Benghazi could become the new Guernica. With warplanes, tanks, heavy weaponry, mercenaries, financial reserves, and, reportedly, direct military intervention by Syria’s air force, Qaddafi could possibly crush the uprising of the Libyan people, who are lightly armed. This would tell dictators across the globe that if you cavil at shedding blood you will go down, but if you are ruthless you will survive.
Qaddafi’s triumph, following the fall of neighboring pro-American dictators, would also make for further erosion of U.S. standing in the Mideast. And it would feed resentment, as when we abandoned Iraq’s Shiites to Saddam’s tender mercies in 1991.
The U.S. should impose a no-fly zone and deliver arms to the rebels — preferably with NATO, but without if necessary. To counter Qaddafi’s claim that we have designs on Libya, Washington should say loudly and often that our goal is free elections under U.N. supervision.
We should not, however, seek U.N. authorization for the military measures. To acquiesce in the claim that the U.N. Security Council (meaning Moscow and Beijing) is the arbiter of the legitimate use of force in the world is terribly dangerous. This claim rests on the U.N. Charter, but the Charter also provides for an effective U.N. military apparatus to enforce international peace and security that never came into being.
— Joshua Muravchik, a fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is the author of The Next Founders: Voices of Democracy in the Middle East.