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'Nicaraguan Obsession'

November 26, 1986

According to "reliable military sources" (Times, Nov. 4), the contras committed a serious error in engaging Nicaraguan troops in conventional battle. The sources said that the contras are not equipped or trained for such battle and that the purpose of such warfare is to gain and hold territory, something that "obviously is not their purpose."

Statements such as this lend credibility to the view that nothing short of a massive U.S. invasion will result in the deposal of the Sandinista regime and lead one to ask what the purpose of contra support then is?

If the contras are incapable of taking Nicaragua without a substantial escalation in U.S. involvement and we do not perceive in the existence of the Sandinista regime a threat grave enough to warrant such escalation, then our present policy must aim at something other than the overthrow of that regime.

However, it can't be that we're trying to force the Sandinistas to the bargaining table--they're there--and surely we don't expect the contras to win by attrition--they've yet to hold a single Nicaraguan town.

Perhaps the Administration plans to escalate U.S. involvement to a level just short of bringing in U.S. troops. (The recently approved contra-aid package would seem to support this.) But if this is the case it is time for a thorough reassessment of our interests and objectives in the region, if only for the moral implications. For there is something terribly immoral about a democracy that arms surrogates for a cause that it is itself unwilling to fight for. It only adds to the opprobrium that the victims of this war have been for the most part Nicaraguan civilians.

Whatever our aims we must hold no delusion; war means death. We have it within our power to continue, escalate, or cease the present conflict. I hope we understand the implications of each option.



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