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II. Good versus Evil

The second defining factor of cowboy ethics is viewing the world in terms of a

good-evil dichotomy. John G. Cawelti characterized the Western genre as supplying

simple stories in which plot and characterization follow clear-cut lines: good characters

versus bad characters, with good usually winning (Emmert 1996, 1). The classic cowboy

story “must have clearly opposing players” as well as a set of rules indicating “which

actions are legitimate and which are not” (Cawelti 1974, 124). Savage elaborated, “There

is no accommodation, no compromise, only the sort of wisdom that allows consideration

of the world in stark contrasts of black and white” (Savage 1979, 28). Finally, at the end

of the Westerns, the good old cowboy wins a clear-cut victory over a menacing evil

(Emmert 1996, 1). Thus, the standard Western plot paints a vivid picture of a moral

divide among parties by using moral absolutes like “good” and “evil.”

Fittingly, one of the pillars of the Bush Doctrine is a rejection of moral relativism

(Podhoretz 2002, In Praise of the Bush Doctrine). To be precise, the Bush Doctrine

embraces a stark, dualistic and triumphal worldview. In the Bush administration’s war

on terrorism, the president has figuratively drawn a black-and-white map on which each

country must choose a color. As the president declared: “I view this current conflict as

either us versus them [or] evil versus good. And there is no in between” (quoted in

Schneider 2002, A Reagan Echo). Bush applied his moral absolutism to the United

States’ current political scene when he insisted there was evil in the world, and the United

States must call evil by its name.30 Reiterating his belief in moral absolutism, Bush

30 From his West Point speech, Bush said: “We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name” (quoted in Podhoretz 2002, In Praise of the Bush Doctrine). In another incident, while making a brief statement to the press, Bush referred to “evil” or “evildoers” seven times (Woodward 2002, 94). Bush pinned Iran, Iraq and North Koreans as the

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