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Is Georgia in 2008 like Hungary in 1956?

By See-Dubya  •  August 11, 2008 07:27 AM

I’ve said before that America needs to take up for her allies. It keeps the world safe:

The world works as well as it does–and, granted, that’s pretty marginal–in large part because the United States guarantees the security of its allies. Places like Taiwan and South Korea churn out magic toilets and miniature automobiles knowing that the United States will respond to incursions and aggression with overwhelming and sustained force. So far, our defense of the fledgling Iraqi government has confirmed that arrangement.

America does what it says. If you have an American security guarantee–and I’m looking at you,Saudi Arabia and Pakistan–you don’t need to build a nuclear arsenal. America honors its commitments, and the world keeps ticking–well, arrhythmically stuttering, anyhow–because there are big U.S. guns ready to retaliate against aggression. No better friend. No worse enemy. If America is backing you, you’re golden.

Unless I’m mistaken, we’ve signed no security guarantees with Georgia. But we are discussing bringing them into NATO, we’re training and supplying their soldiers, and they’ve been fighting in Iraq on our side.

So we’re not bound to do anything to help Georgia–except by our commitment to supporting freedom and opposing tyranny around the world. We’ve staked much of our identity as a nation on exactly that commitment, and as Georgian President Saakashvili notes, our reputation is under scrutiny:

If Georgia falls, this will also mean the fall of the West in the entire former Soviet Union and beyond. Leaders in neighboring states — whether in Ukraine, in other Caucasian states or in Central Asia — will have to consider whether the price of freedom and independence is indeed too high.


We’ve faced such a situation before, and we chose, I think, quite poorly. We promised too much, and we delivered too little.

In 1956, Hungary was a member of the Warsaw Pact. After Stalin’s death, when Krushchev came to power, there was a bit of liberalization in Russia and Hungary picked up on that. In fact, they decided, spontaneously, to have a revolution and kick the commies out. Which they did, smashing the statue of Stalin in the process*, until Russia said “oh no you didn’t” and marched back in on November 4th and took it over again, with much repression and execution in their wake.

The story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution is laid out here. This assessment bears excerpting:

Although the governments of the free world watched the Hungarian Revolution with deep admiration, they never seriously considered providing military support, nor condemnation strong enough to stop the brutal actions of the Soviet Union.

However, the heroes of 1956 did not die or suffer in vain. They demonstrated such uncommon bravery, such a universal yearning for freedom from foreign tyranny, that the whole world was forced to see the true face of communism at last.

If it is condemnation of Russian aggression that may make a difference, we’ll have plenty of that. Russia is, as Saakashvili notes, at war with Georgia, and their war has spread far beyond South Ossetia and into the rest of the country. Putin’s transparent rationalizations hide an avaricious agenda of conquest, and he must be opposed. We see the true face of Putin at last, and he’s every bit as ugly as the totalitarian Evil Empire which proceeded him (to which he bears an unmistakable family resemblance.)

Russia’s attacks are not only without justification, but they’re also indiscriminate and far out of any doctrine of proportion. No imminent threat justifies their actions. Nothing except a desire to punish and subjugate Georgia motivates their shelling of civilian targets far from South Ossetia. Russia should be ashamed of itself and of its leader.

I hope this naked aggression backfires on Russia like their catastrophic invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. They poured blood and treasure into that project for years, and earned the world’s opprobrium even as they hastened their empire’s downfall through their folly. We helped that defeat happen, of course, and I want to see us help out again.

Exactly how we do so…well, that’s the tough part, isn’t it?

On the other hand: one controversial detail of the uprising is whether or not Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty had extended false hope to the revolutionaries of military relief from America and/ or the U.N. A contemporary analysis of RFE/RL programmimg (available in pdf here) suggests there is some truth to that charge.

We must be careful in Georgia not to repeat that mistake. We must not bluff, and we can’t promise or imply what we will not back up. The stakes are too high.

But they’re too high to do nothing, as well.

*The Times of London article linked above notes that a statue of Stalin still stands in the town of Gori, Georgia –because it’s Stalin’s birthplace. No wonder Putin wants it back. It’s like Mount Vernon for him.

{Post by See-Dubya.} Some more good points here at the Sundries Shack and at Ace’s. Oh, and once again, Tom Clancy’s writing…well, a Clancy-branded video game…feels eerily prophetic about world events.

I don’t like it when Clancy proves prophetic about world events. They’re never nice events.

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