June 26, 2023

The Prestige of Power And Its Loss

You cannot go to war against a clown and lose. There is no coming back for Russia after that. Mass unemployment and runaway inflation, civil war, economic depression, state collapse, all those tragedies a nation can overcome in time, but not that. Putin needs to wrap this up quickly, before the clown can have his last laugh.

An excerpt from, "The Meaning of Prestige" By Harold Nicolson, The Atlantic, July 1937:

The cynic at this stage will exclaim: ‘ But you are raising a false issue. It is obvious, and Hitler and Mussolini have proved it, that prestige is based upon power alone. However high may be your reputation, unless you also possess power you have no prestige. Conversely, however low your reputation may be, so long as you have sufficient power, then prestige follows inevitably. In fact “ power” and “ prestige” are synonymous terms.’

The answer to that assertion is that ‘power’ and ‘prestige’ are not synonymous, since, although you cannot acquire prestige without power, yet you cannot retain prestige without reputation. Moreover, a prestige which contains a high percentage of reputation is able to withstand a loss of power; whereas even a temporary decline in power will destroy a prestige which is devoid of reputation. For instance, at the time of the Abyssinian episode, we exposed to the world a flagrant decline in our power, yet our prestige (much to our surprise) remained almost undamaged; whereas it is inconceivable that any State whose prestige was based on power alone could have survived a similar discomfiture. Again, we maintain our rule over subject peoples not by the employment of power so much as by the general confidence inspired by reputation. The problem is not, therefore, one of power alone; it is a problem of the proportions in which power and reputation should be mixed.

. . .

Let me take another and more recent instance. On January 1, 1907, Sir Eyre Crowe, at that time head of the Western Department of the Foreign Office, wrote a memorandum regarding the foundations of British policy. In that memorandum he laid it down as an axiom that we must maintain the mastery of the seas against any possible enemy. Yet he added an important corollary. He pointed out that this maritime supremacy would, if abused, arouse feelings of resentment and jealousy throughout the world. Our power, he said, must therefore be exercised with the utmost benevolence and with the minimum of provocation. Our policy must ‘be closely identified with the primary and vital interests of a majority of other nations.’ What were those primary interests? The first was independence and the second was trade. Sir Eyre Crowe therefore laid it down that British policy must main-tain free trade and must at the same time display ‘a direct and positive interest in the independence of small nations. Does that wise and generous tradition still maintain among us? I fear that it has suffered a decline.

An excerpt from, "Loss of Russian Prestige May Cost Putin His Grip on Power" By Daniel Roman, AMAC, April 19, 2022:
The war in Ukraine is still raging, but one loser is now clear: Russian prestige. Unlike the loss of men, material, or economic prosperity, all of which Vladimir Putin likely can weather, a loss of prestige is potentially fatal to a leader. The war, rather than restoring Russian prestige, now seems likely to undermine it, and that may be what costs Putin his position.