|can politicians act out of personal decency?|
yes. it. can. but not in any nation strategic to its neo-imperial interests. we haven't interfered in north korea, where a entire population is enslaved to the state, impoverished to the point of starvation, and systematically brainwashed to the advantage of a megalomaniacal fascist dictator. we had no troops on the ground in sudan, where genocidal conflicts raged for years. we took no actions against mubarak's "democracy" in egypt.
no, the government of the united states has no interest inactions like supporting revolutions or distributing humanitarian aid that do not support its financial interests. north korean leadership would retaliate against any u.s.-led attacks, destabilizing the entire region. sudanese rebels would have fragmented the country and disrupted the oil trade. egyptian president and dictator hosni mubarak was one of the u.s.'s greatest allies in the region, and received massive amount of foreign aid from the u.s.
many people may be shocked by such statements, claiming as that the a country like the u.s., with so much military sophistication and so much international sway has the right and obligation to defend the libyan civilian population. many, no doubt many readers of david brooks column, now think the president obama is taking military action in libya out of the goodness of his heart.
but obama is a politician. he has almost inconceivably large incentives to act in the financial interest of the nation. however, as a politician, president obama has little if any incentive to act as a decent and compassion human being. whatever decisions he makes are pressured by hundreds of different financial interests; and almost all of them want want the us economy to recover and thrive so that they can make more money (some notable exceptions are large banks and auto-makers, who would rather just take money from the government directly).
the president's job is to balance out everyone's interests and find a solution that makes everyone more money. his main occupational hazard is that he will never have moral hazard: do what's best for $veryone, and the country will succ$$d.
so in light of all this, can obama act as a decent human being? he's the president of the united states, so i submit that he cannot.