The editorial "Sen. McCain's Foreign Policy" [Dec. 14] makes an astonishing assertion about America's reasons for going to war in Kosovo: "The U.S. objective in Kosovo is not so much to contain Serbia. . . . [It] is to defend America's democratic and humanitarian values, which in turn will promote stability. Democracy promotion lies at the heart of the case for intervention in the post-Cold War world."

The argument has two flaws: First, it does not square with President Clinton's stated reasons for U.S. interventions in both Bosnia and Kosovo, that is, to contain the threat posed by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the security of Europe; second it begs the question why the United States failed to intervene in Rwanda or Nigeria for humanitarian reasons, or why it took Washington four years to restore President Bertrand Aristide to power in Haiti.

Your paper seems to confuse the real reasons the United States went to war in the Persian Gulf (no democracy there) and intervened in Haiti with the rhetoric used to justify the use of force.

The true policy objective in the gulf crisis was to contain an Iraqi threat to the flow of oil; in Haiti it was to persuade the boat people to stay home instead of fleeing to Florida; and in Bosnia and Kosovo it was to prevent a larger Balkan war.

U.S. public opinion certainly is inflamed by television scenes of starving Haitians, homeless Kosovars and slaughtered Kuwaitis. But the reasons we used force in those cases was not to promote democracy but to stop dictators whose policies were threatening regional security and, indirectly, the security and well-being of the United States.

--Donald Nuechterlein