Possible interventions include not only a no-fly zone but also providing weapons to the rebels, offering inducements to Gaddafi loyalists to defect, jamming Libyan military radio transmissions or bombing Mr. Gaddafi’s tanks and artillery when they move east. Each option carries risks for the United States, and Mr. Obama’s caution is understandable.
On the other hand, Mr. Gaddafi’s military is weak, and many Libyans clearly are desperate for change. And a Gaddafi victory also carries risks for U.S. interests, as Mr. Obama himself has said. A sacking of Benghazi will be accompanied and followed by a horrific bloodbath. A revitalized dictator is likely to be distinctly unfriendly to Western interests. And other despots will conclude that Mr. Gaddafi’s brand of merciless revenge brings better results than the Tunisian and Egyptian models of accommodating people’s yearning for freedom ”” and that American threats to the contrary can be discounted.