What exactly to do in each case is complicated; it depends on difficult judgments of facts on the ground. ...
This is a time when one looks, necessarily, to the president. So far, one looks in vain. What has been strikingly lacking in the Obama administration's response is a sense of the possibility of the moment, a commitment to doing our best to bring that possibility to fruition, a realization that this may be an important inflection point in world history that should shake us out of business as usual.
Greg Scoblete counters:
It seems to me that if you're going to demand action but casually glide over the specifics of what you want done - it's complicated, you see - then you don't have much grounds to criticize. That's not to say there aren't grounds to criticize the administration's handling of the situation, but vague calls to "do something" aren't very convincing.
There are numerous steps the United States and its allies can take today to affect the immediate calculations of the Qaddafi regime. Europe buys 85 percent of Libya's oil, after all. And the West largely controls the international financial system through which the Libyan leadership moves its money -- and could block transactions with one word from the Treasury Department or other finance ministries. And there's more: Western governments could say today that they will seek international investigations and prosecutions of Libyan officials who murder their people. And they could offer to provide humanitarian assistance to parts of Libya that have fallen to the opposition.
The UK should throw its full weight behind German, French and Finnish calls for sanctions, including an EU-wide travel ban on Gaddafi and his family, as well as a freezing of their assets across the bloc.
Trade embargo [is] not a good idea why punish the Libyan people? Libya’s opening to tourism and trade with the West in the last few years has arguably made this current revolt more possible, not less possible.
The idea of [Responsibility to Protect (R2P)] was developed in response to the genocides and mass human rights abuses in the 1990s. But it may offer a way to respond to the uprisings in the Middle East. Where governments respect human rights while facing popular protests (as generally occurred in Egypt), then countries can be confident of the West's non-intervention and able to organise their own affairs. Where countries act contrary to international norms, then a response occurs on a sliding scale, from penalties (the EU is eyeing sanctions) and attempts to limit the violence, through to intervention in an extreme case.
What’s happening in Libya is extremely frightening. But it is a legal and political mistake to call it “genocide,” as a number of Libyan diplomats have done ... [T]here are international laws in place requiring governments not to stand by while another commits genocide. So accusations of genocide by one state are prone to trigger discussions about whether intervention is justified. This discussion, in cases where the word is used prematurely, often lead to a perception that what’s happening in Libya or Sudan, or Burma isn’t really “genocide” and therefore not so bad.
Well, crimes against humanity mass murder, enslavements, rape, torture, imprisonment, apartheid are plenty bad.
The greater danger may be of Gaddafi staying. “In the recent past [he] has been better behaved,” says a senior administration official, “But go back 20 years or so and he was a significant sponsor of terrorist acts who had a nuclear program. So a major concern is does the regime retrench in ways that affect our interests in the region? Even before this happened he was complaining that his gesture in giving up nukes had not been reciprocated with the kind of love he expected. If he somehow survives this he'll have no interest in improving relations with the west.”
(Photo: Libyan protesters stand on the rooftop of a burned police station, during a demonstration against their Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi, in Tobruk, Libya, Wednesday Feb. 23, 2011. Hussein Malla/AP)