I have to point out the inconsistency of Richard Cohen's argument in his op-ed column of Jan.31, "Saddam Left Us No Choice.'' Why does the ''principle that war and conquest are unacceptable ways of settling a dispute -- especially when the larger country is not really threatened'' -- apply only to Iraq?

Are we, as a rich superpower, exempt from international laws? What happened to diplomacy and patience? Our sanctions against the U.S.S.R. and Eastern bloc countries led to the fall of communism.

JULIE H. FINIGAN Washington

Richard Cohen says Saddam Hussein gave us no choice and that our position is "both morally and legally right." What choice, then, but for the president to implement "the hard work of freedom," even if implementation means conserving the mandates imposed on the Middle Eastby England and France after World War I?

What rankles those of us (whether from the left or the right) who are against this war is the callowness, the hypocrisy and, yes, the opportunism this and past presidents have displayed in picking and choosing those areas throughout the world to overlook or not to overlook (Vietnam, Cyprus, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, China, the Baltics and the Occupied Territories, to name a few) in what appears to be a chess game of freedom and morality. One would hope that Mr. Cohen's consistent reasoning in this instance would obtain in to this nation's foreign policy as well. Or are we to assume that a nation or a superpower, as we like to call ourselves, is exempt from consistency, which, foolish or otherwise, is reserved only for the individual?

HARRY WILLIAMS Washington