BOCA RATON, FLORIDA. — Boca Raton, Florida--IS IT POSSIBLE that President Bush has lost his war against Saddam Hussein even before America's offensive forces have fired a single shot?
Yes. Take a look at developments of just the past 10 days and you will see that U.S. sentiment against a military attack on Iraq is broad-based and rising:
The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States voted 249-14 in support of a letter urging the Bush administration to show restraint in resorting to a military solution that would mean killing thousands of innocent civilians and children. Some bishops question the morality of spending so much on a military thrust into Iraq when there are so many urgent social needs at home.
A USA Today poll shows a 31-percent drop in public approval of Mr. Bush's Persian Gulf policy.
Leaders in Congress are literally shouting that Mr. Bush has no authority to launch a war against Iraq without the consent of Congress.
Complaints are growing by blacks and others that Hispanics, blacks and other minority military men and women would become ''the cannon fodder'' of a war against Iraq.
The Soviet Union has joined Arab nations in support of more efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution to the crisis caused by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
Economists are warning that a Persian Gulf war would devastate TTC an already sick U.S. economy.
Some Americans have begun to ask why their boys should die to defend a Kuwaiti regime that practices slavery and a Saudi Arabian regime so backward it refuses to allow women to drive automobiles.
It seems clear, most certainly to Saddam Hussein, that President Bush cannot now launch a secret, personal war of the sort he unleashed against Panama and General Manuel Noriega. He will find it hard to take the Congress and the American people with him on any military offensive.
It is too bad, but a reality, that Mr. Hussein is surely laughing as he watches Mr. Bush and his aides throw out a confusing array of reasons why they might have to use military force to get Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.
The first rationale was to protect Saudi Arabia. The second was to halt aggression by a dictator Mr. Bush deemed ''worse than Hitler.'' The third was to prevent Iraq from gaining control of 22 percent of the world's oil. The fourth was to avenge the brutal treatment of U.S. hostages held by Iraq. The fifth, as Secretary of State James Baker now says, is to protect American jobs.
A rising number of Americans are reluctant to agree that either or all of these rationales combined justify launching what might become a terrible war.
The problem, however, is that if Mr. Bush is denied his ''military option,'' Saddam Hussein will have achieved a great triumph, while Mr. Bush and the United States will have suffered a shattering humiliation. Yes, humiliation intensified by Mr. Bush's months of ''tough guy'' rhetoric, but still a stalemate that would be a severe blow to every U.S. interest in the Middle East.
Mr. Bush has a war to win at home that may be as tough as any
conflict that looms in the Saudi and Kuwaiti deserts.