Page 6, 23rd October 1964

23rd October 1964
Page 6
Page 6, 23rd October 1964 — Statesmen who will not learn

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Locations: VIENNA


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Statesmen who will not learn

THE SIEGE OF VIENNA, by John Stoye 36s.). THA I history repeats itself is such a commonplace saying. few if any people consider it seriously. This explains many otherwise surprising errors.

Statesmen and commentators seem 10 feel quite often that the present is immutable and that "realism" makes it inevitable to accept the situation as it is, without taking into account the historical and geopolitical forces which condemn all articficial settlements while lending stability to solutions based on the lessons of the past,

Of course learning from history is more easily said than done. While fundamental things remain. outward appearances change. In our times many feel that the laws of the nuclear age are without precedent. This is false, C'Iausewitz stated that war was the continuation of politics with other means. Today, diplomacy. propaganda and political struggle is the continuation of war under contemporary conditions. What has changed is simply that military action has ceased to be a rational instrument for political or any other ends; but the same realities reappear under only slightly modified forms.

The resemblance a our situation to similar conditions centuries ago is brought to mind by John Stoye's timely publication, The Siege of Vienna. The book is a military, diplomatic, economic and political description of the momentuous events surrounding the last major assault of the Islam against Christian Europe in the years 1682-1683. The recent siege of Vienna— the Soviet occupation of

Austria from 1945-1955 is vividly recalled by this fine historical work. The religious policy of the Kopriiliis in Hungary parallels the practices of the }Ceder regime. just its the disunity of the West and its lack of understanding could be a description of 1956 or 1964.

It is significant that the outstanding political figure described in the book is Pope Innocent XI, one of the few whose view transcended the limits of countries to embrace the common interest of humanity.

Mr. Stoye has amassed an impressive array of data and has ably presented them. He writes well, and keeps up the interest even when compelled to deal with such arid subjects as finances or military moves.

From a historical point of view one will not agree with everything he says. Thus he unquestionably makes too sweeping a statement when he con toys the impression that nearly all Magyars where siding with Thtelsoly. He seems to consider the Magyar Protestants as the whole nation. forgetting that an overwhelming majority of the Catholics where standing tirmestgainst the Turks.

He also shows little understanding for the dilemma in which the Emperor Leopold found himself during the siege of his capital. Leopold, he says \tas unable to make up his mind. Certainly the Emperor was slow. Hut his appointments were generally excellent and his ultimate moves correct.

He was not hrilliant, but often the less flamboyant rulers

make the greatest contributions to the welfare of nations. Ii the Emperor did not partake in the battle for Vienna, this was proof of supreme heroism. since he knowingly sacrificed his reputation and honour on the altar of Christian unity, after King Sobieski had threatened to withdraw if Leopold joined the troops.

Historians may be shocked that in a work dealing with the 17th century, city names of recent vintage are used, For instance Eger in Bohemia is described as Chet), Before this century that name did not exist.

These criticisms should not detract from the truly great merits of the book. It is well worth reading, not only for those interested in the 17th century or in Central Europe, but also for many who will enjoy seeing hoe a situation similar to the one confronting our generation was handled by those who preceded us—and from whose errors we obviously seem to have learned very little.

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