West Point, N.Y. President Bush, likening the war against Islamic radicals to the Cold War threat of communism, told U.S. Military Academy graduates on Saturday that America's safety depends on an aggressive push for democracy, especially in the Middle East.
The president took a subtle jab at Syria and the nuclear ambitions of Iran. He chided previous U.S. administrations, saying that decades of excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make America safer.
"This is only the beginning," Bush said. "The message has spread from Damascus to Tehran that the future belongs to freedom, and we will not rest until the promise of liberty reaches every people in every nation."
Bush delivered his 35-minute foreign policy address to 861 cadets, all clad in crisp white slacks and gray jackets. Overcast skies threatened rain but did not dampen the graduates' enthusiasm for the president's tough talk against terrorism.
"The war began on my watch, but it's going to end on your watch," Bush told the cadets. "By standing with democratic reforms across a troubled region, we will extend freedom to millions who have not known it and lay the foundation for peace for generations to come."
Bush compared his moment in presidential history to that of President Truman's.
"As President Truman put it towards the end of his presidency, 'When history says that my term of office saw the beginning of the Cold War, it will also say that in those eight years we set the course that can win it.' His leadership paved the way for subsequent presidents from both political parties - men like Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan - to confront and eventually defeat the Soviet threat," Bush said.
"Today, at the start of a new century, we are again engaged in a war unlike any our nation has fought before, and like Americans in Truman's day, we are laying the foundations for victory."