If, as is entirely possible, Kadafi and his kleptocratic family dynasty somehow survive, the Libyan people will have passed through the privations of a stalemated civil war only to suffer the horrors of an unrestrained tyrant’s revenge. Something similar happened after the Persian Gulf War, when the victorious allies quietly encouraged the Shiite Muslims of southern Iraq to rise against a weakened Saddam Hussein, and then stood by while he slaughtered them.

For historians, Cordesman argues, the ill-conceived Libyan intervention “is yet another demonstration that they have the world’s easiest profession — all they have to do is wait for history to repeat itself. Unfortunately, there is nothing amusing about the fact that the lives and futures of some 6.6 million Libyans are at stake. The Franco-Anglo-American gamble now seems far too likely to fail at their expense.”