Michael Walzer philosophizes about Western intervention in Libya. Walzer is a serious thinker on the laws of war, and generally puts his understanding above politics, meaning he supports military actions or disproves of them based on his understanding of the principles, not on the identity of whomever is sitting in the White House.
The problem is that all his formidable intellectual tools don't much help him in making up his mind about Libya today. He leans heavily on John Stuart Mill's ideas, in which democracy needs to be created by the demos, the people, not by intervening foreigners, and if the locals can't get there on their own they aren't ready yet. He also doesn't think things in Libya are serious enough yet, though he isn't sure they won't be. So he looks for the appropriate entity to intervene, if and when and perhaps: Italy? Nah. NATO. It won't. Finally he decides the Egyptians and Tunisians should intervene, and by this time he's no longer pondering a no-fly-zone, but rather a real invasion on the ground.
Egypt and Tunisia, huh? If that's the best he can come up with, maybe he's too much of a philosopher and not enough of a consumer of the daily news. Egypt and Tunisia happen both to be busy these days trying to sort out if they're ready for democracy, in Mill's terms, and probably couldn't cobble together the ability to intervene in Libya even if they desperately needed to: who would be the governments giving the marching orders, pray tell?
By way of jolting us out of our philosophical reveries, it could be bracing to read this description of how people are being tortured in Gaddafi's Libya, right now. (In an aside, I don't know how the Palestinian fellow can be called a "refugee", but that's not important in this context). The story underlines a truth which is often not mentioned in this sort of discussion: that it's not Gaddafi who's doing the torturing, nor is anyone following his direct orders. His regime is based on large numbers of evil and cruel men, who need no special orders to destroy human beings. All the agonizing in the West and at the UN and in the International Community is taking place while in Libyan prisons and camps people are agonizing in the real meaning of the word, meaning they're in terrible agony.
Part of the discussion is the extreme reluctance of Western powers to intervene is a way that could be construed as "colonial", or "post-colonial". This seems to me exceptionally cynical. The world has created a set of concepts and buzz-words in which rich and powerful countries may not intervene to save lives of suffering people today, because a century ago their forefathers may or may not have been nasty to the forefathers of today's culprits and victims. Of course, nothing the British ever did in places like Raj India was ever remotely as bad as what the Indians and emerging Pakistanis did to each otter after the English left, or what the West Pakistanis did to the East Pakistanis a generation later, or what the Sri-Lankens did to the Sri-Lankens another generation on, all in what had once been British India. No matter: colonialism trumps local crimes then, and does so in Libya now. But anyway, the issue ought to be moot, because the rebel half of the Libyans seem to want some sort of no-fly-zone, so the colonial part shouldn't be relevant, and the French have apparently even officially recognized them as the emerging government.
Seen from an Israeli perspective, both sides of the Libyan conflict are probably equally distasteful. But one side has heavy weapons and a system which tortures people, and the other side is resisting them. If morality plays a role in international relations, two weeks ago was the time to take action to protect the Libyan people who want a better life. If it doesn't - and perhaps maybe it doesn't - then no action should be taken, period, and the Libyans should be told they're on their own while the world gets on with other things, and drop the pretenses.
Meanwhile, in another faraway land, the Iranians are supplying the Taliban with weapons the better to kill Western forces and then terrorize Afghans. To the best of my understanding, they didn't seek international support or legitimation for this, they just did it.