Glenn Frankel is right to report that we should go back 70 years in order to understand that the national boundaries now in dispute in the Arabian peninsula were a tour de force of the departing British that left festering discontent {''Imperialist Legacy: Lines in the Sand,'' news story, Aug. 31}.

However, this unduly trivializes the claims of the Kuwaitis to their independence, unless one also looks back more than 200 years -- long before the discovery of oil deposits -- when Arab tribes from central desert land migrated to the coastal area and organized themselves as a political unit led by the Sabah family. Their coherence was such that even under the Turkish Ottoman Empire they enjoyed substantial self-government and did not lose their group identity. Moreover, Kuwait has shared the substantial wealth derived from its sea-trade and latterly from its oil with all its people in the form of low income housing, universal education and medical care, safe drinking water and so forth.

The crushing of this little country by surprise attack is a tragedy and a disgrace in the modern world, and it is not adequately represented as a quibble over boundaries that were high-handedly and almost casually imposed by an alien power. MONIKA K. HELLWIG Silver Spring