THE Habsburgs must long have known that their Empire was a ramshackle affair, but now the course of events compels them to admit the fact. If Austria is not to go more hopelessly to pieces than she has been going of late, she must have an armistice, and she has pocketed her pride to become a suppliant at President Wilson’s door. She “begs” him to plead her cause with the Allies, and to say that she accepts the conditions named in the President’s Note. Mr Wilson, however, has replied that, since he sent that Note, circumstances have greatly changed. He then demanded the grant of autonomy to the subject-races of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but now there must be added the right of self-determination. We have no pity to spare for the Habsburg dynasty now in process of disappearing. The world has had enough of them, as of the Hohenzollerns, their partners in crime. What interests us immediately is the effect that Austria’s withdrawal from the war will have upon its last stage. If, as we expect, the terms of an armistice include, as they did in Bulgaria’s case, freedom for the allies to use the railways and waterways of the suppliant country for the purpose of military transport, the Italians and the British force now in Italy will be able to add effectively to the embarrassments of the Germans on the southern side; and also the re-entry of Rumania as a fighting element becomes possible. When Turkey joins Austria on the penitent bench, Germany’s desertion by her Allies whom she lured to their ruin will be complete. Already, being sick, she is posing as a saint. When she finds the whole world, even her friends, against her, she will assume the posture of a martyr. We must keep it constantly before our minds that saints and martyrs do not commit every revolting crime under the sun. Of Germany it may be said that “All for pity and self-love she wept.” But she must make amends for her misdeeds, if we are to be convinced that her tears are tears of repentance. The restitution must first come; then as many tears as Germany can shed.
The Church Times digital archive is available free to subscribers.