NATO, Hungary, Antisemitism
Scripps-Howard News Service 11.26.02
Even before President Bush attended the NATO conference, questions
about the future of the alliance had prompted a major article in
the influential "Foreign Affairs." Celeste Wallander (Center
for Strategic and International Studies) wrote "Shape Up or
Ship Out," a warning to new members, advice to the original
Ms. Wallander proposes if new NATO members prove unable to conform
to the indispensable political cohesion, or to military requirements,
they ought to go. To that end, she writes, "NATO members must...agree
to amend the North Atlantic Treaty to allow for sanction, suspension,
or even expulsion."
With all due respect to Ms. Wallander - who kindly spent half an
hour on the phone with me - that is language one might countenance
from a Margaret Thatcher who, unlike Ms. Wallander, would never
offer a mechanism that enables members to vote the United States
right out of the alliance.
But the problems lie much deeper. The success of NATO was undergirded
by the very political cohesion which had come naturally to the original
members, except West Germany, where a combination of Western military
occupation and Soviet threat proved sufficiently persuasive. To
assume political cohesion between 9-year-old Slovakia and, say,
the Netherlands where a nation-state to amaze the world blossomed
around the year 1600 is worse than naivety.
Then there is the matter of military expectations. Does anyone
seriously think that the addition of countries, struggling to survive
from day to day, adds to NATO's military teeth? The Czechs, bless
them, fought Soviet power with signatures and appeals for help.
Not a single bullet was fired in their quest for liberty. All the
plastic explosives they manufactured killed people on our side.
They never used a package against the Russians.
But Ms. Wallander singles out Hungary. Well, if the purpose of
expansion was to secure a larger area of influence, increased "friendly"
territory, that purpose was met. For those who believed that more
than an auxiliary, logistical role can be played by the new members,
I have some oceanfront property in Indiana for sale.
Disappointment in meeting military obligations is not Ms. Wallander's
only concern with Hungary. She devotes a sizable chunk of her article
to what she calls "the previous Hungarian government's antisemitism,
extraterritorial claims against its neighbors, and failure to play
a constructive role in Balkan security." Although she claims
to quote a "senior figure in European security," her sources
- whom she cannot name - appear to be dark shadows, desperately
afraid to step out into the daylight.
The charges are nothing short of ludicrous, as became apparent
when I asked what she actually meant by them. Her answer would have
qualified as an opening sketch for "Saturday Night Live,"
but not in a serious discussion about a country with an 1100-year
history. She had to rely upon her sources, she explained, because
she knows nothing about Hungary. (Then why write about it?)
I may appear unduly concerned with Hungary because I grew up there.
In truth, I am concerned about some fellow-Americans. In raising
the issue, I rely on my pedigree - the only kind that renders people
unassailable on matters Hungarian: a family and personal history
of equal persecution under the Nazis and the Communists.
An "invisible hand" seems to be operating within the
safety of America, using every opportunity to beat up on Hungary,
usually applying antisemitism and irredentism as the "charge."
As we know, there is antisemitism everywhere (apparently now even
in Israel?), and Hungary is no different. But that's a far cry from
accusing the government of practicing it - especially with zero,
zilch, nada, where evidence ought to be.
Ms. Wallander then proceeds, unwittingly, to reveal the politics
of her sources by suggesting that some historic tragedy was averted
when Victor Orban's government was voted out of office last Spring.
The invisible hand operating in our midst is happy only with communists
or former communists in power. Hungarians are free to elect whomever
they wish, and some Hungarian communists became famous by voting
themselves out of power. But why should Americans prefer communists?
Who are these Americans? Would they please step out of the shadows
and explain why they like communists to be in charge of a NATO member
state? And where is the voice of Representative Tom Lantos of California,
the only Hungarian in Congress? Why is the otherwise exceptionally
vocal politician silent? Americans like to rely on those of their
countrymen who have expertise in a certain area. Is Mr. Lantos with
the "invisible hand" or will he join a demand for going
the American way?
Those in the shadow are well organized. For example, they have
the Washington Post on tap. Last March, Jackson Diehl published
an anti-Hungarian article based on - as he told me - "reliable
information from his unnamed sources." After Ms. Wallander's
offering, Keith Richburg (quoting a "Western diplomat")
headlined that "Hungary hasn't won a battle since 1456."
One has come to expect better of Mr. Richburg. Should one simply
laugh off the negligence of all these writers?
This is not the place for a history lesson. But here are two events
that matter. In October-November 1956 teenagers attacked tanks exposing
Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, V.I.Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Josef Stalin,
and Soviet bestiality to all with eyes and ears. In October-November
1989 Hungarians - some former communists among them - finished Ronald
Reagan's work by punching the lethal hole into the Berlin Wall it
survived only by a few days.
I would like to confront members of the "invisible hand"
in public - Ms. Wallander is considering whether to help - to find
out whether they pursue Hungary for having hurt their secret political
idols, or because they are so ignorant of history as to have missed
what communists have done against the Jews?