Here is history waiting to crown Ronald Reagan with the laurels of a world peacemaker. He seems to wish she would go away.

When he and his guest, Mikhail Gorbachev, sign the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty, Reagan goes down as the first U.S. president to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. He will be greeting a Soviet leader who is practically panting to cut the most threatening nukes, the intercontinental ballistic missiles, by 50 percent.

By his eagerness, the general secretary has rescued Reagan from the fate of being not just a lame duck but a dead duck. The Iran-contra scandal so reduced Reagan's standing that only a visiting Soviet leader, bent double under the weight of olive branches, could redeem him.

Says Kirk O'Donnell, president of the Center for National Policy, who observed Reagan at the elbow of former House speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr., "Nobody wanted to go out and impeach him while he had arms control going, something that only he could do."

Is Reagan grateful for the happy coincidence that, at his most needful moment, destiny handed him an even needier Soviet leader?

Not on your life. His eye is not on the ages but on the right wing of his party. Immortality is all very well, but is it worth his reputation as the strongest anticommunist to occupy the Oval Office? True believers put him there, not liberal one-worlding peaceniks who are hailing him for the breakthrough that none of them could ever achieve.

The right wing expressed its outrage by yanking out the welcome mat for a proposed Gorbachev speech to Congress. Ugly scenes were threatened, and the appearance was canceled.

Reagan will doubtless be his genial self when Gorbachev arrives, but he is at great pains to let the right know that his guest is going to get an earful.

In a strange outburst last week, the president suddenly attacked the Soviets for their hypocrisy in trying to stop "Star Wars," which the Soviets hate more than dissent and the right wing prizes as the final alibi for no arms control. He told sulky followers that 10,000 Soviet scientists and engineers are working on a program that "dwarfs" U.S. efforts in the sky.

Now the president has told the Heritage Foundation, another group which thinks he has lost his footing, that Gorbachev is going to catch it on Afghanistan. "I am going to ask him, 'Isn't it time that the Soviet Union put an end to these destructive, wasteful conflicts around the world?" It does not sound like a particularly gracious gambit in a dialogue that could lead to a world freed from nuclear terror.

Gorbachev, in his NBC News interview, says tersely, " . . . I believe that if the American administration really does sincerely want that {Afghanistan} problem to be resolved . . . by political means, it could be done very quickly."

Similarly, in Central America, where peace could break out if he would let it happen, the president seems determined to avoid any blemishing brush with the peacemaker's mantle. He could, without the slightest effort, claim that his belligerent Nicaraguan policy has paid off, that he has, even if inadvertently, brought about a regional accord, a neighborly consensus that the Sandinistas should become democratic -- or pay the price.

Instead, we find out, he has dispatched his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Colin L. Powell, to Capitol Hill to stir the pot for $30 million more in contra aid, enough to tide them over until he can start pounding Congress for $270 million more. Powell, according to House Majority Whip Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), has been "demanding new money for airplanes, helicopters and supplies so the contras can step up the war."

Powell's predecessor, Frank C. Carlucci, collaborated with House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) on peace plans. So much for hopes born during the Iran-contra hearings that we would have a national security adviser who would analyze, not advocate.

Reagan plainly cannot handle the thought of closing down the miserable little war, which is a holy cause with conservatives. He paid lip service to the Arias peace accord, but obviously he is outraged by the sight of Latin Americans meddling in their own affairs.

Reagan may have Gorbachev to thank for the fact that Nicaragua has gone to great lengths to comply with the peace pact's conditions. The general secretary has declined to make the conflict the East-West confrontation of Reagan's rhetoric. He has one wet baby, Cuba, on his lap. He has made it clear to Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega that he doesn't need another.

Yes, the pot of gold for posterity is there. Reagan will have to claim it, but he is like a man crying all the way to the bank.