For realists, I would love to hear how doing nothing in Libya was going to help U.S. security interests. Having an oil-rich pariah state that could very well return to supporting terrorism and wreaking havoc in the region would be disastrous, creating Iraq part 3 and making it more likely we'd have to intervene sometime further into the future, at much greater cost and consequence. Did we not learn from the quelched Shia uprisings of 1991? Or from standing by idly (or supporting) the military coup that ended Algerian democracy in 1991? The Arab world suffered for the international community's failure to do the right thing. Literally, hundreds of thousands died as a result. Having Libyans and Arabs feel that we betrayed them yet again would do wonders for our already plummeting credibility, particularly after the Obama administration has moved to back autocratic regimes in Bahrain and Yemen, rather than the peaceful protesters struggling for their freedom and getting shot in the process.
Another argument we heard endlessly the past three weeks was that Arabs wouldn't want another foreign intervention or that intervention would taint the protesters. Maybe we should have asked the Libyans themselves whether they agreed with this assessment, which, again, was based on an incorrect reading of the Iraq war. Libyan rebels have been pleading for Western military intervention for quite a while now. A child had held up a poster in Benghazi saying "Mama Clinton, please stop the bleeding." When you're bleeding you don't really care you saves you. You just want to be saved.