The Guns of December

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Reading Bill McKibben and others today on the real Climategate—the seeming dedication to failure stalemating the world leaders at Copenhagen—I’m reminded of Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August. Her Pulitzer Prize winning history detailed the class of idiot-leaders circa 1914 who paved the way to World War I.

If I could cast the WWI story circa 2009, here’s how it’d look:

  • For Germany in WWI, obsessed with military superiority, I’d cast America today
  • For France in WWI, obsessed with winning back lost territories, I’d cast Britain today
  • For Britain in WWI, hesitant to get involved in a war on the Continent, I’d cast Canada today
  • For Russia in WWI, huge and malfunctioning, I’d cast China today

As we know, World War I, with 15 million dead, was the warm-up for World War II, with its own class of world leaders leading the world to 70 million dead.

One of the most affecting museum’s I’ve ever visited is the Mémorial pour la Paix (Peace Memorial) in Caen, France, a town utterly devastated in the course of the D-Day landings in 1944. The epicenter of the museum is an exhibit called the Failure of Peace, built along a spiral ramp corkscrewing underground. You descend the ramp from bright and sunny ground level, and along the way you track past the timeline of failure: the Versailles Treaty (the Kyoto Protocol), the appeaser, Neville Chamberlain (Barack Obama), Adolph Hitler (dare I say it? the naysayers). It gets darker, colder, more and more hopeless as you descend into the inevitability of war and chaos.

You know I’m mad about the likelihood of failure at Copenhagen. But, really, I’m sad.
 

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate