The cat is out of the bag: the U.S is in decline. If, perhaps, not yet in absolute terms—economic and demographic growth still continue—then at any rate relative to the rest of the world. Why this is so, and when the decline got under way, is moot. Perhaps the turning point was 1945 when 140 million Americans, forming less than six percent of the world’s population, producing fifty percent of the world’s GDP, and monopolizing nuclear weapons as well as their delivery vehicles, reached what in retrospect appears to have been the peak of their power. Perhaps 1949, when the Soviet Union tested its first nuke and started working towards parity in this respect, a situation it finally attained during the 1960s. Perhaps 1965, when the effects of de-industrialization first began to make themselves felt. Perhaps 1971, when vast balance of payment and budget deficits (which have only got worse since) forced Nixon to take the dollar off gold. Perhaps 1975, when the various wars in Indochina (Vietnam and Cambodia) ended in defeat, demonstrating the limitations of U.S military power. Perhaps 2000, when Vladimir Putin started turning his near moribund country around and when China, growing rapidly, first began to emerge as a serious competitor. Perhaps, perhaps.
Looking back, American reactions to the process have varied. Kennedy, building on Eisenhower’s Domino Theory, worried that America might be losing the Cold War. In response he initiated an enormous arms buildup and started the war in Vietnam which Johnson continued. Nixon, with Kissinger’s help, sought détente as well as a closer relationship with China. Carter seemed to resign himself to becoming number two; whereas Reagan, by way of a reaction to him, engaged in an even larger (or, at any rate, more expensive) arms buildup. To show that the US had overcome the “Vietnam Syndrome,” he even invaded Grenada. Bush Sr. invaded Panama and defeated Iraq, and Bush Jr. invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq. All, basically, to no avail.
Next, Barak Obama. The last word on his presidency has certainly not yet been written. Looking back, though, he appears to have been one of the sanest men to inhabit the White House during the last few decades. Aware of his immediate predecessor’s military failures, and even more so of the American people’s reluctance to continue shedding their blood and treasure in hopeless wars, basically he went back to the Nixon-Kissinger approach. As, for example, by trying to engage China in a vast economic web (the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership) so designed as to leave many of the cards in America’s hands. As by signing an agreement with Iran so as to avoid the need for what might very well have turned into another disastrous war. And as by cutting the defense budget so as to reduce the deficit, albeit only by a little. His reward? To be accused of short-sightedness, weakness, cowardice, and what not.
Next, Donald Trump. Kennedy, older readers will recall, rode to power on Eisenhower’s supposed weakness. Substituting Obama’s name for Eisenhower’s, Trump did the same. Personally I was ready to give him the benefit of doubt; see Jakobsen’s article, “To Trump or Not to Trump,” on this blog, 23 March 2017. Now that Trump’s own Secretary of State has been calling him a “moron,” though, all argument seems to be at the end. In less than a year Trump has failed to improve relations with Russia as he promised to do. He has also alienated his European allies, Germany above all, while at the same time pushing relations with North Korea and Iran to the point where a nuclear war no longer looks utterly impossible. All against the background of a budget deficit that is growing day by day; causing every American man, woman and child to owe him- or herself $ 60,000 or so.
Any society needs heroes. There used to be a time when America had them. Davy Crockett, who could swallow a Nigger whole if you buttered his head and pinned his ears back. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and Co. John Wayne, who fought first bad Indians and then even worse Communists. Rambo, who fought and killed anyone who showed himself for miles around. Rocky, who at one point in his career engaged and defeated his Soviet opposite number in a sort of global boxing match.
Meanwhile the U.S went on losing one war after another—see on this my book, Pussycats. The outcome was to make these and other male heroes lose any credibility they had ever had. So what to do? Enter the women. Wonderwoman I (Lynda Carter) who, back in the 1970s, beat the stuffing out of her wicked male enemies. Xena the Warrior Princess (Lucy Lawless) who, armed with a sort of wonder ring she alone possessed, did the same during the 1990s.Wonderwoman II (Gal Gadot) who took over the role in 2016 and killed countless ferocious enemies of civilization with her bare hands. And these are just four out of dozens who made their appearance in the movies and on TV; to say nothing of any number of video- and computer games.
All these ladies have this in common that they are poor actresses (none could have played a Shakespearian heroine, not even for a zillion bucks; to be fair, though, the same applies to their male opposite numbers). Perhaps to compensate for this fact, all “fight” while dressed in some sort of outlandish swimsuit. One which, had it been real, would have directed their enemies’ weapons straight between their oh-so desirable breasts. As to the movies and TV series, what they have in common is that they are simply attempts to save America’s lost honor.
And the fact that they fit the IQ of a nine year old, of course.