Maybe President Obama was, all along, being like the chap who, having talked himself into a fight, but, wanting to back down, tells his mates, sotto voce, to hold him back. But he pretends to rail against them.
More likely, Mr Obama has been saved from himself over Syria. For this newspaper sees no evidence that Secretary of State John Kerry's seeming rhetorical remark about what Bashar al-Assad could do to prevent an American attack on Syria was anything other than what it appeared to be.
That the Russians latched on to Mr Kerry's statement, opening the window for Syria to join the convention against the production and use of chemical weapons and to bring Damascus' existing arsenal under international control, in so far as we discern, was not the result of some prearranged grand design.
The fact that it happened is not only good for Mr Obama, but for small countries like Jamaica, for which the concept of collective peace and security, guaranteed by the United Nations, has special significance.
For every time a great power, or a consortium, acts unilaterally, disregarding multilateral arrangements, to impose their will, they make small states, absent military might, that much more vulnerable to the whim - arrogance even - of the mighty.
Syria has been engaged in a civil war for two years, in which the United States supports the opposition, to which it has been a proxy supplier of weapons. The Assad regime is backed, largely, by Russia.
For Americans, the Syrian conflict is complicated by the fact that the side they support includes al-Qaida-type jihadists who are profoundly opposed to US ideals. Mr Obama has, understandably, been walking gingerly on Syria, but for the 'red line' he established on Assad's use of chemical weapons.
That red line was supposedly crossed last month, conveniently for the opposition, precisely when United Nations inspectors were in Syria. Ironically, too, it happened at a time when Assad's forces were making gains in the conflict and the use of chemical weapons offered him no strategic military or political advantage.
In the face of this illogic, memories of George Bush's - Mr Obama's predecessor - use of contrived intelligence to launch a war in Iraq, and the American public's distaste for new military campaigns, the president threatened strikes against Assad's regime.
His late call for congressional endorsement of his proposed action at one point seemed an escape hatch from this military commitment, except that the administration continued to beat the war drums. Until Mr Kerry's line that Assad could avoid a strike if he placed his weapons under international control for eventual decommissioning.
In recent days, Mr Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, have been meeting to begin to put flesh on this deal. Already, Syria, one of the few countries that are still outside the UN convention on chemical weapons - Israel is another - has applied to join.
These developments do not guarantee a diplomatic settlement to Syria's conflict. Nor do they blind us to the dysfunction that sometimes characterises the operation of the United Nations, where five permanent members of the Security Council have the right of veto.
But this process of multilateralism is the best we have and has been shown to work when countries are creative and disciplined. If the UN is sidelined at a whim, states like ours are without cover - no matter how moral and exceptional others might claim to be.
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