The U.S. raid on Libya created a tense and troublesome split Tuesday between the United States and most of its allies, pushing the United States more out of step with Europe than at any time since the war in Vietnam.
Just as [Margaret Thatcher]'s decision to allow American bombers to mount the attack from their British bases was the surest sign of support for the United States in Europe, the refusal by both France and Spain to allow the U.S. planes to cross their airspace amounted to the rudest rejections of American policy. This forced the bombers to detour into a circuitous, 2,800-mile route on their mission to Tripoli.
Spain gave a few details about its refusal to let the planes fly over its territory. At a Madrid news conference in which both he and Danish Prime Minister Poul Schlueter criticized the raid, Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez of Spain said that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Vernon A. Walters, while on a tour of European capitals, had posed two hypothetical questions to Gonzalez on Saturday: whether, in the event of an American attack on Libya, U.S. military planes could fly over Spanish territory and whether the Americans could use the four U.S.-Spanish military bases in Spain in such an operation.