The Good Friday agreement that laid the groundwork for peace in Northern Ireland seemed doomed at the start due to discord over a tiny detail: Unionists insisted on sitting opposite from Sein Fein to show that they were enemies; Sein Fein insisted on sitting side-by-side, to show that they were equals. To break the impasse, the organizers of the talks had to make a special V-shaped table.
US officials should have paid more attention to details like that last week when they announced peace talks with the Taliban. As the Taliban opened a long-awaited office in Qatar to facilitate the negotiations, they raised the Taliban flag at an elaborate ceremony. That understandably infuriated Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has long feared that the Qatar office would look too much like an embassy and give the impression of a separate, equally legitimate Afghan government. Karzai promptly shut down the talks. And he had a point. The Taliban should not be allowed to grandstand for the cameras before making any meaningful concessions.