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Tuchman unloads on the US policy in Vietnam,
This review is from: The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam (Paperback)
In the same way that Pauline Kael used her movie reviews, Barbara Tuchman uses history as an outlet of moral yearning. Every book is a cry of pain and joy for the injustices and beauty of life. Tuchman chooses her subjects carefully to convey a message to her readers, usually a cautionary tale of the abuse of power.
"The March of Folly" is her most direct message yet. In it, she describes the folly of government-defined as action against self-interest despite an overwhelming preponderance of evidence to act otherwise-and how it led to several notable disastrous events. Namely, the sack of Troy, the split of the Catholic See, the loss of the American colonies, and the policy of Vietnam.
But let's face it. Tuchman wrote this book with the Vietnam chapter in mind. Each chapter simply lays the groundwork for the material on Vietnam.
The chapter Trojan Horse provides us the groundwork, the mythic case of folly we are all familiar with, and the lasting image we carry as we consider Vietnam.
The Renaissance popes provides us an example of a self-perpetuating and stale system we can remember when thinking of a moribund Congress mindlessly voting appropriations for a war no one wanted. Consequently that same chapter gives us the image of a pope throwing lavish parties for which he hired prostitutes to crawl about on all fours, completely naked, picking up scattered chestnuts with their mouths-which might remind some of our own nation's zeal in its misuse of third-world nations-El Salvador, Iran, Panama, and Vietnam spring to mind-in Cold War play.
The chapter on the loss of the American colonies allows readers to take pride in their forefathers' proaction and righteousness in comparison to the slothful and ignorant course corrupt, money-bought English Parliament followed, before comparing U.S. government in the 1950s-60s to those same English aristocrats of the 1770s. This chapter later raises uncomfortable questions about the U.S. anti-nationalistic policy in Vietnam, which worked against self-determination and, consequently, democracy.
But by the time she arrives in Vietnam, she has stored up too much information. Tuchman bombards us with so many facts, memos, and bad decisions that we get lost in a labyrinth. Her prose gets bogged down. We forget where we are in the war, every page sounds the same, and it ends up so overwhelming that it's ineffective. It's like she's waited years to write this chapter, and has done too much research and wants to cram it all in a few pages.
In the end, I have to agree with other reviewers who say it's not her best work. It is a work of passion. And as such, it's admirable for its passion, because it all rings true.
PS - Ignore all that conservative/liberal claptrap. Both sides of the political coin had their hands bloodied in Vietnam. And if you can't learn from your mistakes, you're bound to repeat them.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 23, 2012 6:03:36 AM PDT
Hancock the Superb says:
"Ignore all that conservative/liberal claptrap. Both sides of the political coin had their hands bloodied in Vietnam. And if you can't learn from your mistakes, you're bound to repeat them." Here here. After reading your excellent review I'll definitely give this book a look.
Posted on Mar 25, 2013 6:20:32 PM PDT
J. Boland says:
The US involvement was justifiable with the information available at the time. The Domino Theory was legitimate. Yielding Vietnam, a client of both the USSR and Red China, would look very much like a form of appeasement - something the generation in power at the time had a very good lesson in Hitlers Germany. Hindsight is 20/20.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 6, 2014 9:48:29 PM PDT
Toby Thaler says:
The domino theory was thin justification for bloody imperialism. War architect McNamara himself comes close to saying so in The Fog of War. More to the point, the primary historical documents show you to be wrong: Ho Chi Minh repeatedly asked U.S. leaders to support his nationalist movement. See www dot historyisaweapon dot com slash defcon2 slash hochiminh/ It was our stupid fealty to de Gaulle that helped keep US from acting on our own best instincts and interests.
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