Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz says, "I think Iraq can be an inspiration to the Muslim world and the Arab world, that Arabs and Muslims can create a democratic country. . . . Many people have done it in the latter part of the 20th century. It is time for the Arabs to do it now" [news story, April 7]. This is the kind of wishful thinking that contributed to U.S. failures such as that in Vietnam.

A viable democracy has never been established by the nobility or the oligarchs at the top or the peasants or the workers at the bottom. Democracy is a middle-class phenomenon.

Until people are educated -- not indoctrinated -- enough to make informed decisions at the ballot box, until they respect contracts and an independent judiciary, until there is political and price stability, there will be no democracy.

That is a tall order for Iraq. I hope that our leaders, in their efforts to remake the Arab world, will look less to the U.S. Treasury and more to the resources of the area in question.

A. DANE BOWEN JR.

Alexandria

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It has been reported that U.S. forces have been told not to put up American flags in areas they control in Iraq, lest they be seen as occupiers.

But it might be of great psychological benefit for the Iraqis to see American flags flying beside Iraqi ones. That would convey that we are there as allies and that our two countries are together as enemies of the former regime.

ALBERT ARKING

Potomac

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Wayne S. Smith of the Center for International Policy said it is a basic rule of warfare that the attacking force must be numerically superior to the defending force [letters, April 4].

Going back at least to the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, U.S. forces conducting offensive operations have often been outnumbered yet have emerged victorious. The 1991 Persian Gulf War pitted roughly 500,000 coalition troops against some 900,000 Iraqi soldiers. The D-Day landing force of 176,000 troops, of which only about a third were on the beach in the first days, was outnumbered by the German 7th Army.

The Arab-Israeli wars show that this is not just a U.S. phenomenon. Military superiority is more than a matter of numbers, and it can result from better training, force-to-space ratios, doctrine, war plans, leadership or technology.

Further, Mr. Smith's comment that, because they have never been in battle, President Bush and his senior advisers should leave war direction to the generals is a violation of a basic rule of war, most famously postulated by Carl von Clausewitz -- that war is always a political act and thus must be directed by the government.

Does Mr. Smith think Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt should have stepped away from managing their wars because of their paucity of combat experience?

KELLY L. ERICKSON

Charlottesville