It is said some leaders are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them. President George W. Bush, by any standard an inexperienced candidate who won a disputed election, might have a chance to succeed in the latter category. With each passing day it becomes clearer that his presidency is likely to be defined by his actions following the September 11 attacks. Within hours of the first missiles landing on Kabul, his popularity soared even higher, hitting 95 per cent according to some polls. Almost as high are figures showing Americans support a long and possibly bloody conflict. After some painful early wobbles, Mr Bush appears to have found his voice, promoting the war as a fight America must win to preserve its freedom yet repeating it is not a fight against Islam. ''The battle is now joined on many fronts,'' he said. ''We will not waver, we will not tire, we will not falter.'' Promising unprecedented humanitarian relief for Afghans, as well as bombs, he is leading his nation into largely uncharted waters. Nation-building was never supposed to be part of Mr Bush's ''distinctly American internationalism''. His talk of war is balanced by repeated references to America's multicultural society. Mr Bush has told his security chiefs that no backlash or hate crimes will be tolerated while also reaching out to Muslim leaders. Domestically, Mr Bush is also apparently leading America into a new era as it rallies behind the flag. Commentators suggest the war on terrorism could define society - its freedoms, its foreign policy and cultural norms - almost as much as the anti-communism of the 1950s. Mr Bush may be trying to be more inclusive internationally, but only if US security is being served. Americans, who traditionally guard their freedoms fiercely, are being encouraged to report their suspicions and accept intrusions on their privacy in the name of security. Accompanying Mr Bush's popularity, however, is the fact that it is a war he must win - even if victory is difficult to define. The American public is united at the moment, but will eventually want results. An Osama bin Laden on the loose and more domestic attacks in months and years to come would quickly undermine Mr Bush's leadership. ''It is a new war and a new world we are facing,'' one White House official said privately. ''But we know some of the political basics still apply. Mr Bush, as much as anyone, knows this is a war he must win cleanly and quickly so we can all go back to living our lives.'' Should victory come soon, attention will then turn to what Mr Bush does with his new authority. Presumably, it could secure him a second term and give him the power to make sweeping policy changes. Here he has an interesting example. Many political insiders soured on his father, former president George Bush, after he squandered the goodwill following the Gulf War victory. ''He just lost interest . . . he could have done so much inside the country,'' one Republican strategist said.