The Khmer Rouge: A Comparative Analysis

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Nationalism seeks to conserve or forge the identity of the state by putting the interests of the nation above all else. However, to create and protect this sense of a national identity, some members of a nationalist society are inevitably relegated and deemed to be outsiders. In this way, nationalism promotes the division of a community. Furthermore, this separation of the population, if left unchecked, leads to genocide and ethnic cleansing. Though nationalism does not explicitly intend to harm others, it functions through creating a common enemy for the majority of a population and thus ostracizes all individuals who are associated with this adversary. Even though the ideology is built upon goals of bettering the condition of the state and…show more content…
Rather than seeking to replace a previous ruling class or to create homogeneity in the population, the Khmer Rouge aimed to return Cambodian communities to agrarian societies and achieve the ideal communist model. Pol Pot, the leader of the group, admired Maoism and Stalinism and sought to found a country where the entire population worked together on rural projects without Western influence. To enact his plan, the Khmer Rouge attempted to eliminate anyone in opposition to this system and anyone who was deemed unnecessary or incapable of making strenuous journeys. Additionally, the group targeted numerous religious and ethnic groups who were viewed as threats to the regime as well as anyone who represented Western culture. The death toll of the Cambodian genocide was greater than 1.7 million people. While the focus of the Khmer Rouge was not necessarily ethnic cleansing, the group still held a goal of creating a national identity as a communist society that was independent from the West. The Khmer Rouge recruited impressionable and uneducated teenage boys as soldiers in order to promote their ideology and create a new generation of individuals who held their beliefs. The group painted Western civilization as the enemy to Cambodian society and used this…show more content…
Nationalist societies follow the same basic patterns in leading up to their execution of ethnic cleansing. First, the majority in power depicts some minority as an enemy, allowing for their relegation from society to the point where genocide is justified to the public. By removing the minority and all possible opposition with it, the group in power is then able to further its agenda more easily and gain more control over the population. Although the changes that lead to genocide are sometimes more slow or subtle, unchecked nationalism inevitably results in violence if nationalist sentiments are allowed to grow for long periods of time. Unlike patriotism, nationalism relies on forming a specific national identity which can never encompass all members of a society. Therefore, as certain minority groups are always left out in a nationalist society, hatred towards such ethnic or socioeconomic groups grows steadily until it boils over into ethnic cleansing. All in all, though nationalism is meant to rally the majority of a population together for the purpose of enacting change and improving the situation of a country, it unavoidably results in genocide to the ideology’s divisive and exclusionary

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