel Brinkely gives a decisive answer: No. He also effectively sketches out some of the lessons for any future interventions of such size.

In this month’s issue of the Washington Monthly, I have a long review of the book.

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