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The world's responsibility to protect Libyans

The gross atrocities committed by the Qaddafi regime against protesters in Libya are of a kind demanding outside intervention. The Arab revolt for democracy now also needs protection from war crimes.

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The brutal killing of hundreds of protesters in Libya has shifted the debate about the democracy movement in the Middle East.

Now instead of simply siding with Arabs or Iranians seeking freedom, the world must also try to deter cornered dictators from committing mass atrocities.

In Libya, Muammar Qaddafi reacted far more harshly than his counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt did to the popular Arab demands for liberty. He unleashed fighter jets and machine guns against his opponents.

It was an excessive use of violence leading to the kind of mass slaughter seen in 1975 Cambodia, 1989 China, 1994 Rwanda, 1995 Bosnia, 1999 Kosovo, and 2003 Darfur.

Several of Mr. Qaddafi’s own ambassadors quit in disgust, warning of genocide and triggering the United Nations Security Council to weigh taking action. And indeed, if the Arab revolt continues in many Middle East countries, the world must be prepared to prevent extreme violence. It should take a decisive stand now in the case of the extreme cruelty committed in Libya.

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