January 05 2008
A mother-of-pearl Vietnam war Zippo replica lighter by Hanoi-based US artist Bradford Edwards is photographed at his Hanoi studio, in December 2007. Edwards has collected Vietnam war Zippo lighters engraved with war themes by the US soldiers who used them, from combat slogan to peace messages, and used them to inspire his art work.
(AFP/Frank Zeller)
THE BACK BURNER

I saw a couple of interesting things from and about the troops over the holidays.

One was an interview with a soldier who was talking about what he called, "this war." He was ordering an omelet for breakfast, maybe a Burger King burger and shake for lunch, and a steak at night; then, he goes on patrol. Sure beats Vietnam, where C-rats were the constant. What he was attempting to convey, I think, is that we're in a different kind of war and even those fighting it are confused.

I don't doubt there's been progress made in Iraq in terms of violence reduction but even the "everyman," General Petraeus covers his posterior and warns of uncertainties. (Thank you General for that insight). Over the long haul, I don't see how our present strategy can work-we are not going to stay in Iraq forever.

Our main source of pride now are the Sunni types who were our enemy and now our friends-get the insurgency on your side is the first rule of the counter-insurgency manual. We've done it, but we have a Shiite government that I doubt is going to put aside generations of distrust and get in bed together with the Sunnis. I wish the Sunnis and Shiites would work together, but one scenario is out and out civil war.

A definite observation is that Iraq, in addition to looking more and more like Vietnam operationally, is looking more and more like Vietnam in terms of benign neglect. Iraq is not the main topic of conversation among a public that is only partially interested anyway.

Mostly, it has moved from a headline to page three, much like Vietnam did as a war until the anti-Vietnam posturing captured the media's attention. Then it was not on the war, but the anti-war. The Vietnam war and the warrior were mostly forgotten or at least put on the back burner.

Iraq is quickly becoming a war of casual interest by the general public. A good clue is how little the presidential candidates are making Iraq an issue-either getting out or the future. They're reading the minds of the public. Less and less are they questioned about their stands concerning the war. These are hints of things to come. This is not good.




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