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How Libya's Qaddafi brought humanitarian intervention back in vogue

The notion of humanitarian intervention went dormant after the Iraq war, but has now returned, championed by many of the same countries that were the greatest opponents of invading Baghdad.

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A French Rafale fighter jet takes on fuel March 19 during the initial French attacks on Libya. Subsequent attacks have targeted pro-Qaddafi ground forces, notably those near the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi.

Christophe Patebaire/ECPAD/SIRPA AIR/Reuters

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The decision for the international community to take military action in Libya, sanctioning airstrikes to beat back Muammar Qaddafi's forces as they gained on rebel strongholds, has returned the idea of humanitarian intervention to the world stage. It's a notion that has lain dormant – and was discredited in many corners – after the Iraq war, but has now returned, championed by many of the same countries that were the greatest opponents of invading Baghdad.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which approved using "all necessary means" short of a ground invasion to protect Libyan civilians, recalls many of the same humanitarian principles that led to intervention in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Rwanda, where the aim was to cross borders to prevent the further slaughter of innocent civilians.

Those ideals are back in play, though whether they will be popularly legitimized in Libya remains unclear. France seems certain they will. While it was the most ardent voice against the Iraq war, France has emerged as the champion of intervention in Libya after being slow to support revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

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