While I agree with Judy Mann and Planned Parenthood Federation President Gloria Feldt that Rep. Christopher Smith's (R-N.J.) tactic of holding U.N. dues hostage to the politics of abortion is outrageous, their rhetoric is misdirected ["How the White House Sold Out Women," Style, Nov. 19].

Ms. Mann said, "in a purely cynical move, Clinton was willing to trade women's lives." Ms. Feldt says that the administration made "the calculation that they can get away with sacrificing women."

Family planning is a crucial issue throughout the world. However, it is not the beginning and the end of how our foreign policy touches women's lives. The $926 million included in the House bill for arrears surely will benefit women the world over.

It's not simply overdue arrears or the United States' reputation that is at stake; it's our vote in the U.N. General Assembly.

The administration has been fighting this battle since President Clinton took office and has a solid record of support for international family planning. Further, the administration on many occasions has been willing to allow other issues to take a hit in order to preserve a pro-choice position. My advice to Judy Mann and Gloria Feldt is to stop attacking their friends.

LARRY B. SLAGLE

Washington

Coverage of the U.N. payment problem, especially Colum Lynch's Nov. 17 news story, made clear the bind we now find ourselves in. The deal struck between the White House and Congress will save us from the scandal of losing our General Assembly vote, but it opens up serious problems for the future.

First, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke faces the difficult task of persuading others to accept our offer. If he succeeds we face one or both of the following problems:

* Other U.N. members accept our offer but the resulting resentment and anger combined with our example of unilateral behavior leads to the decline and eventual death of the United Nations.

* The failure of the United Nations' member states to accede to our demands for "reform" in the next year or so leads to a renewed attack on the United Nations, which finally produces an American death sentence on the organization.

I am not sure that the administration had much choice but to accept this compromise, given the late date and the mishandling of the issue up to now, but it certainly does have the look of a Pyrrhic victory.

EDWARD MARKS

Washington