President Barack Obama has a difficult problem when it comes to responding to a situation like Libya. This is true regardless of his political party. The President of the United States does not have the luxury of being able to just fly in the Marines to save Libyan civilians, without some sort of approval from the international community at large.
To send in the Marines without international consensus would be to invite disgruntled populations throughout to world to seek to overthrow their governments by starting to demonstrate with an expectation that the United States will come to their rescue. In countries like Libya, the justification for unilateral intervention seems clear, but this may not be so clear in other countries.
Many of my international friends often comment that America thinks it is “in charge” of the world, and is acting as the international policeman. But it is clear to see that when people get in trouble, as the Libyans now are, they immediately look to the United States for help.
The cheering crowds around Ben Wedeman clearly show that most people these days rely on the international media to get the story of their hardships out to the world, in the hope that someone will come to their rescue. Who can blame them? Wedeman is the CNN Reporter who managed to make his way to Benghazi, and reported that he was greeted like the first liberators of Paris in 1944.
It will be interesting to see how President Obama handles this. He must be judicious, because there are thousands of American citizens in Libya, and his first obligation is to save them. Reports say that a ferry large enough to carry a small minority of them is in Tripoli, waiting for the weather to clear so it can carry its passengers to Malta. But there are many more. In his comment on February 23, 2011, he promised to send Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. It is clear that the international community will have to take some action or be condemned for the ages.
Europe does face a crisis of its own. If Moammar Gadhafi manages to hang on, Europe will receive many refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea. This could begin to look like a much worse humanitarian problem.
Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, and many other dictators of the past were able to commit genocide beyond the glare of international attention. Times have changed! Each of us must face and be appalled by wholesale murder today.
It is evident that new and more rapidly acting international mechanisms need to be put into place, which will be able to intervene when leaders and governments commit crimes against humanity. The days of conducting a war crimes trial long after the fact seem to be over. The courtroom is on Facebook, Twitter, Al Jazeera, and CNN, and the Judges are all of us!