One of my favorite non-fiction books of all time isBarbara Tuchman’s
The March of Folly.It surveys a series of
historical events that went awry, including our raging open national sore,
the Vietnam War. The decision making process of which looks even worse now that
we’ve heard the LBJ tapes that indicate he knew the nation was plunging
headlong to disaster. Johnson flinched because he was terrified of the right
pulling another “they lost China to the commies” stunt like the one
they pulled on Truman. LBJ should have put fluoride in their water instead…
The Iraq War is another thing that fits the Tuchman pattern of denial,
arrogance, hubris, and downright stupidity. Anyone with clear eyes knew that it
was never going to be a cakewalk, but Bush went in anyway thereby making that
war our current raging open national sore.
The latest example of the march of folly is the GOP’s reaction to their
shutdown catastrophe. It’s so predictable: “we
lost because we weren’t conservative enough.” A variation on the theme
is a regurgitation of the whole“mean liberal media ganged up on
us” thingamabob. It’s hard to dignify either reaction with a response since
they’re both batshit crazy, especially the latter notion in the era of Fox News
and the right wing media bubble. The biggest problem with these nutbags is that
they *only* speak to people who agree with them. Not an original thought but a
Congresscritter John Fleming are acting as if this whole mess was a mere
dress rehearsal for wingergeddon when they will finally get things right. To
paraphrase the great Kinks song, (my ring tone, btw)Do It Again:
“Back where we started, here we go round again. Come on and do it again.”
As a card-carrying liberal Democrat this makes my leg all tingly, Tweety style. Hopefully,
listen to Grover Norquist:
“It’d be a good idea if they stopped referring to other Republicans as
Hitler appeasers because they opposed the strategy they put forward which
failed,” Norquist told National Review’s Betsy Woodruff. “I think if
you make a mistake as big as what they did, you owe your fellow senators and
congressmen a big apology — and your constituents, as well, because nothing
they did advanced the cause of repealing or dismantling Obamacare.”
Though Norquist didn’t name specific Republicans, he singled out the
strategy championed by Cruz.
“They hurt the conservative movement, they hurt people’s health care,
they hurt the country’s economic situation, and they hurt the Republican
party,” Norquist continued. “And a lot of congressmen and senators
are not going to win because we spent three months chasing our own tail — or at
least, parts of the conservative movement spent three months chasing their own
We are well and truly through the looking glass, y’all. Instead of mocking
Grover for his nutty politics and even sillier name, I am quoting him
approvingly and from a piece in the National Review to boot. Bill Buckley would
be as confused by this as I am but would probably use bigger words. What would
he have made of a simpleton like Louis Gohmert Pyle? Yeah, I know, Buckley
would have used him as a pawn before discarding him…
It’s interesting that Norquist makes a Nazi era analogy that is not about
the President for a change. I have one too. After Germany lost the Great War in 1918, a myth
was created that if not for a “stab in the back” by the Social
Democrats and other weak-kneed wusses and girly-men, Germany would have won the
war. It was, of course, batshit crazy and wrong, wrong, wrong, but when did
that ever stop conspiracy theorists? The stabbed in the back mythos seemed
credible to many because one of its prime purveyors was General Ludendorff
co-commander of the Eastern front where the Jerrys had beaten the Russians. (Holy
crap, I sound like Corporal Newkirk inHogan’s
Heroes.) This mythology undermined the Weimar Republic, and led to the
domination of inter-war politics by the far right and far left. We all know how
that turned out.
I don’t think that we’re headed for dictatorship. All Tailgunner Ted or
Senator Aqua Buddha will ever be is the President of Wingnuttia. That’s a place
where Rushbo is a sage. Roger Ailes is a demigod, Sarah Palin has a brain,
Glenn Beck is sane, Newt is an elder statesman, andAtlas Shrugged is
a sacred text. It’s a guvmint and tax-free utopia that they’ll ascend to after
The current generation of nihilist wingnuts are neither conservative nor
libertarian, they’re anarchists who think theLord of the Flies depicts a paradisiacal world free of guvmint and
adult supervision. In short, like theSex Pistols song,
“they wanna destroy.”
The Republican march of folly continues unabated.
8 thoughts on “The March of Folly, 21st Century Style”
Either it was published in 1974, or it was looking back at the still-controversial Vietnam War. The war ended in ’75 …
“Published in 1984, it surveys a series of historical events that went awry, including our then raging open national sore, the Vietnam War.”
Especially like the Lord of the Flies / without adult supervision metaphor. Quite apt.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. BUT THEY ARE BLAMING THEMSELVES FOR NOT BEING CONSERVATIVE ENOUGH!!!!!!!???????????.
After over a decade of embracing a brand of conservatism which has many fascist qualities. (One of my favorite lines from a video game is Duke Nuke’em saying “It’s my way or the highw…Hell, Its MY WAY>”
After a decade of fighting Iraq and Afghanistan and keeping the accounting off the books (Enron Math – hey, Cheney was with Enron. And isn’t keeping 2 sets of books a revered skill among crime syndicates?)
Coming up on 5 years of stalling. Taking every decision and postponing it till later. Working on a pledge of making Obama a 1 term president to starting this year with a pledge to make Obama a lame duck.
@Black: Published in 1984. Vietnam was still a huge issue just like Iraq keeps coming up all the time 10 years after the invasion. I referred to both misbegotten wars in the same way.
Nice analogy also on the Weimar Republic. I grew up in fundamentalist churches where every sermon had an obligatory voicing that America was loosing its foundation on God. So God was gonna get us (Think Pat Robertson blaming Hurricane Katrina on retribution on NOLA for having a LGBT march. But with the sweet delivery replaced by a voice which rattled the lights).
Their world had been decimated by the advent of civil rights (which also included removing religion from some areas – that pesky bill of rights). They were primed, looking for Armageddon (Hal Lindsay, “The Late Great Planet Earth” took the Bible and found the battle plans for how Russia was gonna invade the Middle East. And America was gonna suffer severely because of it abandoning God (although Ares/Mars might better express the attributes of their God).
And America was loosing its position of primacy in the World. The world was surpassing us in education while our hippie students were standing around protesting Vietnam (and the fact that we weren’t winning there was just more proof of God’s retribution for our lawless ways.
As a personal note, I’ve seen us wrap ourselves up in the flag (and you can’t criticize the flag, or veterans, etc.) that I cringe everytime I heard GWB end with a perfunctory “God Bless America” (while we do the most un-godlike things) as if the words were some sort of magic talisman which forced God to bless us. Instead, I much prefer, “May American behave in a way consistent with God’s Blessings.”
THe POW issue was still quite hot in 1984, if I remember right. The second Stallone First Blood movie came out around then … and a few years later the third one was released, where Rambo pals around with the Mujahidin/Taliban — both movies can be amusing with the proper amount of alcohol and/or other stimulants.
I also remember in 2008 John McCain sneering about a proposed museum or memorial at Woodstock. And, to tangent just a bit, Tim Russert’s obit mentioned he attended the concert, but wore a Buffalo Bills jersey, as if to somehow mask the stain/taint of consorting with…anti-war hippies…
Yer librul media…
Germany had tight press controls during WWI, so their collapse came as a real surprise to the general public. This led to a lot of the conspiracy theories. For those whom Fox News is the only information channel Romney’s collapse at the polls was equally inexplicable.
“The March of Folly” is a truly great book.
It is a shame that Barbara Tuchman didn’t live long enough to add a chapter on Iraq, although I suppose it is also a mercy that she didn’t live to see it.
In a perfect world, Dubya’s obituary would contain the line “beaten to death with a copy of ‘The March of Folly’…”
In a perfect world, they’d’ve left W in a baseball stadium job for life.
Sadly, this is not the case … and nor has Kissinger been captured and taken to The Hague for trial for his crimes. Reagan lies peacefully in his grave, and witless wonders like Ted Cruz and Randy Neugebauer pile up personal fortunes ad nauseam, while the nation suffers.
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