As all of you know, our country, along with the rest of the international community, currently faces a grave crisis in the Persian Gulf. This crisis carries with it the risk of war. Some in this country have questioned whether the U.S. has any interest in the gulf that is worth fighting for. . . .

Since the onset of the Cold War, the United States has had three strategic objectives in the region. The first objective was to contain Soviet expansionism {in 1947 in Turkey and 1980 in the Persian Gulf} . . . . {The United States also} has sought to prevent any local Middle East power from achieving hegemony over its neighbors. . . .

All the states of the Middle East face a major threat in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Saddam's ambitions are not confined to Kuwait. . . . He has acquired a sizable stockpile of both chemical and biological weapons and is estimated to have employed several thousand tons of chemical agents against Iranians

and against his own people --

Iraqi Kurds -- in the 1980s. And he has launched a massive program to acquire nuclear weapons.

The United States opposes Saddam Hussein's bid for regional hegemony for the same reasons that we have opposed other bids. We do not think any government has the right to impose its political will on other countries through subversion or conquest. We do not think Israel's existence, or the existence of other friendly regional states, should be threatened. And, of course, the prospect of Saddam Hussein strutting across the world stage at the head of a malevolent global power, armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction and controlling a large portion of the world's energy supplies, is something no sane person would welcome. . . .

A key strategic goal of U.S. Middle East policy has been to assure the uninterrupted flow of oil at reasonable prices. This does not mean, as some cynics have suggested, that we are risking war to prevent the price of oil from going up a few cents a gallon. . . . If "any outside force," as the Carter Doctrine put it, could control the flow of Persian Gulf oil it would, as President Bush said, place our independence and way of life at risk. No nation should be willing to tolerate such a state of affairs. . . .

There is another strategic American objective in the current crisis that . . . has

only emerged, in fact, as a result of the end of the Cold War. This objective might be described as strengthening the foundations of world order. . . . With the end of the Cold War, the chances of a Soviet-American clash in any Third World conflict, including the Middle East, have greatly diminished. Unfortunately, so have the traditional restraints that the superpowers used to impose on their regional clients. As a result, unless the U.N. Charter's rules about using force are not reaffirmed and defended fairly quickly, we face the dangerous prospect of a new, post-Cold War world that is actually more anarchic, and more violence-prone, than the world which preceded it.

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait is the first crisis of the post-Cold War world. One way or another, it is bound to set a precedent -- either on behalf of greater world order or on behalf of greater chaos. If Saddam Hussein succeeds in his aggression, it is likely to embolden other dictators to emulate his example. But if he fails -- and believe me, he will fail -- others will draw the lesson that might does not make right and that aggression will not be allowed to succeed. . . .

Everyone recognizes that this is a test case. Everyone can see that, beyond America's traditional objectives in the region, what is at stake is nothing less than the shape of tomorrow.

None of these considerations, of course, frees us from the responsibility to proceed carefully. The moral and human implications of war -- any war -- are very grave. No reasonable effort should be spared in the quest for a peaceful solution. . . .

But even as we exercise patience and restraint, we must also be alert to the moral costs of such a course. Consider, for example, the fate of the people of Kuwait. With every day that passes, their plight grows more desperate. Being patient with Iraq allows Saddam Hussein to prolong their agony. Is this a moral course of action?

Or consider the fate of American military personnel in Saudi Arabia. The longer we refrain from action against Iraq, the more time Saddam Hussein has to tighten his grip on Kuwait, and the harder it may be to break that grip, if and when war comes. Does patience today risk greater American casualties tomorrow? And if so, is this a moral course of action?

Or consider Iraq's drive for nuclear weapons. As President Bush told American troops in Saudi Arabia during Thanksgiving, "Each day that passes brings Saddam one day closer to realizing his goal of a nuclear weapons arsenal. . . . And we do know this for sure: He has never possessed a weapon that he didn't use." Will continued patience with Iraq help make the world vulnerable to nuclear blackmail by Saddam Hussein? And if so, is this a moral course of action?

I also think that there must be limits to our patience. And those limits are reached when our restraint threatens to undermine other, equally moral goals. These goals . . . include ending Kuwait's agony as soon as possible; minimizing American casualties in the event of war; and preventing Saddam Hussein from adding nuclear weapons to his already formidable arsenal of mass destruction. It is in order to prevent Saddam Hussein from thwarting these goals that the U.N. Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution today endorsing the use of force against Iraq if Saddam does not withdraw his forces from Kuwait. . . .