WSJ: Notable + Quotable--From Seth Lipsky's "Remembering Cambodia's King"

The death of Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia, who succumbed to cancer Monday at the age of 89, is a moment to reflect on one of the great tragedies of the late 20th Century.

It would be inaccurate to blame the erstwhile king, even indirectly, for the genocide that was ultimately perpetrated in his country. That blame attaches solely to the communists. I often wonder, though, how things might have gone differently had the mercurial monarch had been prepared to gamble on America.

Instead he sought refuge among the very backers of the Khmer Rouge who committed the killings in his country. He was not always in control of his own fate, particularly when he was in the grip of the communists. Loved as he may have been by his subjects, he lost his moral authority and ability to marshal international support.

In the end, Sihanouk's story has much to teach at a time when America is engaged in a new war and weighing all sorts of potential allies. It suggests there is a virtue in humility and patience --and avoiding assumptions about a potential partner. It is also a reminder that, for all the charms that some may see in royalty, democracy has the comparative advantage.
That is not perfect, either.

This we learned all too tragically ourselves when, in 1975, the free Cambodians and free Vietnamese, struggling valiantly against communism, were abandoned by the 94th United States Congress, and the fate of millions was sealed.