President Bush says a premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq would make America less secure.
President Bush says he understands that some Americans are anxious about the future, with a changing job market at home and U.S. troops continuing to die in Iraq.
Mr. Bush said there is a tendency in American economic and foreign policy to pull-back in times of uncertainty, with some people asking why Washington should try to compete or spread freedom when the world is a dangerous place.
The president said that it would be a missed opportunity to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come.
"See, part of my foreign policy is this," Mr. Bush said. I believe that there is an Almighty, and I believe that the Almighty's gift to everybody on the face of the earth, regardless of where they live, or regardless of their religion, is freedom. And I believe, deep in everybody's soul, is the deep desire to live in freedom. And I believe that this country, if it were to retreat, would miss an opportunity to help others realize their dream. And I also know that history has proven that free societies yield the peace that we all want."
President Bush continued to follow-up on many of the themes from Tuesday's State of the Union address, during a Friday panel discussion in the southwest state of New Mexico about increasing American competitiveness.
Mr. Bush said he recognizes there is anxiety in the nation about increased competition for jobs from China and India, but he said the world is going to be competitive, whether America is in the mix or not. If U.S. children do not learn the skills to compete for more high-tech jobs, Mr. Bush said those jobs are not going to go away, they are going to go overseas.
He is pushing Congress for more funding for math and science education and greater federal spending on research and development.
Militarily, the president rejected calls by some Congressional Democrats for a more detailed breakdown of what needs to happen in Iraq before U.S. troop levels there decrease.
He said those decisions will be made by commanders on the ground, not by politicians in Washington.