By Tech. Sgt. Elaine Wilson, USAF
American Forces Press Service
"In Lebanon, we will stand with the democratic government in its efforts to rid the country of terrorists and foreign influence and bring about a better life for the Lebanese people," Bush said.
Bush said world leaders are building a strategy to end the violence that started July 12, when members of the Hezbollah militia kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. The kidnapping touched off a series of violent attacks in Israel and Lebanon.
To achieve peace, first "militias in Lebanon must be disarmed; the flow of illegal arms must be halted; and the Lebanese security forces should deploy throughout the country," Bush said. He added that a robust multinational force also must be deployed to Lebanon.
"An effective multinational force will help speed delivery of humanitarian relief, facilitate the return of displaced persons, and support the Lebanese government as it asserts full sovereignty over its territory and guards its borders," he said.
Additionally, Iran must end its support of groups like Hezbollah, and "Syria must end its support for terrorism and respect Lebanon's sovereignty," Bush said.
While the crisis has captured the world's attention, Bush said, the situation represents a "broader struggle between freedom and terror that is unfolding across the region."
For decades, America has sought to promote stability in the region. However, the lack of freedom in the Middle East has created an atmosphere of anger and resentment, where radicalism thrives and terrorists find willing recruits, Bush said.
"We saw the consequences on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists brought death and destruction to our country, killing nearly 3,000 innocent Americans," he said.
The experience made it clear that the only way to secure the nation's security would be to "change the course of the Middle East by fighting the ideology of terror and spreading the hope of freedom," Bush said.
America's "forward strategy for freedom" has transformed millions of lives for the better in the Middle East, he said. "From Kabul (Afghanistan) to Baghdad, to Beirut (Lebanon) and beyond, we've seen the birth of democratic governments that are striving to serve their people, reject terror and work for peace."
At the same time, "we're also seeing those who oppose democracy fighting its progress with all the destructive power they can muster," Bush said.
"We see this in Hezbollah's attacks on Israel, in the suicide bombings that kill innocent Iraqis, and in al Qaeda's campaign of terror across the world."
While there will be setbacks, Bush said, the enemies of freedom will ultimately fail. "They will fail because courageous leaders in the region have stepped forward to defend freedom and set the Middle East on a better course," he said. "And they will fail because millions of people who have suffered decades of oppression and violence will choose to live in peace with their neighbors."
President Bush said America will continue to battle for peace and democracy in the Middle East, whether in Iraq, Lebanon or the Palestinian Territories.
"This moment of conflict in the Middle East is painful and tragic," Bush said. "Transforming countries that have suffered decades of tyranny and violence is difficult, and it will take time to achieve. But the consequences will be profound -- for our country and the world.
"When the Middle East grows in liberty and democracy, it will also grow in peace, and that will make America and all free nations more secure."