the Guns of August, this time, remain silent
A German translation of this article, appeared in Neue Solidaritët on August 24, 2005
is an expression, "Those who do not learn from history, are doomed to
repeat it." Well, that is not quite true, because every historical period
has its own peculiarities – for example the culture, economic conditions,
political landscape and the character of leading individuals – a concept
Lyndon LaRouche refers to as historical specificity.
if we look at history as drama, we can, as Schiller wrote in his "Theater
as a Moral Institution," learn from the tragedy we see come to life on the
stage before us, and come out better people. We can see specific moments,
punctum salia, at which, if the leading characters had acted otherwise, it were
possible to have had a different outcome. We can especially learn about the
qualities of personal courage required to intervene in a way that could have
changed history, when faced with an accelerating momentum heading directly
towards a tragedy, such as a great war –- how one must act, after hearing the
drums of war, in order to muffle them, or silence them completely.
Guns of August," by Barbara Tuchman, (published in Danish as
"Kanonerne i August 1914") is an insightful book about many of the
factors that led up to WWI, and the first thirty days of the war, which has the
qualities of a dramatic historical tragedy. She shows us, her readers, in detail,
how "The Great War" broke out on August 1, 1914, as a result of
geopolitical strategies, "unchallengeable military necessities," wrong
assumptions, miscalculations, denial, and political cowardice. Thereby
implicitly, and in several cases explicitly, showing us how the war, and
especially the immense extent of the war, could have been avoided.
in January 1962, "The Guns of August," itself, changed history. John
F. Kennedy, and members of his administration, read the book just before the
outbreak of the Cuban Missile Crisis that October, and consciously used the
lessons they learned from it, to navigate through the dangerous waters of the
crisis, and successfully avoid escalation into a nuclear war with the
colorful scene at the opening of "The Guns of August" is the funeral
procession of King Edward VII of
The book fills in the details behind LaRouche's analysis that Edward VII was the manuscript writer for the war, but that the "Three Kaiser Bund," comprised of Kaiser Wilhelm -- "Willy," Czar Nicholas II of Russia – "Nicky," another nephew of Edward, and cousin to Wilhelm, and the Hapsburg Emperor of Austro-Hungary, all too willingly played their parts, along with the French. Their own folly allowed Edward to put them against each others throats.
Wilhelm clearly perceives Edward's strategy of encircling
just days before the outbreak of war, Wilhelm says "The world will be
engulfed in the most terrible of wars, the ultimate aim of which is the ruin of
the war "inevitable"?
heard the drums of war, and prepared for the war in varying degrees of
effectiveness, but none prepared effectively enough to silence them. Yet,
paradoxically, Mrs. Tuchman shows that the war was not inevitable, and
especially the scale and length of the war, if certain leading actors, had acted
otherwise. Here are some of the examples she highlights.
example, the French Commander in Chief designate, General Michel, after
correctly surmising the essential content of the German Schlieffen Plan of
attack on the western part of
that war with
how, when the German ambassador to London was discussing with the British
ambassador the possibility that German forces might invade neutral Belgium, in
order to reach France, "'If so,' Lichnowsky said, voicing the eternal
epitaph of man's surrender to events, 'that could not be altered now.'"
how General Moltke, the younger, chief of staff of the German military forces,
“could have changed the history of the twentieth century,” if he had
accepted Kaiser Wilhelm’s desperate, last minute proposal. She dramatically
describes how on Aug. 1, Wilhelm sent a messenger to intercept Moltke, then on
his way to give the orders to begin the attack. Waving a copy of a telegram from
the German ambassador to London, stating that Britain would stay out of the war,
if Germany only declared war against Russia, and not France (which, in fact,
turned out to be incorrect – footnote 2) the Kaiser asked Moltke to divert the
bulk of the German forces towards east, one hour before the first German troops
were to take over a railroad center in Luxembourg,.
Majesty, it cannot be done. The deployment of millions cannot be improvised. If
Your Majesty insists on leading the whole army to the East it will not be an
army ready for battle but a disorganized mob of men with no arrangements for
supply. Those arrangements took a whole year of intricate labor to complete."
And then Moltke states, as Mrs. Tuchman writes, "the inevitable phrase when
military plans dictate policy – 'and once settled, it cannot be altered.'"
fact it could have been altered,” she reports. After the war, the Chief of the
Railway Division, General von Staab, wrote a book proving that the redeployment
could have been accomplished, and Moltke, 6 months after the outbreak of war,
admitted that he had made a mistake.
is not to say that "only" a German-Russian war would have been
acceptable, as a key British geopolitical strategy has always been to get those
two rivals to bleed each other. But that the outbreak of war, and the scale of
the war, were not “inevitable,” if leading political and military leaders
had had the courage to intervene effectively.
a recent memorandum, LaRouche explained that those who want war to further their
political or economic agenda, create the impression that such a war is
inevitable. He stressed that for the London-based financial oligarchy, sustained
peace is more frightful than fanning the flames of war. In this case, their fear
of an American System economic policy spreading from
above examples, and others, dramatically described in “The Guns of August,”
of how no one acted effectively to prevent the war from breaking out in the
first place, and then escalating into a world war, with such tragic consequences
for a whole century, made an impression on a future leader of a nation, John F.
Kennedy, about the need to devise alternative strategies than those presented by
military leaders who state that there is no alternative to a military invasion,
and already completed warplans.
the month of August, 1914,” she wrote, “there was something looming,
inescapable, universal that involved us all. Something in that awful gulf
between perfect plans and fallible men that makes one tremble with a sense of
‘There but for the Grace of God go we.’”
“Her hope was that people reading her book might take warning, avoid these mistakes, and do a little better. It was this effort and these lessons which attracted presidents and prime ministers as well as millions of ordinary readers,” Robert K. Massie wrote in his introduction to a recent edition of the book.
Guns of August, JFK and the Missiles of October
mentioned above, JFK and leading members of his administration read "The
Guns of August" just before the onset of the crisis provoked by the
American discovery of Soviet missiles on
Robert Kennedy cited in his book "Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis," which we can also learn from, JFK's discussion of the
impact that the book had on him, in a discussion with Robert, presidential advisor Ted Sorensen and another aide, in the midst of the crisis:
great danger and risk in all of this,' he said, 'is a miscalculation – a
mistake in judgment.' A short time before, he had read Barbara Tuchman's book The
Guns of August, and he talked about the miscalculations of the Germans, the
Russians, the Austrians, the French, and the Brutish. They somehow seemed to
tumble into war, he said, through stupidity, individual idiosyncrasies,
misunderstandings, and personal complexes of inferiority and grandeur. We talked
about the miscalculations of the Germans in 1939 and the still unfulfilled
commitments and guarantees that the British had given to
also writes about JFK's discussion of the book at a later point during the Cuban
mentioned before, Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August had made a great
impression on the President. 'I am not going to follow a course which will allow
anyone to write a comparable book about this time, The Missiles of October.' he
said to me that Saturday night, October 27. "If anybody is around to write
after this, they're going to understand we made every effort to find peace and
every effort to give our adversary room to move. I'm not going to push the
Russians an inch beyond what's necessary."
the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin asked U.S. Ambassador at
Large Bowles for a meeting. The following is an excerpt from a secret memo to
President Kennedy that Ambassador Bowles wrote about that meeting.(footnote 3)
He reports that he discussed with Dobrynin that some U.S. Sovietologists thought
that the Soviets wanted to deliberately provoke a crisis in Cuba, to divert
attention from Berlin, and enable the Soviets to charge the US with aggression
in the UN. He writes that he told Amb. Dobrynin that, if so, such thinking
"was extremely dangerous." If we did move into
asked Dobrynin if he had read The Guns of August. He said "only a
three-page summary." I urged him to read at least the first few chapters in
which he would see a pattern of politico-military action and counter-action that
could be repeated in the next six months.
July 1914," Bowles said to Dobrynin, "men of intelligence in Russia,
Germany, Austria-Hungary, France and England, all quite conscious of the forces
which were feeding the approaching holocaust, found themselves enmeshed in
internal pressures, commitments and precedents which left them powerless to
avoid the inevitable. It would be the greatest folly in history if we were to
repeat this insane process in the nuclear age.
asked me what, in the circumstances, I thought could be done in regard to
fact, as the " The Guns of August" shows, the unfolding of the events
that led to WWI were not "inevitable," -- if men and woman of good
will had had the courage to intervene to prevent "the inevitable."
John F. and Robert Kennedy, and their faction, would succeed in presenting and
implementing alternatives to a course demanded by a faction of their own
military, which they were sure would lead directly to nuclear war. In a parallel
to the determination behind solving the problem of bringing the damaged Apollo
13 spacecraft back to earth, "Failure is not an option,"
the Kennedy's were determined that nuclear war was not an option. After
the crisis, J.F. Kennedy presented the book to British Prime Minister Macmillan,
saying that the Western world had something to learn from the lessons of August
we are to learn from "The Guns of August" when faced with a similar
war party, this time, with occupants in the White House itself, now intent on
war with Iran, even nuclear war, we must intervene effectively to silence the
drums of war. This time, in
time, in the
time, will you learn from history, and help make their voices heard?
That step, the immediate trigger to the war, would be the assassination of the
heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne while in
The British, in fact, offered to not declare war on