Give President Bush credit for brass.

Our commander in chief has decided to stake his reputation and possibly his presidency on an attempt to pacify the Middle East, something that has alluded people for nearly four millennia.

The president wants to usher in a Pax Americana, an era of global peace defined and promoted by the United States. Our European allies may bristle at our presumption. Some still think of us as a bumptious colony. But the president's right in setting as his goal the establishment of democracies.

If you take an inventory of our enemies, you'll discover they share two traits: They aren't free, and they aren't democracies.

Well, guess what? People who run elected governments have more important things to do than plot invasions. They've got to fret about the life, liberty and happiness of their constituents.

So the president has managed to combine Jimmy Carter's love of democracy with Ronald Reagan's appreciation of military muscle. And in a crazed and violent world, somebody's got to play the role of dad.

Guess what?

That somebody is the United States.