There is no perfect formula for military intervention. It must be used sparingly — not in Bahrain or Yemen, even though we condemn the violence against protesters in both countries. Libya is a specific case: Muammar el-Qaddafi is erratic, widely reviled, armed with mustard gas and has a history of supporting terrorism. If he is allowed to crush the opposition, it would chill pro-democracy movements across the Arab world.
Libyans who have been fighting since the end of the 2011 civil war must take steps to reconcile and start the arduous process of building a functioning state. Western and regional leaders have limited time to put pressure on them by offering incentives and support for those willing to chart a new course. “Libya is falling apart. Politically, financially, the economic situation is disastrous,” Mr. León said. “I don’t think the country can bear a process of months.”
The collapse of civil order in Libya and the rise of Islamist groups and other criminals there was a foregone conclusion when the United States began its bombing campaign there in 2011, a campaign supported, admittedly reluctantly, by the Times’s editors. And today in 2015 if there are any “pro-democracy movements across the Arab world” they’ve gone underground. If the Times’s editors are sincere about their concern for Libya now, they should support whatever means might be required to effect their goals, regardless of the domestic political consequences. Anything else is magical thinking.