Surely it is true. Surely the atomic bomb is the most ghastly device contrived by men in this century. Restricting the proliferation of nuclear arms is a matter of the utmost importance, and that is why the Senate's vote two weeks ago, to supply uraniam to India, was such a distressing event.

What of the chances for limiting the bomb's proliferation? Once old Joe Stalin had heard of the bomb's ability to annihilate whole populations, he simply had to have one of those beauties for himself, and once the combined genius of Soviet science and Soviet espionage procured one for him, the chances to "ban the bomb," as they used to say down in the coffeehouses of Greenwich Villiage, became zero.

And once the nations of the West withdrew their power from far-flung corners of the world, once they allowed the high-flown ideals of the United Nations to become propaganda tools for thugs, and once exorbitant oil prices made the spread of nuclear energy exigent, the chances were not very good. Yet through American resolve and scientific innovation, we still had hope.

Now our basis for hope had disintegrated. Today, it is clear that the present administration's promise to restrict nuclear proliferation is but another example of the Wonderboy's honeyfogling the liberals with sonorous oratory and empty deeds. While campaigning for the presidency, he bellowed about Gerald Ford's inability to restrict the proliferation of nuclear arms; two weeks ago he gave a boost to that proliferation. He feverishly pressed the Senate to turn its back on our non-proliferation policy and allow the shipment of uranium to India, the only country known to have surreptitiously developed a nuclear device in contravention of its agreements with us.

Consequently, today we are faced with a very grim reality. Owing to its earlier declarations against the proliferation of nuclear weaponry, the Carter administration was looked to as a stalwart opponent of proliferation. It had earned the enmity of friends and of allies in opposing, rather ham-fistedly, their sale and purchase of nuclear equipment. Now it has backed off of that position, reinforcing the world's perception that we are maladroit diplomats and irresolute friends. The restrictions against nuclear proliferation are seen as hollow.

We now face the possibility that within the next decade many of the cussed-minded, tin-pot dictatorships of the world will be armed with nuclear devices. Imagine if the Rev. Khomeini had been able to get his hands on a mushroom-cloud maker when he took over the shah's arsenal? What if a like-minded holy man takes over in Iraq, on the French have outfitted nuclear plumbing there? And think of all the bellicose nations of the Third World, nations surrounded by enemies and abundant with grudges -- many of which the guilt-ridden Western nations have encouraged?

The gravest problems of any time are not often those that are foremost in the public's mind or on the politicians' lips. If I had to guess, my guess would be that the gravest problems of our times have to do with the breakdown of the norms of Western diplomacy, concomitant with the spread of nuclear arms to backward nations that are unable to distinguish between diplomacy and terrorism. Out of compassion for their energy needs the West gives them atoms for peace, and out of their frustrations they make bombs.

Of all the nations on this earth, India, whose enmitous relations with its neighbors always make its borders apt scenes for carnage, should have been one of the easiest for the administration to turn down. In 1974, India exploded a nuclear bomb, putting the lie to its promise to use our uranium for peaceful purposes. India has consistently refused to sign the 1968 international nuclear non-proliferation treaty, by which signatories periodically open their atomic plant to international inspection, and India will not agree to open its activities to adequate inspection today. In fact, in their arrogance, the Indians refuse to rule out their construction of more nuclear bombs. Moreover, in 1978, when the Carter administration was still gaseous with non-proliferation guff, Congress at the administration's behest passed a law denying nuclear fuel to those nations not in compliance with the 1968 pact. India should have been sent packing."

The administration likes to portray itself as one that has grandly advanced the cause of peace around the globe. Yet, is the world more peaceful today than it was before Jimmy Carter's arrival at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or is it more abundant with hatred and violence and warfare? We are now faced with the imminent spread of nuclear weapons and all the dangerous instability that goes with it, thanks to this latest example of the Wonderboy's irresolution. As Sen. John Glenn of Ohio said, in opposing this idiotic sale, "I don't see that any of the countries that have accepted our [non-proliferation] guidelines would feel obligated to hold them now." Kaboom.