There is always something more important when there is a suffering nation that a superpower doesn’t care anything about. In 1956, the Suez Canal was more important than the Hungarian Revolution in preserving an unwavering bipolar balance. The Hungarians waited for the Americans in vain; instead they got Soviet tanks. Hungary was locked behind the Iron Curtain for another 34 years, which was unfortunate for us, but Europe and the world did not stray into another world war.

A third world war undoubtedly would have been unavoidable since the Warsaw Pact, barely 1 1/2 years old, and NATO, going strong in its eighth year, could have staged the main event if we had mattered more than navigating and owning the Suez Canal. We felt deceived. The Hungarian national consciousness considers it a betrayal by the West and the United States to this day. This kind of trivial, wash-my-hands-of-it thinking is honestly full of self-pity.

The Ukrainians are going through the same thing with the West’s rejection of a no-fly zone. They feel badly deceived, and rightly so. The West has been charming Kyiv for years, but now Kyiv must experience the bitter reality of “do your best and let God do the rest.” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukrainian leadership are right in that Ukrainian cities will inevitably be bombed to dust in the absence of a no-fly zone if the prince of the Kremlin wishes to do so. But NATO is also right in consistently and categorically opposing Ukrainian requests. Russia is not Libya or Bosnia, and Putin is not Moammar Gadhafi. Putin is not only as unpredictable as the Iraqi dictator, but he’s also the leader of a megalomaniacal nuclear power and would definitely be cornered if a no-fly zone were imposed. Compared to a victorious Putin, only a cornered and humiliated Putin could be more dangerous to world peace.

There is probably a line that, once Russia crosses it, will compel a response based on morality over interest. I hope we don’t reach that point.

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