198. Memorandum of a Conversation, Washington, July 19, 1958, 4 p.m.1


  • Situation in Lebanon


  • Dr. Charles Malik
  • The Secretary
  • IO—Mr. Francis Wilcox
  • NE—Mr. Stuart Rockwell
[Page 335]

Dr. Malik conveyed to the Secretary a message which he had received three-quarters of an hour before the meeting by telephone from President Chamoun. The message was directed to President Eisenhower, and Dr. Malik said the written text would be delivered the next day.2 President Chamoun expressed his deep gratitude to Mr. Eisenhower for the assistance being given to Lebanon and sought to refute the bad impression left by the statement of protest against the presence of U.S. forces in Lebanon made by the President of the Lebanese Parliament.

Dr. Malik then read another message which he had received several days before from President Chamoun. After conveying his deep thanks for U.S. military assistance, the President made three basic points.

Neither Lebanon nor Jordan could remain independent unless the combined onslaught of Nasserism and Communism were dealt with now.
The talk of a holding operation in Lebanon and Jordan saps the moral energy of those who would like to see a general cleaning up in the Middle East.
There is the impression that the U.S. is in a hurry to turn over the responsibility for guarding Lebanon’s independence to the “dubiously adequate” ability of the UN. If this is the intention of the U.S. it would be better if U.S. forces had not come in in the first place.

The Secretary asked what President Chamoun would like to have us do. The President had made no specific suggestion, said Dr. Malik, but some of Dr. Malik’s personal ideas were that we should support King Hussein to the hilt, that we should put 20, 000 troops in Lebanon and 20, 000 troops in Jordan, that we should see what Turkey can do in Syria and Iraq, if this can be confined to local operations, and that there should be a strong warning to Nasser.

The Secretary said that when we responded to the request of the Lebanese Government we did not think of this as a commitment to root out Nasserism and Communism from the Middle East. We thought of it as responding to a call for help from a small nation threatened in the face of events in Iraq. We did not go into Lebanon to deal with Nasserism and Communism. Had President Chamoun told us that he wanted us to come in for this purpose, we would not have given an affirmative response. It was now disconcerting to be told that it would be better not to have gone in at all if we were not ready to expand the operation.

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Dr. Malik presumed that President Chamoun was being honest. The President believed that Lebanon, even with the presence of U.S. forces, could not be protected against Nasserism and Communism. The President was of course deeply grateful for what the U.S. had done.

The Secretary commented that it was legitimate to discuss the future, but not in terms that unless we went to war with the UAR and the USSR we should not have gone into Lebanon. We do not believe in preventive war. The only way to deal with the basic problems in the Middle East without resorting to global war is by handling them with patience, piecemeal. He believed that Lebanese independence could be preserved, if the Lebanese wanted to preserve it, through an increased UN presence and a gradual U.S. withdrawal over a period of months. A UN mantle should be cast over Lebanon. There was no use in talking in grandiose terms about uprooting Communism and Nasserism. This was something we were not prepared to go to war to do. It was better to hope for a peaceful solution than to solve matters by nuclear warfare. Frankly, we did not contemplate using Lebanon as a base for general war in the Middle East. Dr. Malik said that the Lebanese Government never believed that the U.S. had any such idea.

The conversation then turned to the prospect of election in Lebanon. Dr. Malik believed that it would not be possible to hold these on July 24 because of the tense atmosphere. He thought they should be held before September 23, however.

Dr. Malik inquired who would decide whether the UN had established adequate measures to protect Lebanese independence and, therefore, US forces could be withdrawn. The Secretary said that the decision would rest with the U.S. and Lebanon, not with Hammarskjold or anybody else. It would be a derogation of Lebanese and American sovereignty for anybody to try to force U.S. troops out of Lebanon if Lebanon and the U.S. did not desire this. Dr. Malik said that if there could be an understanding between the U.S. and Lebanon on this point, the Lebanese Government would not object to the Japanese resolution in the Security Council.3 The measures taken by the UN must really be adequate to preserve the independence of Lebanon. The Secretary agreed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/7–1958. Top Secret. Drafted by Rockwell. The source text indicates that the conversation took place at the Secretary’s residence. A summary of this conversation was sent to the principal concerned posts in Europe and the Middle East, and to USUN. (Circular telegram 78, July 19; ibid.)
  2. Not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. See Document 195.