George W. Bush, often lampooned for his creative syntax and dismissed by snobs as a lightweight, is poised to become the most transformational American president since Teddy Roosevelt.

The president this week again made clear that his foreign policy seeks not merely to expunge Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda evildoers, but also to foster democracy and individual liberty around the globe.

This is a logical extension of America's position in the cold war, but it's incredibly daring. It would mean the remaking of the Muslim world and the Middle East, not to mention the demise of communism in China, Cuba and North Korea.

Furthermore, it begins with the prospect of a controversial war. The Bush presidency hinges on the confrontation with Saddam Hussein -- and so does the moral grandeur of the United States. Elie Wiesel, the Nobel peace laureate, noted this week that millions died because world powers averted their eyes from Hitler's murderous mischief. But there's a flip side: If we vanquish Iraq, and discover afterward that we merely beat up a lesser power, we will have surrendered moral capital we built up nobly over two centuries.

Free markets and democratic governance make for a more peaceful world. They're not just laudable goals, but smart policy -- but only if you secure them the right way.