I heartily agree with Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-Iowa) statements: "Why do we always have to do it by ourselves? I don't believe America has to be the policeman of the world" {news story, Aug. 24}. We cannot save the world when we are unable to solve our own drug and poverty and homeless problems.

The same article quotes Edward Luttwak (on "Nightline") who questions why "Americans ... lay down their lives ... for oil that primarily goes to Europeans, Japanese and East Asians." We try to be the Savior of the World while the Germans and Japanese grow stronger and richer. Jeane Kirkpatrick says that "our rich, smart allies ought to bear their share of the burden ... where they have as much of a stake." Why should we spend dollars and expend lives and get very little in return, much less respect from the rest of the world. We used to be No. 1, but we fall further behind each day.

When an enemy such as Iraq says close your embassy and remove your personnel, it means just that. To remain behind is positively stupid and wreaks of false pride. Get smart and get out! I have traveled extensively and as a result consider myself a super patriot; I love and respect our country and hate to see us get into another "no-win" situation. KAY A. YANKOSKI Alexandria

My son-in-law is steaming toward Iraq -- for all we know, he is there now. He leaves behind a 3-month-old baby and a loyal Navy wife. We are a Navy family, dedicated to serve, and we have never questioned that obligation.

Until now.

Why are we sending our young men over there? From all the reports that I have read, the shortfall of oil caused by Iraq's saber rattling can be easily made up by increased production elsewhere and increased conservation measures practiced by the local populace. We are not rushing off with sword in hand, riding our white steeds to save a country from a maniacal dictator. There are no oppressed people who need the balm of American relief. From what I read, there is only a threat to our use of the product of the oil fields.

Is that worth dying for? To think otherwise, to think that we will send our fresh-scrubbed American men in to conquer without losing a single life, is to be living in the land of Oz. To lose one young American whose life has just begun, to lose one young father who has a whole future left to conquer and a family to raise, to lose just one life, is senseless if all we are doing is assuring that we will have plenty of oil to stoke our cars and furnaces and factories. We can learn to live without as much oil. We cannot -- no, we have no need to -- learn to live without our men.

Please, let's turn the ships and planes around and pour our energies into increased production elsewhere and conservation at home. Bring our men home to pursue more important goals like teaching, fixing cars, delivering mail, practicing law, playing baseball or dreaming.

JUDITH L. COBB Alexandria