Thursday, October 23, 2008

Today In History: "We will no longer remain slaves."

On this date in 1956, student protesters in Budapest began cutting the hammer and sickle from Hungarian flags and toppled a statue of Stalin. Ministry of security troops panicked and opened fire on demonstrators outside the Radio Budapest building, and the uprising was on. Troops sent to relieve beleaguered secret police joined the protesters instead, and the government, by now fearing for their lives, called the Soviets.

The West stood by and watched when the Russian tanks rolled in and crushed the uprising after days of bloody street fighting. It was not Freedom's finest hour.

14 comments:

Cossack in a Kilt said...

For the life of me, I cannot imagine why anyone would place much trust in what the USG says.

The jaundiced eye with which the US citizen regards the activities of the USG is a part of our patrimony---the United States were a radical experiment in government putatively of, by, and for the people, and tied down like Gulliver by separations-of-power and explicit constitutional limitations on what constitutes a fit exercise of power. (That part, it hasn't worked out so well.)

As for foreign peoples yearning to breathe free, the US record on keeping its word with them ain't too hot either.

Working backwards and without much coffee in my system, I can think of the Georgians (2008), most likely the Kurds and Sunni Iraqis (2008, ongoing), the Kurds and the Shia Iraqis (post-Sandbox I), our beloved (jihadi) friends the "Bosniaks", the Afghans (post-Soviet withdrawal), the Hmong and the Vietnamese generally, the Czechs, the Hungarians, pretty much all of Eastern Europe . . .

The USG likes to talk smack about being BFF with lots of tribes, nations, peoples. Then it gets bored, or sobers up, or changes its mind, or has its eye caught by that saucy little tribe over in Whereveritisistan, and next thing you know . . . well, to fulfill Godwin's law, "Who now remembers the Armenians?"

I think it was Palmerston, but it might have been Disraeli, who told the Queen that "nations have no permanent friends, nations have permanent interests."

perlhaqr said...

But, if we had actually defeated the Soviets quickly, what would we have spent all the cold war money on?

Oldsmoblogger said...

Not quite the same thing, but I'd add Tiananmen Square to the list. Bush the Elder didn't want to upset his buddies from his Old China Hand(tm) days.

III

pdb said...

I've done more than my share of bitching back in my more fervent libertarian days about Clinton's legacy seeking foreign adventurism, but I'm glad we stuck it out in Kosovo. I hope the Kurds can forgive us for 1991-2, I hope the next president does not leave the Iraqis in the lurch, and I hope we continue to make amends for the long list of allies we've let down.

Anonymous said...

Well, come on! after FDR gave up half of Europe to the commies without even raising his voice...what would you expect? Or perhaps more acurately: what would the Soviets expect? They knew it was a safe move.

buzz_knox said...

I wonder what Hungary will do when we sew the Hammer and Sickle over the Stars and Stripes?

Less said...

I wonder what Hungary will do when we sew the Hammer and Sickle over the Stars and Stripes?

The ones that came here are pretty pissed... My old man has dusted off his glass bottles, rags and bukkits of kerosene.

He was 19 in '56.

My mother's family, 3 little kids in tow (my mom was 6), walked across a frigid Austrian border and bribed the guards with gold to GTFO of Dodge. My gramps was a banker and real-estate holder.

They're not about to move again...
Funny dad keeps asking to borrow the .308...

Tam said...

Less, my brotha, why have we not seen you at a Blogmeet yet?

DirtCrashr said...

Wanna guess which side Bill Ayers would have been on?

staghounds said...

When I came home back in 1989 and saw all those de-centered flags in Heroes' Square, I cried like a baby.

JHardin said...

@less: Interesting. If McCain wins, blacks may riot in the streets; if Obama wins, refugees from Communist and formerly Communist countries may riot in the streets.

Fun for all!

markm said...

'56 was the result of two bad decisions made 11 years earlier:

1) The politicians made Patton stop when he ran out of Germans and met the Russians. At least this one was understandable - we were very tired of war, we still had the Japanese to beat, and historically Russians are often easy to beat but it's darned difficult to keep them beaten.

2) A few months later, miraculous new technology persuaded the Japanese to surrender - and various nitwits decided that we didn't need to do anything to prevent the Russians from copying it. The claim was that it would take them decades to copy what we had managed to do in four years. Never mind that we never knew whether it would work or if we were just pouring money and vitally needed resources down a pit, but the Russians now knew it worked. And never mind that anyone who'd paid attention knew there were Communist spies throughout every part of our government worth spying on...

And so, in 1956, we couldn't risk blowing up half the world to save Hungary.

Billy Beck said...

'The politicians made Patton stop when he ran out of Germans and met the Russians. At least this one was understandable - we were very tired of war..."

...because we had chicken-shit -- at best -- intellectual and political leadership for at least a generation before the crucial moment.

"And so, in 1956, we couldn't risk blowing up half the world to save Hungary."

Yeah, but at least a couple of those poor people might have lived to hear about the "greatest generation" who left them to the dogs. I'm sure Spielberg would have sold them tickets.

Zendo Deb said...

A confrontation with the USSR in '56 would have triggered a nuclear war.

Tienanmen Square? While I agree it was a tragedy, dictatorships tend to create a lot of tragedy. What should we have done? Invade Beijing? Yeah, we could have revoked most-favored-nation trade status, which would have really shown them! They would have purchased more of their technology from the Germans, or the Russians.

The most amazing event in the last 50 years was the West's intervention in the Bosnian Civil War. Christians exterminating Muslims on a piece of land that has no oil, no strategic value. Hell, the UN peacekeepers were helping with the extermination at one point by providing much-needed diesel fuel to the bad guys. Of course there was no risk of major war.

Why isn't anyone lifting a finger in the Sudan? Or why was the Hutu/Tutsi genocide virtually ignored? (Most people don't know a thing about it.) Somalia has been a hell-hole for 10 or 15 years, and only now that it is impacting international trade is anyone even noticing. Côte d'Ivoire or Liberia? The French are the only ones to take much action - we did some I think - but what the French did was self-serving. (Lots of French expats in Côte d'Ivoire.)

It isn't surprising when no one lifts a finger to stop a massacre, that is the usual state of affairs.