Why is Vladimir Putin failing to win his war in Ukraine? The answers multiply: hubris, corruption and incompetence on the Russian side, military valor, canny leadership and American munitions on the Ukrainian side.
But the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the wave of antique pageantry help illuminate one of the Russian president's important weaknesses. He has been hobbled in his fight because his regime lacks the mystical quality we call legitimacy.
Legitimacy is not the same thing as power. It's what enables power to be exercised effectively amid trials and transitions, setbacks and successions. It's what grounds political authority even when that authority isn't delivering prosperity and peace. It's what rulers reach for when they call their societies to sacrifice.
In most of the world today there are only two solid foundations for legitimacy: democracy and national self-determination.