Opinion Brief

The West's recognition of Libya's rebels: Will it help?

The U.S. declares that opposition leaders are Libya's legitimate rulers — though it may take more than that to convince Moammar Gadhafi

The U.S. is stepping up the pressure on Moammar Gadhafi. American diplomats held face-to-face talks with the embattled Libyan leader's representatives in Tunisia over the weekend, and demanded that he step down. The U.S. and more than 30 other nations also agreed at a meeting in Istanbul to officially recognize rebel leaders as Libya's legitimate governing authority. Is this move a nail in Gadhafi's coffin, or is it mostly a symbolic gesture?

This gives the rebels a very real boost: Recognizing the Libyan opposition as the country's legitimate governing authority is far more than symbolic, says Wolf Blitzer at CNN. Now the Obama administration can let the rebels have the $33 billion in frozen Libyan assets in the United States. "They will no doubt begin using some of those funds to purchase badly needed weapons and spare parts to fight Gadhafi's forces.""Should the Libyans pay for their liberation?"

Recognizing the opposition is no quick fix: Bestowing the stamp of international legitimacy on the transitional leadership in Benghazi was definitely the right thing to do, says James Traub at Foreign Policy, but it's not going to magically trigger a speedy rebel victory. The growth in the rebels' "military ability has been frustratingly slow," and "their own leaders concede that they're not remotely ready for a direct assault on Tripoli." If we want them to win, we have to commit for the long haul."A just war, and an unfinished one"

We should have done this months ago: This may or may not help the rebels, says Mark Thompson at TIME, but it certainly helps us. We held back awaiting assurances that the Transitional National Council's "various factions will play nice together and make Libya safe for democracy." But this new development creates "a perfect war, as far as the Obama Administration is concerned: We're neither leading it nor paying for it.""Swapping one war for another"

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