Nationalism is not intrinsically good. For it to be so, a nation must transcend attachments to land and folk to champion universal rights of freedom and justice that reflect and animate the virtues of its citizenry.
National honour, no less than personal honour, has only the worth it derives from its defence of human dignity. Then, and only then, do terms like patriotism and honour and doing one's duty have a moral quality, and are virtues in themselves. Many a patriotic German sought honour in doing one's duty to Führer and fatherland. History and humanity, not to mention a just God, scorn them for it.
Prosperity, military power, a well-educated society are the attainments of a great nation, but they are not its essence. If they are used only in pursuit of self-interest or to serve unjust ends, they degrade a nation's greatness. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were temporarily powerful nations. They were never great ones.
The enemies who attacked us on 11 September 2001, and who still threaten us and our allies, obviously do not share our values. They abhor them. They may not like our foreign policies, but it is our character - and I am including the United Kingdom and all our democratic allies in the pronoun "our" - it is our democratic character that they truly revile. When we fight them we are fighting to protect our security, but we are also fighting to protect the global ascendancy of our ideals.Reuse content