What is it for?

My fear is that the so-called bipartisan commission represents, or could represent, a smokescreen for the administration to get its way on the issues developing in Central America.

And I am not sure the administration's "way" is the right way, or the way our people would have us pursue. I want us to be militarily secure, but I don't want us to blunder into a possible quagmire.

I have repeatedly said our nation should not be hamstrung by the mistakes of Vietnam-- that we should not be militarily paralyzed by that experience. We should, however, learn from that decade-long war.

In the same week the national commission on Central America is announced, we learn: 1) that the administration is planning massive and extended military maneuvers in the area; and 2) that the administration is going to ask for $400 million in additional economic and military aid for Central America.

It almost sounds as if the commission, which I doubt has had an opportunity to even sit at the same table, has had its decisions made for it. It almost sounds as if the administration has already drawn up its agenda, and merely wants a commission to ratify that agenda.

There seems to be an element of policy-making-through-public-relations in the appointment of a commission. Is the commission's possible recommendation already a fait accompli?

Last week The Post quoted a senior official as saying the economic proposal the administration made for Central America was in anticipation that the commission would make recommendations for major increases.

In addition, an administration official told The Post that "it will be more difficult for the Democrats to dodge their responsibility once the dimensions of the problem are properly framed" by the commission.

The administration seems to have second sight into the commission's thought processes.

I would hope we would not rush pell-mell into a military adventure in this area. I would hope we would go slow, and think about the options and the consequences.

I would hope we would put more confidence in the Contadora group--the ideas of Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Panama--and work toward a regional peace.

Even the Nicaraguans are talking about a regional effort. Even Nicaragua is talking about negotiations on a reasonable basis. Even Nicaragua is talking about putting a stop to the transmission of arms into the area by any foreign country, including the United States, including Cuba, including the Soviet Union, or whatever. Nicaraguans are suddenly wanting to negotiate, and on a reasonable basis.

I would hope that at a time when Nicaragua is stating a willingness for reasonable peace talks, we would not be rattling our sabers. We should not be attempting to intimidate.

One hears a lot these days about Democrats afraid of being cast in the role of "losing El Salvador." I believe it is politically callous to frame the turmoil in Central America in terms of "who might lose this or who might lost that."

American lives are involved already. If it is wrong to increase our involvement, and if it is not in our national interest, then American blood should not be spilled.

Whatever action is taken should be taken in the interest of what is best for the United States. If it becomes our national security interest to take other action, then we have a duty and responsibility to act within those U.S. interests. But I am not going to frame my thoughts on this subject within the context of political threat as to who lost El Salvador.