Humanitarian concerns aside, the U.S. decision not to help the Iraqi Kurds does not make much sense in pure coldblooded geopolitical terms.

The flight of millions of Kurds from their Iraqi homeland to the Turkish and Iranian frontiers may prove to be the prelude of a political disaster like that of the Middle East's other stateless people, the Palestinians.Clearing Iraqi Kurdistan of its inhabitants has been the longtime dream of the Baathist regime in Baghdad.

Ever since its rise to power in the late '60s, it has used every device in its genocide machine, from mass executions to chemical bombs to the razing of entire villages, to get rid of its Kurdish population.

By his repeated assertions that the United States would not interfere in Iraq's domestic affairs, President Bush could not have given Saddam Hussein more timely help in making this dream come true.

Bush and his chief ally, Prime Minister John Major of Britain, seem to have been converted to a politics of divine intervention.

They appear to be waiting for the hour when the heavens are torn asunder and the sinner of Baghdad is miraculously removed from power.

Their saviors in this scenario, so Bush hopes, are Iraqi Army officers - the same men who are busy right now massacring Kurds and Shiites by the thousands.

There could hardly be a less glorious vision for a U.S. president who hopes to bring peace and stability to the Middle East.

Because of the hollow promises the administration made to the Iraqi people, no officer of the Republican Guard will be naive enough to trust American exhortations and try to topple their master.

And few have any reason to do so anyway.

For many people of the region, the allied undertaking that began last August has only brought more suffering and distress.

The exodus of millions of Kurdish refugees is matched only by previous flights in the 20th century of the Armenians, the Palestinians and the Afghans.

If Saddam manages to permanently dislodge a substantial portion of Kurds from northern Iraq - and there is every indication he is succeeding in doing so - he will create a political problem no less severe than that of the Palestinians.

And it is only logical to assume that the ensuing struggle between the Kurdish guerrillas and the Iraqi Army would involve Iran and Turkey and thus destabilize the border regions of the three countries - an outcome the United States said it was trying to avoid.

In the likely event that the Kurds blame the United States for their plight, Saddam will capitalize by finding converts to his demagogies.

And it is all but inevitable that, with or without Saddam, new military dictators would create new disasters.

Today's Kurdish and Shiite calamities and tomorrow's prospects of other aggressions should have awakened the United States to fatal flaws in its conduct and to the need for carrying out a more consistent and enduring policy in the Middle East.