Islamist and secular alike, Libyan rebels express their gratitude for the Western airstrikes, drawing a sharp distinction between the campaign against Col. Gadhafi and the American entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan. A handful of today's Libyan revolutionaries fought American troops in those conflicts.
"When America occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, it spread corruption and killed innocents," said Rafat Bakar, a revolutionary activist in the city of Baida. "A Western intervention in Libya would help us get rid of the tyrant and of injustice."
The Libyan situation is complicated so I don't share a straightforward view of what is happening there, even if Western involvement can be reduced to self-interest, as usual. The only immediate questions that interest me are whether the rebellion would have been crushed without intervention, whether the rebels enjoy greater popular legitimacy than the regime, and what the likely outcome for civilians would be with or without Western involvement.
Leaving the country to be reconquered by Qaddafi would not have been good for Libyans -- I think that much can be said for sure. In light of the regime's advances on rebel cities in recent weeks, I'm not sorry to see it newly discouraged by Western support on the rebel side, even if this poses a new set of problems in the longer term.