The United States could, as my colleague Elliott Abrams points out, arm the rebels. But that policy has its own drawbacks. It may merely increase the carnage, rather than give the rebels the upper hand. Sophisticated weapons require training to use, but we aren’t going to send in trainers.
Equally troubling is the fact that the weapons we want Libyans to use against Qaddafi could wind up in the wrong hands and used against us. There’s a real risk that what succeeds Qaddafi’s regime is not a stable, broad-based government but something that looks more like Somalia.
Asking others to arm the rebels doesn’t solve the problem. Would the Saudis, for instance, be as careful to make sure that weapons don’t fall into the hands of Islamic extremists who are as mad with the West as they are with Qaddafi?