The Corner

Fearful Asymmetry

In August 1981 two Libyan fighter planes jumped a pair of F-14 Tomcats which were part of a naval exercise in the Gulf of Sidra; one fired a sidewinder missile. The Tomcats then shot the Libyan planes down.

The encounter happened in the morning Libya time, at night California time; President Reagan, in Los Angeles for a party, had gone to bed and did not learn of it until early the next day. His attitude was, there was no decision for him to make: The American fighters, and the battle group they belonged to, had their rules of engagement, which the fighter pilots had followed. At the time, George Will wrote, “When a horse flicks off a fly, it’s a crisis for the fly, not the horse.”

Reagan wasn’t told, yet we responded. Obama was told, yet we didn’t.


The Latest