If President Bush had known how much his new regulatory policies would weaken the U.S. economy, he would have thought twice before he committed U.S. forces to a massive and costly build-up in the Middle East.

The U.S. budget deficit, already growing by leaps and bounds as a result of the S&L bailout and falling profits and employment due to recession, is now beset with the largest military effort since the Vietnam War.In addition, Bush's intervention in the Middle East has hit our economy and business confidence hard by doubling the price of oil.

From an economic standpoint, it would have been far better to have paid Iraq's Saddam Hussein the $21 a barrel that he wanted instead of the $35 a barrel that we are paying for the privilege of challenging him.

The price we have paid in diplomacy is also excessive. Only Secretary of State James Baker knows if there is anything left of our foreign policy that Bush did not give away as a bribe for the United Nations' permission to use force against Iraq.

If a hot war breaks out and the large Iraqi army does not turn tail and run, we will pay a big price in blood as well as in red ink and diplomacy.

This seems like an enormous commitment, and yet Bush is so unsure of his case for invading Iraq he has taken it to the U.S. Congress last after making every possible concession in order to gain the approval of Gorbachev, China, our Arab, Japanese and European allies, and the U.N.

The combined price of all this we don't yet know, but it is huge. One casualty was U.S. sanctions against the Chinese communists for their brutal massacre of hundreds of students in Tiananmen Square. The billions promised to Gorbachev for his approval have not been revealed, but part of the price was obviously a U.S. cold shoulder to the democratic movements in the Soviet Union.

Another cost was the U.S. position in the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) negotiations, where access to our markets became a bargaining chip for foreign permission to spill our blood in Persian Gulf deserts.

Who knows that Bush did not promise the Japanese larger chunks of our auto, computer and electronics markets? After all, going to war with Iraq is so important to Bush that he threw away our anti-terrorism policy and supped with the devil himself - Syrian ruler Hafez Assad, no less a brute than Saddam Hussein.

What in the world is it all about? In one fell swoop Bush bloated the deficit and erased the established goals of American foreign policy. The stakes must be high, but he has yet to tell the nation what they are. Rather, he looks more and more like a person fishing around for an excuse for what he has done.

Bush may be blundering into a war that has less public support than the Vietnam War.

The outcome of such a war, even if we were to win, could be disastrous. Oil fields could be knocked out that could take years to get going again. Pan-Arab propaganda would be confirmed that Western imperialists rule the Middle East through a handful of oil-rich families. It would radicalize Arab public opinion and eventually bring down the moderate Arab governments that are our allies.

We have already paid a steep price, and the body bags haven't even arrived home.