The March Of Folly: From Troy To Vietnam

The March Of Folly: From Troy To VietnamTwice A Winner Of The Pulitzer Prize, Author Barbara Tuchman Now Tackles The Pervasive Presence Of Folly In Governments Thru The Ages Defining Folly As The Pursuit By Governments Of Policies Contrary To Their Own Interests, Despite The Availability Of Feasible Alternatives, Tuchman Details Four Decisive Turning Points In History That Illustrate The Very Heights Of Folly In Government The Trojan War, The Breakup Of The Holy See Provoked By Renaissance Popes, The Loss Of The American Colonies By Britain S George III The USA S Persistent Folly In Vietnam THE MARCH OF FOLLY Brings The People, Places Events Of History Alive For Today S Reader

Barbara Wertheim Tuchman was an American self trained historian and author and double Pulitzer Prize winner She became best known for The Guns of August 1962 , a history of the prelude and first month of World War I.As an author, Tuchman focused on producing popular history Her clear, dramatic storytelling covered topics as diverse as the 14th century and World War I, and sold millions of

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  • Paperback
  • 447 pages
  • The March Of Folly: From Troy To Vietnam
  • Barbara W. Tuchman
  • English
  • 08 May 2019
  • 9780345308238

10 thoughts on “The March Of Folly: From Troy To Vietnam

  1. says:

    Babs is one crafty, talented instructor and this ranks highly among the BEST history books I ve had the pleasure of reading You should be reading it right now Seriously, I mean it This is the second gem by Barbara Tuchman that I ve tackled, after the stellar The Guns of August , and the impressiveness of her work has led to my developing rather intense, and possibly inappropriate, feelings for her I m smitten You see, Babs writes history in such a colorful, engaging manner that you don t notice she s shoveling mounds of knowledge into your memory muscle You re so interested that you just glide along the pages, absorbed in her narrative web, while she s filling your brain with smarts It s downright spooky Honestly, how often can you truly say that you ve overdosed on happy reading a history book Yes, she s that good PLOT SUMMARYTo qualify as folly for this book, Tuchman explains that actions need to meet all four of the following criteria 1. The actions must be clearly contrary to the self interest of the organization or group pursuing them 2. The actions must be conducted over a period of time, not just in a single burst of irrational behavior 3. The actions must be conducted by a number of individuals, not just one deranged maniac and 4. MOST IMPORTANTLY, there must have been a significant group who at the time pointed out, correctly, why the action in question was folly i.e., no Monday morning quarterbacking or 20 20 hindsight Tuchman spends some pages at the beginning of the book describing a number of bonehead and assclowny decisions in history that didn t qualify as folly, either because they were a single instance of governmental psychosis, or because they were carried out at the command of a dictator and not a coordinated governmental policy Based on the above criteria, Babs looks at four primary examples of FUBAR folly in history The Fall of Troy The loss of Troy as a result of the Trojans failure to question the deployment of the Trojan Horse by the Greeks While interesting, this for me was easily the weakest part of the book, mainly because there is just not enough historical knowledge on the subject for Tuchman to analyze convincingly She managed to keep me engaged with her stylish delivery, but I think this segment was likely included in order to have the book span a larger swatch of world history The Renaissance Popes and the Protestant Reformation The reign of the Renaissance Popes and how their excesses, and their failure to recognize the growing discontent among the Church members, led directly to the Protestant Reformation I loved this section and it was easily my favorite of the whole book After finishing this portion, I immediately went about trying to locate other books on the period It was a fascinating time Now if I can only get Babs to re write these other books to make them interesting How the Britsh lost the American colonies Another superb section of the book What I found most interesting about this discussion of the major events that led up the American Revolution is that Tuchman spent most of her time looking through the eyes of the British, in contrast to peering through the eyes of the American colonist, which is the common perspective used in studies of this period Despite my general familiarity with this period, I found this to be very enlightening The failure of America in Vietnam A terrific end to an amazing survey of history My only quibble here is that I think Tuchman s objectivity may have slipped away to make a sandwich or take a nap because you can readily see that she was strongly against the war Nothing wrong with that, but I prefer not to be able to read historian s personal views in the work Still, her analysis is excellent, well supported, and she lays out the history in a very engaging manner Overall, this is as good as histories get Engaging, informative and wonderfully delivered I would call this a must for history fans or fans of military history 6.0 stars HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION

  2. says:

    I thought The March of Folly would be a good read to balance out the optimism of The Wisdom of Crowds Turned out to be a great hunch.Why Indeed, Tuchman s book does in fact emphasize that very optimism Tuchman s Follies are committed not by the common people but by closeted leaders, lacking in common sense and cut off from ground realities Do I need to mention the Yes Men that surround them Tuchman takes up a panoramic view of human history and exposes these decisions, and wonders with us how much Folly it took to make these disastrous calls Surely common sense would not have allowed these Given the scope of this exercise, Tuchman has limited herself to the most famous historical examples of these foolish decisions, ranging from the Trojans bringing the Trojan horse into their walls, and the Renaissance popes provoking the Protestant succession, to the German decision to adopt unrestricted submarine warfare in World War I thereby triggering America s declaration of war , and Japan s Pearl Harbor attack that similarly triggered America s declaration of war in 1941 But we can extrapolate them into any number of follies that we are familiar with in our own countries and see how leaders make the stupid mistakes over and over again, and incomprehensible mistakes at that.This irrationality is what astounds us when we look back on these gross errors of judgment and Tuchman is especially scathing in dealing with the leaders who make such choices Persistence in error, wooden headedness, refusal to draw inference from negative signs, and mental stagnation are a few choice examples.This should make us conclude that the main message of the book, and of history, is one of Tolstoy ian embrace of the Wisdom of the Masses It is quite a powerful argument and one we would dearly love to embrace it gives us the possibility of a future where we can side step such follies, by avoiding these very decision making practices And that is very very important too.However, I think there is one angle to be considered here.Consider Tuchman s emphatic statement Chief among the forces affecting political folly is lust for power, named by Tacitus as the most flagrant of all passions This however, introduces another aspect to the folly we address It is possible that these leaders were in fact trapped in a competitive spiral any leader who did not pursue these follies would have been scorned and lost his job precisely because those were widely held to be the correct things to do This sort of decision making is in fact quite common leaders always follow the popular wisdom and usually it turns out to be right But there are times in history when this normal course of action fails.There are times when the circumstances are too inter dependent or too much at the edge of the cliff that no one, not even common sense, could have anticipated the fall that was coming by taking the steps that should have been matter of course at any other point These are the points when good practices suddenly seem like Follies.This is why we have to consider the possibility that these were not just follies arising from the closeted and exclusive nature of these leaders, but from a confluence of pressures that left them little wiggle room and most importantly, that this is or less always the case with leaders their decisions are not always their own Just as in the modern business world where the financial sector, market signals and impulses make business leaders slaves to the quarterly bottom lines, irrespective of whether that bottom line is congruent with a company s, let alone society s, longer term well being.So the March of Folly could well be as unstoppable as it sounds to those leaders as well, especially in the short term when history rushed in on them.This is not of course to say that these leaders were not culpable for their decisions, or even, god forbid, to excuse their stupid advisors and Yes Men It is however dangerous to assume the other extreme position that if only common sense prevailed, much evil could have been avoided No That sort of thinking only allows us to make the same mistakes again, precisely because common sense would allow it

  3. says:

    A highly readable account of four instances of human folly over the last 2800 years These include the Trojans s unaccountable bringing of the Trojan horse into Troy the transgressions of the Renaissance Popes which brought on the Reformation the loss by Britain of the American colonies and America s own pointless war in Vietnam The last section reminds me very much of Neil Sheehan s A Bright Shining Lie, which was written several years later than Tuchman s narrative Her book is vivid, clear, unfussy, with just the right density of diction It never flags Highly recommended.

  4. says:

    A book which informed my entire world view, and still does Tuchman posits the existance of folly, or the pursuit of public policy contrary to self interest in other words, why nations keep shooting themselves in the foot She uses the Trojans taking the Greek horse inside the walls of Troy as her template the feasible alternative that of destroying the Horse is always open Capys the Elder advised it before Laocoon s warning, and Cassandra afterward Notwithstanding the frequent references in the epic to the fall of Troy being ordained, it was not fate but free choice that took the Horse within the walls Fate as a character in legend represents the fulfillment of man s expectations of himself.and then goes on to talk about how the Renaissance popes caused the Reformation Their three outstanding attitudes obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents, primacy of self aggrandizement, illusion of invulnerable status are persistent aspects of folly While in the case of the Renaissance popes, these were bred in and exaggerated by the surrounding culture, all are independent of time and recurrent in governorship.how the British lost America One cannot escape the impression that the level of British intelligence and competence in both civil and military positions in the period 1763 1783 was, on the whole, though not in every case, low Whether that was bad luck or was owing to the almost exclusive hold of the ultraprivileged on decision making positions is not clear beyond question The underprivileged and the middle class often do no better What is clear is that when incapacity is joined by complacency, the result is the worst possible combination.Everyone in the current US Congress is a millionaire Why would these people vote against their own self interest now They re the new British ruling class, and they re as oblivious as the British ruling class and the Renaissance popes were to what was actually going on around them.Lastly, Tuchman writes how the US lost in Vietnam The longest war had come to an endA contemporary summing up was voiced by a Congressman from Michigan, Donald Riegle In talking to a couple from his constituency who had lost a son in Vietnam, he faced the stark recognition that he could find no words to justify the boy s death There was no way I could say that what had happened was in their interest or in the national interest or in anyone s interest.One can only imagine the new bodily orifice Tuchman would have ripped over Iraq and Afghanistan Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it only begins to cover it.A lively, engaging prose style with than a hint of Lord, what fools these mortals be It might be time to reread this book, but then I think it always is.

  5. says:

    Tuchman s The March of Folly is spotty First of all, too much attention is paid to Troy, about which nothing is known, historically speaking All that section does is provide a simile or two for what follows Also, she actually is stronger in another classical case not mentioned in the title or in most descriptions of the book, viz that of King Rehoboam of Israel Second, the account of the involvements of France and the United States in VietNam is of a journalistic quality not in keeping with the rest of the book, though it may well have been her motive for writing it I appreciated the refresher course, but it does not have the historical character of her two best studies, viz that of those Renaissance popes who precipitated the Protestant Reformation and that of the British government which lost most of the American colonies On the Renaissance popes I appreciated the clear survey of ineptitute as the period is not well known to me On the Americas I appreciated the overview of the revolution as she worked so much from the position of England, rather than from the wearisomely familiar perspective of the colonists.

  6. says:

    About 8 years ago when I read this book I would have given it 4 stars It gets a 5 today simply because it is much pertinent to read it now Barbara Tuchman is one of the great writers of history She remembers the first rule of history Tell a story In this one she tells several and keeps your attention better The theme is imaginative and appropriate It is also not a very long book so you can easily read it in a week 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 jobpaid for by taxpayers Within 100 years, they might actaully learn something.

  7. says:

    The March of Folly is an unfortunate title Or maybe not so unfortunate Because, after all, what is folly Barbara Tuchman gives us several examples of the human animal at its worst but parading at its best From Ancient Troy right up through Vietnam can a sequel including Chechnia, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan be far behind , we have proved ourselves to be little better than the apes If there s a difference, it s only in the splendor of our rebarbative behavior Kings, Popes, Ministers, Generals it s all the same And the tragedy Invariably, the loss of so many young lives to no real purpose other than to serve the interests of ambition, pride, ignorance, stubbornness in short, of vanity Yes, vanitas, vanitatis. It s all right there in Ecclesiastes, and not much has changed We are a prideful, belligerent, deceitful, artful, malignant, umbragious a word I learned in reading this book species In short, we re prone to folly And who pays the ultimate price of that folly Our youth I cannot remember being so disheartened by a book since I read, at a young and impressionable age, A History of Torture or recently, Martha Gellhorn s The Face of War. If you want to continue believing that all is best in the best of all possible worlds, don t read this book If you want to continue believing that we are governed by people who know what s best for us, don t read this book If you want to believe that the march of history is inevitable, don t read this book Ignore my suggestions at your own risk But if you don t, be prepared to undertake a life of activism and don t expect it to be a happy life To buck folly is to question our very essence And our essence would appear if Ms Tuchman s major premise is to be believed to be tragically farcical That, or farcically tragic The case of the former President Lyndon B Johnson in one of this book s final chapters could easily rival that of Shakespeare s King Lear.RRB07 19 13Brooklyn, NY

  8. says:

    When I was in the 4th grade I found a book that my Mom had to read for college in the back of a cupboard That book was Barbara W Tuchman s A Distant Mirror , and I do believe that is what led me to all the other history books I ve enjoyed in the years since The March of Folly is a study of, in the authors words, pursuit of policy contrary to self interest, with four main examples The Trojan horse, The Renaissance popes, the British loss of America, and America in Vietnam I particularly enjoyed the Vietnam section, as I ve really never read anything about it before I didn t realize what a long and twisty road it was that led to the actual fighting, but this book explains everything very well, and in detail, but never in a boring way It s just amazing, the utter blindness and stupidity of some of the people in high places, from way, way back, up to the present time.

  9. says:

    Barbara Tuchman is a first rate writer and historian whose books I have much enjoyed For some years now I have been meaning to get a copy of The March of Folly, since it is a book which greatly appeals to me in its concept To look at the history of modern man since about 1,000 BC and take examples of real foolishness on the part of a number of key governments, and try to see why they so acted, strikes me as a wonderful idea for a book However, I can now say, somewhat reluctantly, that The March of Folly is not up to the standard of Tuchman s earlier books I find this curious indeed and have been wondering for some time why it is so.Firstly, the writing is not up to par and I can only put this down to sloppy editing Some of the oddest phrases in the book are so un Tuchman like, that I imagine they have been written by a researcher and, for whatever reason, have managed to sneak by both the author and her editors Tuchman is usually crisp and succinct Some of this text is laborious and redundant it s most surprising Perhaps this first fault leads to the second, although not entirely In The Guns of August and The Proud Tower, Tuchman seems to be in very complete command of both her history and her sources In The March of Folly, one begins to wonder if she has not strayed too far afield and is rather unsure of her ground So it appears to me, especially with reference to the beginning of the book, where she discusses both the siege of Troy and then the Papacy during the Renaissance, when she seems very shaky indeed Or it may be that this apparent instability is founded on limited research and that that has been allowed to come through in the book Whatever the reason, I find that the book does not live up to its promise, either conceptually or authorially.The sections on the American Revolution and the Vietnam War are interesting in themselves, but one wonders at times, given the detail involved in both cases, if Tuchman is not actually off the rails The fact that there is no stated plan at the beginning of the book chapters and sub headings and synopses, I mean makes me wonder indeed, just how much of a plan she had So I think you can read this book for its individual content i.e., if you happen to be interested in the particular periods covered , but the disappointment overall is that the really first rate text that one might have expected, does not materialise I will say that the essay at the end is very Tuchmanesque and is a brave attempt, quand m me, to tie the threads of the book together Yet I m unsure of just how far she can get away with a text that smacks so readily of invention and understudy, and in my opinion, the epilogue is hardly sufficient, by itself, to save the whole I suppose it is just possible that she and I both got carried away by the title.

  10. says:

    Barbara Tuchman was a journalist before becoming a history author, and despite The March of Folly being a book about certain historical incidents, it is a work of journalism than history It is an investigation into the process by which governments embark on self destructive courses folly , despite recognition of the problem, and alternative courses being available As such, it is of a screed against certain practices, rather than a real attempt at balanced or impartial history.The good news is that we re not treated to the faint sound of axes grinding Instead, we re given front row seats to the grinding wheel.The book is split into four parts with each one being longer than the last on the Trojan Horse, the start of Reformation, the American Revolution, and Vietnam Each is well written, but are effectively a completely separate work, since they just serve to try to illustrate her point, instead of having any inherent connection to each other.The Trojan Horse section is purely illustrative of her point, since it s a discussion of myth, with little idea of what really happened But it is a powerful story, and not a bad way to bring up themes, though I don t know that it s overly successful here.The Reformation is really about the ten major Popes in the run up to Martin Luther s 95 Theses As such, it paints a picture of the excesses and temporal politics of the office while calls for ecclesiastical reform go unheeded The main problem is that it ignores that high office was seen as a means of self or family aggrandizement The idea of the point of office being something bigger than the self is a modern idea this is briefly addressed in the epilogue.The American Revolution chapter mostly deals with events before the outbreak of fighting Tuchman considers the end result of the conflict to be fairly inevitable and right or wrong, this assumption helps keep her on topic , and concentrates on how British policy ended up alienating people who wanted to be part of the empire into rebelling As such, it is a very good Britain centric analysis of British policy and government.Similarly, the Vietnam chapter is at its best before American troops get directly involved there Starting with the French, and the unresolved difference in goals between them and our aid to them, it traces through the entire tragedy to the American pullout The fighting isn t covered in any real sense, but the demands of rabid anti communism with its fears of all communists everywhere working in concert with Moscow are well pointed out though not as well developed as I d like though that d probably be going off her topic.An unaddressed theme that comes out of the last two parts is the fact that these crises often grow out of situations that just weren t seen as very important at the time They were low priority, low impact items that only increased in importance after missteps had caused the situation to blow up The real folly may belong to being unable to prioritize correctly, but even that is an exercise in hindsight.

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