In Libya, unlike Tunisia and Egypt, the army has not pushed aside the dictator challenged by mass upheavals. Qaddafi still controls much of the army. And so Libya is moving from street uprisings into civil war.
People at the chief rebel centre in Benghazi have called for military aid from the big powers, through a "no-fly zone" directed against warplanes controlled by Qaddafi. They oppose any idea of outside troops intervening on the ground.
Socialists should not give a blank cheque to US or British military intervention. In such matters, positive support for US or British military intervention can only be a blank cheque: imagining that we could "fine-tune" a military intervention by pressure of demonstrations or petitions is a fantasy.
Their history and their nature mandates an attitude of complete distrust to the US and British military.
But is it our job to try to stop the implementation of a no-fly zone, or the delivery of weapons to the anti-Qaddafi forces? Should we do as some on the left do, and hoist "no imperialist intervention" to the top of our slogans about Libya, downgrading "no to Qaddafi"? No.
A military intervention of a sort and on a scale that would establish US or British control over Libya's oil reserves, or put Libya in a condition of semi-colonial subjugation to the US or Britain, is very unlikely for two reasons.
After the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan, and with resources stretched by Afghanistan, even the US military is unwilling to take on anything open-ended. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has been arguing strongly against even a "no-fly zone".
Secondly, even if one state or another were confident and keen about intervening in the abstract, every state knows the risk that intervention would bring a backlash both from neighbouring states in the Middle East and North Africa, from other big powers, and probably from the Libyan people.
The US and Britain are considering military gestures because they know their dealings with Qaddafi will have discredited them in the eyes of the anti-Qaddafi opposition, and they want to restore credit.
Despite our distrust of the US and British states, we surely do not demand the lifting of the freezes they have put on the assets of Qaddafi and his associates.
Compare the "no-fly zone" operated against Saddam Hussein in the northern (Kurdish) part of Iraq by the US, Britain, and France from April 1991, after the Kuwait war. That "no-fly zone" provided some protection for the Kurds. To campaign for its removal would have been to campaign for Saddam Hussein to be free to bomb the Kurds.
We should support the people of Libya - and especially any democratic or working-class forces in the anti-Qaddafi movement. We should distrust the US government, but not let kneejerk "no to the USA" reactions dominate our thought.