American Involvement in Lebanon

March 2, 1984

Report Outline
Reagan's Policy Shift
Lebanon's Long Conflict
Middle East Assessment
Special Focus

Reagan's Policy Shift

Moslem Offensive and Marine Departure

President Reagan has discovered in recent weeks, as others have before him, that Lebanon's conflicts seem to defy solution. Throughout the past 18 months of direct U.S. involvement in that country, his policy has been based on three objectives:“the withdrawal of all external forces” from the country;“a sovereign, independent Lebanon dedicated to national unity and able to exercise control throughout its national territory”; and “security for Israel's northern border.” The U.S. Marine contingent in the four-nation multinational peacekeeping force (MNF) stationed in Beirut was both the instrument of this policy and the symbol of American commitment to it.

By the end of February the Marines had been removed on Reagan's orders to Sixth Fleet ships offshore, Lebanese President Amin Gemayel had agreed to his foes' demands that he scrap a U.S.-mediated agreement between his country and Israel, and Soviet-supported Syria appeared solidly in control of Lebanon's destiny.

This turn of events in Lebanon's long crisis began on Feb. 5 when renewed fighting between the Lebanese army and Moslem militias led to the resignation of the Moslem prime minister, Shafik Wazzan, and three other Moslem members of Gemayel's Cabinet. The following day Moslem and Druse forces seized control of the capital except for the Christian enclave of East Beirut. The day after that, Reagan abruptly changed course and said the 1,600-man contingent of Marines would be “redeployed” on board ships off Beirut. His announcement seemed initially to have undercut congressional opposition to his policy in Lebanon, but criticism resumed when the withdrawal was delayed and U.S. ships shelled Moslem positions in the hills outside Beirut.

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