(1 June 2002)


Susan C. Jarratt

University of California, Irvine





The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had a profound effect on the nation, and a paradoxically vitalizing effect on the new president, George W. Bush. From an uncertain figure who seemed to lack confidence, a clear electoral mandate, and rhetorical skill, Bush was transformed into a "war" president, one who from the first day of the attacks began to reformulate U.S. foreign policy and to speak with passion and conviction. Bush's graduation speech at West Point about nine months after the attacks is notable for its articulation of central features of the "Bush Doctrine": a shift in U.S. internationalism away from the Cold War policies of containment and deterrence to an open advocacy of preemptive, or even preventive, military action. Coming six months after the start of the war in Afghanistan, the West Point speech laid the groundwork for the war in Iraq, which began in March of 2003. It also proposed a global mission for the U.S. warranted by a set of unqualified moral principles. The analysis below argues that foreign policy, moral stance, and rhetorical style coalesced in Bush's speech at West Point, gaining the president and his policies strong support in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 but leaving a legacy of division as the war on terror wore on.


George W. Bush's Biography


George Walker Bush was born in 1946 into a family with considerable wealth and a history of political service in New Haven, Connecticut.[1] He grew up, however, in Midland and Houston, Texas, where the rough-and-ready culture made a strong imprint on his personality. His grandfather, Prescott Bush, served as U.S. Senator for Connecticut from 1952-1962, and his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, was the 41st president (1989-1993). George W. represented the third generation of men in his family to attend an elite preparatory school (Andover) and then Yale, graduating in 1968 with a degree in history. Bush claimed that he enjoyed his history courses and learned a great deal from his Yale professors. But as the joking reference to himself as "more of a Grant man" at the beginning of the West Point speech suggests (3),[2] he also acknowledged a lack of deep interest in scholarly matters during his college years.[3] While at Yale Bush took a course called the History and Practice of American Oratory with Rollin G. Osterweis, who trained students in the practice of speech making. From this class, Bush learned the importance of direct language, clear organization, and connecting with an audience.[4]

Bush showed talent as a leader in his college years. He was president of his fraternity and was remembered for organizing sports and social events. After service as a jet pilot in the Texas Air National Guard, he went to Harvard for a Master's degree in business (1975) and then began an oil production company in Midland, Texas. With the oil business in decline, George W. joined his father's presidential campaign in 1988 and from there moved to Dallas where he organized the purchase of a professional baseball franchise, the Texas Rangers.[5] He was elected governor of Texas in 1994 and was still serving as governor when he entered the presidential race in 2000, one of the most controversial in history. His Democratic opponent, Al Gore, won the popular vote, but after a five-to-four Supreme Court ruling on a vote-counting dispute in Florida, Bush was declared the winner in the Electoral College.[6]


One other aspect of Bush's biography is worth considering as an influence on his speaking style and the direction of his public policy: his Protestant religious conversion. George W. grew up with habits of church attendance and maintained them through his young adulthood and early married life. But at the age of forty, he underwent a religious conversion of sorts based on a private encounter with Billy Graham and an apparent desire to change his lifestyle. He quit drinking alcohol, began attending Bible study classes, and spoke openly about his Christian convictions.[7] During the second campaign debate of the 2000 election, Bush surprised his fellow candidates and the audience by identifying Jesus Christ as the political philosopher he most admired. Bush's publicly articulated belief coincided with a movement in the U.S. political scene of more than two decades duration: fundamentalist Protestant ministers encouraging voters to support conservative political candidates. While neither a fundamentalist in the doctrinaire sense (Bush was raised an Episcopalian and currently attends the Methodist church) nor a close ally of the Religious Right, Bush nonetheless calls upon a religiously grounded belief system in shaping his policies and communicating them to the American people.[8] In the analysis of the language of the West Point speech, we will explore further the implications of Bush's religious beliefs for his rhetoric and foreign policy.


Contextualizing the West Point Graduation Speech


September 11


The events of September 11, 2001, provide the most significant context for this speech. On that day, nineteen members of a militant Islamist organization called al-Qaeda (meaning "foundation" or "base") highjacked four U.S. commercial passenger jets.[9] Two were flown into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, causing them to collapse; a third crashed into the Pentagon; and a fourth, presumably headed toward the Washington, D.C., area, was downed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, through the interventions of the passengers. Approximately 3,000 people died as a result of the attacks. The FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice, and other government agencies determined that the attacks were planned by Osama bin Laden, the son of a wealthy Saudi businessman and a radical supporter of Muslim guerrillas in Afghanistan’s war with the U.S.S.R. Bin Laden helped found al-Qaeda for the purpose of training mujahideen, armed fighters throughout the world who subscribe to militant Islamist ideologies and share an abhorrence for U.S. interventions in the Middle East, including support for Israel, military bases in Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf War of 1991.[10] In 1998, bin Laden issued a fatwa, or religious edict, urging Muslims to kill Americans, both civilian and military. Following the 1998 bombing of the United States embassies in two African cities, bin Laden was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for his alleged involvement. Other terrorist acts committed by Muslim extremists preceded those of September 11, including an earlier bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 in the port of Aden, Yemen.[11]

As the most violent act of aggression ever perpetrated within the continental borders of the U.S., the attacks stunned the nation and inspired a multitude of planned and spontaneous memorials in the days following. President Bush gave a memorial address on 14 September as part of a Day of Prayer and Remembrance at the National Cathedral, but a more significant speech came on 20 September to the Joint Houses of Congress. Here he announced the initiation of a “war on terror,” the first phase of which was an attack on Afghanistan, whose governing party, the Taliban, was thought to be harboring bin Laden and al-Qaeda.[12] On 7 October 2001, “Operation Enduring Freedom” began with the goal of ousting the Taliban and disrupting the terrorists’ bases of operations. The U.S.—joined by the United Kingdom, NATO forces, and anti-Taliban Afghanis called the Northern Alliance—engaged in bombing missions and a ground war. By December, Taliban forces had retreated to the mountains on the border with Pakistan, although bin Laden remained at large.

As early as November, Bush began exploring the possibilities of invading Iraq.[13] On 1 December, Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, requested that General Tommy R. Franks, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Central Command, prepare a plan for a military operation in Iraq, the aims of which were to remove Saddam Hussein from power and neutralize any existing weapons of mass destruction.[14] The president reviewed these plans in Crawford, Texas, on 28 December 2001, and he used the 2002 State of the Union address (delivered on 29 January) to draw connections between stateless terrorists and states willing to harbor them. Designating three countries—Iraq, Iran, and North Korea—as an “axis of evil,” Bush asserted that the three “pos[ed] a grave and growing danger” and pledged not to “wait on events” in the face of these threats. The key phrase of this speech attracted considerable attention nation-wide and internationally; it was seen as a strong foreshadowing of a coming war on Iraq.[15] In February, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Budget Committee that "regime change" had been a long-term policy toward Iraq; almost simultaneously, CIA survey teams were secretly entering northern Iraq.[16] Vice President Dick Cheney made a trip to several countries in the Middle East in March, informing the crew of the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier stationed in the Arabian Sea, that our "next objective is to prevent terrorists, and regimes that sponsor terror, from threatening America . . . with weapons of mass destruction."[17] Hosting British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Crawford in April, Bush spoke frankly in an interview with a UK television network, saying "I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go." But in his trip to Europe for meetings with German and French leaders the next month, he became more circumspect, reporting that he had no war plans on his desk. Bush returned from Europe without the support of our major European allies. His primary speechwriter, Michael Gerson, nonetheless approached the West Point graduation speech as an occasion for an exciting next step in articulating the Bush Doctrine. He eagerly anticipated the opportunity to present a "broad and bold new doctrine of American action in the world."[18]


Just War Theory and the Bush Doctrine


The choice to speak at the United States Military Academy on the bicentennial of its founding well served Bush's purposes: to reinforce and specify the tenets of a foreign policy that some have characterized as a dramatic departure from conventions of international law, specifically those regarding the justification for resorting to aggression against another state.[19] The Bush Doctrine is best understood in the context of centuries-old debates concerning the moral judgments about waging war known as just war theories.[20] GAlthough philosophers, historians, and political theorists from antiquity and pre-modern times left reflections on these issues, current principles of just war are directly informed by a set of theories developed from the seventeenth century forward, the era in which nation-states were established as the primary form of political organization. An important figure from that era was Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, who in 1625 published On the Law of War and Peace (De Jure Belli ac Pacis), arguing that nations, like persons, are bound by principles of natural law.[21] Within this framework, aggression is treated as a crime. As Michael Walzer explains, the theory of aggression within international law operates at a fundamental level in the "familiar world of individuals and rights, of crimes and punishments."[22] In its "legalist" or unrevised form, this theory holds that self-defense is the only clear justification for going to war, but as Walzer points out, "this paradigm is more restrictive than the judgments we actually make" and thus requires revision.[23]

An important episode in the history of debates about what justifies one nation's attack on another occurred in an encounter between the British in Canada and the new United States. In 1837, the British attacked an American ship, the Caroline, near Niagara Falls on the pretext that it was supplying a band of Canadian rebels who constituted a threat to British control of that territory. Secretary of State Daniel Webster, in an exchange of letters with British diplomat Lord Ashburton, argued successfully that the British attack did not meet legitimate standards for preemption (attacking in anticipation of aggression from another), which should properly apply only to cases in which the "necessity of that self-defense is instant, overwhelming, and leaves no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation."[24] Webster's criteria filtered into the discourses of just war as a set of conditions to be met in the absence of aggression against a nation: they include "a just cause; an honest intention; [a use of] war as a last resort only after other means of solving a conflict have been exhausted; reasonable probability of success; and proportionality between the end sought and the predictable harm done by war."[25]

At the end of World War II, the international community minimally revised its consensus concerning conditions justifying military aggression through the Charter of the United Nations, signed in 1945 by fifty founding members and ratified by the United States Senate on August 8, 1945.[26] Article VII of the Charter adjusted the "legalist" position on just war by specifying two conditions that legitimize the use of force—self-defense and threats to peace and security—and granted the Security Council authority to determine when a nation is suffering such a threat. The need for such judgments, Michael Walzer observes, requires a revision of the "legalist" position on just war. Putting lives at risk without reasonable threat is judged to be wrong, but calculating when a threat becomes the legitimate basis for a pre-emptive or preventative attack is a case to be made: it becomes a matter for argument within a context.[27] Walzer and others point to Israel's attack on Egypt in June of 1967 as a generally accepted example of a legitimate pre-emptive strike. The conditions of "sufficient threat"—"a manifest intent to injure, a degree of active preparation that makes that intent a positive danger," and a situation in which waiting would greatly magnify the risk—were judged to have been met, given that Egypt had soldiers and armaments massed at Israel's border.[28] Two other features of the revised legalist position warrant mention: the role of fear and the condition of time. Although the fear of the threatened populace clearly comes into play in judging the legitimacy of waging war, it is too subjective to constitute the primary cause; it must be supported by a more objectively derived case for the threat.[29] Finally, the concept of time shifts under this revised paradigm. "Imminent threat" speaks clearly of danger in a present moment: note Webster's language of "instant" calculation and "no moment for deliberation." But more often "sufficient threat" accumulates over a period of time, and, again, there is a case to be made for the moment when a threat becomes "sufficient" to warrant action. Perspectives on just war, both legalist and revised, come into play in debates about the Bush Doctrine, the key foreign policy context for the West Point speech.

During the Cold War, the two super-powers managed to avoid an all-out war through the policies of containment and deterrence, maintaining an adherence in principle to the U.N. Charter. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the U.S.S.R. as a counter-balance to American global supremacy opened the door to new ideas about America's responsibilities and opportunities in the international scene. A set of principles addressed to these new circumstances have coalesced under the term "Bush Doctrine," significant elements of which were presented in the West Point speech. Supporters and critics alike view the principles of this foreign policy as a radical departure from long-standing conventions of international law and just war theory.[30] While the events of September 11 precipitated the consolidation and implementation of the Bush Doctrine, numerous journalists and scholars of international affairs note that its seeds had been developing in the works of conservative brain trusts for at least a decade.[31] Key assumptions about post-Soviet international relations and the policy positions they demand can be located in a document prepared by Paul Wolfowitz in his role as Under Secretary of Defense in 1992. Called the Defense Planning Guidance text, its premises were rejected by then-president George H. W. Bush as violating well-established Cold War policies. In 2000, a think-tank called Project for the New American Century published a report titled "Rebuilding America's Defenses" that clearly outlined a new set of conditions endorsed by the second Bush administration and brought to the test by September 11.[32]

First among the premises of the Bush Doctrine is the enthusiastic acceptance of the U.S. position as the world's preeminent power. Balancing power among relative equals was a precondition of conventional just war theory and a feature of Cold War internationalism, but America's new status in the world scene implied to advocates of the Bush Doctrine that the U.S. was justified in taking unilateral military action and was less bound by a commitment to multilateral, negotiated actions. Adherents to this doctrine specifically reject the need for the U.S. to gain the approval of the United Nations Security Council, the authorized source of international consensus on the legitimacy of military action since its inception. According to the Doctrine, America's new preeminence extends from power to principles and dictates that we spread freedom and democracy to other nations, thus challenging the assumed autonomy and self-determination of states under just war internationalism. The rationale for this commitment to spread the American values and economic structures is established in "Rebuilding America's Defenses" (and elsewhere) through an analogy to the Roman Empire's concept of Pax Americana.[33] Just as the great Roman empire ordered and guaranteed (often through military engagement) the stability of many provinces and cities in the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Near and Middle East, and Europe during the first centuries of the Common Era, America came to be seen by proponents of this view as "guarantor of the current great-power peace." [34]

Articulating America's new status as pre-eminent world military power mandated a shift in moral reasoning. Foreign policy discourse would no longer be grounded in mutual respect among nations in the context of an international balance of power. Rather, the U.S. alone was cast as defender of vulnerable states, corrector of unruly ones, and carrier of the burden of responsibility to defend and transmit freedom and democracy worldwide. Some rhetorical critics analyze moral positions in public and political life in the context of frames: "mental structures that shape the way we see the world."[35] In light of the new stance demanded by the Bush Doctrine as well as the exigency of September 11, Bush adopted a moral discourse strongly grounded in what Christian Spielvogel refers to as a conservative "Strict Father" morality.[36] A world view developed over several decades by conservatives in U.S. political and cultural discourse, this frame casts the president as a strong father, able to identify motives and acts in simple and unequivocal terms of good and evil, and charged with dispensing punishment in the face of evil so as to return the nation or world to order—much as a strong father would control a family. Rejecting interpretations of the attacks as crimes in response to which actors could be brought to justice, Bush, in his speeches after September 11, attempted to shift the frame away from specifics, such as evidence for future attacks, or motives based in political, economic, or cultural situations, and reverted insistently to "dangerously apocalyptic levels" of explanation based in "ultimate, theistic terms." [37] This moral frame holds a view of truth as "hierarchical, fixed, and external to the material world."[38] The role of the leader in this frame is to articulate these fixed truths and to stand resolute and unmoving in the face of attempts to complicate the picture. Thus the frame, with its paternalistic structure, has rhetorical as well as moral implications.


Epideictic as Generic Context


To the two contexts outlined thus far—the attacks of September 11 and foreign policy debates about just war and the Bush Doctrine—we must add the third and most immediate context: the graduation ceremony providing the occasion for the speech and the immediate audience for its delivery. Graduation speeches are a specialized case of the larger category, epideictic: speeches on ceremonial occasions. From the Greek roots meaning to "put before" or to "show forth," epideictic rhetoric was distinguished from legal arguments and political deliberation in classical rhetoric. In the most general sense, epideictic speech functions to display the values of the community.[39] Rhetorical critics such as John M. Murphy and Denise Bostdorff have commented on the heavy use of epideictic address by the president after September 11.[40] In a time of crisis, epideictic serves to reassure fearful citizens and to bolster morale. Murphy identifies epideictic as an opportunity for audiences to reflect on "the means of honor or dishonor, unity or disunity, community or chaos in public life."[41] Bostdorff comments that Bush was faced with the task of "endow[ing] a crisis with meaning" and used epideictic for "associating [himself and his actions] with positively perceived values, deflecting criticism, and establishing value premises for later use in more overtly deliberative discourse."[42] In rhetorical studies generally, and in the case of Bush's rhetoric specifically, critics have raised concerns about presidents' use of epideictic to argue for specific policies, as opposed to offering a broad vision. Jeffrey K. Tulis, in The Rhetorical Presidency, made the case that presidents from Woodrow Wilson forward have used public speaking opportunities—including epideictic addresses—to argue for large-scale policy change. Tulis argues that this profound shift in the function of the presidency contradicts the intentions of the founders and puts the nation at risk because it fosters the use of personal or charismatic power and delegitimates normal routines of governance—specifically the process of debate.[43] The question as to whether or to what extent President Bush made a case for his positions or simply declared them in the West Point speech will be taken up in the analysis to follow.

As a subcategory of the epideictic genre, graduation speeches perform the general mission of reinforcing community values at a crucial milestone in the passage from youth into adulthood. Beyond this general function, commencement addresses have served several twentieth-century presidents as opportunities to make important foreign policy statements. John F. Kennedy, for example, used his 1963 graduation address at American University to advance the case for a nuclear test ban treaty.[44] In a more recent example, George H. W. Bush made a case for a more open relationship with the Soviet Union in his commencement address at Texas A&M University in May of 1989.[45] Speaking at the United States' oldest military academy in its bicentennial year offered George W. Bush an ideal setting and audience for a speech that followed one war and set out conditions for embarking on another.

These multiple contexts reveal at least three audiences for the speech: the graduates, soon to become Army officers; the U.S. public, including the community of foreign policy decision makers; and the international community, including potential allies as well as terrorists and those nations considered to be harboring them. The analysis below, tracking the address to these three audiences, shows how Bush made a case for the Bush Doctrine, revising legalist principles of just war theory and laying the grounds of justification for an attack on Iraq. The universalist moral principles featured in the speech are read not simply as the assertion of a personal belief system but as a framework dictated by his foreign policy position. Likewise, we will analyze Bush's rhetorical strategies within the context of new doctrine and the moral frame within which he places it.


Interpreting the West Point Graduation Speech


The report of the speech appearing in the New York Times the next day captured the scene vividly: "As [Bush] spoke, parents and friends of the graduates continued to flow into Michie Stadium . . . on the narrow, winding roads leading into West Point. But the views along the way of the Hudson River, mist-shrouded in the early morning, were breathtaking, and the mood in the stadium on a warm June morning was festive . . . . [The speech was] delivered in a football stadium under a cloudless sky to long gray lines of somber, white-gloved graduates."[46] The festive atmosphere comes thth rough in the audiotape through the ready laughter of the students during the first part of the speech.

The rather long, humorous introduction (1-8), including references to customs of the institution, addressed the graduates directly as young people at the end of their college experience. In the next four paragraphs (9-12), Bush spoke more seriously to the West Point graduates as soldiers on the verge of accepting their commissions as 2nd lieutenants in the Army. Here he alluded to a previous commencement address by General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff from 1939-1945, given in January of 1942, six weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor (9). In paragraph 9, Bush points out that the West Point graduates are commissioned to the Armed Forces, an obvious point which gains depth when he adds that some are also "commissioned by history to take part in a new calling" (9). Employing the same word in different ways for effect is an ancient rhetorical figure, called "zeugma," from the Greek word for yoke. A graduate's "commission" takes on the weight of a religious calling in the historical moment. Bush makes a parallel between the young Army officers heading into World War II and the 2002 graduates who, Bush pointed out, are also graduating in a time of war (11). Bostdorff interprets the analogy with an older generation as a contemporary example of seventeenth-century Puritan "covenant renewal": a call to younger generations to commit themselves to the values of the community and accept responsibility for its survival. For this purpose Bush used a language of "civil religiosity and conversion," representing the U.S. citizenry as "a special people watched over by a benevolent God."[47]

Considered in the context of just war theory, Bush's references to World War II provided his audiences with a clear example a just war under the legalist paradigm—a "good war" fought in reaction to unprovoked aggression by both Nazis in Europe and by Japan in the Pacific. World War II was a war whose moral lines were clearly drawn, and it provided Bush with a powerful argument from analogy, especially effective for the immediate audience of soldiers and graduates. In its praise of soldiers who have given their lives for their country, the speech recalled the genre of funeral oration: a type of speech originating in ancient Greece and still a significant oratorical genre for national occasions (see Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in VOD). The memorializing of the September 11 victims was a work in progress, and some of the language Bush used the next September in the first year memorial referred to them as soldiers and heroes in the manner of a classical funeral oration.[48] Merging citizen and soldier consolidated a sense of war-time danger and urgency, enabling Bush to blend his role as political leader with that of Commander-in-Chief (8), a fitting stance given that the speech argued for a change in the conditions justifying the initiation of military conflict.

While these opening paragraphs directly addressed the immediate audience, in the next two paragraphs (13-14) Bush moved outward to comment on the status of "America"—a more sweeping, romantic, and less geopolitically accurate term for the nation than "United States"—in terms of its global mission. "Peace" was the focal point for this mission; the word was repeated six times in this paragraph and a total of seventeen times in the speech, giving support to those who interpret the Bush Doctrine as a Pax Americana, either supportively or critically. Peace, in other words, did not mean simply the absence of conflict but carried multiple meanings, defining America's new role under the Bush Doctrine. Bush pledged to "defend the peace" from terrorists and tyrants (13), a goal of national protection, but also to "extend the peace" to other nations (13). "Building this just peace" is presented as both an opportunity and a duty. Here we see the Bush Doctrine's goal of disseminating Enlightenment values worldwide. Bush directly denied the implicit accusation that this plan of extension involved empire building: "America has no empire to extend or utopia to establish" (14). In these lines, the speech echoed and then decidedly departed from the stance Kennedy took in his 1963 American University commencement address: "What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war." Bush's disclaimer was clear enough, if empire is defined as direct political subordination and overt extraction of economic tribute. Yet the goal of spreading freedom, liberty, and economic prosperity to the entire world still implies a measure of control. Michael Ignatieff, in a much-cited article from the New York Times Magazine in January, 2003, quoted Bush's denial from the West Point speech and then queried,


Yet what word but 'empire' describes the awesome thing that America is becoming? It is the only nation that polices the world through five continents; deploys carrier battle groups on watch in every ocean; guarantees the survival of countries from Israel to South Korea; drives the wheels of global trade and commerce; and fills the hearts and minds of an entire planet with its dreams and desires.[49]


From the promise of the U.S. as guarantor of world peace, Bush moved in the next two paragraphs of the speech to warn of continuing threats to the safety of the nation, speaking of a "threat with no precedent" (15), insisting that the "dangers have not passed" (16), and specifying the unique character of the danger faced "at the perilous crossroads of radicalism and technology" (16). Here Bush sought to provide the justification required for waging war under the revised legalist terms described above. He mentioned "chemical and biological and nuclear weapons" as well as "ballistic missile technology" as the material form of the threat, and he informed listeners of the declared intentions of enemies to use these weapons (16). Here is a point at which the listener could judge whether Bush had offered convincing evidence for a threat. Many in the audience would have been aware, for example, of Saddam Hussein's use of chemical warfare against the Kurds and of belligerent statements he had made in the past. Yet others might have viewed Bush's comments as unsupported assertions, not the sort of detailed arguments necessary to warrant military action, even under the revised theory of just war. [50]

The next section of the speech (17-20) constituted the most pointed discussion of the new foreign policy termed the Bush Doctrine. Here Bush directly contrasted his approach to international affairs with "Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment," observing that "new threats also require new thinking" (17). He explicitly pointed out the difference between nations negotiating as equals and "shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend" (17). These new conditions could not be met by older policies, nor would they be manageable through trust or treaties (18). The most significant points in this section concern Bush's handling of time. Rejecting the necessity for imminent threat articulated by Webster and accepted under the legalist paradigm of just war, Bush clearly presented his intention to anticipate future attacks.[51] He insisted that "If we wait for threats to materialize, we will have waited too long" (18). The promise to "take the battle to the enemy" and "to confront the worst threats before they emerge" culminated in a call to action (19). These lines were delivered with the most passion of any in the speech and elicited the most enthusiastic audience response. Continuing to establish a real and valid threat, the next paragraph featured four sentences structured in parallel fashion, each beginning with "our security" (20). References to "threats hidden in caves," "danger," and "dark corner[s]" could be interpreted as substantive evidence, or they might be construed as simple appeals to fear. In Walzer's analysis, fear is a less defensible warrant for just war because of its subjective nature.[52] Bush's use of the term "pre-emptive action" at the close of this section signaled his open rejection of older just war standards, although commentators have noted that the timing and terms he laid out are better defined as "preventive."[53]

The vision of Pax Americana returns in the next two paragraphs, as Bush specified regime change as a goal to be achieved through diplomats or, if necessary, by "you, our soldiers" (21). The global scope of Bush's intentions were made clear in paragraph 22, as he assured that "all nations that decide for aggression and terror will pay a price" and that nothing less than the "peace of the planet" was at stake. There was an epic ring to his promise to "lift this dark threat from our country and from the world" (22).

Both the Bush Doctrine and the revised definition of just war it envisions entail a moral stance. In the West Point speech Bush reiterated and elaborated on a view of morality he had expressed from his very first responses to the attack of September 11. Beginning with a reference to the "moral clarity" needed to win a victory over "brutal tyrants" in the Cold War (23-24), Bush asserted that "Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place" (25). As in previous speeches since September 11, Bush relied on binary and mutually exclusive categories to describe world actors. "We are in a conflict between good and evil," Bush insisted, "and America will call evil by its name" (25). This moral absolutism is traced by some commentators to Bush's deeply held Christian religious beliefs and has been remarked on by many.[54] As we've seen above, an unequivocal claim to moral rectitude fits well within the "Strict Father" frame adopted by conservative politicians.[55] Responding to Bush's use of the term "evil" to describe the terrorists shortly after 9/11, journalists and philosophers noted its biblical, even "crusading" connotations.[56] Some people interviewed soon after the attacks felt that the language of good and evil was an understandably extreme response. For example, Barbara Wallraff, a linguist and editor at Atlantic Monthly, said "'Evil' is not a subtle word. But this is not a subtle moment."[57] Others observed that the eradication of evil is not properly the task of a national leader.[58] More perspectives on this question will be addressed below under "Controversies," but here it is important to note that the Bush Doctrine and the Cold War policy it supersedes, as well as arguments for just wars, require moral positioning, and those positions are, of course, susceptible to evaluation.

Indeed, in the embrace of America as pre-eminent world power there reside both implicit and explicit value assumptions. This position and the obligations inherent in it were the subjects of the next and longest section of the speech (27-35). The importance of peace entered again repeatedly, as Bush narrated the major conflicts of the twentieth century (26). In the twenty-first century, by contrast, "civilized nations find ourselves on the same side" (27) and "great powers are also increasingly united by common values, instead of divided by conflicting ideologies" (28). Later Bush directly challenged one of the popular explanations for the motives of Islamist terrorists: a "clash of civilizations."[59] There is none, according to Bush, when it comes to "the common rights and needs of men and women" (33). Drawing from what he termed the "single surviving model of human progress," Bush enumerated basic principles and practices of Enlightenment philosophy as the necessary elements in his vision of a "just peace": human rights, rule of law, respect for women and private property, free speech, religious tolerance, and avenues for legal dissent (31-34). The vision also included economic prosperity, and Bush promised development aid to countries adopting appropriate policies (32). These utopian projections are the positive contributions envisioned by the Bush Doctrine and were offered here as America's "greater objective," a work that was to extend "beyond the war on terror" (35).

The speech contains contradictory messages on the issue of how these goals were to be achieved. In paragraph 27, Bush announced that "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge" toward the end of thwarting "pointless and limiting rivalries" (27), a statement that was warmly received by his local audience. But he also qualified the goals of the new doctrine by claiming that "America cannot impose this vision" (32). This statement accords with Cold War practices of using aid to reward political allies, but it seems to contradict the plan for regime change presented earlier in the speech and the implications of asserting "military strength beyond challenge." The universality of the vision, and the assumption that all nations now share the same goals, raise the issue of self-determination for states and a question about whether Bush could envision relations among states in terms other than those set by the U.S. Again Kennedy's 1963 speech provides an illuminating contrast. He spoke of a "more practical, more attainable peace" that must be the "product of many nations," suggesting that, "With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor, it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement." In this language, we see Walzer's paradigm of legalist just war theory: nations as people with rights that can be adjudicated. In Bush's vision, the U.S. would correct any deviations from a homogeneous system of values through a combination of economic rewards and military power.

That said, it is important to note another theme running through this section of the speech that does not fit perfectly with the Bush Doctrine: in contrast to the doctrine's justification of unilateral military action, Bush specifically praised alliances—with Japan and other "Pacific friends," with "all of Europe" and NATO (28), and with "broad international coalitions" of nations in the Middle East and South Asia (30). These references may indicate a breach between Bush's own preferred policies and the doctrine as it was articulated in theory by others. Or they could be read in terms of expediency in light of the plans for war in Iraq: allies in that venture might help share the burden of military and other resources needed for the upcoming war. In any event, only a small "coalition of the willing" stepped forward to fight with the U.S. Ideologically, the effect of claiming the right to set the terms of the world's future was bound to have different effects on Bush's three audiences: local, national, and international.

In closing, Bush turned his attention back to the immediate audience and context. Returning to the theme of World War II, he quoted Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during that war and graduate of West Point, on the idea of serving the nation (37). Themes of service, risk, honor, faith, and duty were evoked, as Bush rhetorically placed the graduates in the "long gray line" of West Point tradition (38).




The West Point speech generated considerable controversy, stirring debates that continue to the present. They can be considered under the headings that have organized the interpretation: debates about the Bush Doctrine, about moral absolutism, and about presidential rhetoric.

A most striking feature of the speech and the doctrine—the advocacy of pre-emptive attack—drew criticism from advocates of the legalist version of just war theory.[60] The limits of the approach, write Lee Feinstein and Anne-Marie Slaughter, are being demonstrated daily in Iraq, where the U.S. is bearing almost alone the burden of increasing violence and a faltering government.[61] However, Feinstein and Slaughter go on to point out that humanitarian crises as well as irresponsible rulers with access to weapons of mass destruction demand responses that exceed the limits of older principles of state sovereignty. [62] Principles of this newly proposed "duty to prevent" are compatible with some of the positions expressed in the West Point speech but depart from them on two points: the level of response and the decision-making process. Walzer, for example, believes that the Iraq war failed to meet the standards for a just war even under the revisionist model because the U.S. did not make enough effort to try a whole range of actions short of military engagement ("force-short-of-war") before attacking, nor did the U.S. use "non-coercive-politics"—i.e. it did not involve non-governmental organizations and pursue other political solutions—before going to war. [63] Bush's silence in the speech on the U.N. charter as a source for legitimating self-defensive military actions reinforced the impression of America as an unchecked global power, unilaterally deciding on issues of international impact. Another silence in the speech involves the question of oil: the huge Middle Eastern oil reserves and the U.S. reliance on this resource. Critics noted that if the intention of the Bush Doctrine was to spread democracy to tyrannous regimes where human rights are violated and populations are suffering, North Korea was, even in June of 2002, a prime candidate.[64] Despite his "axis of evil" statement, Bush had not applied his doctrine to this state.

While the values expressed in the West Point speech seem unexceptionable to some, others noted that Bush’s monolithic world view seemingly obviated the need for seeking an understanding of others—and appeared to disregard the sovereignty of nations that had been given minimal choice in the move toward this "extended peace" or "greater objective," as Bush referred to it in paragraph 35.[65] Further, as Richard Falk observed in The Nation, holding up America as the exemplar of a single, desirable vision of moral rectitude impedes self-reflection on our own internal problems:


Not only does the United States claim the right to global dominance but it also professes to have the final answers for societal well-being, seeming to forget its homeless, its crowded and expanding prisons, its urban blight and countless other domestic reminders that ours may not be the best of all possible worlds, and especially not for all possible peoples.[66]


This critique points to the second major locus of controversy in the West Point speech: the moral values Bush advocates within it. While some listeners found Bush's open advocacy of a uniform and unquestioned system of moral values inspiring,[67] others in our pluralistic society, not to mention international audiences, were troubled by this aspect of the West Point speech and Bush's rhetoric more broadly. Their critiques come from a range of perspectives. Philosopher Peter Singer, for example, endorsed the open adherence to a set of ethical principles on the part of a public figure but faulted Bush for the contradictions between his stated beliefs and his actions: the inconsistency, for example, between claiming a Christian ethic and demonstrating a "readiness to strike out at adversaries."[68] For others, the problem concerned breeching the separation of spheres established during the Enlightenment, freeing political deliberation from religious systems and grounding such decisions in critical reasoning. Moral absolutes, it is argued, are more compatible with pre-modern fundamentalism—the moral stance attributed to terrorists—than with the Enlightenment virtues Bush seems elsewhere to value. Louis Menand, in a review of books published about September 11, observed that "The world is never clear, and to reduce it to binaries—good and evil, right and wrong, with us or against us . . .—is to promote blind faith over understanding."[69]

A more pragmatic objection concerned the impact of such rhetoric on the international community, both allies and enemies.[70] For some international allies there is a quality of arrogance involved when an American president announces that he and his nation are the source of ultimate spiritual knowledge.[71] Falk argued that the moral absolutism of the West Point speech "exempts America from addressing the grievances others have with respect to our policies."[72] Finally, designating an adversary as "evil" radically circumscribed avenues of response. Joseph Montville, director of the Preventive Diplomacy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, bluntly observed, "You can't make a deal with evil. You can only kill it."[73]

A third controversial aspect of the West Point speech concerns debates about presidential rhetoric and public deliberation. As one of his critics conceded, the Bush Doctrine, "as all presidential doctrines, aimed to preempt domestic debate."[74] But Bush has been faulted more than other presidents for proposing policies in very broad terms without careful consideration of alternative positions, for failing to provide detailed information upon which policy decisions were made, and for grounding his stances in a framework of belief driven by moral absolutes.[75] For some critics, the Bush administration's rhetoric after September 11, "[i]nstead of opening up the discourse and allowing a democratic dialogue to take place . . ., den[ied] to US. citizens important opportunities for national self-examination and a wide public hearing of diverse viewpoints."[76] Murphy quotes an interview with Bush from Woodward's Bush at War, which revealed Bush's attitude toward communication: "I'm the commander—see, I don't need to explain—I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."[77] On the international scene, because the Bush Doctrine disengages the United States from multilateral obligations, the rhetorical implications, Falk noted, are a "repudiation of dialogue and negotiation."[78] In the run up to the Iraq war, protestors in the millions across the world demonstrated their opposition. In response, Bush observed that "Democracy is a beautiful thing . . . people are allowed to express their opinion," but "The role of the leader is to decide policy based on the security of the people."[79] In this telling formulation, democracy is characterized as a charming cultural performance to be indulged but not taken seriously by the leader, who speaks more as the head of a family than the head of a democratic polis.[80] The emphasis in the speech on protecting "women and private property" (25, 34)—a commitment so unevenly addressed in U.S. domestic and foreign policy—underlines Bush's patriarchal stance.[81]


The Legacy of the West Point Graduation Speech


The West Point speech made history by marking the opening of "a fundamentally new era in international relations."[82] Because the speech was delivered so recently, and because the war in Iraq is still underway, its legacy is difficult to gauge definitively. Reassessments of the Bush Doctrine appear regularly in the press and in academic journals, and while the confidence Bush expressed in June of 2002 has been severely compromised by the difficulties of waging a long-term war in Iraq, foreign policy scholars and others recognize that the new global power arrangements to which the doctrine responds will continue to pose challenges that cannot be met adequately by the "legalist" just war policy. As Feinstein and Slaughter argue, we live in a world of new threats, which cannot be successfully contained by old rules.[83] While they acknowledge that preventative action will be necessary to counter rogue states with access to weapons of mass destruction, they propose that the "duty to prevent" should be taken on collectively rather than unilaterally. Whether the failure of the U.S. military to achieve stability in Iraq will move Bush to work in the direction of multi-lateralism remains to be seen. The inconsistencies in application of the Bush Doctrine unfolding at the present time may lead to a shift away from the rhetoric on display in the West Point speech. In response to recent missile tests by North Korea, for example, Bush has recommended diplomacy rather than preemptive military action.[84]

Another legacy of the speech and the Bush Doctrine involves questions of security, trust, and presidential power. As mentioned above, the intelligence offered by the administration in support of the case for war was seriously flawed.[85] The lack of detail in the West Point speech forced the audiences to trust the president in the decision to go to war rather than weigh arguments for and against for themselves. Further, Bush's failure to account for the uneven application of his policy and to mention oil as a factor in the decision to undertake military action in Iraq can be considered fallacies of argument in that they veiled crucial determinants of U.S. decision-making in the larger field of global affairs. Such silences and failures of intelligence may lead citizens to feel that they cannot trust the president to give a full enough picture of a decision-making process, the stakes of which in this case were billions of dollars of tax money and the lives of both U.S. and Iraqi citizens. The paternalistic rhetorical style of the speech diminished the already small degree of rhetorical agency available to audiences in epideictic settings. In light of these failures, the speech offers a lesson in rhetorically engaged listening. Citizens in the future may be more aware of the need to investigate claims and weigh arguments presented in presidential rhetoric, rather than taking them on faith.

The question of faith (in the sense of religious faith) brings us to another legacy of the speech—a sharp division among citizens about to what extent and in what ways moral commitments, especially those grounded in religious beliefs, should come into play in deliberations about public policy. Many recognize the significance of moral and religious commitments in individual and collective life at the same time that we recognize dramatic differences both within our borders and across the globe. As admirable as Bush's religious and moral commitments may be, they had the effect of "render[ing] a complex history of international relations as a simple dichotomy."[86] But as Sharon Crowley, drawing on ancient rhetorical theory, has recently observed, convictions and actions are more often than not grounded in belief or passionate commitment.[87] For those who study rhetoric and seek to understand how people are persuaded, Bush's rhetorical successes have demonstrated vividly that identifying the limitations or short-sightedness of a belief system does not adequately explain the complex functioning of belief and reason in human communication, especially in a time of crisis such as the nation experienced after September 11. Another legacy of the West Point speech is the call to both professional communicators and reflective citizens to explore those interconnections.

As citizens of the United States and members of a global community, we are located at the crossroads—if not in the cross hairs—of foreign policy and presidential rhetoric. Citizens both here and abroad will be carefully observing and making judgments about the delicate interplay of international policy and rhetoric coming from the world's most powerful leader in the months and years to come.


Susan C. Jarratt is Professor of Comparative Literature and Campus Writing Coordinator at the University of California, Irvine. She would like to thank Gina G. Palmer and Alexandra Sartor for research assistance in preparing this analysis.


[1] Biographical information was obtained from the following sources: David Aikman, A Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2004); George W. Bush, A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House (New York: Perennial, 2001); Lois Romano, and George Lardner, Jr., "Bush: So-So Student but a Campus Mover," Washington Post, 27 July 1999, A1; Peter Schweizer, and Rochelle Schweizer, The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty (New York: Doubleday, 2004).

[2] All of the remaining passages from Bush's June 1, 2002, speech during the West Point Commencement in New York are cited with reference to paragraph numbers in the speech that accompanies this essay.

[3] Bush jokes at length about his mediocre performance at college in his commencement address to the Yale class of 2001: see George W. Bush, "Remarks by the President in Commencement Address at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut." (accessed 25 June 2006).

[4] Elisabeth Bumiller, "Debate Preparation Began with a Professor at Yale," New York Times, 27 September 2004, A18. John Kerry, Bush's opponent in 2004 and a 1966 Yale graduate, also took Osterweis's course and, unlike Bush, went on to join the debate team.

[5] The account of Bush's life before his entry into politics offered here is somewhat rosier than others. Denise Bostdorff, for example, claims that Bush "had failed at almost everything he had tried in his first 40-plus years, to the point that his father's friends had to save him from financial ruin in 1983" (301). Denise Bostdorff, "George W. Bush's Post-September 11 Rhetoric of Covenant Renewal: Upholding the Faith of the Greatest Generation," Quarterly Journal of Speech 89 (2003): 293-319.

[6] The extreme polarization of opinion in U.S. political discourse arising from the contested 2000 election and deep divisions over Bush's war on terror is evident in the materials cited for this narrative. I have attempted to include commentary from a range of perspectives, but few of the writers cited aim at neutrality; most are openly partisan in their approach.

[7] Aiken, Man of Faith, 69-80.

[8] For an extended study of the relationship between Bush's religious beliefs and his political positions, see David Domke, God Willing? Political Fundamentalism in the White House, The "War on Terror," and the Echoing Press (London: Pluto Press, 2004).

[9] The term "Islamist" refers to radical and extreme adherents of Islam who believe in applying religious law to political systems. It should be distinguished from the more general term "Muslim." See Ruhollah Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini, trans. Hamid Algar (Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1981).

[10] The CIA helped to train Muslim guerillas in Afghanistan after the invasion of the U.S.S.R. but broke contact when the Taliban emerged as the dominant force after the ensuing civil war.

[11] The authoritative source of information about the events leading up to the attacks is the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report. Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2004).

[12] For an extended analysis of this speech, see John M. Murphy, "'Our Mission and Our Moment': George W. Bush and September 11th," Rhetoric & Public Affairs 6 (2003): 607-632.

[13] Information in this paragraph comes from Bob Woodward's detailed, behind-the-scenes account of the administration's planning and rationale for the war on Iraq: Plan of Attack (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), 39-133.

[14] Woodward, Plan of Attack, 38.

[15] Charles Krauthammer quoted in Woodward, Plan of Attack, 95.

[16] Woodward, Plan of Attack, 103, 109.

[17] Woodward, Plan of Attack, 112.

[18] Woodward, Plan of Attack, 132.

[19] Bush gave two other speeches at military institutions that spring: 17 April at Virginia Military Institute and 19 July at Fort Drum, New York. See John Prados, "The Drums of War," in The American Empire. A 21st Century Teach-in on U.S. Foreign Policy, ed., Lloyd C. Gardner and Marilyn B. Young (New York: The New Press, 2005), 60. See Amy Goldstein on Bush's two other major speeches on foreign policy at military academy commencements: the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2001) and the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado (2004): "Bush Addresses Air Force Grads. Speech Aims to Counter Criticism, Boost Support for War on Terrorism," Washington Post, 3 June 2004, A14.

[20] Just war theory also takes in the conduct of war, another arena of considerable weight at present, as the Congress passes legislation concerning the treatment of "enemy combatants" outside the parameters of the Geneva Convention. For the purposes of this analysis, only the issues involved in waging war will be considered. See Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust War: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations, 4th ed. (New York: Basic Books, 1977) for a detailed discussion of the topic.

[21] Hugo Grotius, "De Jure Belli ac Pacis," trans. W. M. S. Knight, in Peace Projects of the Seventeenth Century, ed., J. R Jacob and M. C. Jacob (New York: Garland Press, 1972).

[22] Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, 61.

[23] Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, 75.

[24] Webster to Lord Ashburton, 6 August 1842, "The Caroline," The Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 and Associated Documents, The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, 1996, (accessed 15 July 2006). For further discussion and examples of preemption, see Saki Ruth Dockrill, "Dealing with Fear: Implementing the Bush Doctrine of Preemptive Attack," Politics & Policy 34 (2006): 344-373, especially 347.

[25] John L. Hammond, "The Bush Doctrine, Preventive War, and International Law," Philosophical Forum 36 (Spring 2005): 97-111.

[26] The Charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg declared aggressive war illegal in August 1945.

[27] Walzer, Just and Unjust War, 80-81.

[28] Walzer, Just and Unjust War, 81.

[29] Walzer, Just and Unjust War, 78.

[30] On the Bush Doctrine as a departure from international law, see Hammond, "Bush Doctrine," 97-111; David M. Ackerman, "International Law and the Preemptive Use of Force Against Iraq," CRS Report for Congress, RS23134, 17 March 2003; and, Falk, "New Bush Doctrine"; David Wedgwood Benn, "Review Article: Neo-conservatives and their American Critics," International Affairs 80 (2004): 963-969. For an argument that the Bush Doctrine does not represent a dramatic departure from post-World War II foreign policy, see Lyle J. Goldstein, Preventive Attack and Weapons of Mass Destruction. A Comparative Historical Analysis (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2006), 164-183.

[31] Jay Brookman, "The President's Real Goal in Iraq," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 29 September 2002, (accessed 28 October 2005).

[32] Donald Kagan, Gary Schmitt, and Thomas Donnelly, "Rebuilding America's Defenses. Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century," A Report of The Project for the New American Century, September 2000. The National Security Strategy Policy statement, issued in September 2002, reiterates these positions. Another significant address from this period is the 2003 State of the Union Address, analyzed in fine detail in John Ramage, Rhetoric: A User's Guide (New York: Pearson, Longman, 2006), 87-133. See also the 2nd Inaugural of January 2005, available on the Voices of Democracy Web site.

[33] Kagan, et al., "Rebuilding": "The challenge for the coming century is to preserve and enhance this 'American peace'" (iv). For a related argument for the U.S. as "a new kind of empire," see Michael Ignatieff, "The Burden," New York Times Magazine, 5 January 2003, 22-27, 50, 53-54. For the first extended application of the phrase to U.S. foreign policy, see Ronald Steel, Pax Americana (New York: Viking Press, 1967). For a recent treatment of the subject with an extensive bibliography, see Niall Ferguson, Collossus. The Rise and Fall of the American Empire (New York: Penguin, 2004).

[34] Kagan, et al., "Rebuilding," 5.

[35] On frames, see George Lakoff, Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004) and Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).

[36] Christian Spielvogel, "'You Know Where I Stand': Moral Framing of the War on Terrorism and the Iraq War in the 2004 Presidential Campaign," Rhetoric & Public Affairs 8 (2005): 549-570.

[37] Spielvogel, "'You Know Where I Stand,'" 557.

[38] Spielvogel, "'You Know Where I Stand,'" 557.

[39] In the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, Yun Lee Too comments that epideictic rhetoric serves a "significant function as a means of inculcating civic history and ideology in the masses." Thomas Sloane, ed., Encyclopedia of Rhetoric (New York: Oxford, 2001), s.v. Epideictic Genre, 251-257.

[40] Murphy, "'Our Mission and Our Moment,'" 607-632. Bostdorff, "George W. Bush's Post-September 11 Rhetoric," 293-319.

[41] Murphy, "'Our Mission and Our Moment,'" 610.

[42] Bostdorff, "George W. Bush's Post-September 11 Rhetoric," 307, 313.

[43] See Jeffrey K. Tulis, The Rhetorical Presidency (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987).

[44] Often cited in the literature on U.S. internationalism, Kennedy's commencement address renounced the use of threats of war to keep peace and the desire to "impose our system on any unwilling people" (18), pledging that the United States "will never start a war" (28). John F. Kennedy, "American University Commencement Address," 10 June 1963, American Rhetoric, Audio mp3 of Address, (accessed 21 October 2006).

[45] Commencement Address at Texas A&M University, (12 May 1989),, (accessed 21 October 2006). See Amy Goldstein on Bush's two other major speeches on foreign policy at military academy commencements: the Naval Academy, Annapolis (2001) and the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs (2004): "Bush Addresses Air Force Grads. Speech Aims to Counter Criticism, Boost Support for War on Terrorism," Washington Post, 3 June 2004, A14.

[46] Elisabeth Bumiller, "U.S. Must Act First to Battle Terror, Bush Tells Cadets," New York Times, 2 June 2002, Sec. 1, p. 1.

[47] Bostdorff, "George W. Bush's Post-September 11 Rhetoric," 301.

[48] For an analysis of these memorials, see Susan C. Jarratt, "A Human Measure: Ancient Rhetoric, Twenty-first-Century Loss," in The Viability of the Rhetorical Tradition, ed., Richard Graff, Arthur E. Walzer, and Janet M. Atwill (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005), 95-111.

[49] Michael Ignatieff, "The Burden," New York Times Magazine, 5 January 2003, 22. Ignatieff is the director of the Carr Center at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. An expansion of his arguments was published as Empire Lite: Nation-building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan (London: Vintage, 2003). See also Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000) for an extended historical and theoretical argument for the U.S. as empire.

[50] Murphy, for example, faults Bush's post-9/11 rhetoric for remaining completely within the realm of epideictic pronouncement, thus depriving the country of the deliberation necessary in a time of crisis and impending war: "policy is justified not by expediency arguments, but by metaphysical ends—by character and by faith"; "in this discourse, public judgments are rendered through the prism of honor or dishonor." See, "'Our Mission and Our Moment,'" 626. As we now know, President Bush, through his Secretary of State Colin Powell in a speech to the United Nations on 6 February 2003, did eventually provide detailed evidence to substantiate the threat posed by Iraq. See (Accessed 22 October 2006.) Many of the details of this testimony were later demonstrated to be mistaken by a congressional panel. See Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Senate, Report on U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, U.S. Government Printing Office, 9 July 2004 ( (accessed 22 October 2006). See also "Former Aide: Powell WMD Speech 'Lowest Point in My Life,'" CNN, 23 August 2005, (accessed 22 October 2006).

[51] See Murphy for an analysis of Bush's control of time in the speech delivered 20 September 2001, "'Our Mission and Our Moment,'" 611.

[52] Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, 77-78.

[53] See Hammond, "The Bush Doctrine," 97-111; Goldstein, Preventive Attack, 164-183.

[54] See, for example, William J. Bennett, Why We Fight: Morality Clarity and the War on Terrorism (New York: Doubleday, 2002); Singer, The President of Good and Evil, 25; Ken Coe, et al., "No Shades of Gray: The Binary Discourse of George W. Bush and an Echoing Press," Journal of Communication (June 2004), 234-252; Domke, God Willing?, 30-60. Bostdorff reads the moral discourse in Bush's rhetoric as an extension of the Puritan rhetoric of covenant renewal, which was driven in part by "the threat posed by external evil," "George Bush's Post-September 11 Rhetoric," 297. Bostdorff's claim that "no significant domestic public criticism of [Bush's] discourse about evil was voiced" (293) is mystifying in light of the record documented here and elsewhere.

[55] Spielvogel's analysis of 2004 campaign rhetoric points out that Democratic candidate John Kerry participated in this rhetorical frame in his discussion of the war on Iraq, although he sought to modify it with "deliberative rationalism" ("'You Know Where I Stand,'" 566).

[56] Mary McNamara and Lynell George, "When Evil Itself Becomes the Primary Foe," Los Angeles Times (18 September 2001), A3.

[57] Quoted in McNamara and George, "When Evil Itself," A3.

[58] Diana L. Eck, professor of comparative religions at Harvard remarked that the eradication of evil is the province of a divine rather than a human power (McNamara and George, "When Evil Itself," A3).

[59] See Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996).

[60] See note 27.

[61] Lee Feinstein and Anne-Marie Slaughter, "A Duty to Prevent," Foreign Affairs 83 (Jan.-Feb. 2004): 136.

[62] See also Max Boot, "The Bush Doctrine Lives," The Weekly Standard, 16 February 2004, 1-4; and Robert Cooper, The Breaking of Nations: Order and Chaos in the Twenty-First Century (London: Atlantic, 2003).

[63] Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, ix-xviii. Feinstein and Slaughter also recommend relying more heavily on diplomatic pressure and the International Criminal Court.

[64] Singer, The President of Good and Evil, 182. Since June of 2002, North Korea has experimented with missiles, some of which have the capacity to reach the Western United States, and on 16 October 2006 apparently detonated an underground nuclear device, making it in the eyes of some more of a threat to U.S. security than Iraq.

[65] Charlotte Bunch noted that the events of September 11 "could have taken the country in other directions, including toward more concern for human security and the conditions that give rise to terrorism and toward the recognition of the importance of multilateral institutions in a globally linked world" in "Whose Security?" The Nation, 23 September 2002, 36.

[66] Falk, "The New Bush Doctrine," 10.

[67] Bennett, Why We Fight, 5-25.

[68] Singer, The President of Good and Evil, 206-207.

[69] Louis Menand, "Faith, Hope, and Clarity," New Yorker, 16 September 2002, 98, 100-104. See also Arundhati Roy, "Algebra of Infinite Justice," The Guardian, 29 September 2001.,4273,4266289,00.html (accessed 19 July 2006).

[70] Maura Reynolds, "'Axis of Evil' Rhetoric Said to Heighten Dangers," Los Angeles Times, 21 January 2003, A17.

[71] See Bostdorff on arrogance in Bush's rhetoric: "George W. Bush's Post-September 11 Rhetoric," 314.

[72] Falk, "The Bush Doctrine," paragraph 11.

[73] Quoted in Reynolds, "'Axis of Evil,'" A17.

[74] Walter Lafeber, "The Bush Doctrine," Diplomatic History 26 (Fall 2002): 543-558. See also Tulis, Rhetorical Presidency, 173-204.

[75] See Gary C. Jacobson, A Divider, Not a Uniter: George W. Bush and the American People (New York: Pearson Longman, 2007), 74-75, 549. For a discussion of a "continuum of persuasive practices," see Ramage, Rhetoric, 75-80.

[76] Domke, God Willing?, 3.

[77] Murphy, "'Our Mission and our Moment,'" 617 quoting Woodward, Bush at War, 145-146.

[78] Falk, "New Bush Doctrine," paragraph 11.

[79] Editorial page, San Francisco Chronicle, 19 February 2003, A22. Bush made these informal remarks in reference to worldwide protests the day before after an unrelated event at the White House. Numerous national and international newspapers quoted the remarks on 19 February 2003.

[80] On rule in the family as "prepolitical" in contrast to rhetoric in the polis, see Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 22-78. See also Robert Hariman, Political Style. The Artistry of Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 51-94, on the courtly style, one that "closes off deliberation about the purpose, values, and direction of the group."

[81] See Barbara Ehrenreich, "Veiled Threat," Los Angeles Times, 4 November 2001, (accessed 20 July 2006) on Bush's support of the Taliban as recently as May 2001.

[82] Singer, The President of Good and Evil, 179.

[83] Feinstein and Slaughter, "Duty to Prevent," 138. See also notes 61 and 62.

[84] David E. Sanger, "Bush's Shift: Being Patient With Foes," New York Times, 10 July 2006, A7.

[85] See note 49.

[86] Charles Kimbell, When Religion Becomes Evil: Five Warning Signs (New York: Harper Collins, 2003), 36, quoted in Sharon Crowley, Toward a Civil Discourse. Rhetoric and Fundamentalism (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006), 143.

[87] Crowley, Toward a Civil Discourse, 58-101.