Early in the movie, the Big Lebowski hires the Dude to deliver a ransom in a briefcase for his wife. When the Dude fails to deliver the briefcase, the Big Lebowski yelled at him but did not do anything else to either harm the Dude or find his wife. The point where the Dude finally realizes the Big Lebowski's game is one of the most memorable parts of the movie for me (from the script):
I mean we totally f***ed it up, man. We f***ed up his pay-off. And got the kidnappers all pissed off, and the big Lebowski yelled at me a lot, but he didn't do anything....
...His million bucks was never in [the briefcase the Big Lebowski gave to the Dude], man! There was no money in that briefcase! He was hoping they'd kill her!
Compare those lines with the summary Michael Mandelbaum's analysis in Foreign Policy:
The rest of the world complains that American hegemony is reckless, arrogant, and insensitive. Just don’t expect them to do anything about it. The world’s guilty secret is that it enjoys the security and stability the United States provides. The world won’t admit it, but they will miss the American empire when it’s gone.
The comparison is not perfect since the Big Lebowski wanted the Dude to fail and the rest of the world wants America to succeed, but cynicism of those who howl against the USA from under its protection fits perfectly.
I remember a few years ago there was a lot of huffing and puffing about Europe (led by France with help from Germany, of course) counterbalancing the United States but they never actually got around to do anything about it.
Read the rest, but here is another teaser:
The gap between what the world says about American power and what it fails to do about it is the single most striking feature of 21st-century international relations. The explanation for this gap is twofold. First, the charges most frequently leveled at America are false. The United States does not endanger other countries, nor does it invariably act without regard to the interests and wishes of others. Second, far from menacing the rest of the world, the United States plays a uniquely positive global role. The governments of most other countries understand that, although they have powerful reasons not to say so explicitly.
The only non-rogue country that might have it in for the USA in the near future is China and that will only happen when they think they have what it takes to run the show themselves. Until, and maybe beyond, that time America will be the principle provider of stability on this planet.
Yes, America is the Dude and the Dude abides.