The vote at the UN yesterday on Zimbabwe was not a North/South split - after all Burkino Faso voted for the resolution. But it did reveal, in the use of the veto by Russia and China, two different ways of thinking about the exercise of responsibility in the modern world.
The argument at one level was about whether to give mediation "longer". But how much longer? And how much more suffering in the interim?
But there is a more fundamental point - or two actually. First, since when does pressure on a regime that has been flagrant in its abuse of human rights and democratic standards undermine mediation? Surely it brings home much more clearly that the world is determined to tilt the balance away from a government that has forfeited international respect? But second, the argument of China and Russia was that the Security Council had no business "interfering" in a national issue. But the crisis in Zimbabwe has gone way beyond that - not least through three million plus refugees caught up in the violence fleeing to South Africa (see above "If your neighbour's house is on fire" of 8 July).
The Russian and Chinese vetoes have shielded Robert Mugabe and 13 of his top supporters from international pressure. Their preferred route of mediation will have the chance to prove itself - too late for too many but no one will be happier than I if I wake up one day soon and find that this route has delivered a government that respects the March 29 election result.
Meanwhile the governments of western and other democracies should have no regrets about bringing into the open a vital debate. The alternative is for the threat of veto to mean we all clam up and pretend that there is no disagreement. That is not real diplomacy.