Better Approaches to Security Against Nuclear Weapons

The Opinion page article "A Quiet Boost for the ABM Treaty," July 7, rightly warns against rashly proceeding with the Strategic Defense Initiative. There exists, however, an arms-control agreement that the author neglects to note.

First announced on April 16, 1987, after years of secret negotiations, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is an export-control understanding adhered to by 21 major supplier nations. Hindered by its ambiguous legal status (it is an agreement rather than a full-fledged treaty) and lack of any enforcement mechanism, the MTCR has thus far failed to prevent the proliferations of ballistic missiles and related technologies. Still, it represents the most promising alternative to farfetched programs li ke "star wars."

Rather than constantly looking for military solutions to security dilemmas, the US would do well to search for creative means to reinforce extant diplomatic approaches. Mark S. Sternman Cambridge, Mass. President Bush is asking for a $5.4 billion expenditure when reducing the national budget is crucial to our fiscal recovery; when the danger of a ballistic missile attack is no longer a threat; and when the United States Strategic Defense Initiative diverts our goals from nuclear nonproliferation that more effectively assists our security.

With defense-program expenditures totaling $2.6 trillion in the 1980s, Mr. Bush still wants more for the sinkhole. The funds should be saved to reduce an unconscionable deficit or for crucial domestic programs. Ruth M. O'Ryan, Malvern Pa. Iraq and Bush's foreign policy

Regarding the Opinion page article "Bush's Policy on Saddam Was Right," July 27: The author carefully ignores what does not fit his case, such as the differences between Kuwait and Iraq over their borders; and Kuwait's exploitation of petroleum deposits along those borders is not of recent origin.

He also ignores the Iraqi conviction that Kuwait was created by Britain to block Iraq from the Gulf. Does the author not remember that in 1962, when Iraq mobilized its armed forces and threatened to invade Kuwait, Britain not only sent airplanes and troops, it also bluntly informed Iraq that it would defend Kuwait. Iraq then promptly backed down.

Both the Reagan and Bush administrations assiduously courted Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.

As a result, no one - let alone President George Bush and his secretary of state - should have been surprised by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 shortly after Mr. Bush's Ambassador to Iraq informed Saddam that the United States had no position on territorial disputes between Arab countries. Joseph R. Barager, Canandaigua, N.Y. A new task for the military

The editorial "Soldiers Fill the Gap," July 16, sounds like an attempt to keep our cold-war military intact by applying their talents to other uses. I suggest that military units be assigned to assist the Border Patrol in holding back the hordes of illegal aliens that cross daily into California. They are breaking California's budget, as all levels of government and the taxpayers can no longer bear the burden. Today the state of California is paying creditors and employees in scrip because there is nothi ng in the treasury. Robert H. Sawatzki, San Diego

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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