Two convictions have been foremost in my mind in recent days.

First, I am convinced beyond a doubt that the United States must not allow the status quo in Kuwait to stand. Some have argued that the president has not made a clear case for America's insistence that Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait. But for me, the president's case is both crystal clear and overwhelmingly convincing.

In Kuwait, Iraq is the aggressor, and its actions cannot be tolerated. Nearly all of us agree on this point. Iraq attacked its neighbor, occupied its territory and brutalized its people. It has fielded a massive army with chemical and biological warfare capability it has no compunctions about using. It now controls 20 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, and if undeterred, it could control an additional 25 percent of world reserves in Saudi Arabia by conquest or intimidation.

Many people have asked whether this conflict is not "just about" oil. To me, that is like asking whether it is not "just about" oxygen. Like it or not, our country, together with the rest of the world, is utterly dependent on oil. So what is involved in the Persian Gulf today is not only the prevention of brutal aggression; it is the vital economic and security interests of the United States and the rest of the world as well.

My second conviction is that war with Iraq would be a disaster we should do everything to avoid. I have believed, and I do believe, that the negative consequences of war far outweigh the positive. These negatives have consumed my thinking, and I have expressed them to the president and to key members of his administration. I foresee many casualties, the use of chemical weapons by Iraq, terrorist strikes, Israel's involvement and long-lasting turmoil in the Middle East. Repeatedly, I ask myself the same question: When we win the war, what happens then? What happens to the balance of power in the Middle East, to the governance of Iraq, to the stability of friendly governments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia? Repeatedly, I have come to the same answer: while the status quo is unacceptable, the alternative of war is even worse.

Because of this conclusion, I have for some time believed that if I had to vote on the matter, I would vote against authorizing the president to use military force. I have taken comfort in the proposition we will soon be voting on here in the Senate: let's give sanctions a chance to work.

But after consulting the best advice I could find, I have concluded that no comfort can be found in that position. It is clear to me that sanctions alone cannot reverse the status quo. Sanctions alone will cause suffering to the civilian population of Iraq, but they will not force the Iraqi army from Kuwait.

Director of Central Intelligence William H. Webster testified Dec. 5 that it is his conclusion that sanctions in themselves will not lead to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and that they will not lead him to change his policy toward Kuwait. As a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, I have concluded from what I have been told on the subject that sanctions, standing by themselves and without the credible threat of military force, have no chance of expelling Iraq from Kuwait.

Thus I have concluded that the one and only chance to accomplish our objectives without war is to maintain sanctions accompanied by a credible military threat. Without a credible military threat, our alternative is sanctions followed by nothing at all.

The key to peace is maintaining a credible military threat, and this is precisely the point our pending votes will address. Those who would give sanctions a chance before military action is even possible would decouple the two components that must be kept linked if we are to have any chance of getting Iraq out of Kuwait without a fight. They would foreclose any possibility of a just peace.

This is why I cannot vote for sanctions alone and why I cannot vote to deprive the president of the credible threat of force. It is indeed a supreme irony that it is only through the threat of force that a stable world can be maintained. But that is an irony we have recognized ever since World War II.

I do believe that Saddam Hussein pays attention to what we say and do in the Senate. I do believe that the president's credibility is our best hope if we are to preserve a stable world without war. We will soon vote to enhance that credibility or to undercut it.

I will support the president with my votes and with my prayers. The writer is a Republican senator from Missouri. This is from a speech in the Senate yesterday.