Suppose it was you sitting in the Oval Office and had to quickly decide whether or not to intervene in Libya to prevent the imminent slaughter of thousands, what would you have done?di·lem·ma [di lémmə]n1. situation with unsatisfactory choices: a situation in which somebody must choose one of two or more unsatisfactory alternatives
The question hasn't yet been answered as to why it is that Libya, of all countries in that region, has won the humanitarian defense sweepstakes of 2011. We have seen many countries, both in that region and throughout the world, where civilian loss and civilian suffering has been much, much greater. Congo for the past 12 years, we've lost about five million people. Sudan, three million people, never any talk of military intervention. Take a look at what's going on in the Ivory Coast today. Secretary Clinton was talking about the number of refugees that might have come out of a Gadhafi attack on Benghazi. You've got 700,000 refugees in the Ivory Coast right now--close to a million, in fact. Why, why Libya? Hasn't been answered.
[Then there is] Syria. Remember that the current president's father, back in 1982, when he had a little rebellion on his hands in the city of Hama...wiped them out…Eighty thousand people were killed in Hama. What do we know about the rebels in Libya? One of the few things we know about them is that there was from that region of Libya a disproportionately high number of young men who joined al-Qaeda in Iraq. Are these the folks that we want to associate ourselves with? We know for a fact that Gadhafi is a bad guy, but we know very little about the people who seek to replace him.
I just wanted to invoke the law of unintended consequences…Remember Somalia. There was never a more humanitarian mission than when President George H.W. Bush, the elder Bush, when he ordered U.S. troops into Somalia to avoid the starvation of hundreds of thousands of people. Ultimately, that led to a dead Ranger being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. We pulled out of Somalia just in panic; and a few weeks later, when Rwanda happened, the United States was so shell-shocked that it was unable to do anything and 800,000 people died.
Critics argue that we are inconsistent, even hypocritical, in our military interventions. After all, we intervened promptly this time in a country with oil, while we have largely ignored Ivory Coast and Darfur — not to mention Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.
We may as well plead guilty. We are inconsistent. There’s no doubt that we cherry-pick our humanitarian interventions.
But just because we allowed Rwandans or Darfuris to be massacred, does it really follow that to be consistent we should allow Libyans to be massacred as well? Isn’t it better to inconsistently save some lives than to consistently save none?