Winning the Peace Next Time

In what amounts to a list of "lessons learned," the Pentagon has drafted a directive to the military's four-star regional commanders who oversee US forces around the world to develop plans that would reduce in future conflicts the instability seen in post-Hussein Iraq.

The 11-page draft, as described by The Wall Street Journal, mirrors Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's goal to reinvent the military into a leaner, more flexible force. The draft reportedly states that officers should be able to track and penetrate terrorist activity by learning foreign languages and cultures. The Pentagon is to develop technology to tag and then track terrorists. War planning should be integrated with postwar planning, and the State Department needs to be involved in the postwar plans and operations.

Considering the administration's mistake of not anticipating a post-invasion insurgency, the secretary should be congratulated for trying to find better ways to "win the peace" next time. But the draft directive - as reported so far - is a mixed bag.

Its strongest points correct two mistakes. One of those errors was to largely separate postwar planning from war planning. Another was the Pentagon's usurping of the State Department's role in running the post-conflict phase. Historically, America's diplomatic corps has taken charge after the military has done its job.

But what seems to be a plan to turn military officers into spies raises key questions. The US already has a branch of government devoted to penetrating the language and culture of terrorists - the Central Intelligence Agency. Is it not the performance of the CIA, as well as its coordination with the Pentagon, that needs the attention?

Officers adept at intelligence gathering fit Mr. Rumsfeld's vision of a lean, nimble, and technologically sophisticated military. But one wonders whether the secretary puts too much emphasis on his transformed forces and not enough on how to decide the number of forces to deploy for a post-conflict situation.

Before the Iraq war started, experienced military commanders and the Army War College warned about using an undersized force to take charge in Iraq. Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki told Congress that significant ground forces would be needed after an invasion.

Many more voices will weigh in on the draft directive before the process is over. Undoubtedly, more light will be shed on the new intelligence gathering function of military officers. Let's hope that the bigger lessons of listening to alternative voices, especially regarding troop numbers, are heeded by the Pentagon.

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