The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam
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Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Barbara W. Tuchman, author of the World War I masterpiece The Guns of August, grapples with her boldest subject: the pervasive presence, through the ages, of failure, mismanagement, and delusion in government.
Drawing on a comprehensive array of examples, from Montezuma’s senseless surrender of his empire in 1520 to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Barbara W. Tuchman defines folly as the pursuit by government of policies contrary to their own interests, despite the availability of feasible alternatives. In brilliant detail, Tuchman illuminates four decisive turning points in history that illustrate the very heights of folly: the Trojan War, the breakup of the Holy See provoked by the Renaissance popes, the loss of the American colonies by Britain’s George III, and the United States’ own persistent mistakes in Vietnam. Throughout The March of Folly, Tuchman’s incomparable talent for animating the people, places, and events of history is on spectacular display.
Praise for The March of Folly
“A glittering narrative . . . a moral [book] on the crimes and follies of governments and the misfortunes the governed suffer in consequence.”—The New York Times Book Review
“An admirable survey . . . I haven’t read a more relevant book in years.”—John Kenneth Galbraith, The Boston Sunday Globe
“A superb chronicle . . . a masterly examination.”—Chicago Sun-Times
Massachusetts could be done to them. The Administration of Justice Act followed, which allowed Crown officials accused of crime in Massachusetts who claimed they could not be assured a fair trial to be tried in England or in another colony. This was an insult considering that Boston had leaned over backward to give Captain Preston, commanding officer in the “Massacre,” a fair trial with defense by John Adams and had acquitted him. Next, the annual Quartering Act added a new provision authorizing,
misjudgments of the opponent. Lax management at home translated into lax generalship in the field. Generals Howe and Burgoyne had been disbelievers to start with; when Howe was in command his indolence became a byword. Other military men doubted the use of land forces to conquer America. The Adjutant-General, General Edward Harvey, had judged the whole project to be “as wild an idea as ever controverted common sense.” Ministers underestimated the task and the needs. Materials and men were
Partition of Vietnam was pressed as the only means of separating the belligerents; the French claimed the 18th parallel, as opposed to the Viet-Minh’s claim of the 13th, later of the 16th, which would have included the ancient capital of Hue in their zone. The Associated States balked at all arrangements. Dulles, refusing to join in any concession to the Communists, departed, then returned. While back in Washington, he renewed his drum-beating about Chinese intervention. “If such overt military
respective embassies in Moscow actually conferred, but since no bombing pause accompanied the meeting to indicate serious American intent, it had no result. On another occasion, two Americans acquainted with Hanoi personally carried a message drafted by the State Department which proposed secret discussions on the basis of “some reciprocal restraint.” The wording was milder, and airplanes, though not grounded, were for a time held away from the Hanoi area. Failing a response, they returned,
and vicious behavior. Discovery of classical antiquity with its focus on human capacity instead of on a ghostly Trinity was an exuberant experience that led to a passionate embrace of humanism, chiefly in Italy, where it was felt to be a return to ancient national glories. Its stress on earthly goods meant an abandonment of the Christian ideal of renunciation and its pride in the individual undermined submission to the word of God as conveyed by the Church. To the extent that they fell in love