Chapter One Introduction
I. Reading a Connection between U.S. Foreign Policy and Cowboy Ethics
In this paper, I seek to analyze an approach used by President George W. Bush to
justify his administration’s foreign policies and practices. I am not here concerned with
providing a geopolitical framework for assessing the effectiveness of the Bush Doctrine;
rather, I am interested in understanding how the administration’s assertive foreign policy
priorities are being enunciated and justified as morally upright to the American public.
To counter Americans’ distrust of their government as an imperialist power, the
administration tries to reassure the American people by presenting their foreign policy as
legitimate.1 This approach of legitimizing U.S. foreign policy by disassociating it with
imperialistic desires is the strategy I wish to explore in my work.
Moreover, my paper will focus on the policy of preemption2 contained in the
Bush Doctrine, for at the heart of the doctrine lies an underlying moral justification for
the use of preemptive strike (Welch 2003, 1). Simply put, the doctrine attempts to affirm
the legitimacy of preemption by claiming that the United States must act now militarily
or pay dearly for inaction later (The White House 2002, 13-16). Preemption, the doctrine
asserts, could itself be a defense against the menacing obstacles (i.e. terrorists and rogue
1 In the first chapter of U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1945, Alan P. Dobson and Steve Marsh described the rift between democratic principles and U.S. foreign policy that created a new problem post-WWII, i.e. “the imperial presidency” (Dobson and Marsh 2001, 1-17).
2 I use Richard Haass’s definition of preemptive use of force as coming against a backdrop of tactical intelligence or warning indicating imminent military action by an adversary (Haass 1999,
52). The United States, like other countries, has practiced preemption in the past – that right is written into the UN Charter and isn’t a new idea. However, basically saying that preemption is America’s primary objective is new (Sick 2002, 4-6).