The U.S attack on Libya on April 15, 1986, marked the culmination of America's frustration over years of being attacked with impunity by international terrorists. It was simultaneously the culmination of a long downward course in U.S.-Libyan relations, a course that was related to the external policies of the dictator of Libya, Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, avowed friend of the Soviet Union, expansionist, archopponent of Middle East peace, archproponent of world terrorism and radical revolution, and head of a brazenly outlaw regime. The idea of engaging in military reprisal against terrorism had been circulating in the United States since the Tehran hostage crisis and had been endorsed by President Ronald Reagan in its aftermath. However, the political will to translate words into action had not emerged until the humiliation of the Beirut TWA hostage crisis of 1985, after which the Reagan administration began seriously looking for the right occasion to inflict a military blow against terrorism.
In light of this, there have been suggestions that the White House arbitrarily selected Libya as a target because of its weakness, and there have been insinuations that to justify itself, Washington manufactured a “Libyan threat” where there was none. To the contrary, Qaddafi very much brought his harsh punishment upon himself. The never-mild Libyan strongman had been taking on an increasingly belligerent posture since 1984. Apparently inspired by the success of Iranian-sponsored terrorism in Lebanon, he intensified his terrorist activities, particularly as directed against Americans. The most crucial aspect of Qaddafi's terrorist role during this period was his increasingly close relationship with the Palestinian “master terrorist” Abu Nidal, whose agents carried out the Malta