"How long will we fail to help?"
That was one question, suggested by a Morning Edition listener, that ME host Steve Inskeep asked Secretary State Hillary Rodham Clinton today in Cairo as she sat down for a series of media interviews.
Put another way, the question was about whether the United States has done enough to help the people in North Africa and the Middle East — particularly in Libya — who have been demanding change and have been beaten, killed and imprisoned by their governments. For instance, shouldn't a no-fly zone have already been declared over Libya to protect people from Gadhafi's air force?
"That is not a question that should be only directed to the United States ... I think that President Obama has been absolutely right in being clear in saying that [Col. Moammar] Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to govern.
"But as you know very well, there is a vigorous debate by people of good faith as to whether any particular action is called for or would be effective. But there is very little debate that the [U.N.] Security Council in its resolution ... did not authorize any no-fly zone, any delivery of arms or any other kind of assistance other than humanitarian assistance.
"Now we are in a different environment where enough countries have watched what was happening — the Arab League has taken its stand [in favor of a no-fly zone] — and now countries that said flat out they were opposed, they would veto, they would never support are reconsidering."
But by the time an international consensus is reached to take action against Gadhafi, won't it be too late, Steve asks? Gadhafi's forces have been taking back cities and towns captured by the opposition.
"Unilateral action would have unintended consequences that we cannot undertake," Clinton said. "If there is [an] international decision in the Security Council, then the United States will join with the international community."
Here's how that part of their conversation sounded:
There will be more from the interview on today's edition of All Things Considered and tomorrow's Morning Edition. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the shows.
Among the other news outlets Clinton spoke to today was CNN. She told Wolf Blitzer, the network says, that she's not interested in a second term as secretary of state, in being vice president or in being president.
Update at 7:30 a.m. ET, March 17: The as-broadcast version of Steve's conversation with Secretary Clinton will be posted here.