Setting aside the situation in Japan, which we truly shouldn't, the world has now re-focused on the Middle East, and specifically Libya, and while that conflict is, for the moment, more dramatic, the outcome in Japan is just as important.
In any case, the UN acted, either way to slowly or precipitously, and declared that Gaddafi should stop his attacks on his own people. With that declaration in hand, and the twin requests for a No-Fly zone from the rebel government and the Arab League, several nations have acted. Gaddafi seems surprised by that, but I suppose he just never quite believed all the statements being made. Oh well.
So, there are a couple things unsaid, or just mentioned in passing, and they're the 800 pound gorilla's stalking the Middle East at the moment.
The first, which has been tacitly acknowledged, is that unless the coalition forces actually chose to target Gaddafi himself, which they all agree isn't in their rules of engagement, then the whole situation could well end in some sort of stalemate, with Gaddafi content to sit in Tripoli and the rebels unable to expand their sphere of influence.
In one respect that's a reasonable outcome in the short range, since the whole idea was to save lives. No fighting means no one is dying, although it's clearly a situation that can't last forever. What happens next is anyone's guess, but surely politicians of every persuasion will be complaining one way or the other. John McCain, who until a couple days ago was complaining about the lack of action on a No Fly zone is now complaining because they've got one. Sorry, John, but you can't have it both ways.
Another aspect of Libya, which is always a danger in these situations, is that the next government might be more anti-American. That's a risk with a democracy, and there's not a thing we can (or should) do about it. If we truly believe in democracy as a governmental model, then we have to believe that whatever the people vote for themselves is appropriate. In the US we've seen that firsthand, with a bunch of folks decrying the Bush years, and others saying the same thing about the current President.
The other 800 pound gorilla is Saudi Arabia. They have been staunch supporters of the US, but when they look at how we tossed Mubarak and Egypt under the bus, they've got to wonder. I don't disagree that Mubarak needed to go, but it does send troublesome signs to those who read that as some sort of policy change. Bahrain is a similar situation, although the message to the leadership there has been straight-forward: stop beating the protesters and loosen the reigns of freedom a bit. I don't think they're hearing that message, or else they're just ignoring it. It's impossible to tell which right now.
However, with all of this said, let's turn our attention to the daddy of the 800 pound gorillas. The reason the whole world cares as much as they do, and it's not remotely about the "humanitarian crisis," isn't being discussed, at least not directly. In truth, it's one thing, and one thing only: Oil!
The simple answer here, which is so far from the radar screens that it doesn't even register as a blip, is that so long as the world, or more directly the US is dependent upon oil, we'll continue to be drawn into these things, for all the wrong reasons. No, we don't need to be drilling more at home, or in the gulf, or anywhere else. We need to put the effort into alternatives, and cut ourselves loose from foreign policy dictated by economic reality.
As I said in the book: What we need is not evolution, but revolution. The time is now!