Most of us living in civilized societies generally operate on the assumption that in international affairs, as in everyday life, politics should be predicated on the fundamental premise that people do matter. Needless to say, that assumption is not always upheld by nations and the men who lead them.

That is precisely what we are witnessing today because of the gulf crisis. Industrialized nations and their allies in the region have moved in a lock step since August in protest against Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait. They have participated in a United Nations embargo against Iraq.They have, however, woefully failed to give adequate recognition to the fact that economic embargoes, like toss-away insults in daily life, can create lasting wounds on innocent victims.

Jordan has been wounded grievously because of the Persian Gulf crisis. Jordan has joined the international community in implementing U.N. sanctions on Iraq - which was, until recently, our biggest trading partner.

Ironically, now we find ourselves bearing the tragic, and unsustainable, burden of being on the "right side."

The Ripert Report, which was commissioned by the U.N. secretary general not long ago, said that Jordan's losses for 1990-91 would be at least $5.2 billion. This figure does not include losses of assets and savings by Jordanians living in Kuwait, which could add another $3 billion. Jordan thus stands to lose as much as 60 percent of its gross national product.

Other factors include the loss of jobs and assets of Jordanians previously employed in the oil-rich Persian Gulf; the cost of resettling the returnees in Jordan; monumental increases in the price of oil; and the demographic transfer into Jordan of new numbers of Palestinians.

Plainly put, there is a limit to what can be endured by Jordan. We can hardly cope with our current burdens, let alone with the nightmare of a mass demographic transfer.

How has the world community responded to our pleas for assistance? At best, feebly. Although the extent of Jordan's economic losses has been well-documented by a number of international agencies, we have received less than $200 million in aid.

We recognize, of course, that in international affairs - as often in everyday lives of ordinary people - there are wheels within wheels that account for the actions of nations and their leaders.

No doubt that our economic burdens would be lighter, and some of our debts would be forgiven, had Jordan been less consistent in keeping open channels of communications in pursuit of a peaceful solution to the gulf crisis.

We are clearly paying the penalty for subscribing to our time-honored principles of moderation and discourse. The question now is, how long can we afford paying that price? The question also is, does anybody out there really care what happens to Jordan?

For a country such as Jordan, which does not possess revenue-generating natural resources like oil and natural gas, survival - let alone accelerated economic development - depends on the support and cooperation of the international community.

But that community hasn't accommodated us lately, even though Jordan believes it has more than shown its spirit and strength in the common cause of peace.

(Hassan Bin Talal is the crown prince of Jordan.)