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Return to Iraq reminds some of Vietnam

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When he announced troop deployments, President John F. Kennedy said the Vietnam War was up to the people in South Vietnam to win. (Source: CNN) When he announced troop deployments, President John F. Kennedy said the Vietnam War was up to the people in South Vietnam to win. (Source: CNN)

WASHINGTON, DC (CNN) - President Barack Obama announced on Friday that American forces are going back to Iraq.

But this time, not as fighters but as advisers.

Gulf War, 1990 to 1991. Iraq War, 2003 to 2011.

And now in 2014, U.S. forces back on the ground in Iraq.

Is this Iraq War 3?

"The United States will continue to increase our support to Iraqi security forces," Obama said. 

In the president's words, "Ultimately this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis."

Some heard echoes of President Kennedy announcing the first U.S. deployment to Vietnam.

"It's their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it," Kennedy said.

Even Thursday's relatively small deployment of about 300 troops, compared to the 165,000 at the peak of Operation Iraqi Freedom, is generating warnings from surprising corners. Gen. David Petraeus commanded the troop surge credited with saving Iraq from another civil war in 2007.

"This cannot be the United States being the Air Force for Shia militias or a Shia on Sunni Arab fight," said Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. CENTCOM.

Calls are growing now that any hope for compromise with Iraq's disaffected Sunnis and Kurds, requires Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to go.

"I think that most of us that have followed this are really convinced that the Maliki government, candidly, has got to go if you want any reconciliation," U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, said.

But more broadly, there is reluctance even within the president's own party about any involvement in a war Obama has called "dumb."

"After a decade of war the American people have had enough. American families have had enough," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, said.

For some Iraq observers, the return of U.S. troops to Iraq is drawing uncomfortable comparisons to America's second longest war, in Vietnam.

"We have to make sure that when we use kinetic power military force it's an instrument to achieve a set of specific objectives. If we don't know what those objectives are or the objectives are unattainable, then military force becomes not only an end itself, it becomes a dead end," said Aaron David Miller of the Wilson Center.

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