The U.S. Is Having a Crisis of Confidence at a Very Bad Time

The U.S. Is Having a Crisis of Confidence at a Very Bad Time
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio addresses a joint session of Congress in the House chamber, at the Capitol in Washington, April 11, 2024 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

In an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress during his visit to Washington last week, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio offered his diagnosis of what exactly is ailing the U.S. when it comes to its global leadership role. “The world needs the United States to continue playing this pivotal role in the affairs of nations,” Kishida told the assembled lawmakers. “And yet, as we meet here today, I detect an undercurrent of self-doubt among some Americans about what your role in the world should be.”

In some ways, Kishida simply seemed to be echoing similar remarks calling out U.S. “hesitancy” to take the lead on the world stage, as former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen characterized it recently. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also repeatedly called for the U.S. to not shy away from serving as the backstop for global democracies facing authoritarian aggression, including in his own address to a joint session of Congress.

As such, Kishida’s remarks could be dismissed as more of the same: fretting over the U.S. disengaging from the world and retrenching into a more isolationist posture, as it has often done in the past. But hearing such calls from Zelenskyy and other European officials means something different than when they come from Kishida. Ukraine is fighting a war of survival against a state that many European nations see as also posing an existential threat to themselves, and they need U.S. assistance if they are to triumph in that battle. Japan is not.

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