By arguing that the United States is in a temporary slump in Iraq, as Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees were in April and May, Robert Kagan ["Iraq and Averages," op-ed, Oct. 4] misses three critical points about war and baseball.

First, "significant military interventions" are not games; one serious defeat such as the experience in Vietnam can in fact alter "the fundamental course of American foreign policy" for years. It is hard to brush off sustained casualties as if they were only a bad start to the season.

Second, assuming that the United States can win in Iraq simply because it is powerful and has a past record of success (presumably like the Yankees) is the same kind of shortsightedness that led the Bush administration to assume that a victory in Iraq would be in place when the army marched into Baghdad. (Yankees owner George Steinbrenner knows all too well that the highest payroll doesn't ensure victory; the team still has to perform on the field.)

Finally, the major league baseball season is far from over, and the Yankees will lose to the Boston Red Sox -- a team with a rich history of playoff defeats. Motivation and other unquantifiable factors will be the key to Boston's success and why the wild card will triumph in baseball (but hopefully not in Iraq).

-- Ben Fishman

Washington

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You know things are going desperately wrong in Iraq when we resort to New York Yankees analogies.

I know the Yankees, I've seen the Yankees and the situation in Iraq is no New York Yankees slump.

Despite what the ESPN faithful may think, the world is a lot broader than what happens on "SportsCenter" every night, and now we know the question of weapons of mass destruction was no "slam-dunk." Please give us a little more quality of commentary. We're talking about people dying, not whether the Yankees will have to go one more year, God forbid, without winning the World Series.

-- Greg Henn

Seattle

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I was surprised that the Sept. 17 story about the National Intelligence Council (NIC) report on Iraq was on Page A20 and not on the front page. Yet even on Page A20, important details were left out of the article. The 60-page NIC report set out three possible scenarios for the next year and a half in Iraq, but the story described only one of them. Arguably, there is no piece of information that would be more valuable to a voter trying to decide whom to vote for on the merits of our strategy and conduct in Iraq. This was not just some position paper put out by the Kerry campaign (although the headline of the article, "Kerry Finds Ammunition in Intelligence Estimate," might suggest that). But perhaps I shouldn't complain. If I want to know what is really going on I can always read the New York Times on the Internet or listen to the BBC News.

-- David Pawel

McLean