In endorsing a no fly zone over Libya, the Arab League has taken the extraordinary step of urging western intervention in the Middle East. Nonetheless, we should resist the invitation to make America the lead actor in the Libyan drama. Our task is to help Libyans win their own freedom, not to win it for them.
We may be running out of time. Over the past week, the tide of battle has turned decisively in favor of forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi, who have dislodged rebels from several towns, opening the road to their Benghazi stronghold. By the time the ponderous machinery of United Nations consensus-building gets around to authorizing a no fly zone, if it ever does, the rebellion could be quashed.
The world needs to help the rebels check Qaddafi’s momentum now, not next month or the one after. It’s hard to see how that can be done without supplying the rebels with intelligence and the heavy arms — rockets, artillery and tanks — they need to match Qaddafi’s better equipped and organized forces. The rebels, a mélange of military defectors and valiant but inexperienced civilians, also need weapons and tactical training.