states) thwarting international order and threatening U.S. interests and its model of
freedom and democracy (The White House 2002, 13-16). The Bush Doctrine suggests
that in some cases, attacking the bad guys first is not only the morally right thing for the
United States to do; but it is also the duty of the United States (The White House 2002,
vi). The crux of the Bush Doctrine states that the United States, as the world’s
benevolent superpower, has a responsibility to protect its allies by deterring global
aggression (The White House 2002, iv-vi).
I argue that in order to facilitate the pursuit of national goals, the Bush Doctrine
applies a set of organizing principles – what I refer to as “cowboy ethics” – to pronounce
and to justify America’s foreign policy actions as done for the moral good rather than for
imperialistic purposes. In this paper, I compare the five qualities comprising cowboy
ethics to the corresponding five factors of the Bush Doctrine.3 My goal is to offer an
explanation of how and why cowboy ethics are used to justify the Bush Doctrine.
As the main conduit between government and its citizens, the president serves the
paramount role of articulating the nation’s priorities and its role in world affairs (Kagan
and Kristol 2000, 296). But in regards to vocalizing the government’s ideological stance
or concrete actions, it matters little if the president’s own speechwriters and advisors
develop his language and speeches (Podhoretz 2002, In Praise of the Bush Doctrine).
Instead, what matters is that the president permits particular words and ideas to be put
into his mouth. As Norman Podhoretz noted, “in speaking those words, he assumes
responsibility for them, and thereby makes them his own as surely – well, almost as
3 The five qualities of both “cowboy ethics” and the Bush Doctrine are my own assertions. I came up with these factors while researching the Bush Doctrine and the ethos of the cowboy.