Steve Van Slyke's Reviews > The March Of Folly: From Troy To Vietnam

The March Of Folly by Barbara W. Tuchman
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's review
Apr 27, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: history
Read in April, 2010

I had to skim the sections on the Trojan Horse and the Renaissance Popes. There just seemed to be too much irrelevant detail, not germain to the premise of the book which the author states very clearly. The history of the British loss of the American colonies was much more interesting and stayed closer to the mark with only occasional side trips into extended depth on certain characters. It was interesting because it was my first Revolutionary War history from the perspective of the British government and British people. I knew there were more than a few British that supported the American cause but, for example, I did not realize that the majority of Londoners favored the Americans. In reading about how the US allowed the French to blackmail them into bankrolling their effort to regain their colony in Indochina, it is like reading about an addict that knows he or she is on the road to hell but can't help themselves. Given the panic over the rise and spread of Communism at that time (McCarthy, HUAC, etc.), I wonder if a different set of players (other than Truman, Dulles, Johnson, McNamara, Nixon, etc.) would have taken a path significantly different. It would have taken an extremely courageous and popular president to have said, "Colonialism is wrong. We will not support the French with equipment, men or money. We support the right of the Vietnamese people to be free and independent even though we strongly disagree with the tenets of Communism." This would have had serious repercussions for our relations with France and probably other European countries. However it might have had an equally positive effect on our relations with Communist countries, China in particular. Perhaps it is time for a new edition retitled "The March of Folly: From Troy to Iraq." Although Tuchman ends on a rather glum note that "we can only muddle on," I wish she had shone the final spotlight on those individuals like Senator Wayne Morse, who stood virtually alone in voting against U.S. involvement in Viet Nam, and Daniel Ellsberg who revealed the Pentagon Papers (upon which her Viet Nam section heavily depends). These two men gave up their careers in order to tell truth to power.

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