President Obama has been a step too late and two steps too cautious. If Qaddafi manages to hold on, it will be right to ask, "Who lost Libya?" The president should recognize the provisional government, send needed support to the revolutionary forces, and firmly plant the United States on the side of democracy and freedom. Let's not forget that Qaddafi is a terrorist, a repressive autocrat who has tortured and killed his own citizens. And let's also not forget that the victory of the revolutions now sweeping the Middle East would be the most important defeat for al-Qaida in history, a triumph of secular, democratic views over Islamist terror.
This new model of government could supplant the narrow and historically backward argument being made by the Taliban, al-Qaida, and Iran. If the revolutions succeed, we will have seen a victory that we have been failing to accomplish in Afghanistan and Iraq. We will have won the hearts and souls of the next generation—not by waging an unwinnable military battle in the hills and mountains of Afghanistan against an evanescent enemy but by letting brave Arabs conclude that what we believe in and stand for is a better model than what they have had, or than what al-Qaida offers.
Now all we have to do is help them win.