Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, commander of NATO's air war against Yugoslavia, has predicted victory over Serb-led government forces in Kosovo by bombing raids alone within two months [front page, May 24].

Gen. Short appears to suffer from the ever-present belief of Air Force officers that air power alone can win wars -- and, let's face it, the conflict in Kosovo is a war. If Gen. Short is right, it will mark a first in the annals of military history.

The infantrymen who died in France and Germany in a classic nonpermissive environment would have been surprised to hear that bombing Germany won World War II. The Air Force was unable to seal off North Korea to stop Chinese reinforcements from attacking U.N. forces north of the 38th parallel. U.S. bombing failed to stop the North Vietnamese infiltration of South Vietnam. Even under the best terrain conditions, as were present in Desert Storm, and with the advantage of early editions of the smart weapons we are using today, we still had to place a force in excess of 500,000 troops in order to kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait.

One constant in warfare is that if you need or want to defeat an opposing ground force, you had best be prepared to put a superior ground force into the area of operations and accept deaths in your force. If you cannot stomach that simple fact, don't fight the war.

JAMES R. LeFEBVRE

Bayonne, N.J.

Kudos to Norman Mailer ["Milosevic and Clinton," op-ed, May 24] for an incisive piece of nonfiction. Goethe was right: "Nothing is more awful than ignorance in action!"

Perhaps our best option now on Kosovo is to blame the entire rest of the world for being so weak and fractious as to have permitted our manifest incompetence in the conduct of foreign affairs to have reached its current preeminence.

QUINCEY LUMSDEN

Washington

In the midst of the quagmire we call Kosovo, I am thankful for those columnists who speak out and shed light on all aspects of the war, pleasant and unpleasant alike. I agree with William Raspberry [op-ed, May 24] and Norman Mailer. We need to seek peace with humility as passionately as we have made war.

ROBB W. SHOAF

Madison, N.J.