I have noticed an interesting, yet inconsistent attitude toward the soldiers by comparing the attitudes of today with the attitudes during the Vietnam era.
Now both the Vietnam War and the current War in Iraq are unpopular wars. But let’s look at how the soldiers were portrayed.
In Vietnam, the soldiers were treated horribly. When they came home, they were considered traitors to the country and that they did something dishonorable. People spat at them when they came home and you were treated as if you were unpatriotic and un-American.
In Iraq, it’s a different story. Even if you disagree with the war, people always treat the soldiers with respect and usually thanking them for serving our country. They are seen with respect, diligence, honor, and courage. Vietnam soldiers, on the other hand, are the antithesis of Iraq soldiers.
Now here’s where it gets interesting: the Vietnam soldiers had no choice in the matter. They had to fight based on conscription. So if they had no choice, then why were they treated with such disrespect?
At the same time, the Iraq soldiers went in voluntarily so they had a choice. Yet they get the honors, support, and gratitude. But the Vietnam War is as unpopular as the Iraq war. So why is there a discongruency?
Here’s my guess. I’m not a scholar in history but my guess is that since the Vietnam war was a drafted war, the protesters knew this and so they saw anything governmental with contempt. The soldiers were part of the governmental program (even though the soldiers themselves had no say). Thus, the protesters saw the soldiers with contempt. Whereas the Iraq soldiers aren’t really “seen” as part of the governmental program (because they had a choice), thus they get the respect whereas the government itself gets the contempt. The more I think about it, it seems like a stretch. After all, the Iraq soldiers choose to get involved and so based on my theory, the Iraq soldiers should get even more contempt than the government itself. So why the discongruency?