The End of an Illusion
A GREAT HISTORIAN has said that history should make us not clever for one day but wise forever. In the life of nations, as in the life of individuals, a great crisis can be a boon if it reveals in the contours of the abyss the stark and simple outlines of the eternal verities which men and nations neglect only at their peril. The Berlin crisis, if we come out of it alive, can teach us some lessons about the nature of foreign policy. One of them is the short- term convenience and long-term perniciousness of basing foreign policy on pleasant illusions rather than the unpalatable truth. Thus we may well look back to the Berlin crisis in gratitude for the insight it has given us not into the evil intentions of Khrushchev but into the errors of our own ways. And we may face with greater confidence, and handle with greater competence, the crises of the future-which are as sure to follow Berlin as night follows day-if we understand and remember the lessons of Berlin.
It is hardly open to doubt that a negotiated settlement of the Berlin issue will result in an appreciable weakening of the Western position. This weakening will not be due to the lack of steadfastness of purpose and of diplomatic skill of the representatives of the West. Rather it will be due to the fact that the objective distribution of interests and power with regard to Berlin makes such an outcome inevitable. That distribution has always favored the Soviet Union, and the drastic change in the distribution of nuclear power which has occurred during the last decade has increased the Russian advantage-so Khrushchev seems to think-decisively. The effectiveness of the legal arrangements safeguarding the Western position in Berlin and the symbolic function which Berlin was supposed to perform as the prospective capital of a united Germany were predicated upon a distribution of power decisively favoring the West. That distribution was always unfavorable to the West locally, and it has now turned against the West in the world arena.
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