By Deb Riechmann
Sunday, May 28, 2006
WEST POINT, N.Y., May 27 -- 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, and 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 the nation 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 the 35-minute foreign policy address to 861 cadets clad in crisp white trousers, gray jackets and white gloves. 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."
He compared his moment in presidential history to that of President Harry S. Truman.
"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."
Truman told the West Point Class of 1952 that the quest for global peace depended on active and vigorous work to bring about freedom and justice across the world.
"That same principle continues to guide us in today's war on terror," Bush told the Class of 2006, the first to enter the academy after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Bush recounted his strategy for fighting terrorism, saying the United States continues to consider any country that harbors a terrorist to be as guilty as the terrorist being harbored. He was applauded when he discussed his doctrine of preemptive strikes -- attacking enemies abroad before they can attack U.S. soil.