The Lessons Of Hungary 1956


Matt Steinglass on the dangers of too much rhetorical support:

The error in 1956 was on the part of Radio Free Europe, in holding out to Hungarian resisters the false hope that the West would or could intervene on their behalf. It would be similarly cruel and immoral to give Iranian demonstrators the false idea that we in the democratic world can offer them anything more than our sympathy. We can’t. We will not invade Iran, and nothing else we do will have much of an effect on the behavior of a regime fighting to retain its hold on power. The demonstrators in Iran must know that they have to win the struggle for a fair election on their own, and must be prepared to face the consequences of failure. And they do know this. That is precisely what makes them so courageous. It would be stupid and irresponsible of the US to use their struggle as an occasion for ineffectual rhetorical grandstanding, and fortunately President Obama, unlike our last President, seems able to resist the temptation.

Tom Ricks echoes:

I think President Obama is correct in showing extreme restraint in dealing with the situation in Iran. My concern is that opposition protestors will interpret any voicing of Western support as a sign that we will come to their aid. Every time I see one of those "Where is my vote?" signs in English, I worry even more. As the Hungarians learned the hard way after being encouraged in 1956 in their uprising against their Soviet occupiers, we will not.