George W Bush, comparing the war against Muslim extremists to the Cold War threat of communism, has told US Military Academy graduates that America's safety depends on an aggressive push for democracy, especially in the Middle East.
The US president on Saturday took a subtle jab at Syria and the nuclear ambitions of Iran.
Bush chided previous American 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," he 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."
Truman in 1952 addressed West
Point on the Cold War's onset
Bush compared his moment in presidential history to that of Harry 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."
Truman told the class of 1952 at West Point that the quest for global peace depended on the 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 September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The West Point graduates were
the first to enter after 9/11
Bush recounted his strategy for fighting terrorism, saying that the US continues to view anyone who harbours a terrorist equally guilty of being a terrorist.
He received loud applause, muffled only by the cadets' white gloves, when he told of his doctrine of pre-emptive strikes, attacking enemies abroad before they can attack US soil.
The greatest danger America faces is the threat from terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction, Bush said.