Friday, June 3, 2011

Joel Brinkley

Joel Brinkley is the author of five books: The Iran-Contra Affair (with Steve Engelberg); The Circus Master's Mission, a novel; Defining Vision: The Battle for the Future of Television; U.S. vs. Microsoft: The Inside Story of the Landmark Case (with Steve Lohr); and Cambodia’s Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land, published by Public Affairs Books in 2011.

From his Q & A with the Christian Science Monitor's Randy Dotinga about Cambodia’s Curse:

Q: What has remained the same in Cambodia as during the Khmer Rouge era?

The relative docility of the Cambodian people. Ninety percent of them went along with the Khmer Rouge, and did not object even as they starved to death. There was a small uprising in one part of the country, but that was quashed.

Now you find a docility toward a government that's predatory and corrupt. They're accepting of whatever happens to them.

Q: How are things different now compared to back then?

The cities look relatively modern. You go to Phnom Penh and they have skyscrapers and more cars, bicycles, and motorbikes. Given that Cambodia has more foreign aid workers and more donors per capita than any nation on earth, the major cities have all sorts of restaurants and coffee bars to sustain them. It's a not a shining metropolis, but it's a lot more modern than the hinterlands.

If you go into the countrywide, people have no electricity, no running water, nothing to cook with except a fire, no bathroom except a pit out back. I suppose it's charming to see people who live as they did 1,000 years ago, but it's quite depressing. They could live better if they knew what they were missing.

Q: You write about the unwillingness of many Cambodians to develop ambitions for themselves and their nation. What's behind that?

Cambodia is quite a bucolic country, and that's one reason that its people are more or less stagnant. They can live off what nature provides them.

The historians who write about the Angkor period [in the centuries around the 1200s] make the point quite clearly that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue