Americans overwhelmingly consider the war in Iraq a success, and a majority say the victory will stand even if Saddam Hussein remains at large or if the United States fails to unearth chemical or nuclear weapons, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
But a majority remains opposed to a policy of pre-emptive attack like the one President Bush invoked in invading Iraq, and see the White House, emboldened by its success, as now likely to turn the nation's military might on North Korea, Syria or Iran.
At home, the fall of Baghdad has fortified President Bush's political standing. The poll found that 73 percent of all Americans approve of his job performance - up from 59 percent the week before the war - and that his approval rating among Democrats was 61 percent. The finding is reminiscent of the spike in popularity that Bush's father enjoyed after the Persian Gulf war of 1991.
The poll, taken over the weekend, found that for the first time since 2001, a majority of Americans, 62 percent, believe that the nation is winning the war on terrorism. And there has been a sharp drop in people who fear terrorist reprisal attacks in the United States because of the invasion in Iraq. The poll found that 79 percent of respondents approve of Bush's handling of Iraq, the most support Bush has received on his Iraq policy.
From a political perspective, the Times/CBS News poll pointed to a number of signs, on both the domestic and foreign policy front, of the difficulties the Democratic Party faces as it tries to win the White House and Congress next year.
The nation has rallied around its president and is confident about the state of the country, a not-uncommon occurrence at a time of war. But beyond Bush's approval rating, a figure that typically gyrates, the number of Americans who believe the country is heading in the right direction has jumped nearly 20 points since February, to 56 percent. That is seen as a reliable indicator of the re-election prospects of an incumbent.
The poll also found Americans are exactly divided, 42 percent to 42 percent, on which party would do a better job in managing the economy.