the stage of historical conflict (Slotkin 1998, 3). By implementing cowboy ethics,
President Bush integrates the myth of the West and the cowboy’s sense of “moral clarity”
into his foreign policy plan.23 By accentuating the morality involved in the Bush
Doctrine, the president can disassociate his administration with imperialistic desires
many Americans may deem as unprincipled.24
I argue that at the heart of cowboy ethics is morality, a principle relating to the
four other key features of cowboy ethics: viewing the world in terms of a good/evil
dichotomy, a belief in the right to anticipatory self-defense, a willingness to act alone,
and a desire to promote international justice. In this chapter, I offer a cross-disciplinary
analysis in exploring how cowboy ethics have been incorporated into communicating the
Bush Doctrine of Preemption.
22 How a state intervenes forcibly in the affairs of another and the justification it offers say much about the character of its foreign policy and of the values and character of the state itself (Dobson and Marsh 2001, 125).
23 Norman Podhoretz wrote that what gave the new strategic formula greatness was “the incandescent moral clarity informing it” (Podhoretz 2002, In Praise of the Bush Doctrine).
24 For a critique of the Bush Doctrine’s imperialistic intentions, see David Welch’s “The Ironic Irrationality of a Doctrine of Preemption” (2003). Richard Falk also wrote in The New Bush Doctrine, “Bush declared with moral fervor that ‘our enemies … have been caught seeking these terrible weapons.’ It never occurs to our leaders that these weapons are no less terrible when in the hands of the United States, especially when their use is explicitly contemplated as a sensible policy option” (Falk 2002, The New Bush Doctrine).