For highly decorated Vietnam veteran James Webb, the escalating war in the Persian Gulf and the disintegration of perestroika in the Soviet Union is eerily close to his new novel, "Something to Die For." Webb, a former secretary of the Navy and assistant secretary of defense, said his latest book, finished a year ago and scheduled to be published next month, was written as a "cautionary" tale, but, he added with a touch of irony, "I think I'm a few weeks late."

Webb, the author of the best-selling "Fields of Fire," sets his crisis in Ethiopia and the events there completely overshadow stories about the Soviets "cracking heads in the Ukraine," he said. The book has cruise missile launchings and surface-to-air missiles, now the stuff of the evening news. Reluctant to be too critical of the Persian Gulf war, Webb, who had argued against going in before the hostilities broke out, would only say: "I'm very sorry Bush pulled the trigger. ... I cannot see how it is going to benefit us."

Out and About

It's been 50 years since the first Series E U.S. savings bond was issued to help fund the nation's war effort. The savings bond, which would become one of the most recognized icons of World War II, will be commemorated at a special conference today and tomorrow at the J.W. Marriott Hotel. The speakers will include Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady and U.S. Treasurer Catalina Villalpando. At the golden anniversary dinner tomorrow, Steve Allen will perform, and as in war bond days of World War II, it will be a star-studded evening, with such entertainment figures expected as Jayne Meadows, Mary Ann Mobley, Florence Henderson, Tom Poston, Bruce Boxleitner, Arte Johnson, Vince Edwards, Louis Nye, Casey and Jean Kasem, Jack Carter, Hugh O'Brien, Joseph Bologna and baseball great Don Drysdale ...

In another event reminiscent of World War II, the D.C. chapter of the American Red Cross has declared today "Dominique's Day" because the restaurant is supporting a blood drive for the troops in the Persian Gulf. The expensive French restaurant will give a can of its various gourmet soups to anyone who donates blood at the Charles R. Drew Center ...

Media movements: Harry Jaffe, Washington editor of Regardie's magazine, is to join Washingtonian magazine in March as a national editor. Jaffe, who had been discussing the job change before sagging advertising revenues at Regardie's caused a severe staff cutback, is currently writing a book with WRC-TV correspondent Tom Sherwood about Washington in the era of Marion Barry ...

Italian actress Sophia Loren, who won a Best Actress Oscar in 1961 for the Italian movie "Two Women" (becoming the first and only performer to gain a primary Oscar for work in a foreign-language film), will receive an honorary Academy Award at this year's ceremonies March 25. In making the announcement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences described the 56-year-old international star as "one of the genuine treasures of world cinema." Loren has appeared in 59 films, including the hit "Marriage Italian Style" with Marcello Mastroianni. Her Hollywood movies include "The Pride and the Passion," "Boy on a Dolphin" and "Desire Under the Elms" ...