After two years of dominating United States foreign policy, are unilateralist hawks in the administration of President George W Bush losing
power to the so-called realists whom they have long disdained?
Although internal fights within the administration on issues such as policy towards Syria, Iran and North Korea remain fierce, there are growing
indications that the influence of the hawks, neo-conservatives in particular, is on the wane.
New attacks on the neo-cons by key foreign policy figures, as well as suggestions that hawks in the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office are losing influence in several key areas, including Iraq, are adding to this impression.
While Bush himself still deploys the soaring
"we're-bringing-democracy-to-the-Arab-world" rhetoric that has been a neo-conservative trademark for the past 15 months - most recently in his trip last week to Britain - the growing consensus here is that the decision to accelerate the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government belies a sharp reduction in those ambitions.
Similarly, the speed with which Washington is trying to recruit former soldiers and police - with only pro-forma training and vetting for past
loyalties to the Ba'ath regime of former president Saddam Hussein - marks a major departure from the thorough de-Ba'athification program that neo-conservatives said was absolutely necessary if democratic governance was to have a chance in Iraq.
Even some neo-conservatives themselves, such as Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol, have conceded that the new plans suggest the administration is looking for an "exit" strategy, rather than a "victory" strategy.
But the loss of neo-conservative influence is also visible beyond Iraq.