This week marks the start of the fifth year that the US has been involved in a war in Iraq. Every stock-taking on the TV and in the papers seems to have the same stats: 3,210 American dead; 65,000 Iraqi dead (although nobody really knows); $300 billion spent. In Congress, the Democrats are trying to pass a bill that would ensure that all American troops are out of Iraq by autumn 2008.
In his fourth anniversary message yesterday, President Bush said he would veto any bill containing an arbitrary deadline. Bush’s tone was appropriately solemn and dour. He has finally learnt to avoid "mission accomplished" boastfulness. The new tone coming out of the administration is epitomised by Bob Gates – the defence secretary. He has completely eschewed Rumsfeldian cockiness and the "stuff happens" approach. On television over the weekend he made a point of saying that he writes to the family of every American killed in Iraq.
People I know at the State Department say that the internal Washington war between the Pentagon, State and the National Security Council has effectively ended now that Rumsfeld and his coterie are out of power. Gates is also deliberately not prematurely claiming success for "the surge" of American troops into Iraq.
But behind the scenes the Bush people are actually more bullish than I have seen them for a while.