Peters comment that the Iraq matter could be the Abyssinia of the U.N strikes me as exactly correct, and I have been surprised that so few commentators have realized that Bush is in a no-lose (or win-win) position. France knows that Bush is going to Iraq no matter what it says. If France and friends tank a U.N. resolution, it will discredit the U.N. (thank you France!) and give Bush a free hand for the next steps (Iran? North Korea? Libya??) On the other hand, if the U.N. gives Bush its backing, then the precedent will have been established for going to the U.N. for any moves against another country down the road. You would think France will want to preserve its leverage to shape (restrain) Bushs next moves after this. Which is why I agree with Peter that this is a bluff; look for no worse than an abstention on a resolution next week.
I would point out that history is never so rational. The french once engaged in the bluff have to carry it out, they dont care if they lose. The french realize that the UN fits into the long term picture of American Democrats, and american academia which formulates the idealistic policy for them. Even if the UN is marginalized which it will be, it is only a speed bump. This is Hegel in practice. This so called "poker game" is the master-slave dialectic in action. The french consciousness refuses to play the role of slave, they must exert themselves by showing that they do not fear political death. They may show some existential angst but they will not fold. The french dont want to restrain Bush, or play any nice leverage games, that implies resignation to lever status. This is a tour de force, the french are intent on sabotaging Bush, if they can make him a one term president, they will play nicer leverage games with the democrat who replaces him. Even if this is not what the French are planning on doing to Bush it is certainly what they intend to do to Blair. The game is afot and the consequences are manifold. The french dont believe in the long term demise of the UN. Bush might have a win-win here, but that means he has to go foward with Iraq soon.