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00. Negotiation in Lebanon during 1984

SEP. 21, 2023


Pete and Ryan are taking a break from regularly Derzolated episodes, so in this one-off 'Out Of Office' special, they've been assigned 'Negotiation in Lebanon during 1984'. Discover the human cost of tough government and find out how violence may not be the answer after all!

President Reagan sent US marines to Beirut as part of a Multinational Force there to keep the peace during the civil war and the invasion by neighbouring Israel.
US marines arrived on August 25th 1982, having agreed to stay for just 30 days. In fact, they actually stayed for less than 20 days, withdrawing on September 10th 1982 under a banner that read “Mission Accomplished - Farewell”.
Unfortunately, it was a little premature. Four days later, September 14 1982 the pro-Christian Lebanese President was assassinated. Another four days later and it had become clear that Christian forces had entered camps in Sabra and Shatilla and massacred between 460 and 3,500 Palestinians and Lebanese Shiite Muslim civilians.
Clearly the peace had not been kept at all.
So Reagan decides to send the Marines back.
Texas National Security Review says “Determined to dispel the memory of Vietnam, and confident in what he saw as America’s unique obligation to promote peace abroad, Reagan envisioned the troops playing an indispensable role in promoting a lasting peace in Lebanon”
The Americans support the Lebanese Armed Forces as the legitimate power in the area.
Then on April 18, 1983, a suicide bomber crashed a truck into the front of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and it exploded. The massive blast killed 63 people, including 17 Americans. As a side note, eight of them CIA officers – making this the greatest single loss of life the CIA has ever experienced.
On top of that, in August and September there were more clashes and more US marine dead and wounded.
However, whilst the standard narrative suggests the US was losing heart at all this, actually it appeared that the two camps in the US simply became more entrenched.
The anti intervention camp, including Defence Secretary Caspar Weinburger, felt this was more evidence that the intervention couldn’t work, saying, “there was no military action that could succeed.”
The pro intervention camp argued the conflict was still a “historic opportunity” and that to consider withdrawal was to risk U.S. “credibility as a great power.” And in fact they suggested he send more troops.
Then on October 23, 1983, another truck bomb hit a marine barracks building and the blast killed 241 Americans.
Once again, rather than change minds, according to the Texas National Security Review, again it simply entrenched. “advocates of the Multinational Force viewed the bombing as evidence of the need for a peacekeeping force in Lebanon, the Department of Defense interpreted the attack as further confirmation that the Marines’ objectives were unattainable”
As for Reagan, he was still pro-intervention – one of his government recalled “What the President did not want to do, above all, was … to be seen as running away. To the contrary, the barracks bombing seemed to strengthen his resolve to stay.”
And the theory that public opinion would sway him didn’t really hold either, as he wrote in his diary: “The press is trying to give this the Vietnam treatment but don’t think the people will buy it,”
In fact, when an election loomed and public opinion did turn against the action, one of his opponents characterised him as “trigger-happy and reckless,”, but Reagan still held the course assuring his allies that “we’re making more progress than appears on the surface.”
In fact, after everything that happened one staffer commented about the two opposing factions in the US government. “One is optimistic in flavor; it assumes that… with a little perseverance we will be able to achieve our broad objectives. … The other is fundamentally pessimistic, assuming that the situation continues to be structured unfavorably.”
In other words, after the bombings and killings, everyone was exactly where we started.
Meanwhile, popular support for the action continued to plummet and criticism on Capitol hill mounted.
But Reagan would not move, shortly after he announced his re-election campaign, on February 2nd 1984 he was saying “As long as there is a chance for peace, the mission remains the same” adding that his critics “may be willing to surrender, but I’m not.”
So in the face of attacks, the deaths of marines and even sinking public opinion, Reagan didn’t budge in his support for a plan in which the Lebanese Armed Forces with US support bring stability to Lebanon.
But the fact is the Americans were withdrawn in 1984, we know this, so what happened?
Well, the main thing is the Lebanese Armed Forces, who the US was supposed to be propping up, just collapsed and they were driven out of West Beirut.
This meant either the US had to either effectively replace them, by massively increasing the US presence or pull out entirely.
Only now did Reagan choose to bring the troops home.
And so on Feb. 26, 1984 the last company (100 to 250 troops) of U.S. Marines left from Lebanon.
So to summarise, according to the Texas National Security Review, “the outcome of the Reagan administration’s deliberations in the months following the barracks bombing was in no way preordained by the scale of the Marines’ losses or expectations of political backlash… Indeed, the barracks bombing may have had the immediate counterintuitive effect of hardening the president’s resolve.”
So, if you’re thinking of using violence to support your negotiations, think again.

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