Women as Warriors

Don Colburn presented a variety of viewpoints on the relationship of gender to the responses to war {Cover, Jan. 29}. While he correctly stated that "leading people into war is not an exclusively male phenomenon," I believe he overstates the ease with which female heads of state have resorted to war.

In the cases of Indira Gandhi of India and Golda Meir of Israel, a sustained international effort was undertaken to demonstrate the critical situation their nations faced prior to engaging national forces in conflict. Both Gandhi in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1972 and Meir during the 1973 Arab-Iraeli conflict controlled the timing and nature of their responses to demonstrate the defensive posture of their nations. However, once fighting started, they both showed determination to manage the events to national advantage, even though this led each of them into opposition to superpowers seeking to impose outcomes.

Though contemporary cases are limited, it may be arguable that women heads of govern- ment, reluctant to appear precipitously aggressive, have a clear concept of national purpose and goals, which they articulate before engaging in a conflict. Mary Howe Kiraly Burke

Demystifying Root Canals

Was the purpose of the article on root canals {Lifeline, Jan. 29} to perpetuate the myth that dental care is painful? After four paragraphs of painful anticipation, the writer states, "Happily, free of pain, I paid."

He later described a filling in a devitalized tooth as feeling "like major surgery, but with Novocain, the pain is more psychic than real." Perhaps the high cost of care was to be his main point. If so, I believe he failed to raise some important issues, such as regular preventive maintenance; instead, he uses a 24-hour emergency service, for which one should expect to pay a premium. Daniel R. Melnick, DDS Laurel

It can't be emphasized enough: Regular dental care detects problems before they erupt into painful episodes. The description of an emergency root canal procedure underscores this fact but never acknowledges the expert care provided by the dentist and endodontist.

The colorful adjectives used to describe the various procedures the writer endured does little to reduce the public's fear of seeing a dentist. Fifty percent of the U.S. population does not seek care. Steve T. Pleickhardt, DDS Falls Church

Soviet Birth Control Problems

While the article on birth control in the U.S.S.R. {International, Feb. 5} contained many disturbing facts, it made the common mistake of interchanging the terms birth control and contraceptives. While abstinence, condoms and spermicide are forms of contraception, the intrauterine device, some forms of the pill and abortion are forms of birth control, since they don't prevent conception.

The truly sad thing is that not only is abortion used as birth control in the U.S.S.R. but that the same thing happens here. Even though contraceptives are readily available in this country, there are still 1.6 million abortions a year. Surely they can't all be due to the failure of birth control methods. Christina Cooper Arlington

Advice on Arthritis

In Sandy Rovner's article on arthritis {Cover, Jan. 15} offered lots of facts to those who suspect they may be suffering from the disease. I am 32 and have had rheumatoid arthritis for two years. It was very debilitating at first, and I refused to seek professional help. In addition to the pain, I was depressed at not being able to do things the way I wanted to. I always had to give in to the pain. As the article noted, the stress associated with similar struggles can make things even worse.

My physician recommended treatment in the pyramid fashion, reviewing each new treatment and suggesting that I think about the course of action before we began. This approach made me feel that I was not being pushed into anything. I think many physicians may be too cautious and not move into stronger medications fast enough.

With arthritis, as the article pointed out, it can be a gamble. After months of trying a new treatment, there may be no results, and then the disease goes into remission. Beverly Pallansch Annandale

Telling an adult to live with his aches, pain and crippling is one thing, but think of telling it to your child. There are many children affected with rheumatic diseases, and it is hard to explain to them why it hurts, why it doesn't go away like an earache and why mommy can't make it better. I don't think anyone who has a child with a rheumatic disease wants to see their child treated differently from others or given special treatment, but we do need understanding from the community that some things will be more difficult for our children.

If more attention is given to children with rheumatic diseases, perhaps there would be more research undertaken and, someday perhaps, even a cure. Anna L. Whiteman Olney

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