As an amateur student of history, I’m fascinated by the truly consequential mistakes that—in hindsight—look so glaringly, obviously wrong. The more I read and study, the more I’m convinced that the so-called “great man” theory of history is incomplete without a corresponding “dumb man” theory—that our mistakes shape us just as profoundly as our triumphs, and many of the most consequential mistakes were sometimes quite apparent even in real time.
In fact, the last three books I’ve read, The Crucible of War (a history of the Seven Years’ War and Britain’s defeat of France in North America), A World Undone (an excellent one-volume history of World War I), and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (self explanatory) could each be subtitled, “A story of dumb decisions and dreadful errors.”
I often wonder about the obvious mistakes we’re making right now. What will future generations say about our worst decisions today? Here’s one head-scratcher: Why are so many leading environmentalist groups 1) utterly convinced we face a looming climate disaster; and 2) opposed to using nuclear power to address the crisis? And why are governments actually closing plants? For example: