When Russia and the NATO countries sold tanks, artillery, land mines, cluster bombs and helicopter gunships to Mummar Qaddafi they did so knowing that he would very likely use those weapons to suppress any opposition within his own country. While those weapons made his regime more stable, they also assured that any attempt to overthrow it would result in the spilling of much more Libyan blood.
They in effect traded blood for oil, in that most imperial of ways, they traded Libyan blood for Libyan oil.
Providing those heavy weapons to the Qaddafi regime was a most important form of imperialist intervention which AFAIK, no one on the left objected to.
NATO put no troops on the ground in Libya nor did they provide the opposition, which we now know, represented the overwhelming majority of all Libyans, with heavy weapons. But the NATO air campaign cost Qaddafi his helicopters and war planes, and limited his rocket and artillery attacks to places he could hit from batteries he could hide in population centers. [Note this trick won't work against a Qaddafi or an Assad.] Thus he was able to maintain the siege of Misrata from Tawergha for so many months. And although NATO only destroyed a small percentage of his armor, the air cover forced him to abandon the use of his heavy tanks. The Qaddafi forces had to use the same sort of technical vehicles the NTC forces relied on and engage their enemy close up where air support couldn't easily get at them but now the thuwar could. The NATO intervention leveled the battlefield.
[BTW - I strongly objected to the use of the phrase "pro-Qaddafi forces" then or "pro-Assad forces" now by people on the left in the face of ample testimony to the fact that these "leaders" kill soldiers who refuse to fight for them, kill them and their family. Would you describe a man who opens a safe with a gun to his back as "pro-bank robber?"]
The main effect of the UN mandated NATO intervention over Libya was to somewhat neutralize the tremendous advantage in aircraft and heavy weapons given to him by the major arms exporting countries who also happen to be the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. This is what many on the left rose up to object to.
Once the "great powers" have supplied a dictator with cluster bombs and the systems with which to deliver them, he should be free to use them on a rebellious population without any outside interference. Is that the stand of the left? I fear there is much more suffering in the future of humanity than need be.
We can see the terrible results of what the anti-interventionist left wanted for Benghazi and Misrata in Homs, Hama, Idlib, Duoma, Houla, Dara, and now Damascus and Aleppo.
The "Battle of Damascus" has been raging for six days now in the oldest living city in the world. Heavy weapons and bombs are being used indiscriminately by a government against its rebellious communities on a scale never seen before AFAIK in one of the world's great cities.
This may be the first such wildly uneven urban battle but I'm afraid it won't be the last. I fear for the precedent being set and the world's acceptance of it.
If I say "What a tragic loss of life yesterday." and you think Denver, then the wool has already been pulled over your eyes.
Are helicopter gunships dropping cluster bombs over neighborhoods and all the rest okay now?
I fear that what is happening first in Damascus may eventually happen in Los Angeles, New York or London. Will those centers of power yield with any less violence once so few have objected to the precedent being set in Damascus and Aleppo today?
And finally, I am shamed by a left that seems bent on making its main legacy on this point a few pro-Assad rallies, much propagation of Assad lies and a lot of talk about non-intervention.