On reading Charles Krauthammer's Oct. 29 op-ed column, "The Phony Battle Against 'Isolationism,' " the question that comes to mind is not about the battle against isolationism but Mr. Krauthammer's denial of it.

As a World War II veteran and retired career diplomat, I think U.S. foreign policy objectives are clear--it's their realization that's difficult. The objectives are to enhance political freedom, peace and economic well-being in the world. For nostalgic cold warriors, those may seem like grandiose ideals. They view policies in pursuit of such ideals, relying on persuasion and public diplomacy, as unrealistic.

Democracy, human rights, peace and free markets have become near-universal goals that can be achieved neither by military power nor covert action--the outmoded Cold War policy tools that unilateralists profess.

The deeper reality is that people who enjoy freedom and respect for human rights are not inclined to go to war with one another. Dialogue and negotiation become infinitely preferable to modern war, whose human consequences and material costs have escalated beyond all rational calculation. Yet in the decade since the end of the Cold War, Congress has cut--by 40 percent--the funding of almost every instrument and institution engaged in peaceful persuasion. The result is the disarming of diplomats by depriving them of the means of promoting U.S. values and interests or projecting U.S. foreign policy objectives abroad. That's the reality of isolationism and disengagement.

Inspiring a generation immersed in domestic politics to appreciate the complexities of policies for the United States in the post-Cold War era is a monumental challenge--and a goal not advanced by the misleading opinions of Mr. Krauthammer.

DONALD R. NORLAND

Washington