THE REAGAN administration has called the U.S. bombing raid against Libya "a success."
It certainly was a success with the American people. Seventy-seven per cent approved it. Evidence that the Libyans had bombed the West Berlin disco frequented by GIs apparently overrode any misgivings about the wisdom of bombing.
Did it make the world's airways and avenues safer?
No. In the immediate aftermath, a U.S. employe in the Sudan was shot in the head. Three missing men, an American and two Britons, were executed in Lebanon -- the latter in reprisal for Margaret Thatcher's permission for U.S. bombers to launch their attacks from England.
Did the bombing chasten Muammar Qaddafi, the Fagin of Middle East terrorists?
No. He emerged from a 48-hour seclusion calling Reagan a "war criminal."
Is there such a thing as "precision bombing"?
Apparently not. The French embassy was hit.
Are bombs as "smart" as the Pentagon claims?
No. We saw pictures of children in Tripoli hospitals.
Do the Italians, close neighbors and former rulers of Libya, feel more secure now that Qaddafi has been bloodied?
No. Two missiles were fired on Italy's small Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. Italians cities, like those of West Germany, are boiling with anti-American demonstrators. They feel more threatened than ever.
Those Americans who object, the few who quail at the bombing of cities no matter what flag is on the mast, are being spoken to in terms of what might have been.
Would we feel better if all the pilots had come back safely, if the two-man crew of a lost Flll had survived? Marginally.
What if, for instance, Qaddafi had been killed? Since we aimed at his residence, and in fact heavily damaged it, we might have had his death in mind. Since international law -- not to mention the Ten Commandments -- forbids murder, and since we have steadfastly maintained for the record that our only goal was behavior modification, we do not admit we wanted to kill him.
Would we all be better off without the monster? Probably.
Would terrorism cease with his last breath?
The Middle East is alive with grievances. Some maintain that only with the solution of the Palestinian problem will the ghastly round of attacks on ships, planes, airports, railway stations finally wind down. No one speaks of trying to make peace in the Middle East.
To many Americans, the European allies who refused to join in the raid or even sanction the flight of U.S. planes over their airspace seem as craven as shopkeepers who pay protection to the local hood. Europeans claim they have had more experience with terrorism than we have and know better how to deal with it, although they have not had much luck so far. Violence merely engenders more violence, they maintain, and on the evidence, they are right.
They, of course, will pay for their refusal to join in the economic sanctions imposed by the president on Jan. 7. Already, in the wake of the bombing, thousands of Americans have cancelled their travel plans for Europe. The continental summer tourist trade is devastated.
More than fear drives the Europeans in their resistance to a united stand. They are dependent on Libyan oil. What if they were assured they would not have to shut down their industries in order to strike a blow against the bully?
Why isn't some expert in the State Department trying to figure out how we can deprive Libya of the oil revenues needed for her survival without bankrupting our allies? Our neighbor, economically prostrate Mexico, is overflowing with oil. Why couldn't we liberate our allies from their dependence on Qaddafi by guaranteeing them a lifesaving supply of Mexican oil?
The gravest problem that some of us have with the bombing is its origin. The sequence began in the Gulf of Sidra, with the arrival of three U.S. carriers, escorted by 27 other warships. They were supposedly on a high-minded exercise to uphold the principle of the freedom of navigation. The president subsequently dropped the veil and referred to "demonstrations of military force."
Our armada crossed Qaddafi's "line of death"; Libya, predictably, fired. We fired back and sank two patrol boats.
To respond to that provocation, Qaddafi ordered the hit on the Berlin disco. For the Berlin disco, we hit Tripoli. What's next? Much foreign policy involves danger. Reagan's ensures it.
The president took office vowing "swift and effective retribution" against terrorists. He said terrorism would be the highest priority of our foreign policy. He has made it that. Actually, there has not been an increase in terrorist incidents in the '80s. Undoubtedly, there will be now. That's success?