It is absurd to say, as Les Aspin has {"Aspin: War Would Start With Air Strikes, Escalate to Ground Battles," news story, Jan. 9}, that an air strike would ensure quick victory in a war against Iraq, precluding a long land war that would bring huge American losses.

Massive air strikes against Germany in World War II did not preclude the D-Day invasion by American troops. Clear air superiority in Korea did not stop the Chinese troops after they crossed the Yalu; American soldiers had to do that. Massive air strikes did not save American troops from having to fight long and hard on the ground in Vietnam -- and yet in the end the United States suffered defeat.

All these land wars cost the country dearly in American lives: 405,000 dead in World War II; 54,000 dead in Korea; 58,000 dead in Vietnam. We are now possibly facing another 30,000 dead in a land war against Iraq.

By ordering an air strike, which would most certainly bring a counterattack by Iraqi ground forces against our own front-line troops, President Bush would be responsible for the deaths of thousands of America's soldiers -- men and women -- to say nothing about the deaths of untold thousands of children, women and men in Iraq and Kuwait. If members of Congress support President Bush's unnecessary war in the Gulf, they will be morally guilty, as would the president, for these deaths.

JOHN WICKLEIN Columbus, Ohio

As a Republican and as a reasonable human being, I strongly resent President Bush's macho-style rhetoric concerning the crisis in the Gulf. It is stupid at best and highly dangerous at worst. To link or not to link -- that seems to be his obsession.

His answer is a resounding NO. Because the United States has not had the guts to push for a peaceful solution to other Middle Eastern conflicts in the past, Mr. Bush's ego simply does not allow him to share such an outcome with Saddam Hussein now.

It is obvious by now, even to unsophisticated observers, that Saddam Hussein has miscalculated the global opposition to his incursion into Kuwait. If his withdrawal from Kuwait is contingent upon a long-overdue negotiation of all Middle Eastern problems in order to save face, so be it. We would simply be killing two birds with one stone. Should the president ignore that fact and order the killing of thousands of innocent people in the name of "no linkage," his crime would overshadow that of Saddam Hussein.