Playing Hardball with Terrorism
The Clinton Administration demonstrated an atypically aggressive response toward terrorism after an assault on two U.S. embassies in Africa. On Aug. 7, the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were bombed by terrorists, leaving 258 people dead and more than 5,000 injured.
In response, the U.S. launched cruise missiles on August 20, 1998, striking a terrorism training complex in Afghanistan and destroying a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Khartoum, Sudan, that reportedly produced nerve gas. Both targets were believed to have been financed by wealthy Islamic radical Osama bin Laden, who was allegedly behind the embassy bombings as well as an international terrorism network targeting the United States.
Serious doubts have been raised about whether the pharmaceutical company was indeed involved in terrorist activities, or whether the U.S. made an ill-conceived, trigger-happy strike against a nation it has long considered a pariah state. Past U.S. foreign policy has opted for the use of sanctions or a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force, but the U.N.'s flaccid dealings with Iraq, the lack of support from Muslim allies (most notably the Saudis' indifference to the 1996 truck bomb explosion that killed 19 U.S. service members), and the necessity of deterring attacks on other American embassies led to the U.S.'s more hawkish policy.