American Culture Glorifies “Unlateralism”

American Culture Glorifies “Unilateralism”: Since 9/11 President Bush and Americans in general have been called “unilateralists”, “cowboys”, have been accused of “wanting to go it alone”, and have been said to care little for international law. To be honest, there’s more than a little bit of truth to all of those accusations and that’s the way Americans like it.

Rugged individualism, defiance, and rebellion against authority have been part of American culture since the beginning. In fact, our nation was founded by men rebelling against authority. Since then, Americans have grown to admire all sorts of rogues and anti-authority figures.

Just look at the archetypes of American cinema….

— The rogue cop who breaks all the rules to get justice (Ex: Lethal Weapon, Dirty Harry)
— The criminal with the ‘code of honor’ who fights dirty to win (Ex: Conan, Payback)
— Gangsters (Ex: Goodfellas, The Godfather)
— Gunslingers (Ex: High Noon, Tombstone)
— Outlaws (Ex: Young Guns, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
— Super-Heroes who operate outside the law (Ex: Spider-man, X-men)
— Assassins (Ex: Unforgiven, Pulp Fiction)
— One man against a horde of enemies (Ex: Die Hard, Planet of the Apes)

I could go on and on with this. But the point of it is, Americans love winners and people who get the job done and we’re not particularly concerned with the details of how it gets done. Moreover, Americans detest bureaucracy, red tape, government, and other generally useless hindrances to accomplishment. While we don’t mind working within the rules, most Americans don’t see anything wrong with breaking the rules if that’s what it takes to get things done.

So if Bush can get the rest of the world to go along with us when we hit Iraq, that’s fantastic. But even if Bush couldn’t get the support of any other nation and we had to go it alone, the overwhelming majority of Americans would back him once the shooting starts. Furthermore, if we won — Americans would have more respect for Bush because he had the guts to go it alone no matter what anyone else thought. That’s one part of what makes American culture great…

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