The Gulf Crisis as Teacher.

Once we get past the gulf crisis, it might be a good idea to look at the ability of American policymakers to understand basic historical forces as well as the connection between causes and effects.Begin with Iraq.

Iraq today possesses a wide array of modern weapons - planes, tanks, missiles. The notion prevails that all these weapons come from the Soviet Union. A great many of the weapons were attained from the United States in the administration of Jimmy Carter. The United States had badly underestimated the depth of popular opposition to the Shah of Iran after long years of despotism. When the Ayatollah Khomeini swept into power, anti-Shah feeling in Iran carried over to the United States because of its identification with the old regime. U.S. policy architects at the time regarded Iraq as a useful counterpower to Iran. The role of the United States in accelerating a war momentum in Iraq against Iran is not a pretty one. Yes, the Soviet Union became a heavy arms supplier, but we got there first.

Our grotesque miscalculation on Iraq was not the first of its kind. We got into Vietnam because we conceived of communism as a unified world force. We failed in Vietnam, but we were to discover that nationalism was a far greater force than ideology.

In the aftermath of that war, communist forces in Vietnam fell to fighting with communist forces in Cambodia. Old nationalist tensions between China and Vietnam broke out. Meanwhile, territorial quarrels between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China grew hostile.

U.S. policy toward the United Nations is reflected in its opposition to efforts to strengthen the U.N. and give it the means to deal with basic causes of war. We not only vetoed initiatives to give the U.N. the capability to maintain the peace but we cut back on our financial support of the world organization. The most important building block in the peaceful resolution of conflicts is the World Court. Yet, when the actions of the United States in Nicaragua were brought before the World Court, the United States refused to accept the jurisdiction of the court. As a result, the United States today cannot propose to bring the gulf crisis before the court as a way of resolving a conflict that could set fire to the world.

The big lesson to be learned from the gulf crisis is that effective world organization is the only way of averting a nuclear holocaust. This calls for mechanisms that transcend the power and policies of individual nations. The only reason the Security Council was able to act against Iraqi aggression was that the United States and the Soviet Union were in accord. It is mandatory for the U.N. to act effectively even when the two superpowers are not in agreement - or, even more significantly - when tensions between these two governments threaten to become combustible.