In the fullness of the Arab Spring, helping rebels oust Muammar Gaddafi in Libya seemed to Western leaders as a good idea. He was a mercurial thorn in the side to the West and an autocrat in his own country.
France and Britain led the air campaign to destroy Gaddafi's military capability. The United States assisted. President Obama justified it on humanitarian grounds, to keep Gaddafi from slaughtering the rebels and civilians where they were located.
Now Libya is a dangerous wreck, and no Western countries want to take responsibility for restoring its civil order.
The migrant shipwreck that may have left as many as 700 dead in an attempt to flee Libya is triggering reflections about European immigration policies. There are difficult questions, about collective border security and the willingness to accept refugees from Northern Africa, given the large numbers and the growing anti-immigration sentiment in much of Europe.
But that shouldn't be the end of the introspection. Whether Libya is better off today than if the West had allowed the incipient civil war to play itself out is unclear. There's not much room for it to be worse off. And it is impossible to contend that Libya is clearly better off.
The tragic shipwreck should also trigger circumspection about interfering in the affairs of other countries when there is not a direct security threat to your own.
Reach Robb at robert.robb_at_arizonarepublic.com.