Mainstream media coverage and political non-debate regarding the U.S. Christmas invasion of Panama have been so debased and one-sided that the naysaying commentator (yours truly) hardly knows where to start a discussion of the issue. But, for now, let's start at the beginning with some elementary talk about the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations.
You don't hear much about the principle of non-intervention in American political discourse these days, but they still talk about it at the United Nations and in other exotic, non-English-speaking corners of the world. In fact, non-intervention is widely held, by global treaties and institutions, to be one of the rules of the road of civilized international relations.
Not only is non-intervention the international law, but it is also demonstrably the right thing to do. Large and powerful countries should not use their might to force their will in the internal affairs of their smaller neighbors. It's wrong when bullies do it in schoolyards, and it's wrong when superpowers do it in their "sphere of interest."
It's even wrong when it is aimed at getting rid of a reprobate like Manuel Noriega. And that's worth remembering, because the tricky thing about non-intervention is that everybody has their pet exceptions. Liberal Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is against anti-communist interventions and for "anti-drug" ones. The equally liberal Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-NY) is against intervention in Central America but all for it in Cambodia. Lots of otherwise nice people supported Bush's recent military intervention to prop up President Corey Aquino in the Philippines.
But non-intervention works best when you make no exceptions. For one thing, that's the only way to be fair.