Dealing With Terrorism

May 30, 1986

Report Outline
Libyan Raid Aftermath
European Experience
Middle East Connection
Special Focus

Libyan Raid Aftermath

Crisis in Nato and Healing in Tokyo

When President Reagan ordered the air strike against Libya he opened a new chapter in America's war against terrorism. This was not the first use of military retaliation for terrorist attacks: Israel has long applied a consistent policy of retaliation for attacks launched from outside its borders. But Israel has acted alone. In requesting collaboration in the Libyan strike from America's allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Reagan tried to involve several nations of Western Europe in its new counter-terrorist approach. He was rebuffed by all but Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who allowed the Libya-bound American F-111s to depart from British air bases. The decision caused an uproar in Europe, whose cities were filled with “Rambo Reagan” posters in the biggest and most vocal anti-American protests since the Vietnam War. At home, an indignant public accused the “Eurowimps” of appeasing Col. Maummar el-Qaddafi.

Predictions of NATO's imminent collapse under the strain proved to be premature, however. The annual economic summit of the seven leading industrial nations held in Tokyo just three weeks after the April 14 air strike produced the most far reaching international agreement to date on how to deal with terrorism. As the leaders of the United States, Britain, France, Italy, West Germany, Canada and Japan narrowed their differences over counter-terrorist policy, the tenor of trans-Atlantic name-calling also died down.

But the precedent has been set for an American military retaliation against any state found to support terrorist attacks against American citizens. And as Syria becomes implicated in the Berlin disco attack that prompted the air strike against Libya, the Reagan administration is faced with a dilemma. Unlike Libya, isolated both politically and geographically even from most of the Arab world, Syria under President Hafez al-Assad has a central involvement in most of the Middle East's many conflicts. An attack on Syria, the Soviet Union's main ally in the region, would carry a far heavier risk of escalation into wider conflict.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
May 14, 2021  Domestic Terrorism
Apr. 09, 2021  Targeted Killings
Apr. 01, 2016  Defeating the Islamic State
Jan. 29, 2016  Unrest in Turkey
Jun. 27, 2014  Assessing the Threat From al Qaeda
Sep. 02, 2011  Remembering 9/11
Sep. 03, 2010  Homegrown Jihadists
Mar. 12, 2010  Prosecuting Terrorists Updated
Nov. 2009  Terrorism and the Internet
Feb. 13, 2009  Homeland Security
Apr. 21, 2006  Port Security
Oct. 14, 2005  Global Jihad
Apr. 02, 2004  Nuclear Proliferation and Terrorism
Feb. 22, 2002  Policing the Borders
Oct. 12, 2001  War on Terrorism
Jul. 21, 1995  Combating Terrorism
Aug. 26, 1988  New Approach to Mideast Terrorism
May 30, 1986  Dealing With Terrorism
Oct. 08, 1982  Prospects for Peace in Northern Ireland
Mar. 27, 1981  Anti-Terrorism: New Priority in Foreign Policy
Dec. 02, 1977  International Terrorism
Jan. 26, 1973  Control of Skyjacking
May 13, 1970  Political Terrorism
Jul. 24, 1952  Red Terrorism in Malaya
Military Intelligence
Terrorism and Counterterrorism