How long should NATO stay in Balkans? Regarding a question which Monitor articles and editorials have addressed -namely, how long might the United States remain in force in a peacekeeping role in the Balkans, were that possibility to be enacted: I would say the 20th century justifies a long stay - perhaps several decades.

The Balkans - Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Kosovo, etc. - have been the tinderbox that ignited one world war, several ongoing civil and ethnic regional wars, and several episodes of frightful genocide. It is in our interest to defuse the power of that region to ignite more wars.

As the world's strongest military power, we will be drawn into any significant international conflict in the world. It is in our interest to prevent civil wars from escalating into such international conflicts.

How long should we be prepared to participate in peacekeeping? How long did it take us to "de-Nazify" Germany? How long did it take us to democratize Japan? How long will it take for us to detoxify the virulent ethnic and religious conflicts of the Balkans region? Surely the region deserves as much care and time as our modernization of Germany and Japan. Decades is not an unreasonable estimate or responsibility.

Ronald Tobey Riverside, Calif.

Uncertain future in Kosovo Helena Cobban's April 1 opinion article entitled "Three calls Clinton ought to make on Kosovo" advocates a return to the pre-bombing status quo, which included the presence of 1,400 unarmed civilian monitors in Kosovo from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Since there is every reason to believe that Slobodan Milosevic would once again refuse permission for an armed NATO peacekeeping force there, does Cobban really think the unarmed OSCE civilian monitors could handle the situation this time around? Would the refugees return under those circumstances? Would she, if she were one of those refugees?

Does Cobban really think that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan could broker a deal with the likes of Milosevic that would allow the return of the refugees "to what would be, at the very best, a totally demilitarized province," thus leaving the Serbs to the mercies of the very bitter ethnic Albanians?

Finally, Cobban quotes the Dalai Lama as saying "Through nonviolence, whatever we achieve, there is no negative side-effect." But what, pray tell, has been a positive side-effect for the Tibetans living in what they hope could be their country, Tibet?

Doris Sutter San Rafael, Calif.

Hoop changes Regarding sports columnist Douglas Looney's recent article on changing basketball rules ("Here's how to make a wonderful game better," April 2): First Looney says "enforce the rules," and then he laments the "constant whistles for fouls." You cannot have it both ways. Enforcing the rules to a greater degree will just lead to more foul shooting. Further, I disagree that the rules are not being enforced now. The average collegiate game now averages over 45 fouls a game. What is this if not enforcing the rules?

Looney must not be a true basketball fan, or he would not have left out the most obvious solution to improving the game at the collegiate and professional levels: Raise the basket and make the ball bigger.

Collegiate and professional basketball uses the same basket height and same size ball as high-school freshmen. The basket must be raised and the ball must be made bigger if the game is to become less physical and return to a more finesse-orientated contest.

Ray Lutz Colorado Springs, Colo.

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