Comments Posted By Woody Y
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Bush’s statements, yesterday concerning what he had learned from the Vietnam war left me spluttering and thinking about the nature of ‘Folly’.. First, I would like to recommend a great book by
the great American historian Barbara Tuchman, ‘The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam’. In this book Tuchman sets out what constitutes true Folly as committed by a nation, using the fall of Troy in the Homer’s Iliad as example. She saw Folly as having four components:
1) The act must be one of choice , something not closely bound to the national interest. In her first example, the Trojans had no pressing need to bring that big wooden horse inside the gates of the city.
2) The nation must have been clearly warned against this action.
In the example, Cassandra’s warning, ”Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” falls on deaf ears.
3) The act must be done without thought of any of it’s consequences. In the example, ‘Why would you want a big Greek horse inside the walls of your city, in the first place”?
4) Having committed the act, a nation must do something to make the possible negative consequences much worse. In the example, after bringing the Trojan horse inside the gates the army of Troy sets out to get dead drunk.

In her book Tuchman sets out about half a dozen historical examples of true national ‘Folly’ ending with Vietnam. There is no clearer textbook example Folly in recent history than Iraq. That it was a war of choice and that all warnings against it were ignored is obvious, as is the lack of any consideration of consequences .The disbanding of the Iraqi army and ‘debaathification of the civil government are strong contenders for point #4 but there are of course others….

The Greeks had a word for the real lesson of all this, ‘Hubris’. Arrogant leaders never learn from their mistakes and nations that willfully believe they will, whether in Nixon’s ‘Secret Plan for Peace in Vietnam’, or Bush’s ‘New Course in Iraq’ are bound for tragedy.

Comment Posted By Woody Y On 18.11.2006 @ 19:48



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