The Biggest Threat to America Is America Itself 美國最大的威脅就是美國自己
"America is back" became President Joe Biden's refrain on his European trip last month, and in a narrow sense it is.
We no longer have a White House aide desperately searching for a fire alarm to interrupt a president as he humiliates our country at an international news conference, as happened in 2018. And a Pew Research Center survey found that 75% of those polled in a dozen countries expressed "confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing," compared with 17% a year ago.
Yet in a larger sense, America is not back. In terms of our well-being at home and competitiveness abroad, the blunt truth is that America is lagging. In some respects, we are sliding toward mediocrity.
Greeks have higher high school graduation rates. Chileans live longer. Fifteen-year-olds in Russia, Poland, Latvia and many other countries are better at math than their American counterparts — perhaps a metric for where nations will stand in a generation or two.
As for reading, one-fifth of American 15-year-olds can't read at the level expected of a 10-year-old. How are those millions of Americans going to compete in a globalized economy? As I see it, the greatest threat to America's future is less a surging China or a rogue Russia than it is our underperformance at home.
We Americans repeat the mantra that "we're No. 1" even though the latest Social Progress Index, a measure of health, safety and well-being around the world, ranked the United States No. 28. Even worse, the United States was one of only three countries, out of 163, that went backward in well-being over the last decade.
Another assessment last month, the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking 2021, put the United States No. 10 out of 64 economies. A similar forward-looking study from the World Bank ranks the United States No. 35 out of 174 countries.
So it's great that we again have a president respected by the world. But we are not "back," and we must face the reality that our greatest vulnerability is not what other countries do to us but what we have done to ourselves.
"America's chronic failure to turn its economic strength into social progress is a huge drag on American influence," said Michael Green, chief executive of the group that publishes the Social Progress Index. "Europeans may envy America's corporate dynamism but can comfort themselves that they are doing a much better job on a host of social outcomes, from education to health to the environment.
As the U.S. Pulls Out of Afghanistan, Kabul's Airport Is a Final Stand 美國撤軍後 喀布爾機場成最後堡壘
文/Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Sc
For years, Hamid Karzai International Airport has been a main gateway to Afghanistan, an aspirational symbol of civilian life and normalcy amid military bases, warplanes and the scars of decades of fighting in the surrounding countryside.
But now the airport, known to all as Kabul International, has become the last stand in America's 20-year campaign in Afghanistan.
If the United States and its allies can complete a deal for Turkey to keep forces in place to secure the airport, President Joe Biden can go ahead with his plan to maintain the U.S. Embassy — and diplomatic missions from allied countries — even after combat troops for the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization depart.
If not, senior American and NATO officials said, the consequences could be substantial: Biden's plans to try to retain a diplomatic presence in the country, as part of an international effort seeking to prevent a return to the grim Taliban-controlled era of the past, will most likely be cast aside, and access to the country by aid groups could be cut off.
"Security at the airport in whatever form or fashion it takes will be important, not only for the United States, but for any other nation that likewise plans to maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul," Pentagon spokesperson John F. Kirby said.
James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral who served as NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, put it more bluntly. "Without a secure airport, the ability to conduct day-to-day embassy operations in a large country like Afghanistan, which is the size of Texas, is significantly diminished," he said.
"In addition to personal safety and ability to evacuate in emergencies, helos and planes are needed to move U.S. diplomats, aid workers, intelligence officers and support personnel around the country," he said.
Turkey for its own reasons wants to retain a presence in Afghanistan. As a Muslim-majority nation and a member of the Atlantic alliance, Turkey has played a consistent role in Afghanistan since 2001. It has about 600 service members in Afghanistan, where its main mission has been providing security for the airport.
While it is not clear that the Taliban would want to completely shut down the airport and isolate the country if they take full control of Afghanistan, the group has signaled that it will not accept the presence of any foreign troops, even from Turkey.