Americans are confronted by some lessons from the turbulent '60s as they note the surrender of virtually the last fugitive radical from that period. It remains for a Chicago court to determine whether Bernardine Dohrn is herself guilty to assault or toehr local charges stemming from a violent antiwar demonstration in 1969. But her emerging from the underground after a decade draws attention to some things all America has or should have learned:
* That ends do not justify means. Civilian violence cannot be excused in the name of protesting military violence. Nor can lawbreaking be excused in enforcing the law. The latter point was recognized in the dropping of federal charges against Miss Dohrn after a court ruled that government evidence came from illegal wiretaps.
* That foreign wars require domestic support. Whatever the worthiness of United States motives in Vietnam, the secrecy and misrepresentation in the carrying out of the war helped to undermine public confidence in the justice of the cause and the effectiveness of its pursuit. With loss of public backing the military effort foundered.
* That the American system, for all the flaws that each new generation finds, is alive and well. Miss Dohrn, even while turning herself in to authorities, refuses to back down from criticizing the system and working against qhat she sees as "racism and reaction." But she has not left the country for another system, nor have those various '60s leaders who now turn up in business, religion, and electoral politics.
The challenge for the coming generations is to retain a concern for peace, a zeal for reform, a willingness to act on one's principles -- while rejecting violence and illegality in all its forms.