THE day after the 2006 US mid-term elections, a polite but important coup is under way in Washington. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld has gone. Brent Scowcroft acolyte, former CIA director and anti-neo-conservative realist Robert Gates has got Rumsfeld's job. Democrats control both chambers of Congress. And George W. Bush has found that not only can he not stay the course in Iraq, he can't stay the course on any policy front.
Realists are hot again and are trying to rescue Bush's administration from total ignominious collapse out of patriotism and loyalty to his father, George H.W. Bush. Present trends may imply that the Dems are increasingly seen as trustworthy stewards of national security policy and as more pro-military than incumbent Republicans. That's a very big switch. 
Israel, Europe and Japan are behaving differently and engaging in military postures and aggressive diplomacy that was inconceivable even a year ago, mostly because of their perception of the weakening position of the US. States such as Iran and North Korea are aggravating the global order with disruptive nuclear pretensions, while Venezuela's Hugo Chavez flies across the globe attempting to cultivate a sphere of interest melded from oil influence, a revived state socialism and anti-Americanism. Russia and China are back as big power players in the global game; and al-Qa'ida, the transnational Islamist terror network that shocked the American psyche on September 11 more than five years ago, is still functioning, with its two top leaders at large, inspiring radical, often tragic terrorism across the world.
Americans pay a lot for their security - roughly half of what the entire world spends on defence - and they are not satisfied with the "deliverables" they have been getting.
Washington believed unilateralism conveyed US power more effectively than serious multilateralism. When the US got bogged down in a quagmire in Iraq and overtly displayed its military limits, the global equilibrium, already in shabby shape after the Cold War's end, came apart.
But all of this has been evident for some time. The neo-conservatives such as former deputy secretary of defence and now World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, former under secretary of defence Douglas Feith, former Cheney chief-of-staff Scooter Libby and others laid the groundwork in the Bush administration for a "faith-driven" foreign policy of aggressive thug toppling and democracy promotion at the end of a gun that failed to take into account the costs and benefits of their actions, particularly the costs.
The neo-conservatives of the Bush administration - despite the informed objections of many inside the trenches such as former secretary of state Colin Powell and outsiders such as Bush Sr's friend and national security adviser Scowcroft - really did believe that the Iraq war and subsequent occupation would be so easy and create so much momentum for the global US cause that anti-democratic theocrats in Iran would tremble, along with many of the world's worst dictators, at the power and resolve of America's democracy-promoting global juggernaut.
Bush's team not only thought Iraq would be a cakewalk, they thought a good dozen or so other bad countries would simply reform after watching Iraq remade as the poster child for democracy building.
Most neo-cons wanted to start the Iraq war under any conditions because they believed the US could not lose and saw it as a necessary stepping stone to taking on the "real threat" in the region, Iran.
Frum once wrote that Americans needed to beware a revival of "Scowcroftism", meaning a kind of state-based realism that shies away from aggressive meddling in the internal guts of other nations.
Although it is still highly doubtful that the Democrats have a serious plan for Iraq that its factionalised party supports, it is clear that the President can't continue in the direction in which he has been heading on Iraq. If neo-conservatives have jumped ship, and if the Dems are wanting change, the most logical course for Bush is to get logical: to revive the realist wing of US foreign policy and re-establish some of his bona fides with a besieged and overwhelmed military.
The military and the people may have just restored the republic.
a) does anyone believe that the neocons actually believe in democracy per se?
b) do the neocons really believe that Iran is the ultimate threat?
if not, then what are they trying to achieve? and why iran?