It would seem that President Obama has postponed, at almost the very last moment, his decision to chastise President Assad for appalling transgressions in his prosecution of the Syrian civil war. Congress will now be asked to ‘advise and consent’ on a call for ‘limited’ action against targets of military significance and operational capability.

Although not a technical requirement as far as US presidential executive authority is concerned, consultation of this nature will spread the load a little more evenly, distribute some of the responsibility for what is, in effect, an act of war against another country.

But this deferment does reveal the limitations of just how poorly democracies can contain and counteract excesses of the very worst kind in nations other than their own.

And, if nothing else, this episode clearly demonstrates a long-standing need for some codified, universal and autonomous response to behaviour considered well beyond the bounds of acceptable human conduct, even at times when the very foundations of the state itself are believed to be under threat of imminent collapse.

So, let us all determine to spread certain loads as widely and as evenly as we possibly can; there are some decisions that not even presidents should be asked to make alone.