28. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State1
3832. Since decision on sending armed forces to Lebanon by three Western powers transcends local views, I have foreborne making recommendation pro or con. However, it is clear, as seen from Lebanon, that if we do send troops or make a naval demonstration immediate steps must be taken to forestall UAR/Soviet propaganda charge US and its friends are lining up against Moslem world. As indicated Embtel 38172 there is a sufficient basis of genuine Lebanon antipathy for Chamoun’s second tenure of office to provide a fertile seed bed for [Page 44]charges Western “imperialist” powers are intervening in favor of one local politician against what would be represented as an authentic will of the people.
I cannot, given degree to which events have moved, see how under any circumstances, even if order is restored in Lebanon, Chamoun can have temerity to propose to continue six additional years in office after amending constitution. Political wounds inflicted in recent fighting in Tripoli, Beirut and elsewhere run deep because they are wounds in the body politic. They will not heal quickly.
In my judgment it would be a capital political mistake to support Chamoun’s re-election if, in fact, we do forcefully intervene to maintain integrity and independence of Lebanon. By doing so we will be made to seem ranged against the Arab world in favor of a narrow Christian minority. We shall have achieved a military and political beachhead comparable to the potential one in Israel.
These are advance thoughts projected for the Department’s rumination. My present feeling is that if we are called upon by Chamoun to land forces in Lebanon we should tell him straight out that this does not imply any further commitment to support him for reelection.3
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/5–1358. Top Secret; Priority. Repeated to London and Paris.↩
- In telegram 3817 from Beirut, May 13, McClintock reported on a meeting the previous day with Malik and the British and French Ambassadors. Malik reviewed evidence of foreign involvement in anti-government activities in Lebanon, raised the possibility of resort of the U.N. Security Council, and asked what sort of aid the Lebanese Government could expect from the three powers which had guaranteed Lebanon’s independence and integrity. McClintock noted that in the course of the discussion he had made the point that, despite Syrian-Egyptian interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs, there was also an authentic indigenous element of opposition to President Chamoun which could not be dismissed as “Nasserism.” (Ibid.; included in the microfiche supplement)↩
- In telegram 3840 from Beirut, May 13, McClintock added that Chamoun was still the duly-elected President of Lebanon and had not been charged with crimes or misdemeanors. The call of opposition leaders for a general strike and resistance to the government was, McClintock felt, “purely and simply sedition and rebellion”. (Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/5–1358)↩