Chronic. Is the United States a reliable ally or friend? Can we count on America to play the role of “sheriff”, however reluctant, in its vast space of influence? France has long been the only member of the Western family to ask this question – from De Gaulle to Emmanuel Macron. This would no longer be the case.

The return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan would have widened, well beyond the West, the circle of countries which doubt the credibility of the United States’ commitments. Twenty years after driving them out of Kabul, and announcing the advent of a new Afghanistan, the United States hands over the keys to the Taliban and their Pakistani godfather, who happens to be China’s protege in the region. Not brilliant. Some, willingly stirring large, announce the beginning of a post-American world. It would be the end of an era of preponderance established at the end of the Second World War. Without a doubt.

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But we must not confuse the decline of the United States with the decline of the “American Empire”. The former is a theme that is part of the recurring obsessions of the American Republic – something as old as theapple pie, Apple pie. The second, linked to the question of Washington’s strategic credibility, is a more recent and more complex story.

Setbacks, withdrawals, insults

The Afghan affair cannot be reduced to its moral dimension: the abandonment of a population to an Islamist dictatorship. It would undermine America’s credit with countries referred to as “friends” and “partners”. If Biden calmly assumes the defeat that the return of the Taliban to Kabul represents for America, sums up the editorial in the Financial Times (from 1er September), the prospect of a reestablishment of “Russian hegemony on Ukraine much disturb the sleep of the president ”? And if the United States ends up compromising on Vladimir Putin’s territorial ambitions in Ukraine, why would Beijing give credit to the American support promised to the Chinese island of Taiwan – autonomous since 1949 and which President Xi Jinping intends to recover ?

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So goes the theory of diminished credibility with domino effects from one side of the planet to the other. There may be some truth to this theory, but recent US history does not support it. Setbacks, withdrawals, insults, defeats, the blows to the credibility of the United States have not failed. Whether it is Vietnam in 1975, Jimmy Carter’s setbacks in the face of the young Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, Ronald Reagan’s passivity after the Beirut attacks in 1983, the list is long of the humiliations suffered by America without its global influence being really affected.

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