Difficult moral and ethical dilemmas are being raised by the strife in Libya and Ivory Coast.
When David Cameron first called for democratic nations to make Libyan air space a no go zone to protect civilians, after pondering the point I thought that he was wrong. The fact that the UN and some Western nations subsequently brought about a ban on Gadaffi using his country's airspace to attack its own citizens, evidences that David Cameron is a good leader and PM but does not necessarily indicate that his was the right call. Likewise the presence of French troops in the Ivory Coast does not prove that one nation's internal strife however brutal is best tackled by the help of other nations.
Yet thinking about these issues further the ethical questions raised are not easily answered. If regime change was a legitimate moral response by third party nations to the brutality of another country's regime the surely the UK would have used its armed forces to oust Mugabe from Zimbabwe or at least called upon th e UN to do so.. We were after all the old Rhodesian colonial power and could be said to remain under moral obligations to that nation during its development after independence. That we did not and do not do act, speaks louder about moral imperatives, than many clever words used in support of our imposed military involvements in other countries.
So looking for guidance I recalled the biblical parable of the 'Good Samaritan'. The priest and others who crossed over the road to avoid the plight of the man injured in a mugging attack ,are we are led to believe making the wrong, perhaps cowardly, calls compared with that of the Good Samaritan who gives succour to the victim.
But what if the Samaritan had arrived on the scene earlier during the course of the mugging. Should he have stood by and waited until the robbers had done their worst and fled the scene or should he have gone in to help and maybe even prevent more injuries and theft? My own view is that probably the good person should try to prevent the assailant from attacking unless perhaps the odds were so against him eg by weight of numbers that it would be fool hardy and maybe pointless to try to do so. None of us is that important that we can change the world on our own. The good person's involvement would in any event not result in any innocent lives being lost but could result in one being saved.
The troubles with nation involving itself with other nations civil strife result from the dilemma there being impersonal rather than the personal one which the Good Samaritan faced. The difficulties are those of scale, the sheer weight of numbers and military might, making casualties amongst the innocent inevitable as the increasing violence in the Ivory Coast all too sadly illustrates. Also in the Ivory Coast at least I am not sure that the supposedly legitimate leader is any better than the incumbent one; nor is it yet clear who would be replacing the Gadaffi regime if the rebels manage to oust him with Western military support. -Frying pans into fires come to mind.
Another analogy is that of face to face chance meetings - often as on Wimbledon Common during an early morning jog, one exchanges personal greetings with total strangers. One usually cannot do so whilst cocooned in a motor car, especially if the other person too is in a car. Cars tanks aircraft rockets and so on all tend to de-personalise so inevitably making decisions based on the use of such contraptions, less human and ultimately perhaps less humane.
So I conclude that on a person to person basis trying to aid a neighbour in the face of violence is a matter of quick and obviously very personal decision making on what action to take for the best. The wrong decision would be unlikely to affect innocent people. As innocents are bound to be hurt by impersonal decisions to send in arms and armed forces with all their vehicular and other war machines, made at governmental level, I doubt whether such decisions however well intentioned, should be made except when the risks of not doing so are of imminent attacks on the outside nations in question or a world war.