Find a Security Clearance Job!

Military





Why Lebanon

Why Lebanon

 

CSC 1995

 

SUBJECT AREA - Topical Issues

 

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Title: Why Lebanon

 

Author: Major D. O. Comer

 

Thesis: The Reagan Administration misread the political situation in the Middle East subsequent

to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

 

Background: Beginning in late September 1982, with the United States still engaged in the

"Cold War" with the Soviet Union, US Marines assigned to Landing Force Sixth Fleet took up

residence at Beirut International Airport. Their mission, ambiguous at best, was to assist the

Lebanese Government attain stability by keeping the peace in the wake of the Israeli invasion of

southern Lebanon known as Operation Peace for Galilee. The Reagan Administration's

misinterpretation of the existing Middle East political situation provided the impetus for the

introduction of the Marines. The primary focus of this paper is on the political situation that

existed in the Middle East from the beginning of the Reagan Administration in 1981 up until the

eve of invasion. The paper will reveal a clear US misinterpretation of the political situation and

the result of a flawed foreign policy known as "strategic consensus."

 

Recommendation: Prior to engaging in peace keeping operations of any type, the US must

determine what its interests in the region are and whether or not those interests are survival

interest, vital interests, etc. Moreover, the US must also determine the interest of the other

parties involved, and the nature of their interests. Finally, regardless of the nature of US interest,

the US must not take sides with any of the parties involved unless we are prepared to engage in

combat operations.

 

WHY LEBANON?

 

Why did the US intervene in Lebanon in 1982? Most scholars agree that the

 

United States intervened in Lebanon for regional and international considerations, not

 

because of Lebanon's importance as claimed by the United States government.1 The US

 

responded to the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon (Operation Peace for Galilee) and

 

the massacres in Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in order to contain communism in the

 

Middle East, support Israel, and promote stability in the region. The war in Vietnam and

 

the Iran hostage crisis had badly damaged US prestige. The situation in Lebanon placed

 

US prestige in further jeopardy. Israel, a US surrogate armed with US weapons and

 

firing US ammunition, had invaded an Arab country. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF)

 

had confronted the PLO, drove them into a corner in Beirut, laid siege to an Arab capital

 

in the process, and defeated the Soviet backed Syrian Armed Forces occupying the

 

Beka'a Valley.

 

The siege of West Beirut had a central impact on the political imaginations of

 

people throughout the world. It was the first war televised on a day-by-day basis with

 

live coverage of the siege of a modern capital city as part of the nightly news.2 As news

 

media from all over the world covered the gradual destruction of the city and the

 

suffering of the citizens of West Beirut caught in the Israeli-PLO cross-fire, the

 

international community placed enormous pressure on the Reagan Administration.3 The

 

governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan blamed the US for failing to prevent the

 

Israeli invasion. Even the United States' European allies condemned the attack and

 

threatened economic sanctions against Israel. There was also the worry over Soviet

 

reaction given their friendship treaty with Syria of October 1980.4

 

Ambassador Morris Draper, assistant to Special Presidential Emissary, Philip

 

Habib, in 1982, while speaking at a symposium on Lebanon at Quantico, Virginia on

 

May 3, 1993, provided the following comment on the Reagan Administration's decision

 

to intervene in Lebanon:

 

We got into the Lebanon mess when Israel attacked Lebanon and

drove up towards Beirut mainly because we had no choice. In the

situation in the Middle East, there is always a risk that a fight will

start out between Israel and an Arab country--in this case,

Syria--and it will escalate from there, because as history has

shown, the Soviet Union has Syria as a set trappie [client state]

and would back it, and we were backing Israel, although we

certainly didn't back its invasion of Lebanon.5

 

In response to intense international and growing domestic political pressure,

 

President Reagan sent Habib to Beirut. Over time, Habib negotiated a plan--to evacuate

 

the PLO and Syrians from Beirut--which was acceptable to all parties. When executed, it

 

went so smoothly that the US Marines were only in Beirut for 16 days. But the

 

assassination of Gemayel and the Sabra and Shatilla massacres, which occurred within

 

days of the Marine's departure, led to a sense of embarrassment and guilt in the White

 

House. The administration felt compelled to do something more than merely expressing

 

moral outrage. "If we show ourselves unable to respond to this [new] situation, what can

 

the Middle East parties expect of US in the Arab-Israeli peace process."6 The Reagan

 

Administration had to act to regain US credibility among the moderate Arab states and to

 

show that the US could still influence Israeli military action. Bold action was necessary

 

to give the president's new Middle East peace plan--announced only two weeks before,

 

on September 1, 1982--time to work. The Marines, therefore, returned to Beirut on 29

 

September as part of the reformed Multi-National National Force (MNF).7

 

 

 

The Return of the Globalist Approach: US-Israeli Relations

 

President Reagan, as did Johnson, Nixon and Ford before him, based his foreign

 

policy on a globalist approach (i.e., everything was considered in the context of the

 

US-USSR 'global' confrontation).8 This return to a more traditional US policy position

 

represented a move away from Mr. Carter's focus on regional issues and a renewed

 

commitment to the security and qualitative military superiority of Israel.9 George Ball,

 

in Error and Betrayal in Lebanon, contends that the reason for the US intervention in

 

Lebanon lay in a Middle East policy in lock-step with the policies of Israel:

 

Since the Reagan Administration lacked any coherent Middle East

policy of its own it supported, without critical sensitivity, the

policies, decisions and actions of the Israeli government,

apparently unaware of the fact that Israel's objectives in Lebanon

diverged sharply from America's. By failing to assert our nation's

rights, enforce its laws and protect its interests, the Administration

encouraged Israel in an adventure that was ill-conceived and

disastrous for both countries.10

 

Ball thus implies that it was Reagan's policy alone, which encouraged the Israelis to

 

invade Lebanon, without due acknowledgment of the evolution of US-Israeli relations

 

during the previous 16 years. A history of strong US-Israeli relations, coupled with the

 

election of the most pro-Israeli US president ever, had a significant impact upon the US

 

decision to intervene in Lebanon. But we must consider the decision in the context of a

 

US-Israeli bond that had evolved before the Reagan years.

 

The Early Years: 1948-1958

 

The US supported the creation of Israel in 1948 in part because of intense

 

political action by the Israeli lobby applied vis-a-vis the Democratic Party. American

 

support for the Israel intensified to the point where, by 1958, Americans saw Israel as a

 

barrier or deterrent to Soviet expansion in the Middle East. This point of view gained

 

even greater support in the "Cold War" years, with the Israeli lobby gaining increasing

 

influence with Congress.11

 

During this period US Middle East policy reflected neutrality as the US tried to

 

act as an impartial referee between combatants in the Middle East arena, exercising

 

political and economic persuasion to try to promote reconciliation, maintain peace, and

 

balance diverse interests in the region.12 Mr. Ball summed up US Middle East policy in

 

the context of tide Western Big Three (the United States, Britain and France) 1950

 

agreement on arms sales in the region:

 

In 1950 the United States refused Israel's request to sell it arms;

instead, to avoid encouraging an arms race, our government sought

to coordinate arms sales with Britain and France through the

Tripartite Declaration of May 25, 1950. Thereafter, until the end

of the Kennedy Administration, the Declaration remained a central

tenant of American Middle Eastern policy, with our government

earnestly seeking to maintain some degree of objectivity in

formulating Middle East policy. America sought, so far as

practicable, to be even-handed on the assumption that peace could

be best assured by maintaining a rough arms balance in the area.13

 

After the Suez Crisis, President Eisenhower forced the Israelis--and Britain and

 

France as well--to withdraw from the Sinai, returning that area to Egypt. He enunciated,

 

and then supported, a policy stating that the US would not allow aggressors to keep lands

 

conquered by force or impose conditions on the restoration of those lands. Because

 

President Eisenhower's policy galvanized American Jewish leaders, it thereby became a

 

precursor to a fundamental policy shift.

 

 

 

The Evolulion of the US-Israeli Partnership: 1959-1976

 

Between the Suez Crisis and the end of the Kennedy Administration in 1963, the

 

Israeli lobby grew strong enough to cause a major shift in US-Israeli relations,

 

culminating in a literal US partnership with Israel during the Johnson Administration.

 

After the 1967 Six Day War, America became Israel's primary arms supplier, economic

 

benefactor, and political supporter, as a torrent of US money and military material began

 

flowing to Israel.14 Most importantly, the US moved away from the Eisenhower policy

 

by not pressuring Israel to abide by UN Resolution 242, which stipulated the negotiated

 

return of Arab territories seized during the "Six Day War" in exchange for peace in the

 

region.15 President Reagan confirmed US departure from this policy when announcing

 

his Middle East peace initiative by stating the following:

 

That the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories were not

illegal [but he did suggest an immediate freeze on further

settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank], that they were

allowed by a provision of UN Resolution 242, and that Jerusalem

should remain an undivided city, contrary to Arab insistence that

eastern part of the city should be ... returned to the Palestinians.16

 

Failure to pressure the Israelis to accept Resolution 242 provided the impetus for

 

the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In that year the Arabs attacked Israel on several fronts.

 

American support kept Israel in the war and eventually swung the tide of battle in her

 

favor.17 Then, with the Israelis preparing to launch a punishing counter-offensive against

 

the Egyptian Army, the US redirected its involvement in favor of Egypt. One can argue

 

whether the threat of Soviet intervention influenced US actions or whether the US acted

 

solely to preserve US-Arab relations.18 Regardless of the impetus for US actions, the

 

widely accepted opinion is that this event helped set the stage for the Camp David

 

Accords of the Carter Administration.19

 

 

The Carter Years: 1977-1980

 

President Carter's foreign policy focused on regional issues vice the globalist

 

approach of previous administrations. This change provided the impetus for the Camp

 

David accords which were designed to promote peace in the Middle East by fostering

 

peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Israelis.20 The accords successfully neutralized

 

Egypt and thereby should have signaled a reduction in Israel's military requirements.

 

The strongest of the Arab states, Egypt, possessed the greatest military capability and the

 

largest population base. Removing her from the equation removed the threat of another

 

multi-front war reminiscent of the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars.

 

However, Israel viewed the new found peace with Egypt as nothing more than a

 

"cold peace."21 Moreover, from the Israeli perspective the Camp David Accords failed to

 

address the massive PLO arms buildup and the development of a virtual PLO parastate

 

within Lebanon.22 The Palestinians were adamantly against either joining the peace

 

process or recognizing explicitly Israel's right to live in peace. The Syrian military

 

presence in Lebanon and its challenge to Maronite control of Lebanon also coincided

 

with the growing Palestinian armed presence that threatened Israel's security along its

 

Lebanese border.23 Finally, with the other Arab states opposing the Camp David accords

 

and Egypt's "peace" with Israel, Israel continued to act as though she were in a perpetual

 

state of war with her Arab neighbors--hence her continued build-up of military power.24

 

Therefore, the amount of US aid to Israel continued to increase despite the Camp

 

David Accords.25 Israel, convinced that no amount of military power could provide

 

absolute security, became an "over-armed"26 camp, superior militarily to any combination

 

of the remaining Arab states, absent Egypt, and increasingly resistant to peace efforts in

 

the region.

 

 

Reagan's Policy: 1981-1982

 

The debacle of the Vietnam War and the events in Iran in the late 1970s badly

 

affected US prestige and morale --a phenomenon President Reagan was determined to

 

reverse. Agnes Korbani, in US Interventions in Lebanon, 1958 and 1982, described the

 

significance of his election:

 

The election of Ronald Reagan as president of the United States

symbolized a spirit of resurgent power and confidence and brought

with it not so much new policies as an unprecedented reliance on

force and the threat of force to achieve US goals. In other words,

the 'Cold War' perspective of the 1950s was resurrected....27

 

The Reagan Administration set out to distinguish its foreign policy from that of

 

the Carter Administration by advancing the concept of "strategic consensus." This new

 

approach moved away from the strong emphasis on regional issues of the previous

 

Administration. US foreign policy now shifted toward a globalist concept of foreign

 

policy decisionmaking, one premised on a "grand theory" or "strategic design" for

 

international relations.28 The new administration imbued their theory, or design, in the

 

trappings of the "Cold War", and predicated it upon the belief that a consensus of

 

concern with respect to Soviet threats existed among the so-called moderate Arab states.

 

Under the rubric of "strategic consensus," the US sought a network of bilateral and

 

multilateral arrangements with the Arab moderates to enhance security and to counter

 

Soviet encroachment and activities of Soviet proxies in the region.29

 

According to Francis Boyle, Associate Professor of Law, University of Illinois,

 

the framework devised for the concept of "strategic consensus" developed by Reagan's

 

Secretary of State, Alexander Haig and his mentor, Henry Kissinger, was nothing more

 

sophisticated than a somewhat refined and superficially rationalized theory of

 

"Machiavellian" power politics.30 This framework caused the Reagan Administration to

 

view the Middle East from a very narrow perspective. Professor Boyle provided the

 

following analysis of "strategic consensus":

 

Haig quite myopically viewed the myriad of problems in the

Middle East and the Persian gulf primarily within the context of a

supposed struggle for control over the entire world between the

United States and the Soviet Union. Haig erroneously concluded

that this global confrontation required the United States to forge a

'strategic consensus' between itself and Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and

Saudi Arabia ... to resist anticipated Soviet aggression in the

region.

Haig's vision of founding a US-centered 'strategic consensus'in

the Middle East was simply a reincarnated version of Kissinger's

'Nixon Doctrine'... Israel would become America's new

'policeman' for stability in the Middle East... 31

 

The hope was that regional issues, such as the Palestinian problem and the internal

 

quarrels within Lebanon, would move to the background in favor of a stronger

 

anti-Soviet position in the Middle East.32

 

According to Professor Boyle, the US emphasis on Soviet containment in the

 

Middle East and the idea that Israel would be America's policeman in the region provided

 

for a special US-Israeli relationship:

 

One apparent corollary to Haig's thesis was that the United States

must more fully support the Begin Government even during the

pursuit of its patently illegal policies in Lebanon and in the

territories occupied [in] 1967 ... over any Arab state of

combination thereof, absent Egypt, which had been effectively

neutralized by the 1979 peace treaty.

 

Furthermore, according to Ambassador Draper, the concept of "strategic consensus"

 

completely discounted the Palestinian issue as contributing to the problem in the Middle

 

East:

 

The Reagan administration basically abandoned the idea that the

Palestinian issue was central to the Middle East problem. General

Haig as Secretary of State pursued other objectives, with the

Palestinian issue relegated to the deep background. The United

States, in contrast to previous years, was inactive in what we call

the "general peace process," and of course, the process was rotting.

There was no dialog to speak of. The Egyptians and Israelis, while

they had made peace, had what the Israelis called a "cold peace,"

and the dialog was intermittent. Sadat had died; he had been

assassinated in that first year. And this put a tremendous pall over

all efforts to resuscitate the peace process.33

 

Thus in Mr. Boyle's view, the US was making serious mistakes under the spell of

 

strategic consensus," which, as it related to the moderate Arab states, was a

 

fundamentally flawed concept from the beginning:

 

Haig totally disregarded the fundamental realities of Middle

Eastern international politics, where traditionally all regional

actors have been far more exclusively concerned about

relationships with their immediate neighbors than about some

evanescent threat of Soviet aggression.34

 

The Resurrection of the Israeli, Maronite Plan

 

One can trace the Israeli-Maronite relationship back to the beginning of the

 

Zionist movement when Zionist politicians envisaged a Jewish-Maronite alliance to

 

counterbalance Muslim regional dominance. After gaining independence in 1948, some

 

Israeli leaders advocated extending the northern border to encompass southern Lebanon

 

up to the Litani river and to assimilate the Christian population living there.35 Seven

 

years later, in 1955, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and General Moshe Dayan

 

conceived a plan to "buy a Maronite officer who would then 'invite' Israeli intervention in

 

Lebanese affairs and enable Israel to establish control over Lebanon."36 Opposition from

 

Israel's foreign minister, Moshe Sharett, and resistance from the patriarchs of Lebanon's

 

Christian community, particularly Pierre Gemayel and Camille Shamun, forestalled that

 

plan.37

 

In 1976, with the fortunes of the Lebanese Civil War turning against them, a new

 

breed of Christian leaders turned to Israel for support, but the Maronite-Israeli

 

relationship waned after Syria intervened on behalf of the Christians. The relationship

 

changed yet again when the Syrian army turned from Christian ally to an army of

 

occupation, and fear of Syrian domination replaced the Christian fear of Muslim

 

domination. Bashir Gemayel--recognizing that Israel was the only power in the Middle

 

East with the capability and the inclination to expel Syria from Lebanon--continued to

 

cultivate the nascent Israeli connection.38

 

Gemayel's overtures to Israel coincided with the Likud Party's rise to power in

 

1977 and growing Israeli concern over improving ties between Syria and the PLO. The

 

new Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, supported the Christians, labeling them an

 

embattled religious minority and promising to prevent their genocide. He also viewed

 

them as an ally against the PLO. In Bashir Gemayel the Israelis had found their

 

Maronite for president of Lebanon. Twenty-two years later, the Israelis resurrected their

 

1955 plan for Lebanon at the behest of the Christians.39

 

 

The Missile Crisis

 

Between 1978 and 1980, Gemayel moved to consolidate his position with Israel

 

and within the Maronite community and to carry out his first test of Israeli resolve to

 

support the Maronites. By employing the Phalange militia in surprise attacks, he

 

systematically eliminated the opposition Christian militias and provoked the Syrians with

 

direct attacks. Of primary significance was the 1980 elimination of the Marada Brigade,

 

the pro-Syrian Christian militia. During the attack the Phalange militia killed Tony

 

Franjiyah, leader of the Marada Brigade and son of former President Sulayman

 

Franjiyah.40

 

Gemayel further consolidated his position with Israel through political

 

maneuvering. With the Phalangists emerging as the dominate Christian military force,

 

coupled with the departure of the more moderate members of Begin's first cabinet, in late

 

1980, Gemayel was able to secure Begin's pledge to provide Israeli air support against a

 

potential Syrian air attack. At that point Israel firmly committed itself to supporting

 

Gemayel in his effort to expel Syrian forces from Lebanon. According to Schiff and

 

Ya'ari, this "virtually committed" Israel to fight Syria at Gemayel's behest.41 The Reagan

 

Administration gave further credibility to Gemayel's claim as the ascendant leader of the

 

Maronite Christians and the Lebanese forces against Syria. According to Itamar

 

Rabinovich, in The War for Lebanon: 1970 - 1985:

 

The new president and his first secretary of state, Alexander Haig,

saw the Middle East primarily through the prism of

Soviet-American rivalries. From this angle, Syria and the

Palestinians were seen in a negative light, in Lebanon and

elsewhere, while the militias of the Lebanese Front, a pro-Western

force, were viewed more favorably than they had been by the

previous administration. Accordingly, the new administration

agreed early in 1981 to receive Gemayel Jumayyil [sic] for a visit

in Washington.42

 

 

Gemayel soon put Begin to the test. In April of 1981, Syria initiated its

 

"Program of National Reconciliation." This initiative intended to install a pro-Sryian

 

Maronite, Sulayman Franjiyah, as president of Lebanon. Unable to oppose the initiative

 

politically, Gemayel engineered a clash between Phalangist and Syrian forces in Zahle,

 

capital city of the Beka'a Valley, sure to erupt into an Israeli-Syrian confrontation.43 His

 

scheme would not only test Begin's resolve but would also provide the Reagan

 

Administration with its first foreign policy crisis and the first test of the October 1980

 

Soviet-Syrian Friendship treaty.44

 

Coinciding with Gemayel's venture in Zahle, Secretary Haig arrived in the Middle

 

East to pitch the idea of "strategic consensus" to US friends in the region. In their book,

 

Israel's Lebanon War, authors Ze'ev Schiff and Ehud Ya'ari describe the first meeting

 

between Haig and Begin:

 

 

Begin's people took to Haig from the start. He espoused,

practically embodied, a tough minded, trenchant approach that

struck them as a refreshing change from the Carter

Administration's wobbly line on the Middle East. In terms of

Israel's immediate neighbors, Haig spoke of President Assad's

regime in biting language and left his hosts with the distinctive

impression that America intended to take a hard line toward Syria

as the Soviet Union's chief client state in the region. By the time

the secretary left Israel, there was no doubt in many minds that

with a man of Haig's bent running the State Department, Israel

could definitely allow itself to adopt a militant posture vis-a-vis

Damascus. Begin held one closed session with the secretary ... in

sharing his impressions of this talk with colleagues he dropped a

telling remark: 'Ben-Gurion used to say that if you're pursuing a

policy that may lead to war, it's vital to have a great power behind

you.'45

 

As Gemayel intended, Phalangist forces in Zahle came under siege by the

 

Syrians. Forecasting the fall of the entire Maronite mountain "fortress," Gemayel

 

urgently requested Israeli support. "What he failed to tell the Israelis was that Assad had

 

offered a compromise on Zahle: the siege would be lifted if the Phalangists left the

 

city."46 The ranking members of both the Mossad and Israeli Military Intelligence

 

advised against responding to Gemayel's pleas warning that the siege of Zahle was a

 

Maronite ploy to embroil Israel in a war with Syria. Begin, over the objections of his

 

intelligence chiefs, responded to Gemayel's entreaties for air support with an air attack

 

that downed two Syrian transport helicopters. Syria responded by constructing a layered

 

surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. The Syrians introduced SAM-6 missiles in the

 

Beka'a Valley and stationed more sophisticated SAMs along the Syrian border with

 

Lebanon.

 

The presence of Syrian missiles in the Beka'a limited Israel's ability to conduct

 

surveillance missions in the area. Even more important, the presence of more

 

sophisticated, longer range weapons inside the Syrian border signaled Syria's intention to

 

interdict Israeli air operations against the PLO as far west of the Beka'a as Beirut. Israel

 

publicly threatened to attack the missile sites.47

 

Begin fully intended to carry out his threat. It was only bad weather that

 

prevented the Israeli Air Force from attacking the missiles before the US Ambassador to

 

Israel, Samuel Lewis, could relay the planned arrival of Presidential Special Emissary,

 

Philip Habib, to discuss the matter with Assad. Begin jumped at the chance to use a

 

diplomatic out; this would allow him to proceed through the June elections without

 

resorting to military action against Syria and to avoid drawing attention to Israel prior to

 

her attack on the Iraq nuclear reactor planned for June of 1981.48

 

During this first mission to the Middle East, Habib's goals were to restrain Israel

 

in order to allow diplomacy to work, negotiate with Syria for the removal of its missiles

 

from the Beka'a, induce the Christians to open a dialogue with Syria and help the official

 

Lebanese Government extend central authority throughout the country. If the Lebanese

 

and the Syrians could strike a political compromise, there would be less need for the

 

Lebanese to have military air support from Israel and thereby reduce the need for Syria

 

to station surface to air missiles in the Beka'a.49

 

Habib failed; the missiles remained in the Beka'a. The one certain consequence

 

of Gemayel's venture in Zahle was the firm establishment of Syrian missiles on Lebanese

 

soil.50 Israel, because of the political and strategic situation, had to tolerate this situation

 

in the short run, but still regarded the missile deployment as an unacceptable shift in the

 

balance of power that it could not endure. Therefore, Israel had reason for a future attack

 

on the Syrians in Lebanon.51

 

The PLO Artillery Crisis: July, 1981

 

With the missile crisis lingering in the background, his reelection campaign in

 

full swing, and the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor only eleven days away, on 28

 

May, Begin approved a request to renew attacks against PLO targets in southern

 

Lebanon. According to Schiff and Ya'ari, "The immediate purpose of the attacks was

 

political; the long range goal was to effect a controlled escalation of tension and

 

ultimately trigger the war that [Chief of Staff, General] Eitan believed was destined to be

 

fought within a half a year, at most."52 These attacks continued until 3 June with little

 

response from the PLO. Then suddenly, six weeks later, on 10 July, the IDF renewed its

 

attacks. The PLO's response was fierce and deadly. Determined to respond in kind, on

 

15 July the PLO launched a sustained 12 day artillery and rocket attack against towns in

 

northern Galilee, killing six Israelis. And for 12 days, without success, the IDF

 

attempted to locate and destroy the PLO artillery positions. The artillery and rocket

 

attacks drove the citizens of northern Galilee underground into bomb shelters where they

 

remained throughout the 12 day period. The PLO had created Israeli refugees within

 

Israel.

 

The capability of the PLO to sustain fierce artillery and rocket attacks on the

 

settlements of northern Galilee, in the face of determined IDF efforts to eliminate their

 

firing positions shocked and stunned many Israelis. According to Schiff and Ya'ari, that

 

was undoubtedly why Philip Habib found Begin greatly sobered and ripe for a truce

 

when he arrived at the prime minister's office on Friday, 24 July. Begin's

 

accommodating attitude surprised Habib and his aides, who had expected the give and

 

take with Begin to be tough.53

 

Avner Yaniv, an Israeli political scientist and author of, Deterrence Without the

 

Bomb, discuses the impact of the PLO artillery attack and its influence upon the Israeli

 

decision to invade Lebanon in 1982:

 

 

Thus in late July 1981, unable to deter PLO attacks against its

citizens, Israel accepted the terms of a cease fire negotiated by the

American Ambassador, Philip Habib. The Israeli decision to

invade Lebanon in June 1982 was thus rooted in an acknowledged

failure to deter the PLO. Massive retaliation and counter city

bombing and shelling had failed to solve the problem. Though

incomparably weaker from the purely military point of view, the

PLO had succeeded in turning the threat of hitting the vulnerable

part of the Israeli population of the Galilee into a formidable club

with which to deter Israel from punitive actions against the

Palestinians. Israel's immediate response was the acceptance of a

cease-fire under adverse conditions. When Menachem Begin

ordered the IDF to respect this humiliating outcome, however, he

was already resolved to order an initiated, first-strike invasion of

Lebanon.54

 

 

Looking for the Green Light for the Invasion

 

The July cease fire did not solve the problem created by the PLO artillery crisis, it

 

merely froze it. In short, the cease-fire agreement was a patently harmful one, for it

 

contained the seeds of war. This shaky accord fostered the grim feeling within Israel

 

that, more than ever before, the sixty-eight settlements of the Galilee were at the mercy

 

of vengeful and capricious terrorists, notwithstanding the fact that Israel had provided the

 

impetus for the crisis.55 Unconstrained by the terms of the cease-fire agreement, the PLO

 

improved its positions in southern Lebanon, increased its supply of arms, and took steps

 

to transform the Palatine Liberation Army from a decentralized collection of terrorist and

 

guerrilla bands into a standing and disciplined army.56 The PLO remained capable of

 

shelling the towns of northern Galilee and the Israelis remained determined to stop them.

 

Begin reorganized his cabinet and surrounded himself with men ready to employ

 

military power for objectives well beyond Israel's security needs. With Ariel Sharon and

 

Yitzhak Shamir in the key positions of Minister of Defense and Minister of Foreign

 

Affairs, Begin had created the most hawkish cabinet in the history of Israel. By the end

 

of 1981 a military solution for the situation in southern Lebanon was a topic of open

 

discussion. In December Israel confirmed to the Reagan Administration its intention to

 

seek a military solution in Lebanon, and to the astonishment of Ambassadors Habib and

 

Draper, Sharon outlined, in detail, the Israeli plan to invade southern Lebanon.57

 

Raymond Tanter, a member of the National Security Council staff during the

 

Reagan Administration in, Who's at the Helm?: Lessons of Lebanon, contends that the

 

debate over giving a green light to Israel for military action in Lebanon began in May of

 

1981 when a State Department executive committee known as the Lebanon Task Force

 

met to consider the topic of Israeli military action in Lebanon:

 

One of the first activities of the Lebanon Task Force was a

meeting on May 8, 1981. ... According to the recollection of a

high ranking officials who participated in the May 8 meeting, a

high-ranking State Department official with undisputed authority

to speak for the secretary suggested that the political neutrality of

Lebanon ought to be the overall American objective. And to

achieve that goal, U.S. policy had to help bring about the

'neutralization' of the Palestinian resistance movement in

Lebanon....

The May 8, Task Force meeting also was important because it

considered the idea that the United States provide Israel with a

green light to stamp out the PLO. Although the regional

representative implied that destroying the PLO may have been a

prerequisite for an ultimate US objective of bringing neutrality to

Lebanon, the exchange emphasized prospective Israeli military

action in Lebanon aimed at removing Syria's Missiles. As a result,

the future of the PLO merited only secondary consideration. In a

year's time and after a PLO military buildup, the priorities would

be reversed.58

 

The question of whether Washington gave a go-ahead signal to Jerusalem was

 

significant in May 1981 because newspapers in Israel began to adopt the line that the

 

Habib mission was going to fail and that the United Sates expected Israel to attack.

 

When Israel did invade Lebanon in June of 1982, events such as these brought charges

 

that Washington had authorized the invasion. But Secretary Haig has denied giving

 

Israel such a go-ahead. He insists that he had repeatedly stated that the United States

 

would consider an Israeli attack justified only in strictly proportional response to "an

 

internationally recognized provocation."59 Haig's denial notwithstanding, US approval

 

the Israeli invasion is still a topic of debate. On the other hand, it is clear that the US

 

failed to take steps to preclude the invasion. Tanter contends that "Neglecting to make

 

explicit American call for restraint constituted an ambiguous message that Israel

 

exploited."60 The ambiguities in the US communications to Israel created a loophole

 

through which the Israeli armed forces could roll into Lebanon.61

 

 

Conclusion

 

The reason for the 1982 US intervention into Lebanon was not the result of a

 

single administration's foreign policy. Nor was it solely the result of humanitarian

 

concern on the part of the Reagan Administration for the plight of the Lebanese people

 

during the siege of West Beirut or a sense of guilt after the massacres of Sabra and

 

Shatilla. Instead, it is the result of several factors:

 

-a long term policy of US-Israeli partnership formed over the course of several

 

presidential administrations,

 

-a resurgence of the "Cold War" attitude attendant to the election of President

 

Reagan,

 

-a shift away from a foreign policy focused on regional issues to an ill-conceived

 

globalist approach to foreign relations known as "strategic consensus,"

 

- an abandonment of the idea that the Palestinian issue was central to the Middle

 

East peace process,

 

- one sided support for Israel in general and for her policies in Lebanon and the

 

occupied territories (since 1967) in particular,

 

- a desire to avoid a superpower confrontation,

 

- a need for the Reagan Administration to regain credibility among the moderate

 

Arab states after the Sabra and Shatilla massacres in order to allow time for the Reagan

 

Middle East peace plan to work.

 

- a need to demonstrate that the US could still influence Israeli military action in

 

the Middle East and reduce international political pressure on Israel as well as the US.

 

In this manner, the acts, goals, and consequences of Israel's 1982 invasion of

 

Lebanon as perceived by the Reagan Administration literally predestined the decision to

 

intervene in Lebanon.

 

Bibliography

 

Ball, George W. Error and Betrayal in Lebanon: An Analysis of Israel's Invasion of

Lebanon and the Implications for US-Israeli Relations. Washington DC:

Foundation For Middle East Peace, 1984.

 

Haig, Alexander. Caveat. New York: McMillan Publishing Company, 1984.

 

Haig, Alexander. "Peace and Security in the Middle East." Current Policy, No.

395. State Department Bureau of Public Affairs, May 26, 1982.

 

Hall, David K. Lebanon Revisited. National Security Decision Making

Department: The United States Naval War College, 1988.

 

Hallenbeck, Ralph A. Military Force as an Instrument of US Policy: Intervention In

Lebanon, August 1982--February 1984. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1991.

 

Korbani, Agnes G. US Intervention in Lebanon, 1958 and 1982: Presidential

Decision Making. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1991.

 

Lebanon: A Country Study. 3d ed. Ed. by Thomas Collelo. Federal Research

Division, Library of Congress. DA Pam No. 550-24 (Washington DC:

GPO, 1989);

 

The Liber Group on the Laws of War. "The Illegality of the Invasion: A Discussion

of the Problems of Law of Armed Conflict in Lebanon." Unpublished

research paper presented by Francis Boyle, Assistant Professor of Law,

University of Illinois, April, 1983.

 

The Marine Corps University. "Marines in Lebanon: A Ten Year Retrospective."

Unpublished transcript of a symposium sponsored by the Marine Corps

Command and Staff College Foundation, held on 3 May 1993 at the Marine

Corps Research Center, The Marine Corps University, Quantico, Va.

 

O'Ballance, Edgar. No Victor, No Vanquished: The Yom Kippur War. San Rafael,

Ca: Presidio Press, 1978.

 

Quandt, William B. "Reagan's Lebanon Policy: Trial and Error." The Middle East

Journal, Vol. 38, No. 2 Spring, 1984.

 

Rabinovich, Itamar. The War for Lebanon, 1970-1985. Ithaca, New York: Cornell

University Press, 1985.

 

Schiff, Ze'ev and Ehud Ya'ari. Israel's Lebanon War. New York: Simon &

Schuster, 1984.

 

 

Shultz, George P. Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State.

New York: McMillan Publishing Company, 1993.

 

Tanter, Raymond. Who's at the Helm?: Lessons of Lebanon. Boulder, Colorado:

Westview Press, Inc., 1991

 

Yaniv, Avner. Deterrence without the Bomb. Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books,

1987.

 

1 Agnes G. Korbani, US Intervention in Lebanon, 1958 and 1982: Presidential Decision Making

(New York: Praeger Publishers, 1991), 19-20.

 

2 Francis Boyle, "The Illegality of the Invasion: A discussion of the Problems of Law of Armed

Conflict in Lebanon," unpublished research paper presented to the Liber Group on the Laws of War,

April, 1983. The Liber Group on the Laws of War met on April 15, 1983, to discuss the Problems of the

law of armed conflict in Lebanon. The discussion centered on the legal right of Israel to invade Lebanon

for the expressed purpose of expelling the PLO without internationally recognized provocation and

exceeding the common rules of proportionality.

 

3 David K. Hall, Lebanon Revisited (National Security Decision Making Department: The United

States Naval War College, 1988), 4.

 

4 Ibid.

 

5 Ambassador Morris Draper, "Marines in Lebanon: A Ten Year Retrospective," unpublished

transcript of a symposium sponsored by the Marine Corps Command and Staff College Foundation, held

on 3 May 1993 at the Marine Corps Research Center, The Marine Corps University, Quantico. Va., 10.

 

6 George P. Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State (New York: McMillan

Publishing Company, 1993), 106-108. Secretary Shultz is quoting President Reagan's statement

regarding the impact of the massacres in Sabra and Shatilla upon the recently announced Reagan Peace

Plan.

 

7 Ibid.

 

8 Raymond Tanter, Who's at the Helm?: Lessons of Lebanon (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press,

Inc., 1991), 20. By Tanater's definition, Globalists view an issue from a worldwide (e.g., an East(West or

""Cold War"") perspective; Regionalist view an issues from the perspective of the local actors and tend not

to combine diplomacy with force.

 

9 Secretary of State Alexander Haig, "Peace and Security in the Middle East," Current Policy, No.

395, State Department Bureau of Public Affairs, May 26, 1982, 44.

 

10 George W. Ball, Error and Betrayal in Lebanon: An Analysis of Israel's Invasion of Lebanon and

the Implications for US-Israeli Relations (Washington DC: Foundation For Middle East Peace, 1984), 21.

 

11 Korbani,23.

 

12 Ball, 93.

 

13 Ibid. Prior to May 25, 1950, the US had maintained an arms embargo against Israel. Britain had

refused several request to sell arms to Israel while providing arms to the Arab states. Israel sought other

sources of supply. A conventional arms race began to develop. In order to maintain a balance of power,

put an end to the conventional arms race in the region and preclude further Soviet encroachment in the

Middle East as a result of increased arms sales, on May 25, 1950, the Western Big Three (the US, Britain,

and France) announce a unified policy regarding arms sales to Israel and its Arab rivals. President

Truman declared that the agreement should help maintain peace in the region and put an end to the arms

race between Israel and the Arabs. All the states in the region were assured of adequate arms for defense.

The British stated that the new policy was set to help the Middle Eastern states arm themselves against

Communist penetrations. A brief account of the May 25, 1950 announcement can be found in Facts on

File, May 19-May 25, 1950,161.

 

14 Ball, 93-94.

 

15 Ibid.

 

16 Korbani,58.

 

17 Edgar O'Ballance, No Victor, No Vanquished: The Yom Kippur War (San Rafael, Ca: Presidio

Press, 1978), 180-181. The Israelis began requesting large quantities of arms and ammunition early in

the war. The requested material was not provided until the October 10, 1973, four days after the war

began, largely because of diplomatic maneuvering by Nixon's Secreacy of State, Henry Kissinger.

 

18 Dr. Norton's lecture, March 15, 1995, at the Marine Corps University, Command and Staff

College, Quantico, Virginia. During the lecture, Dr. Norton explained that Henry Kissinger recognize

Egyptian President Sadat's limited objective attack in the Sinai for its diplomatic objectives and worked to

delay the American air bridge to Israel the showing US support for the Arab cause in the Middle East.

Dr. Norton also explained that the Soviets were prepared for direct intervention in support of the Arab

armies.

 

19 Ralph A. Hallenbeck, Military Force as an Instrument of US Policy: Intervention In Lebanon,

August 1982-February 1984 (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1991),1.

 

20 Tanter, 20.

 

21 Ambassador Draper from the Quantico symposium of 3 May 1993, 10.

 

22 Tanter, 12.

 

23 Tanter, 14. The Ford Administration sanctioned the Syrian military presence in Lebanon. The

Maronites, with the fortunes of war turning against them, requested the Syrian intervention during the

1975-1976 Lebanese Civil War. For a detailed discussion consult Itanar Rabinovinch, The War for

Lebanon, 1970-1985 (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1985), 20.

 

24 Secretary of State Alexander Haig, "Peace and Security in the Middle East," Current Policy, No.

395, State Department Bureau of Public Affairs, May 26, 1982, 44.

 

25 Ball, 97.

 

26 Ibid., 98.

 

27 Korbani,3.

 

28 William B. Quandt, "Reagan's Lebanon Policy: Trial and Error," The Middle East Journal,

Vol.38, No.2 Spring, 1984, 237-252.

 

29 Ibid.

 

30 Francis Boyle from the presentation to the Liber Group on the Laws of War, April 14, 1983.

 

31 Francis Boyle from the presentation to the Liber Group on the Laws of War, April 14, 1983.

 

32 Quandt.

 

33 Ambassador Morris Draper from the Quantico symposium, May 3, 1993, 10.

 

34 Francis Boyle from the presentation to the Liber Group on the Laws of War, April 14, 1983.

 

35 Lebanon: A Country Study, 3d ed., ed. by Thomas Collelo. Federal Research Division, Library

of Congress, DA Pam No. 550-24 (Washington DC: GPO, 1989), 194.

 

36 Ze'ev Schiff and Ehud Ya'ari, Israel's Lebanon War, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984),

11-30.

 

37 Lebanon: A Country Study, 195. For a detailed discussion of Moshe Sharett's misgivings

regarding the plan to buy a Maronite Officer, refer to Schiff and Ya'ari, chapter one.

 

38 Ibid.

 

39 Ibid. 200.

 

40 Ibid.

 

41 Ibid., 199.

 

42 Rabinovich, 9l.

 

43 Ibid., 116-118.

 

44 Tanter, 14.

 

45 Schiff and Ya'ari, 31.

 

46 Ibid., 33.

 

47 Ibid., 35.

 

48 Ibid.

 

49 Tanter, 20.

 

50 Schiff and Ya'ari, 38.

 

51 Lebanon, A Country Study, 200.

 

52 Schiff and Ya'ari, 35.

 

53 Ibid., 36.

 

54 Avner Yaniv, Deterrence Without the Bomb (Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1986), 234.

 

55 Schiff and Ya'ari, 37.

 

56 Lebanon: A Country Study, 201.

 

57 Ambassador Draper from the Quantico symposium, May 3, 1993, 10.

 

58 Tanter, 35-37.

 

59 Alexander Haig, Caveat (New York: McMillan Publishing Company, 1984), 85.

 

60 Tanter, 37.

 

61 Ibid.

 



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list