Actually, I want to make another point about this that I missed before:
No, reserving your support until it is needed is a perfectly valid strategy. It's much better for the rebels politically if they overthrow Qaddafi without outside intervention, so not coming out of the gate with heavy pressure is actually preferable. However, now that they are in much rougher shape, they will be more open to (And appreciative of, politically, which is to our benefit) outside aid.
Even if that were the strategy (and I'm not sure it was), it wouldn't work. If your concern is making it look like the rebels are somehow beholden to us for their success, then waiting until they really need our help
kinda defeats the purpose. Had we offered assistance or even just statements of support back when the rebels appeared to have the upper hand, no one could say how much of the outcome was from the rebels on their own and how much was from US support. They could save face by insisting that they didn't really need us, but were so strong and powerful that the US had no choice but to recognize them as the next power in Libya. Now, if the US offers help, there's no way to do that. Any victory now (and I doubt it's possible anyway) would clearly be seen as happening only because the US stepped in. It would be the US winning, not the rebels.
I agree that had the rebels won on their own, that would have been better for them entirely. But that's what I was referring to by making yourself irrelevant on foreign policy. You can always just sit back, take no position, and let things happen. My larger point is that the Obama administration seemed primarily to just not want to commit to any course at all. Even the latter choice could have been clearly stated as policy ("We're not going to interceded with a purely internal affair of the Lybian people... blah blah blah..."). But they didn't do that either. They just kinda sat on the sidelines being very careful not to say anything that could even be interpreted as a policy position.
There are problems with that approach IMO. In this particular case, it may not end out mattering much, but it's somewhat indicative of what we've seen of foreign policy from this administration as a whole, not just in this one case. They dithered on the fence with Eqypt (very mixed messages), hardly mentioned Tunisia, and were utterly silent regarding Iran. Similar lack of clear position has been the response to uprisings in Yemen and Saudi Arabia as well. IMO, that's kinda troubling. If these are the "tests" which we were warned would come if Obama was elected, I'm not sure he's passing them.