These Foolish Things

These Foolish Things

Barbara W. Tuchman: The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam; Alfred A.K Knopf, New York.


William L. Shirer: 20th Century Journey: A Memoir of a Life and the Times. Volume II: The Nightmare Years, 1930-1940; Little, Brown & Company, Boston.


The world of nations, like the world of nature, is characterized by an unremitting struggle for existence. To survive in this milieu, governments must not pursue policies that run significantly counter to their own interests. Yet, self-interest is rarely clearly defined, and even on those occasions when there is a generally agreed upon self-interest, it is not always apparent what particular policies would further it. Sometimes, even if self-interest is pursued, the obstacles faced may be insurmountable. Nevertheless, it would seem that the course of history, strewn with the carcasses of fallen governments, states, and nations, shows that self-interest has not always been correctly identified or pursued.  It is this failure to follow self-interest on the part of governments that is dealt with at length in recent books by two intellectual luminaries of the liberal establishment — Barbara Tuchman and William L. Shirer. And though it is unintentional,...

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