Revisiting a historic battle
I enjoyed the article “Re-enactors gather for battle of Austerlitz” (Nov. 30, World) about the bicentennial of the Battle of the Three Emperors. The re-enactment was successful thanks to the Czechs who masterfully arranged this significant historical event. The battle took place near the small Czech town called Slavkov u Brna, about 15 miles east of Brno. Napoleon spent a week in Brno before the battle and another week after the battle.
On Dec. 2, 1805, Napoleon directed the battle from a small summit; 71,000 soldiers of his army defeated 91,000 soldiers of the combined Austrian and Russian forces. A part of the Russian army drowned in a frozen pond. The defeated forces had 19,000 dead and injured,whileNapoleon’s “Grande Armee” suffered 9,000 casualties.
One curious aspect to this part of history is that after this battle, many French soldiers remained in the region, and today many Czech citizens have French names. A close colleague of mine who is of Czech-Moravian origin says his grandfather was of half-French ancestry on his mother’s side. This may explain his grandfather’s French surname but not the reason for the ancestor’s decision to remain in a foreign land instead of returning home to France to celebrate a great victory for his nation.
I believe it is time that the famous Battle of Austerlitz be renamed the Battle of Slavkov to correspond with today’s reality. After all, the Czechs call it by its Czech name — Slavkov u Brna — because it was on Czech soil that Napoleon won his greatest victory. Official road maps show Slavkov u Brna but not Austerlitz — an Austrian-German name from the era of Napoleon.
The Battle of Slavkov (Austerlitz) lasted only one day (about six hours), following which the Russians retreated and Austria agreed to a truce. Stricken by the news of Napoleon’s victory at Slavkov (Austerlitz), the British chancellor of the exchequer, William Pitt, died on Jan. 23, 1806. Hopefully, the organizers of the bicentennial re-enactment will include in their post-event report a full account of this historic battle and related facts that describe it in its full dimension.
GEORGE J. SVEJDA
The future of the Iraqi republic
The Wednesday Commentary column “What’s next for Iraq?” and most news coverage of Iraq seem to suggest that our only alternative for Iraq is to pressure its distinct peoples to stick together in a single Iraqi state. This conclusion suggests that success can come only if the Shi’ite Arabs do not dominate Iraq politically even though they are a majority of the population (65 percent).
The Bush administration does, however, have another alternative, and that is to respect the wishes of the Iraqis when they voted earlier for a new constitution — and again this month — and let them form themselves eventually into two or more states, namely a predominantly Kurdish state and a predominantly Shi’ite state, with fair treatment for the Sunni Arabs located in sparsely populated eastern Iraq. Kurds and Shi’ites have been in their respective regions for more than 1,000 years. Many of the Sunnis, however, moved in with the relatively recent Ottoman and British occupations of the past century. Even without dealing with the Turkish-Kurdish question that preoccupies the Europeans, it should be pointed out that Syria is predominantly Sunni, but it has a sizeable Kurdish population in its north.
A hundred years ago, Sweden solved its “colonial problem” by granting independence to Norway. Malaysia allowed Singapore to separate and become independent in 1965. All four got richer and happier as a result. Turkey similarly settled a mixed-population area with Greece in 1923 by an agreed boundary supported by the great powers. It has since been generally peaceful.
Instead of “forcing” or “pressuring” Kurds and Shi’ites into a permanent union, let us support their wishes for two independent states, wishes that were evident in the past two elections. The problem then resolves itself into fair treatment for the 15 percent to 20 percent Sunni population in eastern Iraq. We could support having the present Iraqi government let a third state emerge or, alternatively, the present Iraqi and Syrian governments could negotiate a border adjustment — with Kurds in Syria joining those in Iraq in their Kurdistan — and Sunnis in eastern Iraq joining their compatriots in Syria. This would follow the example of the Greek-Turkish Settlement of 1923 that was encouraged by the great powers.
No solution is perfect. A solution that satisfies the three ethnic groups in their legitimate aspirations for self-determination and democracy should be considered.
Think-tank for National
Concerning baseball and the issues with a D.C. stadium (“D.C. stadium vote delayed until next year,” Page 1, Wednesday): I’m curious whether the Northern Virginia option has re-emerged for Major League Baseball given recent events.
It seems unlikely that MLB would consider going to Las Vegas or anywhere else when a little more than a year ago there were two strong bids for the Expos from the D.C. area. The District won out, but as I understand it, Northern Virginia was a viable alternative then, and I can’t think of anything since that should have diminished its candidacy. If anything, the D.C. drama may have significantly improved MLB’s views about putting a team on the south side of the Potomac.
As a related issue, I’m curious as to what percentage of Nats season ticket holders have Virginia addresses.
A variety of good schooling choices
Given the crying need to provide parents with more high-quality educational options, there’s no need to argue for one form of “choice” at the expense of another. That’s why weweredisappointedby “Charter schools government-controlled”(Life/Schools, Monday), which relied on inaccurate assumptions about public charter schools in order to make a case for home-schooling.
The column asserted that charter schools are run by the government. Not so. They are a new kind of public school — publicly funded and accountable to public authorities, but usually incorporated as nonprofit organizations and directly overseen by trustees drawn from parents and the community.
The author worries that parents who move to charters after home-schooling might be “losing some of their parental authority.” In reality, charter schools are built on a partnership among parents, teachers and students working together so that all children can succeed. Parents send their child to a charter school by choice — and thereby exercise the greatest authority of all. For those parents who choose to home-school, a number of “cyber-charters” offer a range of educational supports in that enterprise.
Anyone familiar with charter schools knows that their curricula are not “fixed,” as the article asserts. Charter school teachers enjoy the freedom from bureaucratic rules that allows them to create curricula tailored to the needs of students.
The bottom line is that one size doesn’t fit all in education. There’s plenty of room for a variety of choices to be made available to parents. Those who believe in the power of parental choice need to work together — not against each other — if we are to provide all children with the quality education they deserve.
National Alliance for
Public Charter Schools