The March 25 editorial "Day Five" stated, "It may even prove true that the American strategy of trying to focus the war narrowly on Saddam Hussein and his power apparatus, and away from most Iraqis, will make the fight more costly."

The editorial was speaking about a military focus, but we have done the same in political terms by trying to portray the war as being about only Saddam Hussein. President Bush and the Pentagon seem to have started with the notion that the Iraqi people would view the invasion as a referendum on Saddam Hussein, and that given a choice of an Iraq with him or one without him, they would refuse to support Saddam Hussein and would surrender or disperse.

We are learning a painful lesson, which is that even if people hate their leader and their system, they may still fight for their country.

MIKE LAUDERDALE

Richmond

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As a retired military officer, I find the responses to questions about the course of the war to be somewhat disingenuous. These are serious questions about whether the coalition has sufficient forces in Iraq, and for Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to answer them by responding, "We're on plan," is illogical [front page, March 26].

A plan includes a consideration of available assets. We could plan, hypothetically, to complete the operation with a single battalion, and the plan probably would now have us three miles north of Kuwait. We'd be "on plan," but would anyone agree that the plan was reasonable?

The current plan likely will work, but we have forgone the major advantage of momentum, and this has led to the loss of the aura of inevitability that might have brought massive Iraqi troop capitulations.

Yes, we're "on plan," but I don't think much of the plan.

JOHN HICKS

Great Falls

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The March 25 front-page analysis "Unfolding Battle Will Determine Length of War" noted that the United States is faced with a dilemma: to maximize our advantage of overwhelming firepower by bombing "a wily adversary hiding heavy weapons in built-up areas, which would inflict civilian casualties and set back the U.S. campaign for public opinion," or "try to attack precisely with low-flying helicopters and ground forces, which would mean losing more U.S. troops."

Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi loyalists don't have that dilemma. They aren't troubled by inflicting civilian casualties (their own) or military casualties (their own). They have chosen to fight in and near populated areas precisely because they know that U.S. troops will be hesitant -- and rightly so -- to attack them there.

The Iraqis probably would welcome precision bombing by low-flying helicopters in populated areas because it would give them the opportunity to kill or capture more Americans and equipment, knowing that our troops would be constrained in retaliating because of their unwillingness to harm civilians, even when being shot at. So it's a win-win situation for the Iraqis, and a lose-lose situation for us.

A choice like this would confound even Solomon.

MARSHA LIEBL

Gaithersburg

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By demanding that protesters avoid "drawing vital police resources" away from terrorism prevention by protesting, John Reed Stark [letters, March 23] brews a recipe for tyranny. Presumably, we will be under a perceived threat of terrorism for decades to come. Accordingly, Mr. Stark would postpone any legal protest against the administration's policies -- perhaps forever.

GARY M. GREENBAUM

Fairfax