Only an Administration in a chronic state of confusion about how to counter terrorism could have done as much in so short a time to make a bad matter worse. It built up the villain in the eyes of the audience that most concerns him, and made the good guys look impotent and irresolute.
The point has only marginally to do with the measures that President Reagan finally adopted. If nothing else, they constitute a statement of protest. If the 1,500 or so American citizens living in Libya obey the President's order to come home (or defy it at their own risk), the threat of a hostage crisis would be relieved. That would remove one, but by no means all, of the arguments against a military strike in some future terrorist showdown with Libya.
But it would not remove the real problem, which has to do with the way the measures were taken: the noisy, disorderly prelude, the expectations raised of some dramatic, decisive military action--and then dashed. The inevitable anti-climax can only be compounded by the necessary reliance on collective economic and diplomatic ganging up on Libya, without much effort to secure agreement in advance and with ample evidence that the most crucial collaborators don't want to collaborate.