Sunday, September 30, 2012

Aimless Reading: The T's, Part 11 (Barbara W. Tuchman)

The March of Folly
Tuchman, Barbara W.
The March of Folly

I think I pilfered this from my brother's shelf. He may have read it in high school. It was the first book of history that I ever read cover to cover. I don't recall exactly when I read it. Probably in my early twenties. For the first time since I started working on this blog, I am finding it difficult to keep going. I have gotten bored before, but I always kept writing. I always made sure to write for a few minutes a day, regardless of the quality or content.Lately, though, I just don't feel like writing as often as I used to. The smallest distraction can keep me from writing. Maybe it's the fact that I am getting close to the end that is weighing on me. Who knows?

from The March of Folly

For all their truths, the Fulbright hearings were not a prelude to action in the only way that could count, a vote against appropriations, so much as an intellectual exercise in examination of American policy. The issue of longest consequence, Executive war, was not formulated until after the hearings, in Fulbright’s preface to a published version. Acquiescence in Executive war, he wrote, comes from the belief that the government possesses secret information that gives it special insight in determining policy. Not only was this questionable, but major policy decisions turn “not upon available facts but upon judgment,” with which policy-makers are no better endowed than the intelligent citizen. Congress and citizens can judge “whether the massive deployment and destruction of their men and wealth seem to serve the overall interests as a nation.”

Though he could bring out the major issues, Fulbright was a teacher, not a leader, unready himself to put his vote where it counted. When a month after the hearings the Senate authorized $4.8 billion in emergency funds for the war in Vietnam, the bill passed against only the two faithful negatives of Morse and Gruening. Fulbright voted with the majority.

The belief that government knows best was voiced just at this time by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who said on resumption of the bombing, “We ought to all support the President. He is the man who has all the information and knowledge of what we are up against.” This is a comforting assumption that relieves people from taking a stand. It is usually invalid, especially in foreign affairs. “Foreign policy decisions,” concluded Gunnar Myrdal after two decades of study, “are in general much more influenced by irrational motives” than are domestic ones.

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