Slaughter in Libya's Misurata: Is this Obama's 'Rwanda'?
NATO admits it can't help keep Qaddafi forces from slaughtering civilians in Libya's third-largest city, Misurata, which is keey to the rebels' aims. Obama faces a humanitarian choice, as he did with Benghazi.
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But such steps may not be enough as Qaddafi forces quickly make inroads in Misurata, ready to kill civilians who want an end to the Libyan leader’s rule. The rebels there are pleading for on-the-ground help from NATO.Skip to next paragraph
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But Mr. Obama opposes deploying either US combat forces or the kind of aircraft designed for close-in strikes on urban areas. The administration claims the US has limited resources and little strategic interest in Libya compared with Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen.
America’s humanitarian impulse to prevent massacres does indeed have a checkered history. President Clinton, for instance, failed to act against Rwanda’s genocide but he did save lives in Bosnia and Kosovo. The US attempt to feed the starving in Somalia ended with US troops being killed in 1993.
Will Misurata become Obama’s Rwanda, a humanitarian stain on his presidential legacy.
The president is in the midst of a campaign to cut defense spending, and wants to limit American leadership in the world. The US has so far spent more than $600 million in the Libyan effort. But then the US did prevent a civilian slaughter in Benghazi with powerful US airstrikes.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, now Obama’s secretary of State, has offered some guidance on what to do in such situations. In 1994, the then-first lady gave a speech after accepting the Elie Wiesel Humanitarian Award. She spoke of a young Jewish girl in Nazi Germany whose writings had awakened “us to the folly of indifference and the terrible toll it takes on our young.
“She wrote: ‘until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, everything will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.’
“Those were Anne Frank’s words. Those were the words of another child caught up in another ... war. But they are the words that you could hear throughout the decades, and that if we listen we can hear today.
“It is not enough that we sympathize with the plight of children here and around the world. Sympathy is important, but empathy is even more important, and action is essential.”