Is Hungary a Cautionary Lesson for Iran?

This post was written by Dr. Art Pitz on June 20, 2009
Posted Under: International Relations, Middle East

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President Obama is being criticized for not issuing strong statements in support of the pro-democracy forces in Iran.  Certainly, one can understand the appeal of this criticism as it would affirm our values and arguably could encourage those pro-democracy forces in Iran.

However, I am mindful of what happened when we did just that in Hungary in 1956.  The Eisenhower administration wanted to “roll back” Soviet communism and led the pro-democracy forces in Hungary to believe that American support would be forthcoming even in the face of a Soviet invasion.

When that invasion came, in large part because the Soviets did not like the public stance of the Eisenhower administration and the prospect of seeing a democratic regime arise on their doorstep, the United States was forced to either put up or shut up.  The Hungarian protesters waited in vain for help to come, but the U.S. was not going to intervene in opposition to Soviet tanks.

We should also remember 1991’s Desert Storm.  Then, President George H. W. Bush and his advisors along with many, perhaps most, Americans encouraged the Shiites and Kurds to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein.  They did, and we stood by and watched them get slaughtered.

What is the lesson here?  Unless we are prepared to intervene, militarily, we should do as President Obama is doing.  Even with his mild statements, Ayatollah Khameini has already accused the U.S. of meddling in their internal affairs.  Painful as it is, to say more, as many wish Obama would do, could lead to the exact opposite of what we wish to happen.

We are NOT prepared to intervene militarily in support of the pro-democracy forces in Iran.  We can and should appeal to the Iranians to settle their disputes without the use of force–as Obama has done.  If we have substantive proof that the recent election was a fraud, we can condemn that and urge our allies to do likewise. We certainly can honor the courage of the demonstrators and give our moral support. History has given us many examples of popular uprisings against oppression, and I’ll be drawing the comparisons as the situation in  Iran unfolds.

Dr. Art Pitz
The Professor’s House
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