RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
NPR's Jackie Northam reports.
JACKIE NORTHAM: Scott Carpenter is a Keston Family Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East policy.
SCOTT CARPENTER: In the case of Libya and Gadhafi himself as a person, one was under no illusions that he would use force to massacre people in Benghazi and perhaps elsewhere.
NORTHAM: But Michael Barnett, a specialist in international politics and humanitarian intervention at George Washington University, says the decision to intervene could set a precedent.
MICHAEL BARNETT: The fear is that you may, in fact, as you engage in one intervention, you create expectations down the road for future interventions.
NORTHAM: Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, says the administration is approaching each country on a case-by-case basis, and weighing the various interests.
BRIAN KATULIS: I think on all foreign policy, national security questions, there is always going to be a competition and sometimes a clash between what our principles are and then what our core interests are. When you have multiple uprisings and voices pushing for unrest in multiple countries in the Middle East, having a different approach opens up the administration, I think, to charges of hypocrisy.
NORTHAM: The administration's response to uprisings in Yemen and Bahrain has been muted. They are two strategic U.S. allies, especially Bahrain. The U.S. 5th Fleet is based there and the island nation is seen as one of the pillars of containment against Iran. Analysts say it's unlikely the U.S. would intervene in either country, because it has too much at stake.
KATULIS: If in Bahrain the concern is about containing Iran and maintaining, you know, a stable supply of oil out of the Gulf, in Yemen, I think, a key concern is the fight against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
NORTHAM: But George Washington University's Barnett says that could change.
BARNETT: I guess I'd be willing to bet that if you found the casualty levels rise to what happened in the 1980s with tens of thousands dead, then you'd find tremendous pressure for an intervention.
NORTHAM: The Washington Institute's Scott Carpenter says it would be more complicated to intervene in Syria than Libya. Gadhafi was reviled and Libya had few allies, but Syria has some powerful allies, including Iran, and Carpenter says a military intervention there could severely disrupt the dynamics of the region.
CARPENTER: One of the strategic partnerships, if you will, of the Syrian regime has been both Hamas and Hezbollah. And with Hezbollah as a very well- armed, very well-trained force, if they would get involved in this, should there be an international intervention, I think it could spark a regional war.
NORTHAM: Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.
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