Hell Hath No Fury

One of the effects of Brexit, and more recently of Boris Johnson’s elevation to the Premiership of the UK, appears to have been a sharp decline in the reputation of Britain abroad. Of course this is hard to prove or to quantify; but I’ve not come across anyone or any media in Sweden, for example, which has expressed admiration or envy towards Britain’s ‘liberation’ of herself from the tyranny of Brussels – let alone putting it on the same level as the Ukrainians’ brave resistance to Russia, as Boris recently gave the impression of having done; or which regards Boris as any better than a ‘clown’. The only foreign statesmen to have approved of Brexit are those who wished to take advantage of it in order to weaken Europe, and may have helped it along – I’m thinking of Russian money here – to that end. Otherwise Britain has been sorely diminished, internationally, by recent events; to the extent of inducing expressions of ‘shame’ from many Britons who formerly would have regarded themselves as pretty patriotic.

Personally I couldn’t care less about this; never having been very ‘patriotically’ inclined anyway, and knowing full well that my Swedish (and other foreign) friends don’t associate me with what is happening in Britain today. (Or in the past, for that matter; which will be obvious to anyone who has read my books, starting with my first, on British anti-imperialism.) For other Britons, however, being generally diminished and ridiculed as a nation must hurt them personally; and could even provoke dangerous reactions as a result. Even before the ‘ridicule’ phase, Brexit itself may have been partly influenced by a perceived loss of national power and prestige following (after a lengthy interval) the fall of the British Empire: illustrated perhaps by the ‘we used to rule half the world’ shouts of populist mobs recently. (‘Half the world’ is inaccurate in any case; but let’s skip that for the moment.) It may be regarded as ironic that the populists’ solution – Brexit – has probably done more to further undermine Britain’s power and prestige than even decolonisation did; but they probably don’t realise this; or perhaps don’t mind. (One is reminded of the Millwall FC supporters’ notorious chant: ‘Everyone hates us and we don’t care’.)

In any case their resentment is hardly likely to do as much damage in the world as similar defeats and disappointments seem to have done in the cases of other countries, whose subsequent aggressions could be seen – at least in part – as reactions to previous humiliations, real or perceived. Nazi Germany is the obvious example, of a nation reacting to the mortifying terms imposed on it after World War I; a lesson which luckily the Allies learned after the next War, with the result that Germany was treated very differently then, to good effect. Unfortunately the wisdom of that approach seems to have been forgotten when it was Soviet Russia’s turn to be defeated, and then continually humiliated, by the USA and the capitalist West; generating a burning resentment in the heart of Vladimir Putin in particular, culminating in his present crusade to ‘Make Russia Great Again’, bloodily.

The lesson? When you’ve won, don’t rub it in. Or, to adapt an old saying: ‘Hell hath no fury like a nation scorned.’ Especially with regard to countries where patriotism is important. Personally, I prefer the Millwall approach.

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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5 Responses to Hell Hath No Fury

  1. Pingback: The Fog of War | Porter’s Pensées

  2. mickc, you are under the impression that if NATO had dissolved, Putin would not have sought to reassemble a Russian Empire-rejigged USSR. On the grounds that authoritarian militarists are generally intimidated by pacifism? It was the weakening of the former First World War allies – and their refusal to form an anti-Nazi alliance with Stalin – which encouraged Hitler. Without the military and political weakness of the former allies, the Second World War would not have eventuated.

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    • Furthermore, Stalin chose to ignore all warnings given to him in the first half of 1941 concerning Hitler’s intentions. Opting for military unpreparedness did not deter Hitler, apparently. By October of that year, Germany had taken three million prisoners and Moscow was threatened.

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    • mickc says:

      This is the same Putin who helped the USA against Al Qaeda, I presume. The same Putin who has never sought to annex or attack neutral Finland.
      It is certainly the same NATO which agreed not to expand Eastwards then did so. The same one which put missiles in Poland to supposedly counter Iranian missiles. The main constituent of NATO fomented the overthrow of an elected Ukrainian President, (it really does take a long time to organise a spontaneous revolution…), trained the Ukrainian army, supplied it with weapons ( presumably not against Poland…)…the list goes on to include arming IS, turning Libya into a chaotic mess (it had free education and healthcare…you know the things we cherish) and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis…
      And Biden has confirmed the real intent of the USA.

      And you think Putin is the militarist?

      What is definite is that NATO, post Cold War is neither defensive or pacifist. Indeed I am coming round to Nye Bevan’s view that the USSR was not a realistic threat to the West in any event. I forget the exact quote but it was basically to the effect of how could a nation which produced so little steel ever be a threat to the West…and he was probably right. The USSR was famously “Upper Volta with rockets”.

      The USSR was a paranoid nation, as is Russia. It is essentially weak and sought friendship with the West after the Cold War… instead it got pillaged. It learned the lesson, and the result is evident.

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  3. mickc says:

    The problem is that the West quite clearly did not learn the lesson from the rise of Nazi Germany.

    At the end of the Cold War, I expected some sort of Marshall Plan for the countries of the former Warsaw Pact. Instead there was an extension of the American Empire under the Wolfowitz Doctrine…an attempt to create the New American Century. The eastward expansion of NATO, warned against by Kennan, was the medium by which it was done and has been catastrophic. NATO should have been dissolved at the end of the Cold War.

    Also, the aim of Germany’s treatment after WW2 was surely to “keep the Commies out”. Without that “threat” no doubt the Morgenthau Plan would, in some form, have been to the fore, or possibly an “Austrian solution”. After all, the Soviets withdrew from Austria, which became a neutral country to everyone’s benefit.

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