Lawrence Korb's article "The 'War' Inside the Pentagon" {Outlook, Nov. 25} contains the serious charge that the military services are more interested in budget share than prevailing against Saddam Hussein. He seems to feel that we have far more forces either in the Persian Gulf or on the way there than are necessary to do the job. As a former assistant secretary of defense, Mr. Korb should know better.

First, the services are not omnipotent in this matter. Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, as the field commander, can reject forces he feels are unnecessary. Gen. Collin L. Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Defense Secretary Richard Cheney also are responsible for making sure that adequate forces are available to do the job.

Given the size of the Iraqi forces, even the 400,000 troops that Mr. Korb says we will have in the Persian Gulf are hardly overwhelming. Some folks who have never been shot at or have no family or friends in the Gulf may tend to view this potential conflict as a sporting event where both sides should be equal. But most of us see it as a job that, if it must be done, should be done quickly with no doubt as to what the outcome will be.


Lawrence Korb argues that service-slanted budget battles within the Pentagon could hurt the effort in the Persian Gulf. Though this may be correct, it does not lend validity to his closing argument that substantial cuts to existing and planned forces in the region will result in strength that "should be more than enough to defend Saudi Arabia and even force Saddam out of Kuwait."

As a Vietnam veteran, I know this entire train of thought is exactly what leads to prolonged wars with all the attendant misery and waste associated with indecisive results.

I support all diplomatic efforts to solve this problem, but if the decision is made to use young men's lives to solve old men's problems, then it must be done with relentless force. Tact, diplomacy and discussion over coffee come before the decision to fight.

The only glory in war is that shared in the depth of the souls of the survivors who have experienced the 1,000-yard stare and utter physical and mental exhaustion of the Willies and Joes who have faced Valley Forge, Antietam, Gettysburg, Belleau Wood, Pork Chop Hill, Hamburger Hill and a host of other unpleasant places while the Larry Korbs of the world were counting beans and playing board games in the Pentagon.

The narrow-viewed interservice rivalry that could cost lives is a valid concern, but don't confuse this with the need to apply overwhelming power when diplomacy is over.

BOB BROWN Annandale