Qaddafi, Terrorism, and the Origins of the U.S. Attack on Libya

By Brian L. Davis | Go to book overview

2

The United States and Libya, 1969-1983

THE NIXON AND FORD ADMINISTRATIONS

The United States had been closely associated with the Libyan king whom Qaddafi would overthrow. In the 1950s Libya had received more U.S. foreign aid per capita than any other country, including extensive building of infrastructure; in addition, the Wheelus Field air base was Libya's largest source of employment and regular income before the oil boom. U.S. oil companies had obtained most of the concessions in Libya, but in order to operate there had to engage in extensive bribery, which did not endear them to the Libyan public. Furthermore, as in all other Arab countries, but more so in Libya, the image of the United States was much damaged by its support for Israel. This problem was compounded by the presence of the U.S. and British bases, and many Libyans believed Nasser's fabricated claims that aircraft from the bases had helped attack Egypt in the Six-Day War of 1967. 1

Shortly after Qaddafi's coup, top U.S. policymakers were presented with Defense Department and CIA analyses stating that it would be fairly easy to topple the new regime, but after some debate Washington extended recognition to the RCC on the fifth day after the coup. Given the history of close identification with the Idris regime, there was pessimism in the Nixon administration about the future of relations with Libya; nonetheless, partly on the advice of its new ambassador to Tripoli, Joseph Palmer, the administration made a decision to be conciliatory and tolerant toward the new regime. Palmer expressed hope that U.S. interests would be well served by the young leader's “natural” anti-Soviet and anti-Communist biases. At this point in time the United States did not fear

-33-

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Qaddafi, Terrorism, and the Origins of the U.S. Attack on Libya
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction ix
  • 1 - Muammar Al-Qaddafi, Leader of the Revolution 1
  • 2 - The United States and Libya, 1969-1983 33
  • 3 - The United States and Libya on a Collision Course 57
  • 4 - Operation Prairie Fire 101
  • 5 - The La Belle Discotheque Bombing and Its Aftermath 115
  • 6 - Operation El Dorado Canyon and Its Aftermath 133
  • Appendix 181
  • Bibliographical Essay 191
  • Index 193
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