The Bush administration's rallying call that America is a nation at war is increasingly ringing hollow to men and women in uniform, who argue in frustration that America is not a nation at war, but a nation with only its military at war.
From bases in Iraq and across the United States to the Pentagon and the military's war colleges, officers and enlisted personnel quietly raise a question for political leaders: if America is truly on a war footing, why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large?
There is no serious talk of a draft to share the burden of fighting across the broad citizenry, and neither Republicans nor Democrats are pressing for a tax increase to force Americans to cover the $5 billion a month in costs from Iraq, Afghanistan and new counterterrorism missions.
"Nobody in America is asked to sacrifice, except us," said one officer just back from a yearlong tour in Iraq, voicing a frustration now drawing the attention of academic specialists in military sociology.
"For most Americans," said an officer with a year's experience in Iraq, "their role in the war on terror is limited to the slight inconvenience of arriving at the airport a few hours early."
David C. Hendrickson, a scholar on foreign policy and the presidency at Colorado College, said, "Bush understands that the support of the public for war - especially the war in Iraq - is conditioned on demanding little of the public."
The public wants very much to support the troops" in Iraq, he said. "But it doesn't really believe in the mission. Most consider it a war of choice, and a majority - although a thin one - thinks it was the wrong choice."
Most Americans support the military, he said, and "feel like there is somebody out there taking care of the job."
"They say, 'I'm going to support those people, I believe in those people and God bless those people,' " he said. "By doing that, they can wash their hands of it."
As I've said before, it is not to the advantage of the Bush cabal for folks to give much thought to this criminal war. They might raise questions that would upset the apple cart. The questions are being asked anyway, but not by the people who would be embarassed to admit they've been chumped by Bush.
Too many people are content to let our troops die and hope it all works out, and, if it doesn't, it's no skin off their ass. When they find out the truth, that their silence and tacit approval enabled and exacerbated the whole deal, I hope they carry guilt to the grave.