NEW YORK — THE NEW World Order was born in Washington on Sept. 11, 1990, and was shot dead in the streets of Vilnius on Jan. 13, 1991.
This may seem a sad thing to proclaim as the United States prepares to fight a war from which this new order was supposed to come forth. But the New World Order was an idea conceived in delusion and falsehood, which could have destroyed the very purposes of fighting the war.
For the clarity of mind essential to fight a war it is far better that it happened now. The truth can help a war result in a peace of hope, not lead to another war. That is the gift of the people of Vilnius.
In his September address to Congress, President Bush said that out of the Persian Gulf crisis a new American objective could emerge -- a new world order "freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, more secure in the quest for peace," in which all nations could prosper and live in harmony.
Instantly the phrase became one of those things that is never precisely defined but is accepted as so pure of purpose that even to ask what in God's name it means would be a nasty thing to do. So almost nobody did.
But it became clear as time went on that in Bush's mind the New World Order was founded on a convergence of goals and interests between the United States and the Soviet Union, so strong and permanent that they would work as a team through the U.N. Security Council. The other major powers that held veto power, including Communist China, would be counted on for cooperation.
And it also became obvious that after the Persian Gulf crisis, the Middle Eastern branch of the New World Order was to be a NATO-type alliance between the United States and the Arab nations, under the Soviet-American umbrella. If Israel behaved docilely and agreed to the creation of another Palestinian state in addition to Jordan, it would be allowed to exist, for the time being -- but of course never as a partner in the Middle Eastern order.
Naturally, there were some prices for the New World Order. Nothing could be done to support the Soviet democratic movements that felt Mikhail Gorbachev was fighting to save the Soviet system, not end it.
The American promise of support for Baltic freedom had to be betrayed. The other independence movements trying to break out of the evil empire, domestic department, had to be shoved aside. Every sign of repression by the Gorbachev government had to be ignored.
All this did not prove very difficult for an administration that showed its attitude toward troublesome anti-communist freedom movements by moving as quickly as possible to patch things up with the butchers of Beijing after Tiananmen Square.
And of course, to bring about the Middle Eastern version of the New World Order, the United States had to accept as its partners Arab regimes that ruled through terrorism, domestic or international, or both. A Hafez al-Assad today, another Saddam Hussein tomorrow.
After Vilnius, Washington is shocked, for the moment anyway. American journalists and academics who fully supported betrayal of the Baltics now weep for them. But wait -- soon they will be back, justifying themselves, and giving us terrific advice again on how to deal with the Kremlin without getting it upset.
Forget them. The people of Vilnius, dead and alive, are showing us the truth -- the greatest of gifts to a nation facing war.
The truth now is what it always has been. Appeasement always fails. Tyrants always betray free nations. Dictatorships are perpetual threats to the United States because they can exist only through terror and war. Free nations and peoples are our friends. We need each other. Appeasement always fails.
The gift of Vilnius should not bring despair or cynicism. It brings freedom from falsehood and cant. With that gift we can see that our allies in the Soviet Union are not the frightened men of the Kremlin but the democratic movements -- in Moscow, in the Baltics, in Armenia, everywhere in the crumbling empire.
In the Middle East, one day Saddam Hussein will go down. But if we place our hopes for the future on the corrupt, despotic Arab regimes that rule now, we will betray the people of those nations and ourselves.
Mr. Bush, please, don't you see that only free governments and free people can create a truly secure world order -- open to all who oppose tyranny? That is the meaning of Vilnius. It should be the meaning of Jan. 15, 1991, and what follows in war or peace.