In Pol Pot: A History of a Nightmare, Philip Short argues that Pol Pot was an idealistic ruler whose social engineering involved the restructuring of society, and resulted in the deaths of more than a million people in Cambodia. Moreover, he argues that without imperialism and the involvement of Western powers, it would not have been possible for Pol Pot to rise to power. The author is effective in building and supporting his argument, as Short devotes the first half of the biography to the geo-political context of the time. The instability and violence experienced in Cambodia through the Vietnam War, and also the failures of the monarchy, led to the rise of the radical Khmer Rouge. Short begins by depicting Pol Pot’s childhood. He explains how his rural Buddhism upbringing, extravagance of the monarchy, and the exposure to communist ideology in France, influenced his future regime.

Pol Pot’s personality and leadership style affected everyday life to an astronomical extent. His rural Khmer Buddhist background, in combination with the communist ideals he encountered while studying in France, formed his unique philosophy of utilitarianism and egalitarianism. He had a vision of primitive communism absent of modern, capitalist and urban influence, emphasizing the destruction of opulence, propelling his government to attempt to establish an entirely rural society. At the time of his rule, he was largely unknown to the population of Cambodia. This stems from his uniquely low profile personality, in contrast to other dictators of his time, who cultivated high profile, cult of personality styles of leadership. Even in death, he maintained an air of mystery and misdirection.

Paman Dayal, Dylan Lal, Manvir Thiara, and Miao Miao 苗渺