How did Libya, a desert nation of 6.5 million people and less than 2% of the world's oil reserves, become a French and British war? Michael Elliot in Time checks off a bunch of wrong answers first: No, the outcome in Libya is not a vital national interest of France or Britain, nor would a possible refugee crisis affect either country very much. Libya's terrorist-linked history is too far in the past to be relevant, and military intervention too risky to help their nations' international standing. So why did Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron go to war?
The key reason is that "inaction is a decision, a policy with consequences," writes Elliot, quoting former British PM Tony Blair. Because Britain, France, and many other nations spoke out against Gadhafi when the uprising turned violent, it moved them to act. "To have done nothing now, when it seemed as if Gadhafi was going to win Libya's civil war, would have been a decision in and of itself, and one, moreover, that would have exposed the weakness of those who had so recently called for him to go." (Read more Libya stories.)