Friday, December 07, 2007

Wanting a worthy foe

Philip Stephens slightly misses a trick in discussing Russia’s desire to be treated as a world superpower:

Mr Putin sees conflict as a way to command respect. To be at odds with the US, this rather paranoid logic says, is to be its equal.

But this isn’t paranoia; it’s the simple application of an old dictum:

You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies.

Picking arguments with America is a pretty standard way of boosting one’s political status: Hugo Ch├ívez loves doing it, as do Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Osama bin Laden, George Galloway and a host of others who fear that merely pushing their own agendas won’t be enough to win them kudos. Does Putin really want to be in the company of such a rabble, though?

(After that quote about enemies came to mind, I wondered where I’d heard it. I was delighted to discover who said it.)

6 comments:

Cassilis said...

OK - that last remark may have been irony and I'm laying bare my lack of learning here but this is a genuine question Tom - does that famous quote really originate with Doctor Who..!??!

Tom Freeman said...

I experienced a moment of eyebrow elevation too, but all I can say is that Googling "judge a man by the quality of his enemies" quote only gives 34 hits (including this page), of which at least three-quarters attribute it to Doctor Who!

The only other attribution I can see is to one of the Lord of the Rings Films - much more recent, though.

Cassilis said...

I guess it depends on whether the LOTR attribution is just the recent films or actually Tolkein. Either way it's still not a terribly cerebral source is it..!

Matt M said...

"You shall judge a man by his foes as well as by his friends."

...is often attributed to Joseph Conrad, though a source is rarely given.

Chris said...

It is Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim, Chapter 34.

Yet after all this was a kind of recognition. You shall judge of a man by his foes as well as by his friends, and this enemy of Jim was such as no decent man would be ashamed to own, without, however, making too much of him.

Sorry.

Matt M said...

I think Ben Aaronovitch put it better. :-)