Robert Kagan ["On Iraq, Short Memories," Sept. 12] seeks to establish that policymakers and pundits all agreed before the war that the United States should invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. His array of examples is impressive. However, a broader and less anecdotal measure is available: the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations' poll of 397 foreign policy opinion leaders in the summer of 2002. It asked what to do about Iraq and offered three alternatives:

* The United States should not invade Iraq.

* The United States should invade Iraq only with the approval of the United Nations and the support of its allies.

* The United States should invade Iraq "even if we have to go it alone."

Only 22 percent of the opinion leaders were ready to support an invasion "even if we have to go it alone," presumably Mr. Kagan's position. Of Republican opinion leaders, 43 percent said they would support a go-it-alone invasion, 46 percent said the United States should invade only with U.N. approval and allied support, and 11 percent said the United States should not invade Iraq (making 57 percent opposed).

CLAY RAMSAY

Research Director

Program on International Policy Attitudes

University of Maryland

Washington

*

Robert Kagan said that many people supported taking action against Saddam Hussein for years, but he ignored the critical problem behind President Bush's Iraq war: It was the wrong war at the wrong time.

After Sept. 11, 2001, when the president should have been devoting maximum resources to defeating the terrorist organization that attacked us, he instead used the specter of Sept. 11 to attack a country whose leader, while an evil tyrant, did not attack us on Sept. 11. Not only was this cynical and dishonest, it was and is dangerous.

The United States has devoted only a fraction of the troops and resources it has sent to Iraq to going after Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in their likely nests in Afghanistan, the border areas of Pakistan and elsewhere. Osama bin Laden has not been caught; al Qaeda has not been defeated. Does any American feel safer?

We all agree that Saddam Hussein was evil and dangerous. As Mr. Kagan pointed out, many valid arguments were made for years that he should be removed from power, perhaps even by military force led by the United States. But the manner in which Mr. Bush used Sept. 11 to accomplish this item on his agenda, while leaving us vulnerable to those who led those terrorist attacks against us, is shameful. I hope that even those with short memories will not forget.

MATTHEW EMMER

Chevy Chase