Legitimacy and the Triumph of the Will

In global geo-politics, the term legitimacy comes up for discussion quite often.  This is especially true with regards to a government’s military actions in its foreign affairs.  But a distinction will have to be made between ‘legitimacy’ and ‘legality’.  ‘Legitimacy’ is seen as a matter of keeping to the spirit of the law, where as ‘legality’ is applied where technical details are concerned.  Hence a nation could be conducting a ‘legal’ operation upon another nation without a legitimate basis for it.  The ongoing occupation of Palestine by Israeli forces is a case in point, where the concocted legality betrays the lack of legitimacy of the occupation. The same analogy could be applied to the American occupation of Iraq, where even legality could be questioned.

’Triumph of the Will’ is a term used by politicians when a policy action succeeds against all odds.  The term is mostly employed in the context of a military venture or an economic crisis, where much tenacity, resoluteness and foresight was required to meet the goal.   The term is sometimes used alongside ‘legitimacy’ as a way of justifying the efforts and expenditure that went toward the fulfillment of the goal.  In other words, the ‘legitimacy’ of the cause allowed a whole-hearted approach to meeting the goal.  The term was adapted as the title of the film on Nazi Germany because the rise of the Nazi party to power and its near-completion of world domination is symbolically captured by the words.  Given that the Nazi party did not even have one fifth of total vote share in late 1920s, it’s meteoric rise to highest office is nothing short of a Triumph of the Will.  In the context of the contents of the documentary, the term denotes the legal means with which the Nazi party was able to achieve its illegitimate goals.  In the end it proved ironic that the Allied Forces, under the leadership of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin were able to fulfill their legitimate cause – namely to defend their sovereign nations from the sweep of the Third Reich.

Both the terms in discussion are useful in comparative politics because they highlight the subtleties and shades of meaning that official rhetoric imply.  Politics being as much an art as a it is grounded on theory and ideology needs to be analyzed ‘between the lines’.  Hence a differentiation of key terms from similar meaning common terms would enable a better grasp of political situations.