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For arms control's sake

Joseph Harsch correctly identified reasons for Reagan's decision to stay with the SALT II arms control treaty [``Why SALT II survives,'' June 11]: The overwhelming support for SALT in the Senate.

A need to keep the European peace movements quiet.

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The probability that the Soviets would increase the number of their strategic missiles faster and more easily than the US.

But a reason that did not prompt Reagan to keep to the treaty is that it has significantly restrained the buildup of nuclear weaponry. This, of course, is supposed to be the whole point of the existence of SALT II. James Mullins Somerville, Mass.

After Joseph C. Harsch's article on ``Historical distortion,'' May 14, I had to write. The analysis is so intelligent, and the willingness to share it very important. When I was doing graduate study at the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, an eminent professor, Dr. Albert T. E. Olmstead, remarked to our class that ``Every president should have a historian on his Cabinet.'' If he also listened, what a mass of ideological errors -- past and present -- would be avoided! Ann Putcamp San Diego

Joseph Harsch engages in a little historical distortion with his eloquent but debatable critique of Reagan administration foreign policy -- ``Historical distortion.''

Franco's takeover of the Spanish government (1939) did not ``pave the way for the fall of France,'' as he asserts. The Nazi-Soviet pact (1939) was a greater catalyst in Hitler's invasion of France. With this pact, the Soviets gave Hitler an ally and a secure eastern flank. Coupled with a poorly led French Army and British lassitude, this pact permitted a numerically inferior but technologically superior German Army to quickly crush France.

The author errs with his statement that Franco ``provided air and sub bases to Hitler during the war.'' Spain was officially neutral, and though it spirited some material support to the Axis, it never provided air and sub bases. He is confusing WWII with the Spanish Civil War, when German air units (the Condor Legion) and Italian troops fought with Franco's army.

Reagan is accurate in saying that most Americans felt United States citizens fighting with the Spanish Republic were ``fighting on the wrong side.'' This view was held by many in the US and Great Britain prior to the war. Indeed, US newspapers and officials praised Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco for their anticommunist histrionics and ``economic miracles.'' Thomas Dimitri Charleston, S.C. Mr. Harsch comments: Franco's victory in Spain meant that when Hitler attacked France, France would be fighting with an enemy, not a friend, at its back. In strategic terms Franco's victory in Spain was as much a preliminary to the German attack on France as was Hitler's pact with Stalin. Hitler isolated France before attacking it.

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Many American Roman Catholics supported the Franco cause in Spain. Most American Protestants favored the other side.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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