27 April New York Post commentary - Grunts And Generals by David Danelo.

... A year prior to the war in Iraq, columnist Max Boot published "The Savage Wars of Peace," a chronicle of little-known conflicts in American history. Boot argues that Vietnam was a "small war" which, if the politicians and media had not weakened American public approval, could and should have been won.

Many military professionals transfered that view to the "small war" in Iraq: Just leave us alone, give us what we want and let us do our job. But Iraq isn't Vietnam.

Southeast Asia was a Maoist-style people's war, where Americans fought to maintain the territorial integrity of one country against both regular military forces and an irregular band of communist guerrillas. Mesopotamia is an ethnic insurgency, where Americans are engulfed in a multi-sided argument while a central government struggles to emerge amidst the panoply of militias, gangs and death squads.

In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh drove the violence; in Iraq, everybody does. While "staying the course" might have worked in a previous counterinsurgency - we'll never know - the losses of the past provide inadequate justification for the present. Tactics of small wars are similar, but the strategic reasons to fight them are not.

Most of the senior "samurai" opposing either the conduct of the Iraq war or the entire enterprise are themselves Vietnam veterans. This list includes former Reagan Navy Secretary Jim Webb, who spoke out against the Iraq idea in 2002 and is now running for the U.S. Senate in Virginia as a Democrat. Their service gives them "street cred" among grunts - those who order them into battle should have earned the right to do so by enduring a commiserate experience - and enhances the potency of their dissent...

David J. Danelo, a former Marine captain, served in Iraq Feb.-Sept. 2004 as a staff officer, convoy commander and provisional intelligence officer with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. His book on young enlisted Marine leaders before, during and after their combat tours, "Blood Stripes: The Grunt'sView of the War in Iraq," is due out in May.