Richard Murphy's elaboration of a policy framework for dealing with Iraq {op-ed, Nov. 29} exemplifies the strategic view the administration needs before launching steps that irrevocably reorder the Middle East. Mr. Murphy's analysis, read in combination with Jessica Mathews's excellent op-ed piece on gas consumption the same day, also shows that our policy remains a two-legged stool.

The two legs of international support and U.S. readiness to fight urgently need to be supplemented by the third leg: U.S. and international energy conservation. If the president were to announce tomorrow that the United States would cut its imports (and consumption) by at least 1 million barrels per day in 1991, immediate downward pressure on futures prices most likely would ensue, especially if some others could support us. It might also demonstrate some helpful home-front solidarity with our troops.

Such steps would be the predicate for Mr. Murphy's wise suggestion to keep an embargo in effect on Iraq for a considerable time, to force an appropriate military build-down even after Saddam Hussein leaves Kuwait.

While the vice president is correct in expressing deep apprehension about the progressive destruction of Kuwait, Iraq might help set the stage for peaceful, mutually acceptable withdrawal by simultaneously releasing hostages and inviting a meaningful U.N. observer force into Kuwait to monitor the protection and human rights of its population.

ERWIN VON DEN STEINEN Arlington