31. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Lebanon1

4271. You are authorized to inform President Chamoun orally as follows: The United States considers that the introduction of Western forces into Lebanon is a grave step which could have the most serious and far-reaching consequences and one which should not be lightly requested or other than under the most compelling necessity to meet a situation where the integrity of Lebanon is genuinely threatened and where its own forces do not suffice for protection.


The U.S. is prepared upon appropriate request from President and GOL to send certain combat forces to Lebanon which would have the dual mission of (a) protecting American life and property and (b) assisting the GOL in its military program for the preservation of the independence and integrity of Lebanon which is vital to the national interests of the United States and to world peace. They would of course also be authorized to act in self-defense. FYI. We believe these two courses are clearly within the President’s constitutional authority without further Congressional action but that the President is not authorized by Section 2 of the Joint Resolution2 to send armed forces to fight for Lebanon’s independence since there has not occurred “armed aggression from any country controlled by International Communism”.

For these reasons the request should be couched in the terms indicated. Once the troops are there they would, in fact, serve to protect the independence of Lebanon. If for example they were stationed in Beirut and Tripoli to protect American life and property, that would presumably release Lebanese forces, and if the elements which were there to assist GOL in its military program became engaged in hostilities they would, acting in self-defense, counterattack.

You may use the foregoing on your own authority to explain the underlying rationale of point one. End FYI. Steps are already being initiated to put substantial combat forces into readiness to respond promptly, but the date of their arrival could not be counted on before two or three days after request received.3

The U.S. would expect that at least concurrently with any public request to the U.S. the GOL would file a complaint with the United Nations Security Council, alleging the interference from without in its internal affairs and the consequent threat to its integrity and independence.
The U.S. assumes that at least some Arab states will be prepared publicly to support Lebanon in its appeal to the U.S. and in its appeal to the Security Council.
The U.S. assumes that as stated in your 38264 President Chamoun recognizes that the crisis of Lebanon transcends the issue of Presidential election or the future of any particular person and that President Chamoun will not push his candidacy should this appear seriously to divide the support which should be counted upon to preserve the integrity and Western orientation of Lebanon.

The above four points are interdependent.

FYI. We are concerting our action with the U.K. We are convinced as we believe is the U.K. that French participation in the military operations would be unproductive. Furthermore, there is at the moment no French government to deal with such a problem.5 This aspect of the matter will of course have to be handled with great delicacy but also we believe with firmness. We see no reason why you and the British Ambassador should not inform your French colleague as to what you propose to do. Also, we believe that to avoid embarrassment you and your British colleague should make consecutive and not joint reply. Please keep in touch with your British colleague, who will be getting corresponding instructions.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/5–1358. Top Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Dulles and cleared by Rountree. Repeated to London.
  2. Reference is to the Middle East Resolution; see footnote 3, Document 16.
  3. Telegram 24953 from CNO to CINCNELM, May 13, drafted by Admiral Burke, instructed the Mediterranean command to move two Marine battalions toward Lebanon: “Sail amphibious forces with both battalions towards Eastern Med as soon as practicable. No publicity.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Files: CCS 381 Lebanon (5–13–58)(Sec. 1))
  4. Document 27.
  5. Telegram 4278 to Beirut, May 13, noted that the investiture of the new French Government did not change the estimate that it was unwise for the French to participate in joint military action in Lebanon. (Department of State, Central Files, 783A.00/5–1358)