tv Bruce Riedel Beirut 1958 CSPAN March 31, 2020 11:47pm-12:24am EDT
i am monica, the manager here and i'm honored to introduce the author, bruce riedel from the brookings institute and a senior fellow for the middle east studies. in nonfiction thriller that provides a cautionary tale. he provides real-world policies and understandings with a complex tapestry and conspiracies around the decision in 1858. he will be giving a presentation followed by the q-and-a and a book signing so please join me in welcoming bruce riedel. [applause] >> i don't think i need this, right. okay. that's good to know.
first of all, thank you for coming tonight. july 15, 1958 roughly 3 p.m. in the afternoon lebanese time the second marine regiment landed on a beirut beach. the marines came ashore anticipating that this would be the day and that they were going to be facing a hostile audience. for they ran into was lebanese and other sunbathing on the beach. some of them and the new newly invented the tv. unfortunately i don't have a picture of anybody on the beach. but i do have a picture of the lebanese rushing to the shore, fascinated by the aberdeen having landed and politically as the marines charged up the beach weapons loaded ready to go to
war defenders charged selling coca-cola, cigarettes and other -clebanese delights. it turned out in large numbers to see the sights, here you can see the taxis pulling up. it was all a bit of a comic opera but everything that he said was dangerous. the marines were landing in lebanon in 1958 in the midst of a very vicious civil war between christians and muslims and expected to go into combat. they regarded them as invaders violating the sovereignty and the sanctity of lebanon. the muslims saw them coming ashore supporting the christian enemies in a particular trying
to hold onto power for the extra second term. in germany, tactical nuclear weapons were being prepared to be airlifted. the 82nd airborne division back in the united states was put on alert in order to reinforce the beachhead so while there was something of a comic opera approach toei it, in very real terms, this could have turned into a disaster. it's the first time a u.s. combat troops ever went into a mission in the middle east. it turned out well. only one army sergeant died in a mission. he was told and sniper fire later on. the marines were able to leave after a few months and i will
come back to that in a little bit. but it began a tradition of american combat obligations in the middle east and of course as we all know now, subsequent missions didn't turn out as happily as beirut, 1958. in fact, the second marine intervention in beirut in 1982 turned out as a disaster in the death of over 240 american marines. it's useful to look back on the to gain anon understanding into what was going on. a few hours after the marines landed of course 3:00 beirut time is six hours earlier in washington. president dwight eisenhower got on national tv to explain why she sent the marines into harms way. the year before eisenhower laid out what was now called the
eneisenhower doctrine the first time an american president has had to the american people and the world the middle east is vital to the national interest no president in school than ever identified them as vital to the national interest. it's very interesting what you laid out as crucial to the interest. he said there are two crucial interests. one is everybody knows it is legal. second, the middle east is theon birthplace of the great religion of islam they couldn't allow them to take over the birthpla birthplace. it's very interesting that eisenhower in 1957 did not identify the defense of israel as the strategic vital interest of the united states.
they would never look at it in thoseid ways. july 15, 1958 they gave an explanation as to why they were there and essentially what he said was the coup in iraq the previous day the 14th of july in which the most pro-western government in the middle east have been overground as a direct threat to the interest. the pro- american government in iraq was deposed in a very violent to even by the middle eastern standards this was an exceptionally violent to. i could identify them as perhaps the starting point of the entire middle east falling into the hands of the soviet union and international communism.
he said if the united states did not respond, the third world war would start in the middle east. and that the loss of iraq with his significance as the loss of china to communism in 1948. it is really a remarkable statement. it's also completely divorced from the facts on the ground. his statements were very little to do with reality in iraq and the middle east in 1958. he was less than forthcoming. his real concern in 1958 wasn't communism, but this man. he was the charismatic young very attractive president of egypt. he had taken power in the coup in 1952. he was an extraordinary speaker in arabic able to literally lift
an audience with his words. he also survived literally beyond stage having an assassin fired a bullet at him and nevere stopped speaking. and this is the charismatic. he was the winner of the 1956 suez crisis in which egypt essentially defeated the united kingdom, france and israel have a remarkable outcome in part because eisenhower had leaned towards egypt over the three tripartite progresses and nonetheless, he had come out of a winner. in february 1958, syria and egypt united together in the e arab republic as a negotiating factor but in the 1950s, the
nationalism and the idea of one nation from the gulf to the ocean was one of the most powerful ideologies of the world and he was at the center of that. it's ironic because he was in many ways a protége of the cia. they didn't put him in office, but even before the cia was in contact with them, and the cia identified him and arab linationalism as the wave of the future, the united states wanted to be on the way of the future and assaul sought out a rabid nationalism as a very effectives counter to the communism in the middle east. the individual associated in this whole policy was roosevelt, the one holding his hand in the
picture. kermit roosevelt is of course of the roosevelt family and he was born in argentina and his most famous cuban-american as the man who put the shah back in power when most was removed. that is what he is famous for. he was less famous for the fact that he was the initial person i dealt with nasser. after taking money to buy arms, the military general, he was a hero in the 1948 war against israel and naturally one of the things he wanted to do is rework the egyptian army by building up its military capabilities. the cia gave him a very small stipend, variously three to
$5 million depending on the source, which would imply very many cars. but nasser instead spend the money on building a radio tower for his radio stations the voice of the arabs. back in the 1950s, radio was the equivalent of twitter today. it was the means of communicating with people. this is the towers before bill. it is known in egypt as roosevelt's erection. i won't go further than that. the relationship between the united states and egypt soured over the years. when nasser went to the russians and the czechoslovakian public regime in order to get within, and that really soured relations. by 1958, relations between the united states and egypt united arab republicans deteriorated significantly. as i said, in february of 1958,
by 1958 the favorite alternative to eisenhower the head of saudi arabia and the much more moderate pro-western version in the eisenhower administration one year before to come to the united states the first saudi king to visit thehed united states the visit was planned for nine days and ended up lasting 12 days and to indicate bring 80 people with him there are so many
saturdays on the delegation they all couldn't fit in blair house and they set up tents in lafayette square with the rest of the saudi delegation must been an extraordinary site. like to say wined and dined but given great profile by the eisenhower administration. the failure of the plot to assassinate resulted in a severe throwback the saudi royal family and a matter of days stripped assad of all of his power and stayed in power as king but essentially was powerless afteraf that he was much much less favorable so that was one great big setback from the united states shortly
afterwards the lebanese civil war began that was another setback the lebanese president was one of the few arab leaders that publicly endorsed the eisenhower declaration the cia uncovered a plot king hussein at this point is on his early twenties very experience king running a country 80 percent palestinian and then to plot with the objection and trip on - - plot to overthrow the king and to
turn to the king of jordan king faisal the second and asked him and the two of them agreed iraq would send the brigade of the iraqi army to help the stabilize the jordanian situation. unfortunately for those who were preparing a plot against king faisal the plot succeeded on the 14th of july 1958 and as i said earlier it was a very violent plot. the brigade was with
ammunition that was very unusual and instead of heading towards jordan it was to the defense ministry they line the entire family up against the wall to machine gun all of them. the prime minister of iraq was the de facto leader of the country and was found a day later and executed on the spot and executed on the street it was a very violent and a stunning blow to america's interest in the middle east. a series of events look who was led by this man nobody
knew who this guy was a complete unknown egyptians didn't know the russians didn't know who he was. a complete unknown factor. the coup plotters may or may not have been pro- egyptian but people on the street demonstrated immediately the streets in baghdad july 14 and those that overthrew the government it was not a big stretch to come to that conclusion that this was an egyptian sponsored coup.
for then and today with a highly sectarian government and based on the fiction by 1958 there on - - that was no longer true but to be imposed on the french was the colonial master and the president had to be a christian and the sunni muslim and the shia muslim. and by convention the president only serves one term. and it was messier than that actually. and that the dominant christian church in lebanon
supported the rebels. and a confused situation and the intricacies were far more than most americans with any knowledge of the middle east wanted to get into. and turned to the director of central intelligence dulles that in the eisenhower administration there was the unusual scene secretary of state john foster dulles and that may never happen again. and it was the most bleak picture he could ever possibly imagine the coup in iraq was an egyptian inspired and
sooner or later with the overthrow of saudi arabia, kuwait, and the gulf states and it would fall into what america did. but that is a false to nasser that means of false to international communism and the middle east will be in the hands of the soviet union. all of this was baloney. first of all it was not all clear and was is egyptian inspired and then to take arms from the soviet union. eisenhower panicked and it's
very interesting to read his memoirs because he said i felt like i had to do something. eisenhower, the hero of the day the greatest american general that was a really hard thing to do and that the united states has a large fleet in the eastern mediterranean. so when those went ashore on july 15 they were backed up by seven d ships including three carrier battle groups. it was goliath and a midget battlefield. and by invading the - - lebanon united states was
doing to keep them from sweeping the region. when he first went to syria after the merger of the two countries in 1,958,350,000 lebanese came to damascus this is a country that had a little less than one.5 million people. for those to get in their cars and in the spring of 1958 and pitted the muslims against christians and the syrian government in particular supported the rebels in lebanon and that was undisputed.
but then the marines followed. and then immediately secretly flew to moscow which the cia discovered very quickly which reinforced the russians and the egyptians agreed not coming on in beirut and then they decided to let events play themselves out and then how who was running the new government of baghdad.
and the lebanese army the officers and the troops regarded the intervention and was prepared to fight back. the american ambassador on the scene mcclintock advised eisenhower not to send the troops why don't we pretend you have invited the americans to come in to stabilize the situation and the americans on the bottom on the lebanese army on the host.
they went along with the fiction and with the america deployment in a room and escorted place to place by controls of the lebanese army. so it avoided a showdown with can talk it was sent out by hesenhower the program is to support shamu but then said i will support the ambassador's efforts to try to diffuse the conflict and together the under secretary of state and began to engage with the various lebanese powers and is
not a very particularly good picture of them on the silver and to become the next president of lebanon and that is what nasa wanted from the beginning. into the wisdom of mcclintock and murphy this was a smart way out of the crisis one g.i. was killed in the intervention of sniper fire and by october 2
1958 the last american troops of the intervention had gone home and president the civil war was ove over, and operation as it was called, a curious name was more or less success story. and his eight years in power avoided sending troops into combat. and would not intervene in the struggle into mainland communism and generally avoided sending troops into combat which was understandable. eisenhower never fought in combat himself it's all the results that most people did in the one time in those eight years when he essentially
panicked and decided to do something else. and then to discover the iraqi nationalist i had no interest to be a pond of egypt or the soviet union and was interested in running his own country. the middle east is an unpredictable place. if anybody tells you what will happen in the middle east tomorrow doesn't know they are talking about. all kinds of surprises come up all the time. and for the united states of america. the lesson is don't panic. let it play out. give it some time. see what happens. don't necessarily reach the worst conclusion overnight. don't jump to the worst
possible outcome. and i have one more thing to say about this. before i take all your question questions. 1958. ivwas there. i was five years old. that's me in a cute cowboy outfit. that's me my older brother to say i have no idea who this person is. i never want to see this person again in my life. father was in the united nations when i was two years old and a 1957 it was called the paris of the middle east and it literally i was the most open and fun place to live in the entire l region and was right on the mediterranean
that you literally could go swimming in the morning and skiing in the afternoon or the other wayn around. of course when the civil war began it went sour in a hurry. and in the end my mother and my brotheray and i were evacuated to naples italy where we stayed with the six fleet and then we went back. but the personal account of the story and with that i'm happy to take questions or ticomments. [applause] >> this is a very complicated
had not developed yet and have a little real political profile. when she got to the post 1967 era the palestinian community had staked out its own position and the conflict was lebanon was a battlefield between israelis to bring in the seventies and everybody else. and much more complicated to come up with a solution. >> thank you for coming tonight. thank you. [inaudible conversations]