Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Why Cambodia Matters to Nepal

Phillip Short was on Charlie Rose a couple days ago discussing his new book on Pol Pot.

Here, he revisits the Cambodian revolution -- not from the perspective of the victims of the killing fields, but of the perpetrators.

Mr. Short says that Pol Pot modeled his mission on the French Revolution. He thought an alliance of intellectuals and peasants would create paradise in Cambodia.

From the French Revolution he learned one other thing -- that a revolution is without merit if it's not fully played out. To Pol Pot's (dis)credit, he played out his revolution fully -- all the way to holocaust.

This is a very important point. Some years ago, Bernard-Henri Lévy was asked about Cambodia. He said Cambodia mattered because here, finally, the world had seen a complete revolution. Before Cambodia, the left had an excuse for its failure to deliver social justice -- it argued that this failure resulted from the corruption of the ideals of revolution, that petty men atop the power totem pole had subverted revolution, and that these failures did not diminish the success potential of revolution, if only fully completed.

Well, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge delivered a completed revolution to the Cambodian people. Society, Economy, Faith, Government, Knowledge, Technology, Time were all ruthlessly up-ended. At the end of this red rainbow, however, there was no pot of paradise; there were only skulls and more skulls and the end of the revolution myth.

If evil is such suffering that has no good outcome, Mr. Lévy asserted, then we must surely conclude that a completed revolution (of which the only example we have is Cambodia) is pure evil.

When we look at the growing revolution in Nepal (and even in many parts of the Indian hinterland), we know there is evil in our midst. If left unchecked, one day, it will kill us all.

If so, some will argue, India should stand with Gyanendra to crush this growing darkness. We have argued against this for a simple reason. Dictatorship -- which itself is darkness -- can hardly be the answer to revolutionary Dogma. No matter who wins of the two, the outcome is midnight -- a Cambodian midnight, a Stalinist midnight, a Maoist midnight, a Nazi midnight, a Rwandan midnight, a Mugabe midnight, or a Darfurian midnight.

The moral course is obvious. We need to shun both the regime and the revolution. This is why all realist critiques of India's Nepal position are misguided. India is correct for standing with Nepal's people on this. We hope that India will stand firm as the scenario plays out fully. In the end, neither the king nor the killers can take Kathmandu -- in the end, Kathmandu must fall only to the brave people of Nepal.

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