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standing alone and turning his back on the system.43 The United States must be postured

to act independently when collective action cannot be achieved or in a crisis that calls for

an immediate response (The White House 2002, 6). Bush had to prove that a strong actor

like the United States was willing to clearly signal that despite absent support it would,

on occasions where morality was at stake, go it alone. “My attitude all along was, if we

have to go it alone, we’ll go it alone; but I’d rather not,” Bush said (quoted in Woodward

2002, 45).

V. Defenders of Civilization

The fifth element of cowboy ethics is a sense of duty to defend the weak. Like

Alan Ladd in Shane, the mythic cowboy is a defender of innocents against the bad guys

(Fields 2002, A19). In the popular 1953 Western, the cowboy Shane is a “good man with

a gun” who is the sole vindicator of the “liberties of the people,” the “indispensable man”

in the quest for progress (Slotkin 1998, 396). Shane rides into town, guns down the

evildoers, and then rides out, leaving behind the belief that civilization has been

preserved (Emmert 1996, 13). Shane follows one key point of cowboy ethics – namely,

those who have the power to act have the responsibility to act, usually in the name of the

community, but if need be against the will of the community (Slotkin 1998, 399). Shane

represented the nobility and sacrifice of the cowboy, who must exercise his power against

43 Bypassing the United Nations to invade Iraq is only the latest example of Bush’s single-minded approach toward the international community. He walked away from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, an agreement that had codified U.S.-Russian nuclear reductions for decades, over the objections of the Russians and just about everyone else. He refused to pay minimal lip service to the Kyoto agreement on global warming – an arguably unnecessary move, since it never would have been ratified in the Senate anyway. He made it clear that the United States would not consider joining the International Criminal Court, a decision that even some Democrats agreed

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