I used to think in these terms --- using our military power for good and all that rot. But as I've grown older I've come to the conclusion that wars are almost always the wrong choice. If Hitler is sweeping across Europe, committing genocide and declaring his intention to take over the world, I'm reluctantly in. But short of that I'm always going to be extremely skeptical of motives and interest about any of these military adventures. It's rare that this extreme form of violence is used for the reasons stated and far more often than not it creates more mayhem and instability than it stops. The law of unintended consequences is never more consequential.
The reasons being stated for this one are even more unconvincing than usual. Insulting, actually. Millions of people are suffering all over the world, even here in the US. And the money that's spent to protect oilfields and our "strategic interest" in keeping people drunk on scarce resources so that the already wealthy can get wealthier would go a long way toward alleviating it. Calling these oil field protection operations "humanitarian" is Orwellian and it prevents the American people from facing the real questions before them about their own futures and how to genuinely work toward a more peaceful, equitable and decent world.
I still hold out for the possibility of humanitarian intervention as Just cause for a Just War, but currently I just don't see the United States in practice as being capable of engaging in such a humanitarian intervention. We've all watched the corporate grip on power tighten year by year to the point that even the most obvious, successful and necessary programs benefitting the common person are now deemed unaffordable by the elites. If there was a President intent on waging war for purely humanitarian reasons to avert atrocity without ulterior financial motive on behalf of America's owners, it wouldn't be allowed to happen or at least there would be a lot more corporate and conservative opposition to it.
Certainly it appears that some of the people that Gadhafi was likely going to liquidate will now survive, which is good for them, but that's a long way off from knowing Libya as a whole population will be better off for this. Any good that comes out of these wars for oil is purely incidental. As Digby points out we have the real live test case of Côte d'Ivoire where the electorally defeated President is creating a massive humanitarian crisis in his zeal to maintain power. There isn't a peep about intervention there, nor was there any serious discussion of doing so in Darfur all these years.
Besides, my own read on this says that the conditions for classic Just War doctrine are not met. Yes, stopping a tyrant from slaughtering his own people is a just motive, but for war to be justified there's all that other messy stuff about war being a last resort, likely to succeed and likely to save more lives than it ends. I am far from convinced on the practical aspects of this, and my own belief is that if those things are in doubt, war cannot be consider justified. It shouldn't be a big gamble. Maybe the West will roll snake eyes and pull it off but that still wouldn't prove it was a good idea to start with.