US Navy stretched too thin Regarding the editorial "With N. Korea, Keep Trying" (June 25): The "perilous sea-going tango between North and South Korea" that involved an "exchange of gunfire" should serve as a deadly wakeup call, a warning for Americans that their military forces are stretched thin around the globe, so thin that few US warships were available to defend Seoul's interests. We have a depleted military that is undermanned and over-committed, that should be ready to defend Seoul, Taipei, and Honolulu, committed to US strategic interests but instead is playing traffic cop and hall monitor in the Balkans.

The United States finds itself without a strategic naval presence in the Western Pacific. So stretched and thin has our military become, the conflict in Yugoslavia and ongoing air patrols over Iraq have left the Navy without an aircraft in the Western Pacific. Should China attack or threaten Taiwan or North Korea threaten or attack South Korea, it would take weeks for US naval forces to respond.

The commanders of the Atlantic and Pacific fleets told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ships have been deployed undermanned and the force lacks spare parts for ships and aircraft.

During Operation Desert Storm, President Bush was able to deploy six carriers against Iraq and still have one deployed in the Western Pacific. For the first time since the Japanese surrender, the US Navy is unable to swiftly respond in support of US ground forces in Asia.

This is irresponsible and dangerous. Clinton's policy seems to be to talk loudly and carry no stick at all.

Daniel John Sobieski, Chicago, Ill.

The right to bear arms How disarming! Two articles on facing pages about disarming, the IRA on one hand "N. Ireland told to bite the bullet" (June 28), and the KLA on the other "How the KLA will disarm itself - or not."

There is no reference to the US, and its constitutional "right to bear arms." I really do not think the framers of that clause meant for civilians to keep guns for self protection, but rather to bear arms against a common cause. But also the "disarming" headline would be more so if you had phrased it, in the popular jargon: "How the KLA will disarm itself -- NOT!"

Mary Porter Wise, Miami, Fla.

Movie ratings system Regarding the Short Takes column "Violence: we have met the enemy" (June 11): The Washington solution concerning movie violence that results in "R" ratings is to place the viewing responsibility on the movie theaters. Those teenagers being influenced by films rated "R" for violence, sex, and profanity must get past the ticket booth. What blame was placed on the studios making these films?

What could be the reasons for not putting some cautionary suggestions to the Hollywood film industry? Could it be their support of candidates as they campaign?

Two possible solutions are: Don't go to "R" rated films and if you must watch films, make your selections with care and read reviews.

Phyllis Hazekamp, Lake Montezuma, Ariz.

Fossil fuel usage The guest column "Lessons forgotten from days of long gas lines" (June 14) sent a needed message.

It should be endorsed. The excessive use of fossil fuels and importation of oil are serious problems that must be addressed by the public, the utility industry, and the US Department of Energy.

Donald B. Trauger, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

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