Why was the West taken by surprise? The question goes to the very root of the distortions generated by a success-hungry, media-conscious diplomacy. If success cannot be attained, then it has to be invented.
Our statesmen are concerned primarily with the politics of posture. They befuddle us with encouraging news, even when there is none. The diplomatic fig-leaf machines work overtime: we are assured that the Cold War is gone for ever, that now we can enjoy the peace dividends, that a reformed Russia is our best friend, that the PLO-Israel agreement was a historical turning point and now, of course, that the Anglo-Irish declaration of principles is something truly momentous.
When the apprentice sorcerers get it wrong, as they usually do, there is consternation. The shocks upsetting our world of make-believe, when reality intrudes, could be avoided, if the media would allow unpopular pessimists to have their say more often.
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