One aspect of the Libyan struggle that the “kill 'em all and let Allah sort 'em out” crowd either enjoys ignoring or has utterly failed to bother learning is that Libya is unlike Tunisia and Egypt, or even Bahrain or Yemen. In Tunisia and Egypt, the overwhelming majority of people were actively chafing under the repressive rule. Once the military decided to favor the people, the governments could be toppled relatively peacefully. How those changes in regime will look in twelve months or five years is unclear, but the immediate change could be accomplished with a minimum of havoc.
Libya looks more like Afghanistan and Iraq with large tribal associations supporting each faction–government or rebels. If there is any parity between the sizes of the various tribes, the result is going to be a civil war unless one side or the other can persuade their opponents that they will be treated fairly once the shooting stops. It took seven years for Iraq to get to the point where the civil war settled down to a tense, if hopeful, effort to reliance upon the ballot box. Afghanistan’s civil war is currently more embers than flames, but it continues. Any outside government taking an active role in Libya risks getting caught up in a similar civil war that could extend years, with thousands of casualties and billions of dollars expended.
Unlike Bush, who ignored the specific statements from the Joint Chiefs of Staff that Iraq was a bad idea, Obama has been actually including the military in his considerations of legitimate and practical ways to intervene. We really do not need one more ignorant cowboy in the White House.