Pierre Lizée, Professor of Political Science at Brock University, wrote a piece recently published in the Globe and Mail about the need for the international community to keep a watchful eye on the political situation in Cambodia.
Call it the test-lab approach to conflict resolution. Cambodia was where the “peace through social engineering” model of international intervention, later adopted in Iraq and Afghanistan, was first tried in the early 1990s. After the Cold War, the United Nations wanted to be more pro-active in the resolution of many long-standing conflicts. Why not go in with massive amounts of aid and personnel, and rebuild these societies that had been so conflict-prone? Elections would be organized, a democratic life would take hold and conflicts would be resolved at the ballot box rather than through war.
This failed. The movement towards democracy, which often took centuries to unfold elsewhere, could not be telescoped in a few months in Cambodia. And leaders whose power rests on networks of corruption and nepotism will always resist new forms of politics they would not control as well. These lessons, of course, are still being learned in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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