Is the US declining under the Biden administration? - opinion

The US leaving Afghanistan was humiliating for the US, and the economy is declining.

 US DEFENSE SECRETARY Lloyd Austin (center) and military brass, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley (left) are questioned in Congress last week on the withdrawal from Afghanistan. (photo credit: REUTERS)
US DEFENSE SECRETARY Lloyd Austin (center) and military brass, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley (left) are questioned in Congress last week on the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

During the Trump years much of the world wondered whether America had gone mad, what with all the fighting between Right and Left, Republican and Democrat, Trump and the never-Trumpers. Now, in the Biden years, they are concluding that America is in decline.

The humiliating departure from Afghanistan, followed by a catastrophic attack that mistakenly killed 13 innocent people whom American intelligence could not distinguish from ISIS-K told the world that the vaunted American military is rudderless. Our NATO allies were appalled that we had abandoned Bagram Air Base without so much as informing them.

In last week’s testimony before Congress, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin both said they had advised President Joe Biden to keep at least 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. But Biden insists he was told no such thing.

Who is lying and who is telling the truth?

Then there is the economy.

Nearly every week the Biden administration seems to propose spending another trillion dollars. Yes, that’s trillion with a “T.” America’s GDP has now been overtaken by the national debt, meaning the gross domestic product of an entire year of the American economy could not pay off the national debt, even if every single dollar was directed toward it.

There is no end in sight to the spending, as Biden has concluded that he has to out-Obama even Obama himself by becoming hostage to the Democratic Left, which insists on cradle to grave benefits. Employers are desperate for workers. But with the government paying people more to stay at home than to go to work, who is silly enough to take a job?

 US President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan, a package of economic relief measures to respond to the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, inside the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, March 11, 2021.  (credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER) US President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan, a package of economic relief measures to respond to the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, inside the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, March 11, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)

THIS IS not mere politics. There is a religious and values dimension to all of this.

First, a great power like the United States has a responsibility to protect the weak and the vulnerable. We had only 2,500 soldiers left in Afghanistan, and we had not had a combat death there in 18 months. Why did we have to remove every last soldier so that the odious Taliban could revert to its brutal suppression of Afghanistan’s women?

Which female living in America would say it wasn’t worth keeping a small force of just 2,500 soldiers to protect tens of millions of women?

Isn’t that one of the reasons God gives nations great wealth and power so that they can expend a small part of it protecting the defenseless? What happened to Leviticus 19, “Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor”?

And this, of course, is beside the fact that those soldiers were also protecting us against al-Qaeda reconstituting itself and attacking the American homeland.

Then there is the issue of government benefits. No one denies that the government must be there to create a social safety net for those in distress. No moral society would do otherwise. We all have needed a helping hand at times. But never should the government deny people the dignity that comes from productivity and work. It’s all in last week’s Torah reading in Genesis, where God tells Adam that by the sweat of his brow he will consume bread.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik wrote beautifully in The Lonely Man of Faith that there are two Adams described in the story of creation.

One is “Covenantal Adam,” a vulnerable creature, created alone and forlorn, who seeks solace in his wife, Eve, who is created from his rib, or side, and wants to connect with an intimate community. This Adam is a spiritual seeker.

The other, however, is “Majestic Adam,” the Adam who is commanded by God to dominate the earth. He is created with a partner, his wife, at the same time. He never knows loneliness, only dominion.

While I fully endorse Covenantal Adam, the family man first, there can be no question that both are necessary to lead a complete life. In order to be fulfilled, people need to feel accomplished both on a personal and a professional plane.

Those who doubt this should just look at the history of women up until the modern era. They were given the imperative to build families but not to work. They could be mothers but not college professors, wives but not parliamentarians. They were denied professions. And they rightly felt it to be a form of oppression. Even family, for all its infinite blessings, is not enough.

Women knew they could accomplish anything a man could, and then some. And today, women have the opportunity to express themselves as wives and mothers and simultaneously as attorneys, bankers, athletes, entrepreneurs and political leaders.

Yes, we all need to feel professionally fulfilled, whether it’s working as a car mechanic, an artist, a teacher, or a full-time child-rearer.

It seems to be something our current government doesn’t acknowledge. People want to work. They want to produce. They want to point to something and say, “I made this.”

I believe in a minimum wage. Hard work should lead to a decent standard of living. But still, I believe that people want to work. Government benefits that transform into permanent government handouts undermine the human drive to create.

In life there is the microcosm and the macrocosm, the small world of man and the larger world we all inhabit. While they are, on the one hand, very different, their values are the same. The values that pertain to our child-rearing also pertain to nation-building.

Do any of us believe that children should be given things without having to earn them? Even those of us who are wealthy enough to afford household help, do we absolve our children of making their own beds or clearing up the dinner table? If we do, we raise irresponsible and entitled children who don’t understand the value of hard work.

America is built on a certain set of values that distinguishes it from the rest of the world. It’s those values that have made America the wealthiest and most prosperous nation in world history.

Foremost among them is a belief in divine or manifest destiny, a commitment to human rights and the infinite value of the human person, rugged individualism, a love of immigrants, hard work, industriousness and, above all else, freedom and liberty: the right of the individual to choose to be whatever they please. We believe that when you release the human spirit, it will achieve great things.

Government has to help us maximize opportunity and our potential. But it should never undermine or get in the way.

We are coming out of a devastating global pandemic where people have lost jobs, been isolated, and experienced anxiety and depression. Let’s get America back to work and watch America rise. Simply passing unpayable debt to our children is wrongheaded and irresponsible.

If America is to reverse its recent decline, it must first, once again, shore up its military and project American power against tyrants and tyranny. It must defend the rights of the oppressed the world over and especially women. It must unleash the potential of its citizens by always remembering that necessity is the mother of invention, and opportunity is the road to success.

Open up limitless opportunities and just watch how the American people will dazzle.

The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the author most recently of Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.