I've been called many names, but, until I picked up last Sunday's New York Times, never a "policy monotheist." The phrase-maker is columnist Leslie Gelb. The charge is that we policy monotheists are quick to draw big lessons -- "theologies" -- from a single experience and then wield them "like clubs to destroy {our} political adversaries."

The experience in question is the smashing U.S. success in the gulf war. The lesson we monotheists draw is that the United States should acknowledge its new status as the sole superpower and use its dominance to shape a world order congenial to our interests and our values.

Gelb identifies two "high priests" of the new theology: George Bush, eager for his New World Order, and "Charles Krauthammer {who} goes further and calls for a policy of 'robust and difficult interventionism.' " The president will have to fend for himself, but what disturbs Gelb about me is my article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs in which I argue this: Now that, with the fall of the Soviet empire, the bipolar world has become unipolar, the one remaining superpower should unashamedly and confidently play the part, acting unilaterally, if necessary, to defend its friends, its interests and its values abroad.

Liberals call this kind of talk post-gulf "triumphalism." For Gelb it is just another case of intellectual opportunism: "Americans transform every success and every failure in foreign affairs into a policy doctrine."

But my argument can hardly be a post-hoc generalization from the gulf success. The article that so disturbs Gelb is taken from the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture I gave at the Capitol on Sept. 18, 1990, half a year before the gulf success.

The case for an interventionist America atop a unipolar world could be made last September, because the new structure of the international system has nothing at all to do with Iraq. It is the direct result of the collapse of the Soviet empire. The unipolar world was consecrated last July when, at the Kohl-Gorbachev summit in Stavropol, the Soviet Union ceded the jewel of its European empire, East Germany, to NATO.

The end of the Cold War changed the structure of the world. The gulf war simply revealed it. Even the most obdurate deniers of unipolarity can no longer deny it. Before the gulf, Germany and Japan were being touted as the new superpowers, the pillars of the new multipolar world. One hears little of that nonsense now.

Before the war, American "declinists" were in full voice lamenting America's decline from its perch at the top of the world in -- their favorite benchmark year of the golden age -- 1950. Well, in 1950 we engaged in a war with North Korea: it lasted three years, cost 54,000 American lives and ended in a draw. Forty-one years later we engaged in a war with Iraq: it lasted six weeks, cost 196 American lives and ended in a rout. If the Roman empire had declined at this rate, you'd be reading this column in Latin.

It is hardly news to say that we are living in a unipolar world. So what are Gelb and his policy polytheists objecting to? That we Americans should like it -- and exploit it.

But the case for welcoming and using our dominance to achieve American ends throughout the world is easily made. What is the alternative? The alternative is abdication. To whom? To the U.N., says the "collective security" chorus. Let the Security Council police the world. Let collective security work. What they never explain is why we should allow, indeed invite, China, France and the U.S.S.R. -- countries indifferent to our interests when not hostile -- to have a decisive say in, indeed a veto over, our interests and those of our friends.

Another alternative is to abdicate without a successor. Let the world fend for itself. This is outright American isolationism. It did not work in the '30s. It would have brought us ruin in the gulf. It remains, as always, an invitation to a future of chaos and disaster.

If we want relative stability and tranquillity in the world, we are going to have to work for it. It will come neither of itself nor as a gift from the Security Council. It will only come from an American foreign policy of "robust and difficult interventionism."

Does that mean that the United States has to intervene everywhere? Of course not. It does mean that where our cause is just and interests are threatened, we should act -- even if, as in the early days of last August, we must act unilaterally.

We have entered a period of Pax Americana. Why deny it? Every other nation on earth would like to be in our position. Why be embarrassed by it? Ask a Kuwaiti his opinion of Pax Americana. Or a Pole.

The tired, the poor, the huddled masses of the world who cannot gain admittance to Pax Americana through immigration hope that we might have some of it for export. We should say to them: Where our interests demand it and our values permit, we will.

If pronouncing this heresy makes me a high priests of policy monotheism, so be it. My robe, please.