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On the UN approval of a no-fly zone in Libya: A vote for humanity

The United Nations Security Council's vote for military intervention in Libya will add to the world's lessons in knowing when and how to act in a nation's crisis.

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Humanity should be proud of its humanity. On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize the use of outside force in Libya, a move designed to prevent a massacre of pro-democracy rebels and civilians in the city of Benghazi.

No matter what happens in Libya over coming days, the international community has now ventured further down a long learning curve. The UN, in passing Resolution 1973 on March 17, has better defined when the world will meddle in a sovereign nation to prevent mass deaths.

Each humanitarian crisis – such as Somalia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Congo, Kosovo, Darfur – has been different enough that the world has responded differently, or not at all. Yet each crisis provides its own lessons that help form a familiar pattern of collective behavior to better enable a global response in future crises.

In Libya’s case, the early lessons are these:

1. Wait for countries in the region to take the lead, rather than look to the US for automatic leadership.

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