One of the surprises, for me anyway, about the pro-democracy ferment spreading throughout the Middle East is the fragile hold on power many of the dictators running these countries turn out to have.
But the events unfolding in Libya, ruled with a iron fist for 40 years by Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, the longest ruling autocrat in the world, reveal his grip to be especially tenuous, if still tenacious.
In the space of a mere 72 hours, the oil-rich country -- sandwiched between post-revolutionary Egypt and Tunisia -- has morphed from the mass murder of protesters by security forces to Benghazi, the second largest city, coming under the control of rebels, fires burning unchecked in the capital of Tripoli and elsewhere, those selfsame security forces waving green flags, , senior government officials defecting to the pro-democracy side, and renewed attacks on protesters by mercenaries and military aircraft.
It seems like only a matter of time before Qaddafi is gone and the interim Army-run government demanded by protesters is a reality. Or alternatively, a protracted civil war breaks out.
So the idea being floated by neocon war drummer Paul Wolfowitz, among others, to impose a U.S.-controlled no-fly zone over Libya should be a non-starter. (Yes, the U.S. did impose a no-fly zone over Kosovo in 1999 without United Nations approval, and NATO soon joined it.)
A NATO-led no-fly zone would be far better when and if Qaddafi resists formal demands to cease and desist murdering his own people, but it would be awfully nice in the meantime with the Arab League stepped up to the plate with more than its usual empty rhetoric.