Monday, August 11, 2008

Cold War Echoes

The Russian assault on Georgia, and reactions to it here in the USA, bring memories of the Cold War--especially the echoes of Hungary in 1956.

A report from Georgia in today's Times by Andrew Kramer and Ellen Barry conveys that Georgians feel betrayed by the USA. Hungarians felt similar emotions in 1956.

In that year, they rose against Soviet domination. Many of them, trusting in American Cold War rhetoric, believed that the USA would come to their aid. They were wrong.

For people in small countries near powerful nations, the case of Hungary in 1956 is a good example of the risks inherent in provoking a big, nasty neighbor. (Although it might be argued that 1956 pushed the Soviets to dominate Hungary with a lighter hand than might otherwise have been the case.)

For the USA, though, the lesson of 1956 is clear: don't encourage the fantasies of small countries that we are in no position to help. It raises expectations that we can't fulfill, and pushes other people into bloody confrontations.

There are limits to US power in the world. We should work for a stop to the bloodshed in Georgia, but there is no military role for us in this conflict.

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