The following number is unconfirmed at this point, but if it turns out to be true, how does it fit into the "prevent a humanitarian crisis" calculations?
Concern over the unfolding humanitarian disaster came as a rebel military commander said that at least 50,000 people, civilians and combatants had been killed in the war to oust Moammar Gadhafi.
The number was calculated by adding death tolls reported in battle zones and accounts from agencies such as the Red Cross, said Hisham Abu Hajer, the Tripoli Brigades coordinator.
That number wouldn't surprise me, but it might come as a shock to people who have missed the way that news media have seemed a bit shy about reporting casualties at all during the Libyan civil war. It is also likely to rise unless Gadhafi loyalists surrender and the rebels find a way to get far more food, water and medical supplies into the country.
Would Gadhafi have slaughtered 50,000 people if NATO had not intervened? I think the answer to that depends on the time frame. In the short run, no, I don't think he would have killed that many in Benghazi or other cities where there was unrest. But I have little doubt that thousands more would have died every year at the hands of his police state thugs in the long run. That is no small thing as history begins to weigh in on the pros and cons of what NATO, and President Obama, have done and how they did it.