When members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine successfully hijacked aircraft carrying hundreds of Americans and landed them at an airstrip in the Jordanian desert in September 1970, President Richard Nixon and his advisers had to decide whether to respond with negotiation or force. On the one hand, attacking the Palestinian guerrillas might help free the hostages and also bolster the pro-American government of King Hussein. On the other hand, the United States had few soldiers nearby, with the bulk of its military fighting the war in Vietnam. An American assault might also result in the death of hostages and provoke intervention by the Soviet Union, which was backing the Palestinian cause.
Faced with this dilemma, Nixon initially ordered an air strike on the P.F.L.P. positions, only to be told by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird that the weather was not favorable for such an operation. No attack by the American military ever occurred, and Laird later revealed that he used the weather as an excuse to stop what he considered an ill-advised plan.
Should the United States have attacked P.F.L.P. forces during the 1970 hostage crisis?