Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Eisenhower on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956

President Eisenhower served during the Cold War his entire presidency. He had to make many decisions on how to deal with the Soviet Union. One of his toughest may have been his decision not to directly support the revolutionaries in Hungary 50 years ago.

Wikipedia notes that the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, "was a spontaneous nationwide revolt against the Communist government of Hungary and its Soviet-imposed policies, lasting from October 23 until November 10, 1956. It began as a student demonstration which attracted thousands as it marched through central Budapest to the Parliament building. The revolt spread quickly across Hungary, and the government fell. Thousands organized into militias, battling the State Security Police (AVH) and Soviet troops. The new government formally disbanded the AVH, declared its intention to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and pledged to re-establish free elections. By the end of October, fighting had almost stopped and a sense of normality began to return. After announcing a willingness to negotiate a withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Politburo changed its mind and moved to quash the revolution. On November 4, a large Soviet force invaded Budapest, killing thousands of civilians. Organized resistance ceased by November 10, and mass arrests began."

Eisenhower clearly sympathized with the Hungarian people. However, any action the United States took beyond offering moral support was dangerous and could possibly have lead to the Third World War. Once the Soviets decided to force Hungary to stay in Soviet bloc, Eisenhower had little choice but to sit back and watch the revolution be squashed.

In the his 1957 State of the Union, he did seek to give refugees some relief. He said, "The recent historic events in Hungary demand that all free nations share to the extent of their capabilities in the responsibility of granting asylum to victims of Communist persecution. I request the Congress promptly to enact legislation to regularize the status in the United States of Hungarian refugees brought here as parolees. I shall shortly recommend to the Congress by special message the changes in our immigration laws that I deem necessary in the light of our world responsibilities. "

The Soviets were not impressed with the help the USA gave Hungary. In fact, they were rather contemptuousus. In a newspaper interview in 1957, Khrushchev commented "support by United States ... is rather in the nature of the support that the rope gives to a hanged man."

Eisenhower's true feeling about the event were made in his final State of the Union Address in 1961. He called the events of 1956 a "brutal Soviet repression of the people of Hungary." He clearly would have liked to have done more (like send in NATO troops to back Hungarian independence from Soviet control) but he wisely made the choice that had no possibility of leading to a nuclear war.


Anonymous said...

Granted Eisenhower made the decision to not support the efforts of the Hungarian revolutionaries. This is perfectly understandable.

The true honor of a person as well as nation is their word. A nation's honor is how a nation develops it's character and reputation. A character which stands the test of time, a character that other nations respect, a character that has cost nations dearly, at times the cost has been the lives of it's own people. Here is where Eisenhower failed and the world consequently even now views the United States in this light. Hungarians were told by Americans in Europe that help was on its way and to continue and fight to the last man, women, and child. This is where the lack of honor cost the United States its reputation in many Hungarian's eyes. When people's lives are used as pawns to incrementally politically posture one's position, honor and reputation suffer. The United State considered it more advantageous to verbally support any country hurting the communist effort. Even now people say that the Hungarian revolution was the first nail in the communist coffin not the political posturing. Our founding fathers would have been proud for the fight for freedom in 1956, what they unfortunately would not have been proud of was the United States.

Aubergenius said...

I am looking for the newsreel clip of Ike using the word "awesome" to describe US military power in defending his refusal to take on the Soviets. Here in California everything is "awesome"--which I find amusing being a newly-arrived senior from New York.

Anonymous said...

I just heard about this subject in history. I was at a creationist meeting observing their seminar and this one old lady really had a sharp mind. She started to lose me as she began talking about Eisenhower and a NWO. She said Eisenhower sent them powdered milk as they were being slaughtered by Soviet soldiers. This helped me put things in perspective.

There were a lot of conspiracies being talked about afterwards during refreshments. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised.

georgeszele@gmail.com said...

Nobody expected the American troops to march into Hungary in 1956. But, Hungary was a member of the United Nations and the Prime Minister of Hungary, Nagy officially asked for the help of the UN because of a foreign invasion of the Soviets. A few hundred observers from UN would make the Soviets think twice before crushing the revolution.