The View From Olympus: His Majesty’s Birthday

The time of year again is here when I telephone Germany’s last legitimate ruler, Kaiser Wilhelm II, who also happens to be my liege lord and reporting senior. Were he still in charge, the Fatherland would not be drowning itself in a sea of racial and religious sewage. Unlike Hausfrau Merkel, Kaiser Wilhelm could tell the difference between Shinola and that other stuff.

His Majesty picked up the phone promptly. Regrettably, it was hard to hear over the roar of the drinking songs, crashing tankards, shattering crockery, and general bedlam that rang out from whatever shindig he was attending. It sounded more like a place for the Great Elector than for Kaiser Bill.

After offering His Majesty my congratulations, I asked what the revelry was all about.

“Well, I suppose it’s in part about my birthday. But that’s just an excuse. These 17th century guys really know how to party. I don’t come here often, but whenever I do it’s what you hear. Cannon should be going off soon.”

“May I ask Your Majesty who else is in attendance?”

“Everybody who matters, or did. Gustavus Adolphus, Tilly, Wallenstein, the Emperor, the Count-Duke of Olivares, endless Electors, Margraves, Freiherrs, the whole bunch.”

“And is this great feast perhaps connected to the Thirty Years’ War?” I enquired.

“You’re as spot-on as U-9’s torpedoes,” His Majesty replied. “It’s all coming back again, this time in the Middle East. The clock is running backward. What vanished when the state arose is returning as the state declines. The old gang is singing ‘Happy Days are Here Again’, in Latin of course.”

“Well, I hope the food is as good as the drink seems to be,” I ventured.

“Depends on how you like the Diet of Worms,” His Majesty said.

“Might it be possible amidst all the revelry for me to ask those who fought Europe’s Thirty Years’ War what they would advise us for Islam’s Thirty Years’ War?” I asked.

“I think I can manage that,” the Kaiser replied. “Let me ask Kaiser Karl to fire off one of his 30.5 cm Skoda guns.”

Luckily, I was holding the telephone’s receiver at some distance. Even so, I was stunned by the sound. It did get everyone’s attention.

The Kaiser said in the silence, “I’ve got a Herr Hofkriegsrat from the 21st century on the line. What would you advise Europe, Russia, and America do in the new Thirty Years’ War among the Saracens?”

After a brief pause, all the assembled worthies shouted with one voice, “Keep it local!”

Olivares explained. “If you want to understand America today, look to the Spain I knew. Spain went from the greatest power in the world to a defeated, bankrupt wreck in 50 years. America is on the same course, and about the same timetable. When Spain and the other Catholic powers won at Nördlingen, I proclaimed it ‘The greatest victory of the age!’ That was rephrased in your time as ‘Mission Accomplised.’ In both cases, it was the beginning of disaster. If you would learn from us, stay out! Let the worshippers of Mohammed kill each other. It need be none of your affair.”

Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden chimed in. “I agree with the distinguished Count-Duke. But I would add, if outside powers insist on getting involved, as they are doing, make sure the clashes between them occur on someone else’s soil. That is something we did fairly well. It wrecked Germany, but it did not wreck all of Europe, except of course financially. Confine your duels to the lists. For outside powers, it is all a joust anyway.”

“If I may add something”–the voice was Wallenstein’s–“what you are seeing in your time is the return of Real War. Real War is what we knew; your pretty little armies know it not. Real War comes riding with Plague, Famine, and Death. Populations sink to a fraction of their pre-war size. Civilians are targets as much or more than soldiers. You will discover reasons for the cry, ‘Magdeburg quarter!’ You will have its equivalents–‘ISIS quarter!’ is a start.”

Kaiser Wilhelm said to me sotto voce, “The Holy Roman Emperor is about to speak!”

“Fellow Christians,” he began. “Let us set our revels aside for a moment, if we may. What faces Christendom now is grave. Our Thirty Years’ War began as a war of religion and ended up a war among states. That was a very good thing. States, motivated solely, as they should be, by raison d’etat, can act rationally. They can compromise. They can limit war. They can count the cost of war, in thalers or dollars, and keep the peace because war does not pay.”

“In the 21st century, the movement is in the other direction. What begins as wars between states, as in President George W. Bush’s war with Iraq–America, your presidents are a powerful argument for monarchy!–turns into wars of religion. Men believe their eternal salvation is at stake. In such a matter there can be no reason, no compromise, no counting of costs. Wars of belief are by their nature unlimited. As my servant General Wallenstein said–remember, Wally old chap, you are my servant–such wars are Real War. God help those peoples upon whom Real War descends.”

Through Kaiser Wilhelm, I offered my sincere thanks to his distinguished company. I asked him whether he had anything to add.

“In Heaven, I have learned when not to talk,” His majesty replied. “Europe’s Thirty Years’ War tells your time all it needs to know.” favicon

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