AMMAN -- Is it too late to prevent another major war in the Middle East? Is the pace of events accelerating at such an uncontrollable rate that war is inevitable? Are the opposing parties so locked into their positions that a peaceful solution is no longer possible?

It is the sad conclusion of many of those who live in the area, and who would be the innocent victims of such a conflagration, that the answer is probably yes. And it is part of their despair that they are helpless to do anything about it.

One might ask how such a tragic turn of events could have occurred in the space of less than two months. Would there be any victors, and what would be the spoils? Are we embarked on a noble mission to establish a new world order of peace and justice and the abolition of aggression? Or are we witnessing a replay of the quixotic events of August 1914, when the world stumbled into a war it did not want but could not stop?

I am stubborn enough to believe there is still a chance to prevent another war. I refuse to concede that the pace of events cannot be brought under control. And I cannot conceive that disputants would commit themselves to a war that is so obviously contrary to their own vital interests.

As for victors and spoils, Middle East wars have produced neither, only graveyards for illusions and the seeds for future wars.

Let us hope that a new world order can be established, but its foundation must be based on conciliation, not conflagration, and on distributive, not selective justice and morality.

I fear the current course of events in the Middle East could, indeed, be a replay of August 1914. To repeat the scenario would be an inexcusable tragedy. If the same effort by the world community in the present marshaling of military forces, the imposition of sanctions and the commitment of colossal sums of money were to be applied to a political solution, I am convinced it could be achieved.

It is very disturbing that some believe military action is the only solution to the current crisis. This is dangerously short-sighted. The effects of a war against Iraq would not be limited to the confines of that country. They would reverberate in every capital throughout the Middle East. They would create the very instability such action was designed to prevent. For these reasons a political solution to the present crisis is imperative.

Since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait did not occur in a vacuum, it cannot be solved in a vacuum. Any solution must address, if not simultaneously at least sequentially, the major underlying causes -- namely, the dispute between Iraq and Kuwait, the imbalance of wealth in the area, the unresolved confrontation between Israel, Palestine and the Arab States, and the perilous escalation and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

All of these problems are driven by political differences. To attempt to solve them militarily treats only the symptoms, not the causes, and can only exacerbate the problems, not resolve them.

Because these problems are inter-related, piecemeal solutions are not the answer, as efforts over several years have demonstrated.

This is not as tall an order as it sounds, since proposed solutions to some of these problems already exist in the files of those governments involved. The area is exhausted from the conflicts and tensions it has endured for decades. Most are appalled by the wasteful diversion of so much wealth and energy to the misfortunes of war. They are eager to join the rest of the world in its new march toward freedom, justice and prosperity. Despite the threat of war, the conditions for peace do exist in the Middle East. It is a moment of opportunity, which we should all grasp.

Whatever political solution to the immediate crisis might be devised, I believe it imperative that it include a substantial Arab input. Irrespective of the justice of any solution, there must not be room to misrepresent it as a resolution imposed from outside the area. This would only discredit its legitimacy.

Finally, there is one thing of which I am certain. The Middle East cannot afford another war. The world should not impose one on it. I am also certain that it is not beyond the ingenuity of the leaders of this world to devise a peaceful solution to this crisis. May God help us all if they cannot.

The writer is king of Jordan.