Deadline day

January 15, 1991

Most Tuesdays Americans wake up and know, pretty much, what the next day is going to look like. But today, Jan. 15, there is a powerful uncertainty: Will there be war tomorrow? And if we make it through Wednesday in peace, will be there war on Thursday? Or Friday?

This is the day Americans hoped would never happen -- the deadline set by the United Nations for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. The threat of war can now be counted in hours. The troop buildup has been massive and far-reaching -- a tribute to America's military prowess. But despite assurances by the president that a war can be won quickly and at only modest human cost, Americans know full well that in war there are no such certainties and that no human costs are modest.

Facing the uncertainty of war, however, Americans are sure of one thing: This will not be another Vietnam. But not in the way President Bush means it -- that the conflict won't go on long enough to sour into widespread anti-war sentiment -- but that, despite our individual feelings about the rightness of this action, we will not turn our backs on the men and women who are serving this nation in the Middle East.

So we wait; turning over in our minds the various strategic and political scenarios laid out by generals and scientists. Taking polls. Calculating losses. But wondering, above all, whether Robert got the cookies that Jenny baked, and whether Maria is scared and lonely, and how on Earth we are going to tell the children that their parents are fighting a war.

The Evening Sun continues to hold to the view that war is barbarism -- diplomacy broken down, hobbled by intransigence and machismo. And that it should always be an avenue only of last resort.

In the anxious hours between midnight tonight and the resolution of this conflict, Americans can do little more than face the future with as much courage and self-possession as possible -- and pray this clash will somehow be defused.

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