The US intervention into the bloody unrest in Libya has drawn a wide range of criticisms—President Obama has not explained US objectives, there's no exit strategy, it's inconsistent to get involved in Libya and not elsewhere—and "those critics are all right," writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. But is saving "thousands of lives" really so trivial that "just because we allowed Rwandans or Darfuris to be massacred, to be consistent we should allow Libyans to be massacred as well?" he asks. "Isn’t it better to inconsistently save some lives than to consistently save none?"
One of the most important effects of the Libya intervention could be strengthening the "responsibility to protect" doctrine—the concept that countries must intervene to prevent atrocities. America was extremely gun-shy about intervening after Vietnam, which made it too slow to help in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s. Similarly, Afghanistan and Iraq have made America too cautious again, but Kristof imagines Moammar Gadhafi facing the music in the Hague, and hopes that "that would leave this Libyan incursion remembered not only for the lives it saved, but also as a milestone in the history of humanitarianism." (Read more Nicholas Kristof stories.)