By Jim Lobe and Michael Flynn
"Shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, an influential, neo-conservative-led pressure group called the Project for the New American Century issued a letter to the president calling for a dramatic reshaping of the Middle East as part of the "war on terror".
Although many of the items on the neo-conservatives' agenda, including ousting Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, were eventually adopted by George W Bush's administration, the group's remarkable string of successes has gradually given way to a steady decline, culminating most recently in the president's decision after this month's mid-term elections to replace defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, an important erstwhile ally of the neo-conservatives, with Robert Gates.
This essay examines the rise and decline of the neo-conservatives and their post-Cold War agenda. We conclude that although the neo-conservatives and their allied aggressive nationalists, such as Vice President Dick Cheney, retain sufficient weight to hamper efforts to push through major reversals in US foreign policy, the increasing isolation of this political faction coupled with recent political events in the United States point to the potential emergence of a more cautious, realist-inspired agenda during the final two years of the Bush presidency. "