right of self-defense by acting preemptively, stated the National Security Strategy (White
House 2002, 6). The Bush Doctrine insists that issues need not be dealt with
multilaterally (Zoellick 2000, 69). On the question of multilateralism versus
unilateralism in America’s foreign policy, Richard Perle42 stated in a January 25, 2003
interview that, “we cannot abdicate responsibility for our own security. Multilateralism
is preferable ... but if the only way you can get a consensus is by abandoning your most
fundamental interests, then it is not helpful” (quoted in PBS Online/Frontline 2003,
Evolution of the Bush Doctrine). Likewise, the president did not want other countries
dictating terms or conditions for the war on terrorism. “At some point,” he said, “we may
be the only ones left. That’s okay with me” (quoted in Woodward 2002, 81).
Bush’s “go-it-alone foreign policy” (Grossman 2003, 1) is akin to the
“individualism” promoted in cowboy ethics (Savage 1979, 152). In “The Cowboy:
America’s Contribution to the World’s Mythology,” Marshall W. Fishwick wrote that
with the cowboy “the love of freedom is a passion, and the willingness to accept the
accompanying responsibility a dogma” (Fishwick 1952, 92). Ron Grossman wrote on the
president: “His is a vision of pioneer America, where sturdy frontiersmen didn’t wait for
the government. They went out and tamed the wilderness with their own two hands”
(Grossman 2003, 5). Like the cowboy, Bush accepted the fight thrust upon him,
believing that it was more important to enforce respect than to earn it – even if it meant
diplomatic wrangles that the prime minister referred to and that would be ill advised. It would be an exercise in frustration” (quoted in Online NewsHour 2003, After the War).
42 Perle served in the Reagan administration from 1981 to 1987 as Assistant Secretary of Defense for international security policy and was chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an influential group of advisers to the Pentagon. He stepped down from the chairmanship after questions were raised about a potential conflict of interest regarding his private business dealings.