Suppose Rip van Winkle had roused himself again to join the 200th anniversary celebration for his author, Washington Irving, last weekend. Everybody was remembering the Headless Horseman, Brom Bones, and Rip himself. If Rip thought things had changed after a 20-year nap, what would he think in the age of computers and Challenger?
But some things have not changed all that much, such as the way nations ought to behave toward each other. Recall that Irving was not only a storyteller but a diplomat - envoy extraordinary to Spain - and he had some thoughts on the subject:
''I maintain: until nations are generous they will never be wise; true policy is generous policy; all bitterness, selfishness etc., may gain small ends, but loses great ones . . . expedience may answer for the moment - they gain a point, but they do not establish a principle. . . .''
Wide-awake words from Sleepy Hollow.