Obama takes the plunge

With the passage tonight of a robust U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a no-fly zone in Libya -- and then some -- Barack Obama has committed the United States to intervening in a Muslim country for the third time in a decade.

Only this time, the resolution's passage was a victory for the kind of painstaking multilateral diplomacy that was so often scorned by his predecessor, who preferred to work with "coalitions of the willing" and dismissed the United Nations as ineffective, weak, and morally questionable.

Of course, there's no guarantee that a piece of paper will succeeding in protecting the thousands of Libyans cheering in Benghazi's main square from Qaddafi's forces, which are gathering some 100 miles away outside the besieged town of Ajdabiya and have completely surrounded Misrata. What needs to happen now is swift military action against Qaddafi's heavy weapons -- call it a "no-drive zone," and perhaps even the bombing of his compound in Tripoli. Are Britain and France, which have taken the lead in pushing for military action, up to the challenge? Or will the U.S. once again be called upon to clean up a nearby mess Europe couldn't solve on its own? We'll soon find out.

One thought: It is amazing, and altogether incredible, that an uprising that began as peaceful protests calling for the release of political prisoners has made it this far, just as it is unfortunate that Qaddafi's horrific use of violence has forced the international community to intervene. But if such is the price of saving the Arab revolutions, so be it.

The world now has to win this fight. As NATO Secretary-General Fogh Rasmussen put it earlier today, "If Gadaffi prevails it will send a clear signal that violence pays."


North Korea not even gloating about Japan's earthquake

Over at Wired, Spencer Ackerman points out that North Korea's official state media, which rare misses an opportunity to indulge in anti-Japanese schadenfreude, has been remarkably subdued and even somewhat respectful in its coverage of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Japan. There was this basically factual account of the damage so far and even a statement of sympathy from the country's Red Cross:

Upon hearing the sad news that the northeastern part of your country was hit by unprecedented earthquake and tsunami that claimed huge casualties and material losses, I extend deep sympathy and consolation to you and, through you, to the victims and their families on behalf of the DPRK Red Cross Society.

It is my hope that the living of the victims will come to normal as early as possible thanks to the positive efforts of your society.

Unsurprisingly, the coverage doesn't address the interesting question of what risk North Korea's own nascent nuclear program poses.

Iran, which has a history of devastating earthquakes, has been quick to dispell fears about the risks from its controversial Bushehr reactor:

"All safety rules and regulations and the highest standards have been applied to the Bushehr (nuclear) power plant," Ahmadinejad told Spanish state television TVE. 

Russia's foreign minister also chimed in to claim that the Russian-built facility is built to withstand quakes: 

"(The Bushehr) project meets all safety requirements both in as far as technology and seismic stability are concerned," minister Sergei Lavrov told a meeting of the G8 foreign ministers in Paris.