More than two hundred years have elapsed since the poet Alexander Pope put the question, 'With terrors round, can reason hold her throne?' As we contemplate the manner in which humanity is choosing to behave at the close of the twentieth century, his question becomes appallingly pertinent. Pope could hardly have envisaged the thousand different 'terrors', disguised and boasted of as 'advances', which warfare has invented since his own age - and always in the face of reason. Still less could he have imagined that his would be the country taking the initiative in utilising every weapon of modern warfare to bomb another country into submission, while claiming to act only in the best interests of humanity.

Being unable to conceive of anything better, and to be ceaselessly proud of such methods, is a reversion to the law not of the jungle but of the cave. To the various forms of primitive man, posterity (assuming there is one) will be able to add Nato Man, a creature who walked upright but seemed largely devoid of reasoning powers, could only gibber angrily when challenged and out of whose mouth bombing statistics poured to demonstrate its belief in its righteousness and its superiority.

Nato Man may not frighten President Milosovic, whose actions appear shameful, indefensible and in need of curbing by united, truly world-wide action, but should frighten anyone who wants a reasoned, non-belligerent and certainly non-triumphalist solution to what is a huge, genuine problem. Oddly enough, nobody in the West has yet proposed bombing to help the Palestinians live in their own country or tried it out to solve comparable crises in Africa.

We must be grateful that the acute problems of Northern Ireland have not been handed over to Nato for solution, Instead, every effort there continues to be made to exercise the unique human capacity for rational thought, patience, reflection, persuasion, and also - not to be overlooked - imagination.

The individuals committed to those processes deserve to be saluted for their brave belief in the power of reason. If they could or would put that belief into action on the larger world stage, the twentieth century might go out with some hope of answering Pope's question in the affirmative.