THERE was something akin to euphoria last Friday, It lingered into the weekend, then began to evaporate.
Is it already too late to seize this important moment and embark on nothing less than a national change of direction?
Hundreds of MPs at Westminster signalled that they had at last woken up to the fact that we are no longer a world power, we don't really matter on the world stage.
Their votes showed that they understood that the best way forward for the UK is not the militaristic one, based on a longing for past glory and success (though some of the glory and success was pretty dubious). Could we begin a genuinely new era, and work out how to become a re-invented state, still playing our role in the wider world, but doing so through humanitarian, not military, effort?
Maybe this was just a dream. I was saddened by the way that some prominent Liberal Democrats, led by Lord Ashdown, seemed so furious that Britain had decided to reject international technological violence.
The Iraq war, and even the ongoing Afghanistan war, have been failures. But we should look further back to find the roots of what went wrong. 1956 was the year of the grotesque debacle of Suez. That should have rammed home the lesson that we were no longer a power of any significance. But the successful mini-war with Argentina at the time of the Falklands crisis 26 years later revived fantasies about our world role. Yet just a year later came abject national humiliation, when our supposed good friend and close ally the United States - a real world power - cynically invaded a sovereign Commonwealth country, Grenada, whose head of state was the Queen, without telling Britain that they were going to so so. That was a hard lesson. Who heeded it?
Certainly not the British people, many of whom shamefully handed Tony Blair a third term as our leader despite the duplicity of the build-up to his main project, the Iraq war, plain for all to see by the election of 2005.
Last Thursday night, at long last, our MPs seemed to become aware of our somewhat obscure position in the modern world. Now, I'm not so sure. Paddy Ashdown and others of his ilk are being listened to. Too many British citizens appear to prefer military adventures to the more usefully and undoubtedly more decent business of humanitarian aid. The UK Government allocates less than 2% of its overall budget to aid, but even this paltry sum seems to aggrieve many British citizens. The effort is not always directed to the right places; but that could easily be sorted.
We should voluntarily give up our permanent membership of the UN Security Council. We should start the process of disengaging from Gibraltar and the Falklands. We should give up our nuclear deterrent. We should use our considerable technical and logistical capabilities, and the goodwill that still exists towards us in much of the world, to sustain a huge humanitarian drive to provide aid, succour and assistance where it is desperately needed. This would have implications for our military, and maybe more controversially, for the many British companies, employing many thousands of people, that sell arms around the world. It would not be an easy or smooth process. But it would be realistic and right, however painful the adjustments required.
Angela Merkel looks about to win her third general election. She leads a Germany, country that is wealthier and more powerful than Britain, but does not strut around the world stage.
Her friend David Cameron should follow her example.
Thursday's vote was not so much a personal rebuff to Mr Cameron as a democratic indication that he must change tack. He could begin by doing more to help Lebanon and Jordan cope with many hundreds thousands of refugees hey are hosting. This is a bigger priority than attacking Syria.
If the British state were to signal that it was rethinking its global role, and concentrating on humanitarian rather than military effort, I might just consider voting No in next year's referendum.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.