I've been disappointed with how long we've taken to formulate policy on this ("Q: Hey, Barack, what do you think about a no-fly-zone? A: Hold on, gotta get my Final Four picks in first!"), but I suppose it's better late than never. Libyan rebels driving pickup trucks loaded with machine guns at Qaddafi's armored tanks makes for a fairly one-sided fight. I think the U.S. is finally waking up to the reality that complete inaction here may have far-reaching consequences for where the Middle East goes next from these uprisings. Ideally we would have loved for every country to go the way of Egypt or Tunisia, where the autocrats relatively quietly went away. But comments like, "The world is watching," to people like Qaddafi far from pressures them to relent; instead, knowing that they're already internationally isolated and staring at international war crimes one way or another, it motivates them to take their conflicts to the most extreme levels because at that point they have nothing to lose and everything to possibly gain.
Whether a UN Security Council resolution is passed is somewhat questionable to me because of Russia and particularly China's ability to veto, but I think in a situation like this if they can't pass a Security Council resolution, they need to accept that the Security Council, if it once had moral and legal legitimacy for approving international action, is past that point if it is rendered powerless in the face of an international crisis that it is best suited to act on.
In the absence of Security Council consensus, it would make sense for the U.S. to instead take the lead in recruiting NATO countries to join a force capable of striking at Qaddafi. The idea of military intervention into the Middle East understandably makes people wary, but not all military interventions are created equally, and we don't have to make Libya our next quagmire in order to intervene.
I think that in the event of overt Western intervention, be it through air strikes or possibly through eventual NATO troop deployment, if they succeed in deposing Qaddafi, whatever new Libyan government attempts formation needs to be done so with the support and assistance of the West. It wouldn't be through explicit nation-building schemes like we had in Iraq or Afghanistan but moreso through structural support in the form of organizations like the NED that are capable of keeping tabs and providing assistance without jeapordizing sovereignty. Kicking Qaddafi out but then leaving things completely to itself is a risky gambit in the sense that we don't want the legacy of this to be that we armed the next Osama Bin Laden in a Afghanistan-early 1980's sort of redux. Eastern Libya, it's worth noting, sent the highest number of 'freedom fighters' per capita to the mujhadeen in Iraq in the last decade. So the Libyan rebels hold the righteous ground in a fight with Qaddafi, we need to also look at it in a realistic way and realize that the work is not done if Qaddafi goes away. But not acting in any way is a bigger gambit than the mid-'90's Bosnia style intervention that they appear to be going for, with inaction being a likely catalyst for a new wave of anti-Western, anti-American sentiment in the region, emoboldening autocrats by sending the message that the United States and the West are either powerless or unwilling (or both) to act in the face of military aggression, as well as the obvius civilian death tolls that would be accrued if Qaddafi's forces roll into Benghazi unchallengeed.
If done correctly, this intervention could mirror the scale of our intervention against Serbia in the '90's, except that we would be stepping in before a Srebenica type tragedy had to happen. If, as some have theorized, this is just an attempt to draw a veto from Russia and China in order to let us say we're off the hook or that 'we tried,' then it's a new level of dithering fecklessness and perhaps a reflection that the U.S. is willing to fully acquiesce on its leadership responsibilities.