Remember Barbara Tuchman’’s The March of Folly

❄ Remember Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly

Two years ago I published a book titled War Stories. [Note 1] I wrote that wars begin as choices, for which individual men and women are responsible. This week the responsible persons are George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condaleeza Rice, and others. They have failed to make out a case for war, but appear to be willy-nilly bent on war.

War Stories also sees a titanic struggle between the ‘war script’ and the ‘civic script’. What has been unfolding, focused on Iraq, is a textbook example of such a struggle. At stake are more than fifty years of post-WWII construction of reasoned, argued, public politics. In its place Cheney-Rumsfeld would substitute chauvinism, fear, secret decision, and the rule of force.

The title War Stories emphasises the role of accounts of the past in shaping choices for the future. It’s not that historical accounts bring about wars. Instead, leaderships find among stories the grist for answers to the question “what should we do now?” They may draw on unsound stories, and they may draw unsound conclusions from good stories. The Cheney-Rumsfeld group appears mesmerized by fables of empire. More on that another day.

Today’s word to remember is automaticity. France chose that term to expose the White House’s strategem in the Security Council. The White House would cast aside the UN Security Council and a world of reason. The White House wanted, in what became Resolution 1441 (November 2002), an automatic trigger for war, agreement by the Security Council that war would be made whenever Washington chose. Not unreasonably, France insisted that the use of force was a matter for the Security Council to decide. No single state, except in immediate self-defense, could arrogate to itself the choice of war. France and other countries were peopled and led by reasonable men and women who could muster evidence and calculate for a secure future, as well or better than others. And only a broad consensus among states could ensure ongoing stability and decency.


[Note 1] War Stories (New York & Bern: Peter Lang, 2001).

[Bruce’s Blog: 2003.03.16. Post: Bxx Short Link: Front Door Index: Permalink:’s-the-march-of-folly/]

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