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Another mark of increasing age, though I suppose I should be pleased at this one, was a request to deliver a memorial lecture. The topic given to me was ‘The March of Folly’, which led me to look up the origin of the phrase. I knew it was the title of a book by the popular American historian Barbara Tuchman, but I had thought this was the one she wrote about the beginnings of the First World War, chronicling the headlong rush into a war that could have been avoided, and which destroyed the world its perpetrators thought to perpetuate.

In fact ‘The March of Folly’ is a later book, based on the idea that folly is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Tuchman deals with four examples of this, beginning with the decision of the Trojans to take into their city the horse left on the beach by the Greeks who had pretended to abandon their attempt to conquer Troy. She goes on to discuss the policies of the Popes who precipitated the Reformation, and then the British blunders that led to the independence of the United States. Finally, and at length, she deals with the American disaster in Vietnam.

All very interesting subjects, and I should now read the book. But it gave me a focus for this new series, which will look at recent political history in the context of folly in the Tuchman sense. I will not confine myself to governments alone, since the whole picture demands looking also at what others in the political arena engage in. And the series will be different from the lecture, which will have to be tightly focused. But these articles will I hope provide some food for thought, and with luck some changes in approach – assuming, that is, that those who decide, and those who influence decision making, both read and think.

I will begin however in an area where obviously I cannot hope for influence, since I shall talk about the folly of the West in persecuting us for achieving what it pretends it desires, namely the eradication of terrorism. But from the Sri Lankan perspective it is essential to consider this too, for the mess the current government is in springs largely from its unthinking acceptance of Western mythology. Some in the government, and even perhaps the Prime Minister, have begun to realize how badly they blundered way back in 2015, but he has no idea how to reverse gear effectively, and he certainly cannot even begin to do this while Mangala Samaraweera continues to run foreign affairs and bleat helplessly in Geneva. Read the rest of this entry »

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One of the sadder aspects of Tissa Jayatilaka’s celebration of American values and conduct with regard to Sri Lanka is his suppression of the change that took place in American policy with the change of government at the beginning of 2009. While many of us thought that, in the interests of the world as well as the majority of the American citizenry, a change would be good, we knew that things would be worse for Sri Lanka if the Republicans were defeated.

We were relieved, given the manner in which the diaspora with its ties to the LTTE had cultivated Hilary Clinton, that Obama was the Democrat candidate, but we still knew things would be tough. When Obama then appointed Hilary as his Secretary of State, we had to prepare for a very different approach. Unfortunately no one in the Foreign Ministry seemed to either understand or care.

I am astonished though to find Tissa too of such a myopic mindset, and asserting that the United States along with India ‘supported us to the hilt from 2002 onwards in our battle against the LTTE’. He has obviously not read Wikileaks, which makes it clear that in 2009 the US attitude had changed, and they were fully behind the European resolution against us.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

October 2017
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