Courtesy Reuters

Bush and the World


In its emotional impact, September 11, 2001, may have been the most horrifying single day in American history. As bloody as some of the great battles and disasters of the past have been, the news about them tended to trickle out: most Americans read detailed accounts of Antietam or Pearl Harbor well after the event. On September 11, Americans watched on television, in real time, as the twin towers of the World Trade Center burned and their fellow citizens flung themselves to their deaths from 100 stories up. Americans all watched as the towers imploded, and they all knew that they were witnessing, in seconds, the deaths of thousands of their compatriots in the nation's front yard.

George W. Bush experienced this terrible new reality as directly and as emotionally as any American. The difference was that he could do something about it. The United States was faced with an irreconcilable enemy; the sort of black-and-white challenge that had supposedly been transcended in the post-Cold War period, when the great clash of ideologies had ended, had now reappeared with shocking suddenness. And in Bush, the man seemed to meet the moment. For someone of the president's Manichaean sense of right and wrong and powerful religious faith -- not to mention unilateralist instincts -- the Bush doctrine came naturally (indeed, a senior adviser says Bush wrote the language himself). It also seemed to express the rage and grim resolve that many Americans were feeling. Bush's message to the world, first delivered on September 20, 2001, was this: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Either you stand with civilization and good (us), or with barbarism and evil (them). Choose. And to those nations that choose wrongly, beware.

In the year since Bush first gave voice to his doctrine, it has become the animating concept of American foreign policy, transforming the entire focus of his administration. The Bush doctrine has been used to justify a new assertiveness abroad unprecedented

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