Iraq War Is Drawing Less Support Than Vietnam Did at Same Stage

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Three years into major combat in Vietnam, 28,500 U.S. service members had perished, millions of families were anxious about the military draft and antiwar protests had spread to dozens of college campuses.

Today, at the same juncture in the Iraq war, about 2,400 American soldiers have died, the U.S. military consists entirely of volunteers and public dissent is sporadic.

There's one other difference: The war in Iraq is more unpopular than was the Vietnam conflict at this stage, polls show.

More Americans -- 57 percent -- say sending troops to Iraq was a mistake than the 48 percent who called Vietnam an error in April 1968, polls by the Princeton, New Jersey-based Gallup Organization show. That's because more people believed that Vietnam was crucial to U.S. security, scholars say.

``People simply value the stakes much lower in Iraq than they did in Vietnam,'' said John Mueller, a presidential historian at Ohio State University in Columbus. Vietnam ``seemed vital in terms of the Cold War and stopping the communists. People don't see this as an important adventure.''

The poll numbers suggest that President George W. Bush may come under overwhelming pressure from voters to resolve the war, as did President Lyndon B. Johnson 38 years ago, even though both men vowed to stay the course.

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Vernon Clayson - 5/16/2006

The Vietnam War didn't become unpopular until Richard Nixon became president, prior to that the media made it appear to be a worthwhile war because JFK and LBJ were in office. Even now it is most often cited as Nixon's war and he wound it down from peaks that LBJ built. LBJ, although a crude thug, recognized the war was untenable and chose not to run again, Nixon, also a crude thug, made it his job to get us out of the war and succeeded, becoming the only president to lose a war. His later actions were less than honorable but his resignaiion was, pity Bill Clinton didn't have that measure of honor.