American policy makers are debating the merits of the Congress-mandated Baker-Hamilton Report of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) announced almost three weeks ago. The gist of the ISG report calls for an American military withdrawal within 18 months, well before the US presidential elections in November 2008. President Bush has rejected the ISG recommendation for a “graceful interval” of US forces pull out of Iraq, implying that the US will remain in Iraq until “the forces of freedom” triumph there.
At the same time, the Pentagon is wrapping up its own Iraq Review. The Pentagon review, led by Chairman of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace and prepared by three American colonels (two army and one marine) with experience on the ground in various insurgency-afflicted countries, provides a much more “ground level” military approach to the American military role in Iraq. The three options mentioned___ Go Big, Go Long and Go Home aims to boost US troop presence by 20.000 personnel, stave off sectarian violence and support Iraq to build a government of “national reconciliation”. There is no mention of a timetable for American withdrawal, though Defense Secretary Robert Gates has acknowledged that America “cannot win in Iraq.” However, there seems to be speculation that a “Go Long” strategy means “a surge” of American troop increase (“Go Big”), will eventually lead to a “Go Home” scenario.
In essence, American policymakers are reviewing the role of US military forces abroad, realizing that superior military technology has limits over essentially social and political problems on the ground. The paradox of American military power seems to be that the more overwhelming its military presence the less influential it becomes on matters pertaining to the local social and cultural situation on the ground. This is true of Afghanistan and even more pertinent to the situation in present day Iraq.