Ivo Daalder thinks that Bush may believe that.
In a guest post at Josh Marshall's Talking Points (04/30/05) blog, Daalder speculates that Bush sees the "war on terrorism," or GWOT as the policy wonks call it, has essentially been won. And therefore his foreign policy during the first months of his second term looks like a return to the preferred policies from the pre-9/11 months of the first term.
The emphasis is back on China and rogue states. The Islamic jihadists and terrorism as such are less of an emphasis. Daalder notes that, of course, terrorism was talked about a lot before the election to scare voters into supporting him. But he thinks the reduction in public emphasis on terrorism from Bush is only partly due to the election being past:
But I think something else, something more significant is going on — which is that Bush increasingly appears to think the war on terror has actually been won. That’s not as surprising as it sounds. For Bush, the invasions of Afghanistan was the first phase in the war on terror; Iraq has turned out to be the last. In Afghanistan, Bush maintains, the terrorist infrastructure was destroyed and Al Qaeda was severely disrupted. The terrorist network “has been severely diminished,” Bushed [sic] argued in his prime time press conference Thursday night. “We are slowly but surely dismantling that organization.” As for Iraq, remember that Bush callled this the “central front” in the war on terror as far back as September 2003. With January’s elections and the installation of a new Iraqi government just this week, Bush I think now feels that the terrorists are really on the run — and that he is the true victor in his war.
I am not saying that Bush is right in thinking this. He’s, in fact, deeply mistaken. Terrorists have hardly been defeated and, if anything, the botched invasion of Iraq has done wonders for their cause. But what I am saying is that Bush appears to believe that the tide in the war has turned — that victory is not only likely, but is actually at hand. (my emphasis)
There's always a danger for an administration taking its own hype too seriously.
Daalder's certainly no slouch when it comes to foreign policy. I find his suggestions worth paying attention to. But I wonder to what extent we would really see a difference in foreign policy if Daalder is right on this.
Because the Bush administration always seemed to see the jihadist groups as an annoying distraction from their real goals, invading Iraq apparently having been one of them from the get-go. Certainly terrorism has a higher priority than it had for the administratio pre-9/11, when senior officials could hardly be bothered with it.
But the GWOT so far has been useful as a slogan to promote war with Iraq, pass the PATRIOT Act and scare voters into giving Bush a second term. But the Bush administration has never given it the attention it deserves in reality. So maybe we'll just see them downgrading terrorism as a priority even more.
Maybe before the 2006 elections they will revive the color-colded "vote for Bush" terrorism alerts just for old times' sake.