Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Overreach

March 14th, 2012 · 4 Comments

This spot-on passage from Mark Bowden’s Guests of the Ayatollah is something that I’ll be keeping at the forefront of my thoughts today, as I tackle an especially tricky section of my book:

Revolution gives ordinary people the false belief that they can remake not just themselves, their country, and the whole wide world but human nature itself. That such grand designs always fail, that human nature is immutable, that everyone’s idea of perfection is different—these truths are all for a time forgotten. Those in the grip of righteousness saw an opportunity—no, the need—to weed the impure from their new and glorious garden.

The photo above comes from Roland Neveu’s series about the 1975 fall of Phnom Penh. How you wish the smiling soldiers in those images could have heeded Bowden’s words.


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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Roland Neveu

    It’s a good thing to put this in its exact context, it was taken on the morning of the fall of Phnom Penh and it shows victorious Khmer Rouge and cambodian civilian celebration more the end of the war. The smile will be gone by the end of that day…

  • Captured Shadow

    Do you think the American Revolution fell into the same trap? Seems like the constitution counts on people to be somewhat less than perfect.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Roland Neveu: Thank you for the clarification–fantastic and important work. Apologies for not mentioning in the post that the book is available here.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Captured Shadow: I think “The American Revolution” is somewhat of a misnomer, because it was really an anti-colonial war. The excesses in history seem to occur not when foreign rulers are cast out, but when domestic regimes crumble. Though that’s not to say that every anti-colonial war has a happy ending by any means…