The embargo has not budged the Iraqi occupiers of Kuwait. Diplomacy, too, seems stalemated in the Persian Gulf. And so the drums beat for military action. For those who like neither war nor waiting but want to see aggression punished, international cooperation strengthened and something like the status quo restored, there is a third choice: incentives.

No, not baksheesh or blackmail or an advance agreement that Iraq can keep some oil-rich or strategic slice of its ugly conquest. Instead, why not promptly try a time-limited offer to the leaders and people of Iraq: a substantial credit toward the reconstruction of their civilian economy once withdrawal from Kuwait is complete. The offer should only be valid for a fixed period of time, no more than five weeks. And to sweeten, or sour, the pot, every day after the first five that the offer is spurned, one-thirtieth of the initial sum should be handed over to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, half to relieve the plight of displaced Palestinians and half to lighten the weight on Israel of absorbing emigrants from the Soviet Union.

Neither the funds nor the initiative should be American. If press reports are correct, Saudi Arabia's windfall oil revenues run around $135 million a day. Setting aside less than 10 days worth of that income in a $1.2 billion Middle East relief and reconstruction account, perhaps in response to a suggestion from brother Arabs, should not overburden Riyadh's finances. Both the availability of such funds and the prospect of their dwindling by $40 million a day might wonderfully concentrate Iraqi thinking.

While the 35 days run, military commanders in the Gulf region could strengthen their forces, and political leaders from Washington to Tokyo could prepare for the various consequences of destroying Iraq. It can hardly be too soon to start defining the responsibilities, cost and composition of the peacekeeping units that will have to patrol the region's oil fields, pipelines, refineries and water routes until the far-off day when have-not Moslems become reconciled to economic and political impotence. The extra time might also be used to consider the future roles of Iran and Syria in the Middle East and to devise a few new safeguards against global terrorism.


While President Bush and Iraq's Saddam Hussein wage psychological warfare, there is some question whether the U.S.-led coalition is using all the psychological weapons available to achieve its objectives without recourse to military action.

Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) posed the question in expressing views shared by many Americans and their United Nations allies who are frightened by President Bush's threats and the American troop escalation. According to David Broder {op-ed, Dec. 2}, Sen. Bradley believes that "a resort to war, even if successful, would represent a lost opportunity to demonstrate that in the 'new world order,' aggression can be defeated by means short of war." The senator contends that "a combination of economic embargo, measured military threat and stepped-up psychological warfare can work over time."

Stepped-up psychological warfare? The coalition seems to have overlooked just such a weapon, which might contribute to a peaceful solution of the Gulf crisis and just might bring Saddam's downfall. The operation, targeting Iraqi troops in Kuwait to impair their willingness to fight and to encourage defection, would involve massive distribution of leaflets and surrender passes. They could be spread by resistance forces inside Kuwait and by air drops. Surrender passes could be made productive if Arab states offered a reward -- sanctuary, cash, a visit to Mecca, whatever -- to defectors surrendering their weapons. What a bargain, if it forestalled war.

The proposal in brief: While continuing sanctions and threats to use force against Saddam, weaken his forces by psyops (psychological operations) against them.