When Kerry talks about the U.S. situation in Iraq now, his major difference with Bush is that he maintains he would do better at winning the support and participation of the international community. Kerry doesn't talk much about using force differently, as much as about having different people use that force.
One reason for both his emphasis on international support and his worried assessment of the state of Iraq may be -- again -- his experience in the Vietnam War. The U.S. exit strategy in Iraq turns on developing local security forces capable of putting down the insurgency and gaining control of the country, so that U.S. troops can leave. In Vietnam, Kerry learned to be wary of the locals fighting alongside him. "There were too many times that I went out on missions with Vietnamese soldiers, only to discover that they disappeared when the going got rough," he told author Gil Dorland for a book on the effects of the Vietnam War.
But Andrew J. Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who teaches international relations at Boston University, said that he really doesn't expect Kerry to be notably different from Bush as a war-making president. He notes that Kerry has proposed relatively "modest" changes in the military, mainly just a two-division increase in the size of the Army and a boost in Special Forces. Although intention is one element in the use of force, Bacevich said, the other half is what kind of military forces are available to be used.
"To a large degree, the way you use force is determined by the sort of forces that you have at hand to employ," said Bacevich, who said he supports Kerry but is playing no role in his campaign. So he predicted that in 2005, the nation will see "substantial continuity in the way that we use force -- regardless of who happens to be president."