Laura Rozen at Yahoo News:

One view has it that the Libyan rebels are basically peaceful protesters who found their demonstrations against Gadhafi met with bullets and had no choice but to resort to violence.

“The protesters are nice, sincere people who want a better future for Libya,” Human Rights Watch Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert told South Africa’s Business Day. …

Still, the rebels are largely unknown to the American government … “We don’t have the comfort level with the rebels,” said the National Security Network’s Joel Rubin, a former State Department official. “We certainly know some things about them, had meetings. It’s not as if there’s complete blindness. …”

Well, that’s reassuring! Rozen continues:

[T]he Libyan rebels seem to have found western consultants who have offered advice on reassuring buzzwords the West would like to hear. On Tuesday, the Interim National Council issued just such a soothing statement from their rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

“The Interim National Council is committed to the ultimate goal of the revolution which is to build a democratic civil state, based on the rule of law, respect for human rights including … equal rights and duties for all citizens, … equality between men and women,” the Council said in their statement.

Amazingly enough, as Eric Margolis reports, this struggle for democracy and women’s rights may, in fact, bear signs of a complicated tribal conflict:

Gadaffi still retains some support in western Libya and from important tribes. So welcome to a Libyan civil war. Shades of Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US intervened to support rebelling minorities and ended up stuck in the middle of maddeningly complex civil wars.

Little is known about the rag-tag Benghazi rebels, now adopted by the western powers. … It is possible that the Senoussi tribe will emerge from Benghazi’s chaos and reassert its historic overlordship of eastern Libya.  …

But what then? Are we to see a Libya riven by civil war? How long can a very expensive no-fly zone be maintained? Is the west ready to risk getting sucked into another conflict in the Muslim world? Are not Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan enough?