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Customer Review

118 of 127 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Noble Pursuit of History, May 31, 2000
This review is from: The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam (Paperback)
Barbara Tuchman has a way of viewing history as few can. Instead of falling back on just "telling of a story," Tuchman does what few historians are able to pull off without sounding self-rightious. She gives us a comentary. Kind of like the "color-man" while listening to a sporting event, Tuchman examines the idea of "folly," or the persistent pursuit of a policy by government or those in power that is "contradictory to their own interests." Since a topic like this could take volumes, the author chooses 4 primary historical examples: the Fall of Troy, the breakup of of the Holy See in the 16th century, the British monarchy's vain attempt to keep the American colonies, and America's own arrogant persistence during the Vietnam War.
The fault in this book is that this subject matter can be pretty exhausting even with the only 450 page book. The examples used are valid and make sense. The author finds something different within each one that allows us to see the many levels of government folly. However I found the chapters dealing with the six terrible popes to be mind-numbing. Perhaps it's due to the fact that this history is not examined extensively in current day curricula like the American Revolution and Vietnam, but I think this section was tedious and repetitive. Also, within the Vietnam chapters, Ms. Tuchman tends to reveal her adoration towards Kennedy--like many historians of her era--and her disdain of the Johnson and Nixon administrations. This can distort her objective examination of the topic in some areas, but if it is noticed and ignored, the rest of the study is outstanding. Some may read these excerpts and label them as "liberal" but they are ignorant of history.
In any event the book is an excellent supplement to studying Machiavellian politics. The governments' "wood-headedness" towards policy that is counter to anything rational (as well as contrary to respected voices of reason) is something that all ordinary members and voters of a democratic society ought to take heed of.
The example of Troy is used simply as an example of how Homer and the Greeks had foreseen and probably experienced, the lack of reason when pursuing particular policy. This is usually done because those in power are so consumed by power and what it brings, that their arrogance and ignorance blinds them.
Without carrying this review too far into the book's wonderful and biting commentary, I will just say that this book is recommended, but not for those that have no real experience with intellectual historical study. Some areas will be interesting, such as the Vietnam chapters, but otherwise the book would dull the amateur historian. But if you do wish to challenge yourself and your understanding of how power corrupts and destroys after it corrupts, then "March of Folly" will be admired.
All politicians should be forced to read this book. Kind of like a supplement instructional manual for their job...paid for by taxpayers. Within 100 years, they might actaully learn something.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 21, 2010 4:14:21 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 21, 2010 4:16:28 PM PDT
Solipso says:
I have not read this book.

Nevertheless I can't help thinking if her choice of America's actions in Vietnam is a good example of folly. True, if America had just stood aside and let communists extinguish South Vietnam's corrupt governement, thousands of war fatalities would have been prevented. But hindsight is perfect. And though it may seem that America's main reason for making war was to prevent the spread of communism, America was also compassionate. Communism was an evil, and the South Vietnamese needed a savior. In the end, America failed. So, is it folly to try to save someone who is sinking in quicksand? Is it folly to TRY to do good?

A better example of folly would be the appeasement policies of the United Kingdom and France prior to World War II.

Posted on Jan 12, 2012 11:22:49 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 12, 2012 11:29:18 PM PST
I read the book years ago. Unfortunately, she sounded self-righteous anyway. However, her description of the pre-Reformation Vatican was so good, I didn't mind her fatuous and shallow analysis of the Viet Nam war. Can you say "low-hanging fruit?" It was really beneath the analytical quality one expects from the author of the fabulous The Guns of AugustThe Guns of August

There are far more penetrating and useful analyses of Viet Nam, now that there is some distance to the event, by people who are not dubbed as "popularizers" of history. Examples are Rufus Phillips' Why Vietnam Matters: An Eyewitness Account of Lessons Not Learned (Blue Jacket Bks), and Mark Moyar's Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 23, 2012 5:51:48 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 23, 2012 5:53:07 AM PDT
With Vietnam the issue is a cost-benefit one. It's certainly possible to argue that we did the right thing by opposing the Vietcong and North Vietnam. But was it really worth the massive amount of troops and resources we poured into the country? Was it worth supporting a weak puppet regime that couldn't stand up on its own at such length, to such an extreme? Even leaving aside the massive cost to Vietnam, the war thoroughly poisoned American government and politics, to a degree we still haven't recovered from.

In any case, the methods the US government and its allies used to affect this policy, from strategic hamlets to the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, were extremely counterproductive, turning the Vietnamese population against us and destabilizing the South Vietnamese government beyond the point of no return. Boneheaded political strategy surely qualifies as folly, even if in pursuit of a worthy goal.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 17, 2014 7:16:58 AM PDT
`The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam' by Barbara Tuchman is a theory, not `truth' written in stone.

The lesson on folly drawn from the Trojan war can be disputed by an understanding of the work of Julian Jaynes in the `Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind'.

The lesson of folly drawn from the Revolutionary War can be disputed thus:

"Not one of [the delegates to the Constitutional Convention] came to Philadelphia believing that he was there to create a new government-or reform an old one-only for the benefit of thirteen states on the Atlantic. (p. 43)"~Lawrence Goldstone

It should be clear from the fact above that the Constitutional Convention was a Coup de Grâce by the Federalists, the Banker's moles Hamilton and Jay in particular. The bankers here mean the central banks of Europe, headed by the Bank of England and it's network of corporations. In other words a corporatist oligarchy. This is essentially fascism, as defined by Mussolini a couple centuries later. The symbol of the Fasces, bundled rods and a hatchet in bold relief in the chambers of the US Congress in DC is a significant reminder of this.

The promise within the Declaration was that the States united would evolve into a confederacy of functioning republics. Always a tenuous proposition considering the powerful forces arrayed against the idea. It was the Convention and the Constitution it produced that put the final nail in the coffin of the republican quest; The spurious rhetoric of popular history aside.

It is obvious from the nomenclature of succession, that the South was attempting a return to the promise of the Declaration, they were seen as and self-identified as Confederates. The Union side was the Federal government. As in all wars, each side was financed for a dialectic struggle manipulated by the Banking Cabal.

Deducing further back we should look for the forensic traces of the fingerprints of the Banking Cabal's probable manipulative influence in the Declaration and the revolution it spawned. We then consider the Bavarian Illuminati, the version of the Protocols penned by Weishaupt in this period, and the subversion of the Masonic lodges that was underway, both in Europe and the Americas. This leads us to the curious case of the madness of King George, which just happens to coincide with the years of the rebellion against Britain in the colonies. The case having been made that the King was being poisoned by the court physician, a known Mason. Add to this the way that the British Army in America seemed to be `throwing the fight', making the most obvious strategic military blunders. That this was the result of folly as Barbara Tuchman hypothesizes seems untenable given all of these examples of circumstantial evidence to the contrary.

Now we can even trace back further to Francis Bacon and the New Atlantis (1626.) to find further clues supporting the case being put forward here. Therein Bacon posits the existence of the western hemisphere and the continents in existence there.
We can move forward to Columbus, or Columb "the Dove of Christ" and the vessel that carried him to the new land beyond the waters, Santa Maria {Mother Mary}, an allegory of the Ark of Noah. Plus the fact that `America' was originally referred to as Columbia. The Federal Capitol is in The District of Columbia.

But the most obvious criticism comes from the contemporary history of the Vietnam War.
We are closer to it, and can be more sure of the facts due to this. This war was designed in such a way as neither `side' would win. It was designed as a meat-grinder and profit generator. It was a charade, as all wars can ultimately be proven to be. An agenda created by design can be veiled by the concept of folly. Folly is the revetment, or fall back position for failure in all or at least most covert operations. "Intelligence Failures" are the excuses given for the massive `coincidences' found in the events of 9/11.

Design masquerading as Diagnosis often uses `folly' as an excuse and faint to draw attention away from the active agenda of political power.


Posted on Aug 28, 2014 9:02:43 PM PDT
Typical elitist liberal. If someone disagrees with you, they are ignorant. Basically, Tuchman was mad that Nixon managed to actually end the Democrats war. I had to reread "Why We Were in Viet Nam" by Podhoretz to clean my palate.
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