Flying into Trouble

Selling AWACS: dubious militarily and dangerous politically

A first it looked like a shrewd way to expand U.S. influence in oil-rich, pro-Western Saudi Arabia, without unduly roiling its troubled near neighbor Israel. But by last week the prospective deal had turned into something of an Arabian nightmare. By spelling out just what would be included in $5 billion worth of modern weaponry, which he intends to sell to the Saudis, Ronald Reagan set a time bomb ticking toward an explosive congressional battle over his foreign policy.

At issue are five E-3A AWACS, converted Boeing 707s...

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