Did Noriega Slip Over the Edge?

When he was told by an American journalist in 1988 that he was "the most hated man in the United States," Manuel Antonio Noriega preened with pleasure. "Do they really hate me even more than Gaddafi?" he asked. Yes, he was assured, even more than Gaddafi. Noriega laughed.

It was just that cocksure quality, combined with cunning and ruthlessness, that enabled Panama's leader to face down repeated U.S. challenges over the past 2 1/2 years. But in the days leading up to the U.S. invasion, Noriega seemed to slide into recklessness, as if he were deliberately trying to provoke his own...