next week is the crunch. I expect we will come to look back on this as we do now upon the League of Nations in its last moments — the League’s failure to act on Abyssinia, and so forth, in the gathering clouds of World War II.

The U.N. has manoeuvred Mr. Bush into a position where he cannot advance towards Baghdad without pushing them over. It follows he will push them over — and let the world know why. As I see it, we have reached the end of the road, either for Mr. Bush or for the United Nations. I expect Mr. Bush to prevail; but if he doesn’t, I’ll tell you. I expect Mr. Bush to be blamed for the convulsion that then seizes the U.N., but in the longer run I think it will be seen that the U.N. killed itself.

The North American media are if possible overplaying the soap operatic performances of Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder, as they strew thumbtacks along the road to Baghdad. If you turn to the European media, you see that the French and Germans themselves hardly take their leaders so seriously. They are used to this kind of cynical posturing, and it doesn’t make the front page. What scares them is rather the American earnestness, the possibility that Mr. Bush means what he says. They expect politicians to lie to them — it is part of the “social contract” as in Canada — and when one of them starts putting his money where his mouth is, they are naturally alarmed. . . .

Here, in microcosm, is the real battle, the one reflected in macrocosm in the contest between Mr. Bush and the United Nations. It could be summed in one sentence:

“Do we think that what we ARE is worth defending?”