In US, uneasy ambivalence about Iraq
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No matter how they feel about the US invasion of Iraq, Americans generally have been able to separate the warrior from the war. It was not so during the Vietnam War.Skip to next paragraph
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Throughout metropolitan Phoenix, yellow-ribbon window stickers, displayed as symbols of solidarity with US troops abroad, have a prolific presence on vehicles with Arizona and out-of-state license plates belonging to "snow birds" down in the desert for the winter.
At a spring training game in Mesa between the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals, men and women in military uniform received a warm reception at Hohokam ballpark. Army reservists home on leave from service in Iraq say they've never encountered hostility from Americans, including those skeptical of the original intent of the war.
At a retirement village down the road, the president still enjoys high approval. But patience is waning.
For Jo Sheppard, a retiree originally from Iowa City, Iowa, the parallels between the conflict in Iraq and Vietnam are striking. She says that the US presence in Iraq "certainly seems longer than the two years we've been there," and she adds that she wishes the president would order a withdrawal.
"We're always trying to resolve other countries' conflicts but it comes at a high price," says Ms. Sheppard, whose grandson is being trained in military intelligence. "I think we should look after our own people."
Talk of a Vietnam-style "quagmire" in Iraq seems to have faded, however. Northwestern University sociologist Charles Moskos says it's "practically a nonissue" among students in his classrooms.
The war "has not been a traumatic event for Americans," says Dr. Moskos, who specializes in the military. Instead he sees a kind of "patriotism lite" that has not required personal sacrifices of most citizens.
Indeed, a Gallup Youth Survey last year indicated that American teenagers viewed President Bush slightly more favorably than adults - the reverse of what would have been the case when former President Lyndon Johnson was virtually forced from office by rising discontent about the Vietnam War.
Still, predicts Dr. Williams, the Loyola University Chicago political scientist and retired US Naval Reserve captain who teaches American foreign and defense policy, "Iraq will certainly affect the world view of young Americans, but not as much as [the terrorist attacks of] 9/11."
"Given 9/11, they will also be more tolerant of any errors they see in the Iraq invasion, including its wisdom," says Williams.
Recent surveys bear this out. The Gallup organization this week reported that 30 percent of teenagers worry that they or someone in their families will become victims of terrorism. At the same time, according to Gallup, three-fourths of teens say they have either a great deal (26 percent) or a moderate amount (49 percent) of confidence in the Bush administration to protect Americans.
Among the differences between Iraq and Vietnam, particularly as it affects the outlook and world view of young people: The Vietnam War lasted a decade, it threatened to involve them personally so long as there was a military draft, and it ended badly for the US.
In general, the political rhetoric over war in Iraq may have lessened, especially since last November's presidential election. But it hasn't entirely disappeared, and it's likely to grow louder this weekend.
The antiwar group United for Peace and Justice counts 583 towns and cities around the country (up from 319 last year) that are holding events to mark the second anniversary of the war. In New York, the War Resisters League is planning nonviolent demonstrations at military recruitment centers in Times Square, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, including "a civil disobedience scenario."
• Anne Stein in Chicago and Todd Wilkinson in Phoenix contributed to this report.