Newstalgia Reference Room - The Crisis in Lebanon as reported via the CBS Radio Program Radio Beat. An interview with Lebanese President Camille Chamoun and a round table discussion on the crisis in Lebanon and how it's impacting the region of the Middle East, hot on the heels of the Egyptian Suez Canal Crisis. June 26, 1958.
March 1, 2011

U.S. Marines in Beirut, 1958 - sooner or later . . . .

With talk today about creating a"No-Fly Zone" over Libya in response to the continuing crisis over Gadaffi, I keep wondering how wise a move of that sort is. Historically, there has always been some sort of physical involvement with European or American forces in the region whenever a crisis looms. One of the gratifying aspects to the current situations in Tunisia and Egypt is that we purposely kept a hands-off approach to the crisis, allowing that thing called "the right of self-determination" to take hold. And even though our intentions may be pure and humanitarian, we still have a long enough history in the region to remind those on the streets that our efforts in the past have not always been the most pure and forthright. We have often arrived, but with strings attached. Many years ago it was the result of the Cold War that U.S. aid to those regions came flooding in because it was feared the Soviet Union would jump in as well. But now we have the opportunity to do things differently for the first time perhaps ever.

Case in point about our past involvements in the Middle East; here is a broadcast from the CBS Radio series Radio Beat which centers around the crisis in 1958 concerning Lebanon. At the center of the controversy was pro-Western Lebanese President Camille Chamoun who, at the time of this broadcast (June 26th, 1958) was trying to maintain an air of normalcy about the growing rebellion in his country.

Howard K. Smith (CBS News): “Mister President, some aspects of the conflict are mystifying to the American public, I would like to ask you what exactly was the original cause of the trouble in Lebanon?”

President Camille Chamoun (Pres. Of Lebanon): “Well, it is simply the desire of the United Arab Republic to dominate the policy of this country.”

Smith: “Well, it is said that the original cause was a decision by you to try to be elected for a second term as President, is there any truth in that?

Chamoun: “The election or re-election of the President in any country is simply a domestic affair. It happened in the past, that Lebanon has elected many Presidents, it has re-elected one President, and nothing happened of that kind between government and opposition. The fact that there is an armed rebellion today and that these armed rebellions has been assisted with financial support, military equipment, volunteers and terrorists coming from Egypt and Syria, is the proof that the domestic issue was only a pretext for the United Arab Republic to start this problem with the ultimate aim of dominating the policy of Lebanon.”

Less than a week later, Chamoun made an urgent plea to the U.S. for military aid and we sent in the Marines. The rebellion was quashed and Chamoun remained in power for at least another month when it was politely yet firmly suggested by our State Department that Chamoun step down in order that another hand-picked candidate assume the Presidency.

Granted, this was right in the middle of the Cold War and it was a popularity contest between Washington and Moscow, but these superpower interventions (no matter which ideological side of the fence) in the domestic affairs of a country are not without their paybacks. And as we've seen in the case of Iran, can blow up in our faces. And we react with surprise and dismay when we really have no reason to - we brought it all on ourselves.

When we take on the role of World's Policeman or dabble in Nation Building we set ourselves up to accept the blame for everything that goes wrong with the domestic inner-workings of a nation - the fault and all the blame rests on us because we insisted on buying into it. The current situation that's brewing in Iraq is a case in point. We've been painted over and over in the region of the Middle East because we insist in meddling in affairs that don't belong to us.

And Lebanon in 1958 was certainly no different. Hopefully Libya in 2011 will be. Just sayin'.

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