287. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Ambassador Dean Brown, Special Emissary to Lebanon
  • Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

The President: Despite your trials and tribulations, you look great. I would like to know where we stand, but first of all I would like to thank you on behalf of the American people for the outstanding job you did. We don’t have everything we wanted but thanks to you we are in fairly good shape.

Brown: Once we get through this Presidential election2 we will have a period of uneasy truce, at a tolerable level of violence. A security force that is manipulated by internal and external forces can’t do better than that. The problem with this “tolerable level” of violence is that business won’t go back in. Every Lebanese with a nickel has moved it out of the country. There are countless groups roaming around looting and killing—they have to be put against the wall and shot. So real security is the basic problem.

The President: Where are we politically?

Brown: Frangieh fiddled for an unconscionable time. He really was afraid he would eventually be brought to trial for his misdeeds. Now there will be an election. These are not just politicians; they are really a group of warlords. And everybody will be buying and selling votes. I hope it will be Sarkis but I am saying publicly we have no candidate, because that would be the kiss of death.

The President: How about Asad?

Brown: The Christians were disappointed that he didn’t intervene with his divisions. The leftists were worried that he would. The problem with Lebanon is it is run by the same group of old warlords who have been in power since 1943. Until they die off, there is little hope for any real progress.

The President: How much will the Israelis tolerate?

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Brown: It is hard to know how many Syrian troops there are—they are well disguised.

The President: How about Arafat?

Brown: For a while, he was doing most of the fighting. Because the leftists left it to the PLO. Then Asad told him that was crazy, getting his Palestinians all chopped up.

The President: I noticed a number of Lebanese have moved to Cyprus.

Brown: Yes. They are waiting there to see what happens.

The President: When will you go back?

Brown: I thought I would wait until the election is held so I wouldn’t be accused of plotting.

The President: Are the Christians Arabs?

Brown: Yes. But only the Maronites are involved. There are 500,000 more Christians who aren’t even involved. The Lebanese problem won’t be solved until the Palestinian problem is solved.

The President: Jumblatt isn’t a Moslem.

Brown: He is an offshot called Druze. He is crazy.

The President: Again, we thank you. Are we welcomed there by everyone?

Brown: Very much so. They want someone to solve their problems. I think we should help in any way everyone approves—including training their security forces.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 19, April 27, 1976, Ford, Special Emissary to Lebanon Dean Brown. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office at the White House. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting began at 10:20 and ended at 10:40 a.m. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s Office Files)
  2. The Lebanese Presidential election was scheduled for May 6.