Rep. Allen West: ‘Drop The Bomb’ On Gaddafi Because It Worked For Reagan

March 21, 2011 3:53 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Speaking at a conservative gathering over the weekend, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) criticized the Obama administration's handling of the conflict in Libya, saying that the military should have taken Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi out several weeks ago:

WEST: But let me close by saying this. The world is going to hell. And I don't know any other way to say it. When you look at what's happening in Libya, I don't care what anyone says; you can't win away from 30,000 feet. I've been on the battle field before. I don't know why we're shooting $567,000 a piece Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya. You know, back two or three weeks ago, we could have taken care of this situation if we had done the exact same thing that Ronald Reagan did back in the early 80's to Muammar Gaddafi, when he dropped the bomb in his back yard. Muammar Gaddafi didn't say a word for the next 30 years.


There is so much wrong with West's ahistorical chest-beating. First and foremost, the U.S. isn't technically at war with Libya but is helping to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which establishes a no-fly zone in other to prevent Libyan warplanes from slaughtering civilians. Second, the air-strike West alludes to didn't occur in the early 80's but in 1986. In April of that year, President Reagan ordered strikes against strategic Libyan targets, including one of Gaddafi's many compounds. The air-strike was in response to the bombing of a West Berlin discotheque by Libyan intelligence a week prior.

Most importantly, Gaddafi didn't stay silent after the bombing; he did the exact the opposite. Following the attack, explains Syracuse University law professor David Crane, Gaddafi "backed away from the Arab League, and the Arab League shunned him, and he declared that he wanted to be the emperor of Africa." As Salon's Justin Elliot notes, "two years after Ronald Reagan ordered airstrikes on Tripoli in 1986, the Libyans orchestrated the Lockerbie bombing." That attack on Pan Am Flight 103 killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.

The air-strike also didn't deter Libya from its nuclear program, which the country finally abandoned in 2003, some 17 years after Reagan's bombing in Tripoli and Benghazi.