The guns in the gulf will continue to sound for weeks yet, but the political contours of the world following an American victory are already coming into view.
Important changes are in the offing on three levels of politics: domestic, Arab and global.Domestically, the most profound consequences may be felt in the Democratic Party, dominated ideologically since the Vietnam War by its dovish wing.
If the majority of American voters continues to view the gulf war as the most just, necessary and successful our country has fought since World War II, the Democrats will pay a heavy price for having opposed it.
However, those who bucked the leadership and supported the president - Stephen Solarz, Les Aspin, Dave McCurdy, Dante Fascell in the House; Joseph Lieberman and Albert Gore in the Senate - will emerge vastly strengthened.
They will win plaudits both for being right and for having risen above partisanship.
If they stick together even loosely they will constitute a formidable new force in the party. From their ranks may come the next Democratic presidential candidate, albeit not before President Bush has had his second term.
In the Arab world, the drubbing of Saddam Hussein will be an epiphany that will demolish the appeal of the radical path. The bane of Arab politics has been a millenarianism that has stood in the way of a reckoning with reality - the reality of Israel, the reality of the West.
Whether in the form of pan-Arabism, religious fanaticism or secular radical ideologies, this millenarianism has led many Arabs to believe that, with unity or the right leader or theory, the humiliations of colonialism and underdevelopment could be redeemed and the world could be had on Arab terms rather than through compromise.
Not since the heyday of the former Egyptian president, Gamel Abdel Nasser, has one man concentrated in his own person all the wishful hopes of Arab radicalism as has Saddam. The very outrageousness of his aggression against Kuwait, his irrational defiance of America and his missile attacks on Israel have only reinforced his hold on the radical imagination.
If - as seems all but certain - the war ends in Saddam's utter humiliation, the sobering effect should be enormous.
With Saddam's Baath Party in tatters, Soviet influence a thing of the past, Islamic extremism losing its luster in Iran and the myth of unity shattered as never before, the Arab world may be ready finally for realism and moderation.
Last but not least, the gulf war marks the dawning of the Pax Americana.
True, that term was used immediately after World War II. But it was a misnomer then because the Soviet empire - a real competitor with American power - was born at the same moment. The result was not a "pax" of any kind but a cold war and a bipolar world.
During the past two years, however, Soviet power has imploded, and a bipolar world has become unipolar. A global rush toward democracy and free markets has spelled a huge victory for America on the ideological plain.
Now, in the gulf war, our ideological supremacy is being matched by a demonstration of America's refurbished military capability.
This Pax Americana will rest not on domination but on persuasion and example as well as power.