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The Guns of August

The president and his Department of Justice have unleashed forces they do not understand and cannot control.  It will not end well.

Having just finished watching the BBC miniseries 37 Days about the month or so leading up to WWI, I am newly reminded of how miscalculations, ambition, and “good intentions” can lead to calamity of biblical proportions.  Barbara Tuchman’s 60-year-old book “The Guns of August,” which I read 30 years ago, tells much the same tale.

Like Kaiser Wilhelm, who was convinced he could solve the Balkan issue by way of a small war to prop up the decrepit Austro-Hungarian empire, which had become a client state, while also deterring the Russians, Joe Biden and his allies are convinced that a little trial that elevates an unelectable opponent will finally put an end to the Trump issue, to the Democrats’ advantage.

Since January 2021, the Democrats have operated under the following principles:

  1. Donald J. Trump is a unique threat to American democracy;
  2. This fact is accepted by most Americans (other than a small minority of “mega-MAGA” types), and;
  3. The political process cannot be allowed to work itself out, so the grown-ups must take matters into their own hands.

This, of course, has been the Left’s modus operandi for decades: Assuming that their political enemies operate only from selfish, irrational motives while theirs are completely virtuous.

The Trump indictment alone is destabilizing enough.  Add to it a looming debt crisis, the bursting of the government bubble (as social welfare programs, including education, become impossible to fund without massive tax increases), recession, a potential war (Ukraine, Iran, Korea, Taiwan—take your pick), a fractured civil society in which fewer people (especially the young) have any emotional or psychic connection to their own country, and you have a combustible situation.

Add to this the delusion of a powerful segment of the country (the progressive elites, led by President Biden) that believes “America is back!”, the economy is humming along, and we are just one government program away from solving all of society’s ills.  The only thing standing in the way of final conquest is a tiny group of right-wing yahoos.

It is tempting to think that we have all the facts, that events are in our control, that our motives are pure.  That is exactly what the Germans, English, French, and Russians who blundered their way into WWI thought.

I’m not predicting millions dead, but we may one day look back on August 2023 much as we now look back on August 1914: the month when—to paraphrase Sir Edward Grey, Britain’s secretary of state at the outbreak of the war—the lamps went out across America; we may not see them relit in our lifetimes.

J.S. Scifo is a North County resident who has worked in national and state politics.

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