Losing Libya III

America's top intelligence official, James Clapper, has told a Senate committee that he believes Qaddafi will prevail in his battle with opposition forces. This is the same official who told another Senate committee that the Muslim Brotherhood was "largely secular," a gaff so breathtaking that it would have abruptly ended his career in any government but ours. But this time he may be right, especially if he is advising the President to repeat his demand that Qaddafi leave office while doing nothing to help the rebels defend themselves. Indeed, by failing to get defensive weapons into rebel hands, we are, de facto, increasing the power of Qaddafi's offensive weapons. The result of this bizarre policy of helping Qaddafi while calling for his departure will have predictable results: an enraged Qaddafi and an embittered opposition, ripe for recruitment into the Islamist camp. Charlie Sheen may be win-win. Obama is lose-lose.

Much of the reluctance to provide arms to the rebels, a low-cost strategy that does not entail the risks of U.S. military operations in or around Libya, reflects a classic excluded middle fallacy: either we invade Libya or do nothing. That may be the only choice this unimaginative, still-not-ready-for-prime-time administration can see, and endless consideration of a "no fly zone," among the more difficult policies to effect, may be a way to buy time for yet more dithering. But we have a huge stake in the outcome and a chance at shaping it is being squandered by inaction. Maybe we could speed up the road to a serious, coherent policy by sending Clapper to eastern Libya: he'll have no problem finding the secular rebels with whom we should be aligned.