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I saw this expression used in a Washington Post article about the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear program:

US officials don’t think that [Israeli prime minister] Netanyahu has made a final decision to attack, and they note that top Israeli intelligence officials remain sceptical of the project. But senior Americans doubt that the Israelis are bluffing. They’re worrying about the guns of spring — and the unintended consequences.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

"The guns of spring" is a reference to historian Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August, and the journalist here used it as a paraphrase to conflate the Arab Spring uprisings with the beginning of the First World War.

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That has the ring of truth. Thanks! –  Pitarou Feb 11 '12 at 5:23
    
I thought 'the guns of spring' was a generally accepted expression for the upswing in armed hostilities that occur after the slow winter period (travel and supply being more difficult then). But I can't find any reference for that. –  Mitch Feb 11 '12 at 15:12
    
@Mitch: Tropes in this The NOUN of TIME PERIOD format have been piggybacking off the Tuchman book title for a long time. Cf. The Missiles of October, etc. It is unlikely that a writer from the Washington Post (or his editor) would be unaware of this, and given the penchant of journalists for word-play and reference-bending, I feel my explanation to be all but certain. –  Robusto Feb 11 '12 at 15:19
    
Your answer is the most compelling, but I thought I'd offer my suggestion in the slim possibility there was something before Tuchman. –  Mitch Feb 11 '12 at 15:33

It appears to be a figure of speech coined by the author as a complement to the now well-known Arab spring. Spring is in the air, literally and figuratively. In the recent dominant figurative sense, this construction points to a period of (revolutionary) upheaval.

An unintended consequence of such a development could be a long, cold winter that follows.

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