“We’re in for a difficult struggle; it is a new kind of war,” Bush asserted. “We’re facing
an enemy we never faced before” (quoted in Woodward 2002, 96). The president said in
an interview, “It was the continuation of understanding the frame of mind of the enemy.
In order to win a war, you must understand the enemy” (quoted in Woodward 2002, 125).
In concurrence, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers described
America’s previous wars as “conventional,” while Afghanistan was a different kind of
conflict (Woodward 2002, 220).59 The argument is that when fighting the bad guys, good
men may have to “fight dirty” like the enemy.
Cawelti argued that the cowboy story was a predictable story for viewers/readers
to easily recognize the conventions of the genre: the lawman will inevitably save the day
(Emmert 1996, 6). It was a belief the president held as well. On the night of March 17,
2003, Bush delivered a nationally televised address from the Oval Office to announce the
war and, likewise, America’s success: “Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit
its duration is to apply decisive force. […] We will defend our freedom, we will bring
freedom to others and we will prevail” (quoted in Woodward 2002, 356-357, emphasis
At the same time, as a fighter for justice, the classic cowboy’s used of power
could be trusted because his ethos made him impregnable to corruption (Cawelti 1974,
250). Like the cowboy, whose use of violence was justified as it was used for the
58 As another perspective, Slotkin noted in Gunfighter Nation that one of the “moral truths” of the frontier experience was its exemplification of the principle that violence was a justifiable instrument of American progress (Slotkin rev. ed. 1998, 77).
59 “If you try to quantify what we’re doing today in terms of previous conventional wars, you’re making a huge mistake. That is ‘old think’ and that will not help you analyze what we’re doing now,” said General Myers in a press conference (quoted in Woodward 2002, 220).