As Soviet tanks rumbled across Hungary, Henry Cabot Lodge rose in yesterday's meeting of the Security Council and urged the United Nations to heed the plea of Premier Nagy of Hungary not to stand idly by while a nation struggles desperately for its freedom and independence. The same plea has been echoed by leaders of almost every other nation outside the Soviet bloc.

Clearly, then, the United Nations must act today if the Hungarian nation is to survive, and if the U.N. itself is to be an effective instrument of world peace. An indecisive stand by the free powers or time-consuming debate in the Security Council would represent a major loss to the democracies of the world, as well as a denial of the principles for which they stand.

Action must come from the General Assembly where the Soviet Union has no veto power, and where the bald imperialism and totalitarianism of Russia will be exposed to nations everywhere.

The General Assembly should censure the action of the Soviet Union in using its military power to gain control of a nation which had declared itself independent and neutral. The General Assembly should follow the lead of the United States in offering food and medicine to Hungary by allocating economic aid in dollars and goods.

But most important of all, the General Assembly should send troops from neutral nations, like India, Burma, and Sweden, into Hungary to enforce a truce and evacuation of Soviet troops from the area.

As Russia has shown itself sensitive to world opinion, especially in recent months when her weaknesses have become apparent, censure by the General Assembly would at least make Russia hesitate before an all-out act of aggression. Moreover, if the troops of India, Burma, and Sweden were in Hungary, it is doubtful that Russia would come to blows with the nations whose moral and political support determine the world's balance of power.

It is unfortunate that such action by the General Assembly might discourage Soviet cooperation in the Suez. But the freedom of Hungary is at least as important a problem as the Suez Canal situation. And it is a problem whose solution can not be delayed, even by hours.