Winning the Peace

Over the past two years, America has proved again that we have the finest military force in the world.

Over the past two years, America has proved again that we have the finest military force in the world.  In Afghanistan and Iraq, the men and women of America's military performed with great bravery and skill. In defeating the Taliban and removing Saddam Hussein's regime from power, they demonstrated that the United States possesses the world's best-trained troops equipped with the most sophisticated weapons.   

But these decisive military victories have been followed by a peace where success has not been so clear.  First in Afghanistan, and now in Iraq, our efforts to help these societies get back on their feet have produced mixed results. To be sure, the challenges in both countries are profound: Afghanistan suffered from nearly a quarter-century of civil war, and Iraq suffered for more than two decades under Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime.  Both countries have deep internal divisions and little experience with representative government. While it is reasonable to assume post-conflict reconstruction efforts in both nations will take considerable time, these realities cannot be an excuse for the overall shortcoming in our own efforts, especially because we have the resources and capabilities to do better.  It is in our national interest to ensure that Afghanistan and Iraq not become failed states and breeding grounds of future threats to America's national security.

This is not the first time we have faced such challenges.  Since the end of the Cold War, thousands of American military, diplomatic and humanitarian personnel have also been involved in major post-conflict reconstruction efforts in such places as Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti and East Timor.  Each of these efforts has had varying degrees of success, but on balance, I think we all can agree that we could have done better.  The fact that Al-Qaeda operatives set up shop in places like Bosnia and Somalia highlights the importance of reconstructing societies so they can better avoid international terrorist movements.

Unfortunately, all too often, our response to post-conflict situations has been haphazard and slow to start.  And once underway, our efforts often suffer from a cumbersome chain-of-command, lack of resources and inadequate accountability.    

The problem is that our government is still not well organized to deal with such situations.  Each time we get involved in a post-conflict reconstruction effort we end up making it up as we go.  We waste valuable time reinventing the bureaucratic wheel.  And we get in unnecessary arguments about who should do what and who should be in charge.  

It is remarkable that even with all the commitments we have made during the past decade, next to nothing has been done to reform the way our government deals with these situations effectively.  Governmental mechanisms developed during the Cold War are outdated and not suited to addressing the complex set of challenges created by failed states.

After more than ten years of improvising our responses to these challenges, it is time to change the way we do things.  We need to improve our ability to plan, coordinate and organize U.S. government resources to assist with post-conflict reconstruction.  We need to train our people more effectively.  We need greater accountability.  And we need to promote the means for involving other countries in these efforts, including institutions like NATO.   

Along with my colleagues Jack Reed and Pat Roberts, I have introduced the "Winning the Peace Act," legislation that will improve post-conflict reconstruction in five ways.

First, it calls on the president to appoint a Director of Reconstruction for areas where the United States will assist with post-conflict reconstruction.  These directors will provide oversight, help coordinate and have decision-making authority for all U.S. government reconstruction activities in a particular country.  They will also coordinate with the representatives of the country in question, other foreign governments, multilateral organizations and relevant non-governmental organizations.  

Second, it establishes a permanent office within the State Department to provide support to Directors of Reconstruction, ensuring that these directors can hit the ground running and not waste valuable time hiring staff and getting office space.

Third, it establishes within USAID an Office of International Emergency Management.  This new office will develop and maintain a database of individuals with expertise in reconstruction, and provide support for mobilizing these experts.

Fourth, it calls on NATO to develop an "Integrated Security Support Component" to assist with reconstruction, building on commitments made at the recent Prague summit.  This NATO-led force will help provide security, including assistance with policing-ensuring that America will not be forced to shoulder these burdens alone.  

Finally, this legislation would establish an interagency training center for post-conflict reconstruction.  This will be run by the State Department, and will help train personnel in assessment, strategy development, planning and coordination related to providing reconstruction services.  It will also develop and certify experts in the field, and conduct lesson-learned reviews of operations.

Having these resources in place will enhance America's capacity to assist reconstruction in four critical areas:

1)         Security and public safety (such as assisting with disarmament and training of police forces);

2)         Justice (such as developing the rule of law, preventing human rights violations, and bringing war criminals to justice);

3)         Governance (such as reforming civil administration, restoring basic civil functions, and establishing processes of governance and participation); and