Doctor Johnson memorably said that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” – in which case there must be plenty of scoundrels in and around the John McCain camp. Over the years we have come to expect that any candidate for the Presidency of the United States has to surround himself with Old Glory and refer constantly to the US as the “greatest country on earth”. If in doubt double the patriotic hyperbole. But I cannot recall a candidate so shamelessly playing the patriotic card as McCain with his “Putting the Country First” slogan.

Slogans are blunt weapons and sometimes dangerous ones. McCain would argue (has argued) that what he means is that he personally will put the country first ahead of personal or party ambition. Fair enough you might say. And so he should. But another interpretation, and one that is hardly subliminal, is that McCain will put the country first ahead of any concerns for other countries. Now that is much more sinister and dangerous.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union we entered a phase in history when there was only one superpower – the United States of America. With the rise of China and the dangerous rise of a threatening, nationalistic and revengeful Russia that might be changing. But for the time being it remains the case that America, weakened though she might be, is still the only truly dominant nation with far greater political, economic, and military power than any other country.

Despite the malignant rule of Bush and his cohorts most of us who are not American and live in the free world still look to the USA for leadership. We don’t want an America that is inward looking, self obsessed and singularly unconcerned for the rest of the world. We don’t want American imperialism, but we do want a closeness which goes beyond military alliance. John Kennedy memorably said this in his inaugural address “To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves… not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” That is the America we want to see return, and it is the antithesis of “Putting the Country First” – it is putting humankind first.

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