THE war on the ground is over; now the peace must be won. President Bush's announcement of a cease-fire Wednesday opens the way for diplomatic initiatives that can help build healthier relationships among countries in the region. Secretary of State Baker's visits to countries involved in the coalition are useful first steps. To push the fighting further would have undermined prospects for lasting peace. It would have appeared vindictive. And one vindictive act breeds another, as the history of the Middle East attests.
At the end, Baghdad had no choice but to comply with demands that it recognize all 12 United Nations resolutions concerning the Gulf. Its efforts to maintain a tone of defiance in the face of defeat were feeble.
Most American service men and women, having done their jobs well, should be returning home soon. Many coalition forces, however, will have to stay on to safeguard a devastated Kuwait. Engineering units will have extended work in clearing away hazards left behind by the Iraqis and in helping restore a shattered infrastructure. UN peacekeeping forces may be formed to help insure the longer-term security of Kuwait.
Humanitarian sensitivities demand that restoration of civilian necessities, such as electricity and pure water, go forward in Iraq too. As long as Saddam Hussein remains in power, sanctions against military supplies are needed, but the embargo should not block goods required for the well being of the Iraqi people.
Mr. Bush has reiterated that the war was never against those people. US diplomatic and humanitarian leadership can now reinforce those words.