James Traub wrote a nice piece in NYT's Sunday magazine about the use of "soft power" by the US, and that we can still do noble causes, the right way for all the right reasons. And since the Balkans mission tends to get shoved off to the side quite often, I thought it worth quoting a piece of his article because the Soldiers over there are no less stellar: "Last year I spent a day on patrol with the American contingent in Kosovo. I had been told that the Americans never unshouldered their weapons, doffed their wraparound sunglasses, broke formation and so on. And yet the squad leader, Staff Sgt. Mike Chirdon, a 32-year-old carpenter from Altoona, Pa., passed an hour teaching an impromptu civics class in a school he regularly visited and then hung out in a cafe to glean intelligence from the locals. Neither the Italian nor the French soldiers I also spent time with had anything like the relationship with ordinary people that Chirdon had; he was a wildly popular figure. It occurred to me that peacekeeping might be something to which Americans or at least the citizen-soldier reservists who are expected to fulfill these tasks might be peculiarly suited. Chirdon certainly had no doubt about the value of the work. "I don't know how there could be a better mission in the world than this," he said. The world is going to be seeing a lot of the American military in the coming years. Shouldn't we want people including the American people to see our soldiers without their guns or their body armor, to see that they have faces and even feelings? Isn't that worth the price of peacekeeping entanglements? Call me crazy, but I think people like Mike Chirdon constitute a more precious international currency than "Desperate Housewives."(Emphasis mine) Well said, Mr. Traub. ;?