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U.S. Policy in the Persian Gulf

July 21, 1988

Assuming that the point of Jerry Hough's column was other than to elicit outrage at his relative lack of scholarship and academic discipline, it requires comment (Op-Ed Page, July 5). It attempts to equate the Vincennes incident with the Soviet attack on KAL Flight 007 (despite conclusive differences, including the number of warnings and the nature of the perceived threat) for the proposition that "we need to learn from (Mikhail) Gorbachev" and other Soviet leaders who "court-martial officers responsible for major disasters." He cites, among other examples, Grenada, the Stark, the bombing of Libya, and our Navy's "suicidal war plan for fighting the Soviet Union in the North Atlantic" as evidence that the Navy is "insulated from effective political criticism" and is thus prone to err in formulating and implementing the military aspects of American foreign policy.

However, each example of a presumably failed or flawed military enterprise cited by Hough can also be interpreted as a success in the context of the political limitations placed upon the officers responsible for accomplishing those missions. As a separate commentary by Tom Clancy (ironically printed above Hough's column) pointed out, the Vincennes captain was also a victim of that incident, forced by the circumstances in which we placed him to make a grave decision under intense pressure, without Hough's retrospective acuity.

To politically sacrifice such brave and dedicated individuals when their best efforts result in "disaster" would be diplomatically expedient but morally dishonest.

BILL MOSELEY

Los Angeles

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