Jessica Mathews [op-ed, Jan. 28] asks, "Why War? And Why Now?" My answer: If not now, when?

Those who oppose action in Iraq never seem to cite a date at which action would become justified. It is always about giving inspectors more time to do their job. But goals without deadlines are merely wishes.

The onus is on Iraq to prove that it has disarmed. Its resistance to U.N. efforts, detailed by Hans Blix [front page, Jan. 28], is proof that Saddam Hussein has no intention of seizing this "last chance" to comply. He understands that, absent U.S. pressure, the spineless United Nations will allow him to continue his cat-and-mouse game.

Ms. Mathews pointed out the financial cost of a war and the lack of international support for it, but how can she put money and the politically motivated positions of foreigners ahead of national security? And since when do France and Germany have a say in how we protect our citizens?

Ms. Mathews said the "status quo is safe for the American people." But does anyone really believe that terrorists are sitting around waiting for us to invade Iraq before they set their deadly plans in motion, or that Iraq will not assist terrorists?

Coalition-building is great, but going it alone sends a message to other prospective threats that we will not allow international opinion and partisan politics to weaken our resolve to defend this great nation.

JOHN PHILLIPS

Vienna

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So we beat up Iraq in a few weeks or days.

Then what? Have we considered the postwar period? Do we estimate that an army of occupation will have to stay for one year or five years? After all, we still have troops in Korea (after 50 years).

How do we plan to sort out ethnic factions and decide who is to run the place? The enmity of Muslim people is a sure result of a war with Iraq, which will make travel in the Middle East dangerous for Americans.

What is the estimated cost of rebuilding a postwar Iraq? The list of concerns goes on and on, but we have heard nothing of them.

GERRY DUNPHY

Washington

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No one is mentioning one compelling reason to delay war with Iraq: An invasion would increase the chances that Saddam Hussein would supply terrorists or send his own terrorists to the United States.

Shouldn't we delay an invasion until we are better prepared to meet this threat? Until we at least have fully funded our homeland security program and put national vaccination programs in place?

RAY EARNEST

Easton