Brother Number One
Pol Pot, leader of the brutal Khmer Rouge faction in Cambodia and architect of one of this century’s worst genocides, is easy fodder for hyperbole. “Much of what has been written about Pol Pot since his time in power has been reckless and intemperate,” asserts Professor David P. Chandler. Chandler claims that “calling him a ‘moon-faced monster,’ a ‘genocidal maniac’ or ‘worse than Hitler’ has no explanatory power. To understand the man, and what happened in DK [Democratic Kampuchea, Cambodia’s name from 1975 through 1978], it is crucial to place him inside his own Cambodian context and inside a wider set of influences from abroad.”
Chandler, one of the world’s leading authorities on Cambodia, does this with great skill and confidence. A woeful shortage of sources makes this book less a biography than an extended exercise in speculation and the drawing of parallels. But Chandler appropriately makes much of Pol Pot’s very elusiveness (the outside world did not know that he was the French-educated Saloth Sar until he appeared in public in China in 1977), which in itself is telling. Chandler also is an excellent, careful historian and writes with a salutary calm, pointedly eschewing “reckless and intemperate” language and conclusions.
He demonstrates persuasively that its claimed uniqueness notwithstanding, the Cambodian revolution had clear precedents in China’s disastrous Great Leap Forward and Cultural...
(The entire section is 322 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Brother Number One Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!