So over on Motley Moose, Shaun Appleby has brilliantly dissected the first rounds of the diplomatic game about a UN resolution over chemical weapons control.
As he points out, the key thing is whether any chemical weapons resolution over Syria is chapter VII, or chapter VI. The former allows the use of force. Putin is arguing that force should be removed from the equation. But as Shaun points out, this could be in defiance of the UN's own charter which explains the exigent nature of Chapter VII resolutions.
Article 42: Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.
Charter of the United Nations: Chapter VII UN
So now the ball is in Putin's court - and of course Assad's.
I've been a strong critic of the sudden move to intervention over the summer. I felt the case was not made. I don't believe in punitive actions in humanitarian intervention. I only believe (as in Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya) in actions which prevent harm.
And sometimes, yes, you have to bomb gun emplacements raining terror on innocent civilians. Sometimes, yes, there is the price of a smaller violence to pay to prevent a bigger one.
This current mess/debate/fuckup call it what you will, is proper preparation. It gives the bad faith actors enough rope to hang themselves, and focuses laser-like on the conventions of non chemical weapon use.
I'm still surprised (a little) that this pathway/trap wasn't prepared before. Now everything is open to scrutiny, and the conspiracy theorists, peak oil fanatics, and Putinapologists are being forced into a nice tight corner. These same people said protecting the Bosnians against Milosevic would be a disaster. These same people said protecting Kosovars against Milosevic would be a disaster.
Meanwhile, on the right, the Neocons who hijacked international standards for their own weird quasi rational eschatology, will also be forced into a corner. Do they really want everything or nothing? Are they so addicted to the to erotics of power that they see a cruise missile launch as the ultimate shock and awe come-shot? (apologies for that image)
Once again, by bending to people and circumstance, but keeping his ultimate goals in view, Obama has proved himself as the best community organiser for the international community.
It isn't about leading from the front, dressed in an airman's jacket behind a banner saying Mission Accomplished. It's actually about a real mission - making the world a safer place taking heed of all its various participants.
What pundits call weakness in Obama, I call his biggest strength.
Let's hope - not for his sake - but for the millions of refugees, the hundreds of thousands who may yet die if the civil war continues unabated, that resolution of the Syrian conflict is finally uppermost in people's mind, and the post colonial games (by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel as much as Britain, Russia, France and the US) may finally stop