The Guns of December

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


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.
 

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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