08/22/2005 06:26 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Let's Have a Plan, People

Here's a Big Idea: success in Iraq cannot be achieved solely by training local security forces.... the military must also work to provide essential city services, create jobs and promote local governmental control.

Unfortunately, that's not an excerpt from the Pentagon's master plan for postwar reconstruction, dated 2003. It's an excerpt from today's New York Times, reporting on a goodbye-to-this-place essay that the commanding general of the Army's First Cavalry division is writing for Military Review.

Mustering its best straight face, the Times reports General Peter W. Chiarelli's conclusions as if they are timely, cogent maybe even prescient -- as opposed to the appropriate response: "Now he tells us?"

The Bush Administration is amassing a nice little group of folks who say the right things about two years too late. But the truly poignant part of this piece comes near the end:

The editor in chief of Military Review, Col. William M. Darley, said in an e-mail message that the essay was part of a series initiated by Lt. Gen. William Wallace, commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where the journal is published. General Wallace asked that the journal focus on lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, Colonel Darley wrote.

Lessons learned -- we seem to have heard that phrase before. Didn't we learn the lessons of Vietnam? Weren't they encapsulated in the Powell Doctrine? Haven't we violated that doctrine top to bottom? Can we learn these lessons again before I stop hitting the question-mark button?