Thursday, February 02, 2012

A thought on the 1683 Siege of Vienna

As I have been reading The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans, and the Battle for Europe byAndrew Wheatcroft I have been thinking about the difference between secular states and states with a state religion. The Habsburg empire was Catholic, at a time of conflict between Catholics and Protestants, and the the Ottoman empire was Muslim.

Actually, according to Wheatcroft, the Pope was financing the Christian coalition fighting to defend Vienna, The Ottoman Sultan also held the religious title of Caliph, the designated follower of Mohammed.

It rather seems that both the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold and the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV were motivated by the desire to expand their terrestrial empires and to gain enduring fame in the process. Indeed, the senior officers on both sides may have been motivated by professional reasons. However, religion was used to motivate the people actually doing the face to face fighting.
“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right”
Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War
While some have charged that the NATO forces have been engaged in a new crusade in Iraq and Afghanistan, our secular governments and our peoples who belong to many religions are not engaged in "holy wars", and perhaps those wars are more easily limited and less viscous as a result. 

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