Any failure on the part of the West to intervene militarily in the event that Gaddafi launches a much anticipated counter-attack against the rebels would be shameful but would merely be an extension of the international community's default policy of voluble outrage backed by practical inaction and dereliction of duty - Iraq and Afghanistan notwithstanding. Those who would walk on by while the vulnerable are slaughtered by a superior military force should be reminded repeatedly of the consequences of this stance in recent years. The numbers of civilian deaths are as follows: 800,000 in Rwanda; Bosnia 100,000; several hundreds of thousands in Saddam Hussein's Iraq; Sudan 300,000; and several million on DR Congo alone.
The often made claim that Iraq and Afghanistan constrains the West's options should be dismissed as indulgent navel-gazing at a time when principled action is required. Gaddafi is rightly concluding, as did other despots in recent decades, that the West rarely has the stomach to protect the innocent.