US Troops in Lebanon - History

US Troops in Lebanon - History

In June, Kuwait gained its independence from Great Britain. Britain signed a treaty of friendship and protection with Kuwait. In July, British troops were dispatched at Kuwait's request to defend it against Iraqi threats. Those troops were replaced in the fall by troops of the Arab League.

Lebanon, 1958 — America’s Forgotten First Military Adventure in the Middle East

JULY 15, 1958 was a typical beautiful summer day in the eastern Mediterranean. Yet for 1,700 fully armed U.S. Marines aboard landing craft speeding towards the beaches of Beirut, Lebanon, the afternoon felt anything but idyllic. In fact, most were expecting to soon be in battle.

Supporting the Marines were 70 warships, including three aircraft carriers: the USS Essex, USS Wasp and USS Saratoga. As many as 10,000 additional troops waited at sea to go ashore after the first wave, while back in the United States, the U.S. Army’s 82 nd Airborne Division was on alert in case still more soldiers were needed.

Remarkably, the beach the Marines were preparing to storm wasn’t teeming with enemy combatants. The shoreline was filled not with machine gun nests, artillery batteries or barbed wire, but with foreign tourists frolicking in the surf and locals soaking up the afternoon rays. The unwitting sunbathers soon found themselves scrambling for cover however as the American landing craft drove up onto the sand and disembarked squads of combat troops.

As the Marines established their beachhead, no hostile forces advanced to meet them. Instead, an army of Lebanese vendors rushed forward with carts to sell cigarettes, cold drinks and sandwiches to the newly arrived Americans. Hot on their heels were scores of local teenage boys eager to help the Marines set up their equipment as others stood by to gawk at the absurd scene playing out before them.

Despite the vacationers, Lebanon was in fact in a state of civil war in the summer of 1958. On one side was the Christian, pro-Western government of Camille Nimr Chamoun. Opposing the regime was a coalition of Egyptian-backed pan-Arab militants up in arms by Chamoun’s illegal bid for reelection. As the crisis deepened, the Eisenhower White House dispatched a military intervention force to restore order and keep Lebanon in the U.S. orbit.

Operation Bluebat, the codename for the landings at Beirut, marked America’s first military campaign in the Middle East. Indeed, U.S. troops had been stationed in the region since the Second World War, but none had seen combat.

At the time of the landings, few in Beirut or Washington imagined that the mission would mark the beginning of decades of seemingly continuous American military deployments to the Middle East. Today, we can look back at Bluebat and see it as a decisive, albeit largely forgotten, turning point in U.S. foreign policy.

Despite the bizarre optics of the Marine landing, the crisis in Lebanon was deadly serious. Hostilities between the two factions had already created hundreds of casualties. The anti-Chamoun camp viewed the Marines as foreign enemies intent on keeping a reviled president illegally in power. For its part, the Lebanese national army, a fragile partnership between Christians and Muslims, saw the Americans as uninvited aggressors who were violating Lebanese sovereignty. U.S. commanders prepared for the worst, and were even ready to deploy nuclear weapons to the battlefield from bases in Germany, if the intervention was met with force.

Back in Washington, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the hero of the war in Europe, addressed the nation about the campaign.

Following the 1956 Suez Crisis, the White House had proclaimed what would later become known as the Eisenhower Doctrine: the first statement by a U.S. president expressing that America has vital interests in the Middle East and would defend them with force if necessary.

Now with Marines deployed for action on foreign soil, Eisenhower took to the airwaves to describe the crisis to the American public. A coup d’etat in Baghdad, Iraq on July 14 had toppled the pro-U.S. monarchy of King Faisal II, he explained. The ruler there had been brutally murdered in the takeover and his government swept away. Meanwhile in neighbouring Jordan, then federated with Iraq, a “highly organized plot to overthrow the lawful government” of King Hussein had also been discovered. Actually, the Central Intelligence Agency had foiled the plot several weeks before. Eisenhower linked unfriendly factions in Lebanon to the wider unrest telling his audience that President Chamoun had requested American military intervention to stop “civil strife actively fomented” by the Soviets and the anti-Western leadership in Egypt. This would be the only occasion in the speech that the U.S. president alluded to the threat that genuinely worried Washington: the rising political power in the Arab world of Egypt’s charismatic young President Gamal abdal Nasser and his Arab nationalist movement.

Instead, Eisenhower largely framed the crisis in Cold War terms. Lebanon, the size of Connecticut, was under threat from Moscow. Just as the communists had seized Eastern Europe and China, they now threatened Lebanon. Should the United States fail to defend its tiny ally, Ike warned, the West would be inviting another Munich-like appeasement of dictatorship, a move that would surely lead to a third world war.

It was a less than candid explanation for sending in the Marines.

Eisenhower made no mention of the fact that Chamoun was actually illegally seeking a second term in office. The focus was entirely on the international communist conspiracy, falling dominos and Cold War intrigue. After all, these were issues Americans would understand more readily than the complicated politics of Lebanon or the Arab world.

Thanks to the very deft diplomacy of the American ambassador in Beirut with the help of visiting envoys from Washington, the invasion resulted in very little actual combat between Americans and local forces aside from a small number of sniper attacks. In fact, only one U.S. soldier was killed during the operation.

By the end of October, the campaign was over. Chamoun was eased out of power by U.S. diplomats and replaced with a less polarizing leader, Fuad Abdullah Chehab, who quickly moved to restore peace in Lebanon. All U.S. troops were soon withdrawn.

The three-month intervention quickly faded into obscurity in the minds of Americans. Future U.S. missions in the Middle East, be they against rogue dictatorships, state-sponsored terrorists or radical Islam, would be far more costly and much more difficult to end. In fact, involvement in the region continues to this day, dubbed by many as America’s Forever War.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Riedel is the author of Beirut, 1958. A 30-year-veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency, he served in the Middle East and Europe and was a senior advisor on South Asia and the Middle East for four U.S. presidents. He is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

History of the U.S. and Lebanon

The United States first established a diplomatic presence in Beirut in 1833 with the appointment of a consular agent. Throughout the nineteenth century, American activity in Lebanon was focused on religious, educational and literary pursuits, with the founding of what became Lebanese American University in 1835 and American University of Beirut in 1866. American officials were evacuated from Lebanon in 1917 when U.S. relations with the Ottoman Empire were severed. The Consulate General was re-established after World War I.

In 1944, the U.S. diplomatic agent and Consul General for Lebanon and Syria, George Wadsworth, was upgraded to the rank of minister, following official recognition of the Republic of Lebanon’s independence. He was put in charge of two legations for Syria and Lebanon, but was headquartered in Beirut with a staff of six diplomats. The legation was given Embassy status in 1952, and Minister Harold Minor became the first U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon. This step reflected burgeoning U.S. commercial and strategic interests in Lebanon. By the late 1960s, Embassy Beirut was one of the largest in the Middle East, serving as a regional headquarters for a range of U.S. agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), AID, and DEA. The U.S. Information Service maintained the John F. Kennedy Cultural Center and Library, which had branches in Zahleh and Tripoli, as well as extensive English teaching and Arabic publications programs.

Deteriorating security conditions during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war resulted in a gradual reduction of Embassy functions and the departure of dependents and many staff. Ambassador Meloy was assassinated in 1976.

In the early hours of October 23, 1983, a suicide bomber attacked members of the Multinational Force, peacekeepers at the U.S. Marine barracks and the French paratrooper barracks. 241 American marines, sailors and soldiers died, and 128 were wounded.

Following an April 1983 suicide bomb attack on the Embassy in Beirut, in which 49 Embassy staff were killed and 34 were injured, the Embassy relocated to Awkar, north of the capital. A second bombing there, in September 1984, killed 11 and injured 58. In September 1989, the Embassy closed and all American staff were evacuated, due to security threats. The Embassy re-opened in November 1990.

When Reagan Cut and Run

Thirty years ago this week, President Ronald Reagan made perhaps the most purposeful and consequential foreign-policy decision of his presidency. Though he never said so explicitly, he ended America’s military commitment to a strategic mistake that was peripheral to America’s interests. Three-and-a-half months after the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. military personnel — and after repeatedly pledging not to do so — Reagan ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Lebanon. As Gen. Colin Powell later aptly summarized this military misadventure: “Beirut wasn’t sensible and it never did serve a purpose. It was goofy from the beginning.”

What was particularly remarkable about Reagan’s bold decision was its rarity. Presidents often authorize using force or deploying troops to achieve some discrete set of political and military objectives. When they prove incapable of doing so with the initial resources and political support, the mission can be scaled back in its scope, enlarged to achieve additional missions, or, the atypical choice, terminated. The latter option requires having the ability to recognize failure, and political courage to end a U.S. military commitment. In large part, it is a combined lack of strategic awareness and political courage that explains many U.S. military disasters. To understand how Ronald Reagan successfully pulled this off, it is worth reviewing and remembering the strategic mistake that was the U.S. military deployment to Lebanon in the midst of that country’s wrenching civil war.

Thirty years ago this week, President Ronald Reagan made perhaps the most purposeful and consequential foreign-policy decision of his presidency. Though he never said so explicitly, he ended America’s military commitment to a strategic mistake that was peripheral to America’s interests. Three-and-a-half months after the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. military personnel — and after repeatedly pledging not to do so — Reagan ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Lebanon. As Gen. Colin Powell later aptly summarized this military misadventure: “Beirut wasn’t sensible and it never did serve a purpose. It was goofy from the beginning.”

What was particularly remarkable about Reagan’s bold decision was its rarity. Presidents often authorize using force or deploying troops to achieve some discrete set of political and military objectives. When they prove incapable of doing so with the initial resources and political support, the mission can be scaled back in its scope, enlarged to achieve additional missions, or, the atypical choice, terminated. The latter option requires having the ability to recognize failure, and political courage to end a U.S. military commitment. In large part, it is a combined lack of strategic awareness and political courage that explains many U.S. military disasters. To understand how Ronald Reagan successfully pulled this off, it is worth reviewing and remembering the strategic mistake that was the U.S. military deployment to Lebanon in the midst of that country’s wrenching civil war.

Upon the request of the government of Lebanon, the United Nations authorized the Multinational Force in Lebanon (MNF) in 1982 to help the government regain control over the country. There was strong disagreement within the Reagan administration about potential U.S. involvement, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously opposed to the deployment, and the National Security Council and State Department deeply enthusiastic. Subsequently, the Joint Chiefs developed a range of options for America’s participation in the MNF, including sending up to 63,000 U.S. troops to Lebanon to disarm the militias, and enforce the peace in territory under the control of Syria and Israel. Ultimately, without congressional approval, Reagan authorized the deployment of what was seen as a limited mission of some 1,800 Marines, who joined French, Italian, and later British troops. Reagan claimed: “Their mission is to provide an interposition force at agreed locations,” but “in carrying out this mission, the American force will not engage in combat.”

After the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) pulled out of Beirut in August 1982, MNF troops withdrew to their ships offshore. But the assassination of Lebanese President Bachir Gemayel, massacre of Palestinian refugees — who were living in camps under Israeli military control — by militias linked to the Maronite Christian Phalange Party, and the subsequent chaos led almost immediately to international support for a second MNF deployment.

It was during this second MNF deployment that the intention and scope of U.S. forces was never quite clear. Shortly after the U.S. troops returned to Lebanese territory, on Aug. 20, 1982, Reagan contended that they would now “assist the Lebanese Armed Forces in carrying out their responsibility for ensuring the departure of PLO leaders, officers, and combatants in Beirut from Lebanese territory,” and “facilitate the restoration of the sovereignty and authority of the Lebanese Government over the Beirut area.” He added: “In no case will our troops stay longer than 30 days.”

On Oct. 28, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger offered his astonishingly contradictory statement: “What we need is a multinational force until certain conditions have been achieved. Nobody knows when those conditions can be achieved. It is not an open-ended commitment.” (Weinberger later wrote in his memoir, “I objected [to the deployment], of course, very strongly, because this MNF would not have any mission that could be defined.”) State Department official Lawrence Eagleburger, using Iraq surge-like language, later claimed during a congressional hearing that the Marines’ mission was ”to provide the Government of Lebanon a breathing spell to begin to sort out the country’s political problems.” By Sept. 29, 1983, Reagan stated: “Their mission is to provide an interposition force at agreed locations and thereby provide the multinational presence as requested by the Lebanese Government to assist it and the Lebanese Armed Forces.”

In October 1983, after five Marines were killed in three separate incidents, National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane convinced the president to authorize the USS New Jersey to launch attacks against the Druze militia and Syrian forces on land. According to Powell, once the naval attack commenced, the Shiites “assumed the American ‘referee’ had taken sides against them. And since they could not reach the battleship, they found a more vulnerable target: the exposed Marines at the airport.” Within one week, Hezbollah-linked militants drove two truck bombs containing a half a kiloton of explosives into the Marine barracks at the Beirut International Airport, killing 220 Marines and 21 other U.S. service members.

In the months that followed, the Reagan administration discussed a range of options including striking back and fully withdrawing the Marines. Reagan never retaliated against Hezbollah or their Iranian and Syrian sponsors responsible for the bombings, a position widely endorsed by senior military officials. As then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. John Vessey declared: “It is beneath our dignity to retaliate against the terrorists who blew up the Marine barracks.”

The Reagan administration also considered the pluses and minuses of withdrawing from the MNF. On the day after the barracks bombing, however, the president reaffirmed his commitment: “The reason they must stay there until the situation is under control is quite clear. We have vital interests in Lebanon. And our actions in Lebanon are in the cause of world peace.” Over a month later, on Dec. 1, Reagan stated that the Marines were in Beirut to “demonstrate the strength of our commitment to peace in the Middle East…. Their presence is making it possible for reason to triumph over the forces of violence, hatred, and intimidation.” Nine days later, he told the nation: “Once internal stability is established and withdrawal of all foreign forces is assured, the Marines will leave.” Finally, on Feb. 4, 1984, Reagan stated something frequently heard in debates over Afghanistan and other theaters of conflict today — if the United States withdraws, “we’ll be sending one signal to terrorists everywhere: They can gain by waging war against innocent people…. If we’re to be secure in our homes and in the world, we must stand together against those who threaten us.”

Yet, just three days later, on Feb. 7, Reagan ordered the Marines to “redeploy” to their ships offshore — which was actually a full withdrawal achieved in three weeks. Although the Marine’s mission in Lebanon was not clearly defined and, subsequently, not achieved, Reagan’s tacit admission of failure and withdrawal of the Marines from Lebanon limited America’s further involvement in foreign-policy disaster — saving money, lives, and time. Many pundits later claimed wrongly that Reagan was erroneous, because Osama bin Laden contended that the withdrawal was a sign of U.S. weakness as if America’s strategic choices should be held hostage to how terrorists choose to describe them.

U.S. officials and policymakers often share a long tradition of refusing to acknowledge strategic errors, or to place specific blame on individuals responsible for their authorization and execution. Rather, the causes of defeat are assigned to anonymous sources like “the bureaucracy,” “lack of public will,” or maybe “Congress.” When serving or retired officials are asked whether a war or military intervention was a mistake, they often reply: “That’s for historians to decide.” Even then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said this when asked if Iraq was “worth it” just before he retired: “[I]t really requires a historian’s perspective in terms of what happens here in the long term.”

But historians do not make future policy decisions they study and assess previous ones. Sending Marines to Lebanon for such an imprecise and unachievable end-state was a tremendous mistake. Reagan’s decision to tacitly admit that it was a U.S. foreign-policy failure, and to then undertake corrective actions, was an admirable trait rarely seen in poilcymakers or presidents.

Micah Zenko is the co-author of Clear and Present Safety: The World Has Never Been Better and Why That Matters to Americans.

1. Cyprus, February and July 1964

On Dec. 21, 1963, violence erupted between Greek and Turkish residents of Nicosia, the capital of the island nation. Two Turkish Cypriots were killed, and eight others, both Greek and Turkish, were wounded. In the days that followed, armed bands of opposing ethnic groups roamed the city streets, shooting indiscriminately. In what came to be known as "Bloody Christmas," dozens were killed.

By February, the United Nations was ready to send in 10,000 peacekeeping troops to reassert law and order. On Feb. 9, however, bombs went off near the American embassy. Almost immediately, the U.S. government ordered the evacuation of all military personnel and dependents. In July 1964, more would be evacuated to Beirut after the toppling of the Greek-led government in Nicosia. Turkey would invade the island later that month.


Chapter 12: Russian and American Intervention Policy in Comparative Perspective

by Jeremy R. Azrael, Benjamin S. Lambeth, Emil A. Payin, and Arkady A. Popov [286]

The preceding case studies have described and assessed the main instances of low-intensity force employment by the United States and Russia since the end of the Cold War. This overview revisits those cases from a comparative perspective in search of similarities and differences in the respective decisionmaking styles of the two countries. In particular, it considers comparisons and contrasts with respect to (1) opportunities and constraints (2) motivations and goals (3) organizational and bureaucratic practices and (4) executive-legislative relations in each country. A brief concluding section speaks to some implications for Russian-American strategic relations.

Opportunities and Constraints

Because of its continued superpower status, the United States has both worldwide possibilities for the discretionary use of force and the strategic reach and sustainability required to follow through on them. In contrast, Russia has, at best, only regional intervention possibilities and limited incentives or capability to use force beyond the territory of the former Soviet Union. (This excludes the continued presence of large numbers of intercontinental-range nuclear weapons in Russia's military inventory, which are hardly pertinent to these situations.)

In contemplating force employment both countries face significant external and internal constraints. One is the attitudes of key foreign governments. With the end of the Cold War, neither country can justify force employment as a self-evidently necessary response to a demonized adversary. Both countries now need to be more sensitive to foreign perceptions of and likely reactions to their interventions. Anticipation of international responses to intervention has accordingly become more important to both countries.

As a result of these changes, each country now has powerful incentives for moral, political, legal, and economic burden-sharing reasons to call on allied support and seek multilateral solutions to regional crises. The closer the locus of a conflict is to home, moreover, the greater is the need for international endorsement to negate any appearance of "imperialism." At the same time, this heightened need for political support from other countries has been accompanied by a collapse of both countries' strongest claim for such support in years past, namely, the need for united action against a common adversary.

Many U.S. allies have been reluctant partners in Washington's efforts to build peace-keeping coalitions because of the end of any Cold War urgency and the increased costs in loss of trade and political acceptance in the affected regions. That reluctance has partly reflected inadequacies in American leadership, but the fact is that the United States can no longer count on its friends simply to fall into line whenever a summons to intervene abroad seems to beckon. As for Russia, the only allies it can call upon are some of the newly-independent states of the former Soviet Union, and most of these have proved to be reluctant and unreliable partners. This has forced Moscow more than once to act unilaterally in its efforts to control violence and maintain stability in its "near abroad," as in the cases of Tadjikistan, Georgia, Abkhazia, and Transdniestria.

There is a related constraint that involves each country's attitude toward the other. The U.S. government has put Moscow on notice that it will not lightly countenance any Russian encroachments that threaten the sovereignty of the newly-independent states. It also has declared that it will not look favorably on any Russian ambitions to claim suzerainty over Moscow's former Central Asian republics, let alone over Ukraine or the Baltic states. Words only go so far, however, for Washington has made it equally clear to Moscow that it has no interest in being involved in any peace-keeping involvements in Russia's "near abroad."

Russia has similarly taken a strong declaratory stance against the United States and NATO for acting as though they have a natural right to intervene, especially in the former Yugoslavia. Yet there is little that Russia can do about this beyond complain, just as there is little the United States can do to prevent or substantially influence Russian peace-keeping operations in the "near abroad."

Both countries face a broad incompatibility between the new global security environment and traditional military roles. The United States and Russia each have learned the hard way since the end of the Cold War that conventional armed forces perform poorly when put into harm's way but prevented from reacting in the classic manner in which they have been trained. The functions for which such forces have been designed do not include the crafting of domestic political institutions where such institutions are currently absent or fulfilling police roles where the parties in dispute are not committed to living by the terms of any settlement. The U.S. Army showed this clearly in Somalia, before operations there were terminated. For its part, the Russian military appears to have been less sensitive to such dangers, and more willing to inflict and suffer casualties. If anything, however, it has been even less successful than its American counterpart in regional peace-keeping operations, partly for this reason.

There are also resource constraints that limit each country's latitude to engage in regional peace-keeping operations. Since the Cold War ended in 1991, American defense spending has declined by more than fifty percent. In a worst case possibility, it could bottom out as low as $150 billion annually by the year 2002 if, as seems likely, Congress passes a balanced budget amendment. Russia's military funding crisis is more acute by far. Its defense budget is now in the $11&ndash15 billion range, which puts it at only a twentieth of current U.S. defense spending. Because of the continuing resource shortage, a substantial gap has developed between the High Command's declared requirements for a lean, efficient, mobile, and high-technology combat arm and the reality of Russia's dilapidated military organization, low readiness and sustainability, sagging morale, and badly underfunded force modernization plans.

The phenomenon of spontaneous "mission creep" in peace-keeping operations constitutes yet another inhibiting factor in the intervention decisionmaking of both countries. As several Russian and American interventions have shown, initial non-combat roles have spilled over into counterinsurgency warfare, posing issues that did not figure in the original tactical objectives or mission planning. This phenomenon has become a major constraint on American intervention decisionmaking. It has been less constraining for Russia, as borne out by the latter's continued difficulty in extricating itself from a bleeding war of attrition in Chechnya&mdasha war former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev assured President Yeltsin would be over after a two-hour operation by one airborne regiment.

Fear of entrapment constitutes yet another constraint. Much like concern over "mission creep," it has had a greater inhibiting effect on American than on Russian intervention deliberations, since Moscow has arguably had less discretionary room than Washington in the regional force employment challenges it has faced since the USSR's demise. The U.S. government harbors an almost systemic bias against intervention for that very reason. In the case of Bosnia, for example, no serious consideration was given in 1989&ndash1990 to the use of force, either by the Bush administration or by Congress. There was discussion in the National Security Council and at the State Department over whether the United States should accept that Yugoslavia was doomed and try to manage the impending breakup. Few, however, supported the latter option, thanks to a belief&mdashcorrect, as it turned out&mdashthat the only way Yugoslavia could disintegrate was violently. As the civil war escalated, there was further debate within the Bush administration over the potential benefits of using air power. But nobody was willing to consider putting in U.S. ground forces. On the contrary, there was a consensus against committing U.S. forces unless the objective was unambiguous and victory with a minimum of friendly casualties was certain.

The main constraint affecting American post-Cold War force employment decisionmaking, however, has been the fear of sustaining enough casualties to cause an erosion of popular support for peace-keeping commitments. This constraint has been aggravated by the 1991 Persian Gulf War's successful outcome, the down side of which was that the astonishingly low incidence of allied lives lost to hostile fire became the norm for all future U.S. military interventions, tying the hands of policymakers almost irrespective of the stakes. Anything more than a few dozen American soldiers killed now routinely triggers a sharp public reaction, followed by vocal second-guessing over whether the game is worth the gamble.

In Russia, there is likewise a mounting popular sensitivity to casualties. Throughout the ten years of fighting in Afghanistan, the number of Soviet troops killed in action was a matter of great secrecy, as coffins bringing the war dead home were merely whispered about by friends and family. That has changed noticeably as public reaction to the enormous number of deaths sustained on both sides in Chechnya has forced Russia's leaders to look harder at the possibility of a face-saving solution. If that reaction offers any key to where the Russian people's limit lies, however, it suggests that the threshold of Russian intolerance to casualties today is more in the thousands, than dozens.


Since the end of the Cold War neither Russia nor the United States have employed force in response to a real or perceived threat from the other, let alone a threat to vital national interests. In fact, with the important exception of the Gulf War, the United States has not even claimed that its military interventions were motivated by direct threats to its security. At most, it has claimed that its security could or would eventually be affected adversely if instability was allowed to fester in a given country or region. For better or worse, however, such remote threats have been a matter of genuine concern to key policymakers and were important motivating factors behind the U.S. interventions in Lebanon, Bosnia, and even in Nicaragua and Haiti.

Real or imagined security concerns have also played an important motivating role in Russia's post-Cold War interventions. In the eyes of many Russian decisionmakers, at least some of these interventions&mdashe.g., in Chechnya&mdashhave been necessary responses to a clear and present danger to Russia's vital interests, up to and including its very survival as a single, integrated country. Even where there has been disagreement over the necessity or wisdom of using force, there has been widespread agreement that instability or conflict in the regions where force has been employed pose a direct, if not immediate, threat to Russia's own security. Furthermore, in Russia, perhaps even more than in the United States, there has been a preconditioned readiness in many quarters to subscribe to or go along with an expansive notion of security that has made military intervention seem an acceptable, if not necessarily desirable, response to even remote threats to national security.

Economic motivations have not been significant in the post-Cold War intervention decisions of either Washington or Moscow. Of course, the vast reserves of Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti oil made for a definite, if unarticulated, planning factor behind the U.S. organization and conduct of Operation Desert Storm. Strategic considerations, however, were at least as important in American and allied policy planning leading up to the Gulf War. The main motivation of the Bush administration was a determination that Iraq not be permitted to establish the dangerous precedent that unprovoked aggression against a richly-endowed but defenseless neighbor could go unpunished.

Likewise in the case of post-Cold War Russia, Moscow's ravaging of Chechnya has not been, first and foremost, a matter of interest in securing oil pipelines. The "energy lobby" in Moscow has had limited influence over President Yeltsin. Indeed, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is, to say the least, very close to Russia's gas and petroleum barons, has been a leading proponent of seeking a nonmilitary solution to the problem posed by Chechnya. In both the American and Russian cases of intervention and force employment assessed in this volume, economic considerations have been a planning factor only to the extent that they have been consistent with more overarching strategic and geopolitical concerns.

Simply the desire to appear to be "doing something" has been an unspoken drive behind intervention decisionmaking, at least in the case of the United States. As human rights violations in Bosnia reached full swing during the Clinton administration, the Department of State grew increasingly inclined to counsel using force simply to project an image that the United States was "involved." In particular, the State Department wanted to conduct punitive bombing against Serbian artillery in Bosnia. That would have been a gross misapplication of air power, and the military rightly saw the idea as an invitation to trouble. Nevertheless, such pressures eventually led to the early piecemeal employment of U.S. air power in Bosnia.

A related motivation behind the intervention decisions of both countries has been a felt need to "look good," or to save face. There were serious divisions, for example, within the Bush administration over what to do about the problem posed by Haiti. The CIA saw Aristide as unreliable and the country offering little of value to the United States. The military, for its part, saw any American commitment to Haiti as a wasteful diversion of scarce resources needed for managing the defense drawdown. Naturally, there were disputes between the Departments of State and Defense over whether the United States should intervene. Eventually, the USS Harlan County was ordered to Port-au-Prince to demonstrate an American naval "presence." It was met at pierside by a mob of thugs and retreated, never to return. That Haitian mob called President Clinton's bluff and helped ensure the subsequent U.S. invasion, prompted in part by a desire by the administration to regain its lost credibility over the Harlan County incident.

Similar pressures to "look good" figured in the roles played by various actors leading up to Russia's assault on Grozny in December 1994. At least parts of the Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs, for example, reportedly worked overtime to prove that they could meet the challenges laid down by Yeltsin's plan to invade Chechnya. Within the Kremlin, too, there was an evident desire to vindicate the loss of face suffered by Russia as a result of the badly botched clandestine incursions the previous month. A reported attempt by some staffers in the president's Analytic Center and on the Security Council to propose that Yeltsin halt Russian troops at the outskirts of Grozny and negotiate with Dudayev under a threat of war never made it past the first hurdle. Members of the Presidential Council likewise submitted a request that Yeltsin convene a Council meeting. No response to this entreaty was ever received. The president evidently felt no need for expert opinion and relied on the assurances of Grachev, who had promised a quick and decisive resolution. There was a pronounced "they can't do this to us" element to the final decision by Yeltsin and his lieutenants.

Finally, intervention decisions have been made in both countries from time to time for no more profound reason than the absence of any better ideas. Both the United States and Russia are configured toward unstructured and often shortsighted policy planning, with a tendency to commit forces without clearly articulated aims. In particular, ad hoc and impromptu assessments of "what is at stake" often decide what ultimately gets placed on the U.S. intervention calendar. By way of example, one can cite the successive U.S. decisions in 1982&ndash1984 that were wholly reactive to events, with no clear, top-down policy guidance and only immediate tactical objectives at stake.

Likewise in both Panama and Haiti, the U.S. government was reluctant to intervene and was prompted to do so, in the end, only out of a sense that all lesser options had been exhausted. In each case, the United States backed itself into using force by either foreclosing other options or trying them to no avail. And in both cases, the United States became hostage to its own rhetoric. No vital interests were at stake, yet Washington's demonizing of the local opponents had the effect of putting America's credibility on the line. Divided councils within the U.S. government helped convince the Panamanian and Haitian militaries that they could sit out U.S. pressures with impunity, further working to leave Washington with little choice but to intervene in the end.

The Machinery of Policymaking

The United States emerged from the Cold War with a well-established mechanism for intervention decisionmaking, along with a policy process that had routine practices with roots running well back into history. In contrast, Russia entered the post-Cold War era carrying multiple burdens of its 74-year Soviet heritage, beginning with a closed and secretive system of top-down decisionmaking and directed policy implementation. Despite the seeming stability and seeming orderliness of its governmental forms and mechanisms, however, American decisionmaking too is often marred by ad hoc pluralism. Ill-defined operating procedures frequently enable persons or institutions with their own agendas to elbow in, with the result that whoever has the president's ear or the loudest or most persuasive voice is most likely to get heard. This contributes to a disorderly and nonrational process of weighing options at the top, in which opposing views and other alternatives do not always get an adequate reception. Relatedly, there are no clear rules of the game or specific intervention guidelines observed by the U.S. government. This means that intervention decisions are often idiosyncratic and situation specific. The relative influence of senior Executive Branch appointees, elected legislators, career bureaucrats, lobbyists and other interest groups, and the media all depends heavily on the issue at hand.

Unlike the ad hoc pluralism of the U.S. approach to intervention decisionmaking, the Russian process is highly underregulated and underinstitutionalized. It fragments control of decisionmaking and obfuscates accountability. It further suffers many of the pathologies of a new and semi-developed democracy such as mass politics, zero-sum competition between elites of the old and new orders, and weak governmental capacity. As a result, parochial interests are often able to seize control of the intervention policy agenda and to dictate the actions of deployed military forces. The problem is not too much input into decisionmaking, but too little. There are some excellent examples to be drawn from Moscow's misadventure in Chechnya, an experience which has revealed striking flaws in Russia's fledgling democracy. Among them are a lack of any strategy for preventing and neutralizing internal conflicts an absence of a well-defined and effective information support mechanism a low level of professionalism among those members of the bureaucracy responsible for decisions, as well as a lack of any discipline of law within the bureaucracy that might displace the old discipline of fear, and the lack of a true culture of opposition and public debate. In contrast, American officials are better equipped to learn from their missteps thanks to a policy process that features a more stable allocation of roles and responsibilities and institutions that are flexible enough to respond to new demands and requirements with relative alacrity, albeit with a lag.

Decisionmaking at the Top

In both countries, the president is the ultimate decisionmaker, and the office of the president is the key locus of intervention policymaking. In the United States, the presidency is highly institutionalized, although it always bears the imprint of a given president's personality and style. In contrast, the underinstitutionalized Russian presidency is little more than an embodiment of Boris Yeltsin and his idiosyncratic way of doing business, with little or no engagement of the larger policy community, to say nothing of public opinion. Such an approach worked well enough during the stormy days of the USSR's initial unraveling in August 1991, but it is less appropriate to Russia's now more stable political system. Today it offers a recipe for policy failure.

In the end, in his deliberations over Chechnya, Yeltsin became a captive national leader, made hostage to the irresponsible acts of his subordinates. To cite but one example, there was a willful refusal by senior on-scene commanders, and possibly by Russian generals at higher levels as well, to honor Yeltsin's order to halt the bombing of Chechnya in late December 1994. This is but one of many instances of the price the Yeltsin government has had to pay in lost effectiveness as a result of the sometimes aggressive voluntarism and noncompliance of its out-of-control military and civilian bureaucrats. The tragedy of Chechnya has starkly underscored all the shortcomings of Russia's force employment repertoire by making its leaders look confused, uninformed, and unable to heed public opinion. Worse yet, as indicated above, the five cases of post-Cold War Russian intervention do not show much of a learning curve over time.

The principal decisions with respect to intervention in Chechnya are often said to have been made in the Russian Security Council, which was supposedly established in order to provide a high-level forum within which Russia's president can interact directly and concurrently with his key ministers and agency heads. Like the U.S. National Security Council (NSC), however, the Russian Security Council is not a deliberative body that can arrive at decisions on its own. Kremlin decisions acquire force only after the president, who is the Security Council's chairman, signs the appropriate executive order or decree. Nominally, the Security Council is a consultative body to the president. Any allusions to "collective decisions" made by the Security Council reflect a misunderstanding of where that organization stands in the constellation of Kremlin forces. Yet the hybrid nature of Russia's emerging democratic process is such that the votes of some members are considered "decisive," while those of others are only "advisory."

In any event, the decision to go to war against Chechnya was ultimately made by President Yeltsin alone. Those who apparently made the final inputs into Yeltsin's decision call were personal cronies. Yeltsin's bodyguard and close friend Korzhakov had even formed, in great secrecy, his own "analytical center" within the Presidential Security Service expressly set up to deal with the impending assault on Chechnya. As a result, the campaign was hastily planned behind the backs of those Executive Branch institutions, most notably the Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs and the involved service arms, whose combatants would have to bear the brunt of the Kremlin's fateful miscalculations. The deputy defense minister at the time, General Boris Gromov, confirmed as much in his harsh ex post facto public criticism of the invasion.

The force of personality is also a notable factor in U.S. intervention decisionmaking. A striking example can be seen in the pivotal role played by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell in influencing the decision by the Bush administration to halt Operation Desert Storm after only 100 hours of ground fighting. General Powell also left a distinctive imprint on U.S. policy deliberations antecedent to the Gulf War by resisting the commitment of American forces until operational missions had been clearly defined and declared goals of the administration were deemed attainable. Earlier, during the Reagan administration, the often intense personal rivalry between Secretary of State George Shultz, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and National Security Adviser Robert MacFarlane made emotionalism rather than hard analysis the main drivers of decisionmaking on repeated occasion. The resultant indecision and policy inconsistency caused by the shifting ascendancy of these three competing personalities had a decidedly negative impact on the effectiveness of American intervention policy in Lebanon. One unwelcome result was that Saddam Hussein may have learned a lesson about U.S. resolve from its debacle in Beirut in 1982, perhaps affecting his later decision to invade Kuwait in August 1990. In Russia, however, the impact of personality and the relative weight of individuals is more consequential because of the less-developed nature of Russia's policy-making process. There are no American cases, for example, in which personal ties between bureaucrats and generals with key local leaders not only determined decisions on the ground but of overall military and security policy in entire regions, as was the case in Ossetia-Ingushetia, Tadjikistan, Abkhazia, and Trans-Dniestria.

The Interagency Arena

Despite the persistence of closed decisionmaking at the top, Russia's mechanisms for force employment planning at the working level are beginning to look, on the surface at least, more and more like those of the United States. There are differences, however, in the intensity and timing of institutional conflicts over policy options within the Russian and American systems. In the United States, intrabureaucratic tugging and hauling tends to be greatest during the policy formulation stage. Once a policy course is set, government officials usually have incentives to get on board in the national interest and show solidarity with the president, with little tendency to mount rear guard actions in an effort to sabotage administration decisions. In Russia, by contrast, conflict tends to be most acute after a policy course has been set. Bureaucrats, even at very senior levels, feel less compulsion to show support for the president. Furthermore, the familiar adage "where you stand depends on where you sit" applies more in the case of the United States than in Russia, since the latter has less well-developed institutional cultures and interests. The often widely contrasting bureaucratic views of the U.S. State and Defense Departments when it comes to putting American forces in the line of fire, for example, do not appear to have a close analog in the outlooks of the Russian Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs.

In the United States, there are usually predictable and distinguishable "agency perspectives" on intervention issues. The Department of State, for example, views threats to commit the nation's military equities to possible action as a tool in the panoply of America's coercive diplomacy options. For its part, the U.S. defense establishment, including its civilian leadership, is typically not disposed to countenance American forces being sent into harm's way until and unless the president is unquestionably ready to commit troops on a large scale and has clear goals and a concept of operations calculated to ensure a successful outcome. Often this adamant and unyielding bureaucratic stance has the effect, whether by intent or not, of ruling out intervention altogether. Because of differences like these, Executive Branch leaders often have a hard time forming a consensus within the bureaucracy. Offsetting this ingrained tendency toward immobilism at the working level, however, is the fact that the higher one goes in the various institutions and agencies of the American bureaucracy, the harder it becomes to predict a policymaker's posture on policy issues simply by awareness of his organizational affiliation. In the higher reaches of Executive Branch governance, personal beliefs, experiences, and values typically overshadow and displace the more predictable inclinations of career bureaucrats.

In the American system, decisions to commit U.S. forces abroad are often set in motion by an interagency group of second- and third-echelon government bureaucrats. There have been notable instances, however, in which the decision process has been initiated at lower echelons. The intervention in Somalia offers a good example. No so-called Deputies Committee meetings were convened to consider the human rights violations that were being perpetrated in Mogadishu by gangs of armed thugs who were blocking food and medicine from getting to sick and starving citizens. Instead, a colorful cable from the American ambassador in nearby Kenya caught the attention of many in the bureaucracy and was forwarded by the NSC senior director for Africa to General Scowcroft and President Bush. Subsequent interagency talks concluded that the United States was the only actor with the necessary reach and resources to break the siege of Mogadishu.

As expected, the Department of Defense was initially reluctant to let itself get drawn into Somalia because of the drain on resources such an operation threatened at a time of severe budget and force reductions. True to form, the Pentagon lost little time testing the extent of the Bush administration's commitment to Somalia by offering a high-end estimate of the number of U.S. troops that would be required. It only yielded after it was led to understand that demands on the military would entail nothing more than an airlift. "Mission creep," however, soon affected the American troop deployment to Mogadishu, as many in the defense establishment had feared from the outset. This insidious trend was not reined in decisively until after more than a dozen U.S. servicemen had been killed and their bodies ignominiously dragged through the streets to the eyes of a shocked world&mdashand an outraged U.S. military command&mdashby Somali thugs.

The Pentagon similarly had little interest in wasting scarce resources to grapple with an analogous situation in Liberia several years earlier. In the end, the possibility of intervention in Liberia never made it to the senior decisionmaker level, getting stuck and buried in lower echelons of the bureaucracy. Part of the reason why Somalia and not Liberia made it to the president's desk was that, in the first case, the media spotlighted the appalling horrors that were being perpetrated against helpless civilians in Mogadishu, while largely ignoring the civil war in Liberia. Also, Congress exhibited more interest in Somalia than it did in the less-publicized case of Liberia.

Russia's more closed "political kitchen" at the top makes it difficult to evaluate similarities and differences between Executive Branch processes in Moscow and Washington. It seems clear, however, that Russia's international security policy agencies continue to bear the imprint of Soviet tradition and practice. Throughout the Soviet era, these agencies did not engage in bureaucratic politics as such. Rather, they worked more as executive agents of Kremlin fiat, relaying their "policy support" inputs to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, with few, if any, action recommendations. The ensuing process made for a well-functioning system of policy administration, which even included some internal checks and balances. Nevertheless, these bureaucracies, in the main, operated as transmission belts for state policy, not as independent actors in the formulation of that policy. As a result, such organizations as the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs have little experience of working together and coordinating with each other on issues in which they both have an interest.

The creation of an effective interagency network is further hampered by a Soviet-style propensity to compartmentalize classified information and minimize lateral (and sometimes vertical) information sharing. For these and other reasons, personality and personal access to senior decisionmakers remain more important determinants of a given agency's role and influence in Russia than in the United States. Sometimes an important initiative will go straight to the president from the Foreign Ministry without being coordinated with, say, the Defense Ministry or the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). Ministers constantly strive to get a foot in the Kremlin's door, without the prior concurrence of their colleagues in other state institutions. This contributes not to policy-making orderliness but to chaos.

To recall an example of the arbitrariness that often results, Yeltsin's decision to invade Chechnya followed a breakdown in the policy process at the highest level. Thus, deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai's proposal to halt Russian forces at the outskirts of Grozny as a signal to Dudayev got smothered in Kremlin intrigue before it ever reached the president's desk. Because Shakhrai was young, ambitious, and respected by the president, his opponents in Yeltsin's inner circle were prepared to block his initiative merely on the ground that he had proposed it. More recently, Aleksandr Lebed has encountered similar rear guard opposition in his efforts to bring an end to the war in Chechnya.

As these examples suggest, the United States and Russia differ markedly in the way they process and utilize information in making force-employment decisions. In 1990, a CIA assessment played at least an indirect part in shoring up the reluctance of the Bush administration to expose American forces to the impending crossfire of the Yugoslav civil war. (The CIA was the first government organization to predict flatly that a violent breakup of Yugoslavia was inevitable.) In contrast, Russia has no counterparts to the CIA's national intelligence officers nor any structure at senior levels such as the U.S. National Intelligence Council for producing integrated intelligence assessments. Nor is there anything quite like the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment in the Ministry of Defense or General Staff. Likewise, no mission-area analysis as Americans know it is done within the Russian armed forces. There is no known Russian counterpart to the U.S. Air Force's Project CHECKMATE, which studies potential conflict regions around the world from an operational perspective in support of contingency planning.

To make matters worse, Russia's leaders must often depend on unreliable sources for their information. Thus, intelligence coming to Moscow from Chechnya was compromised from the outset, because Dudayev had co-opted those KGB agents who had been stationed in Grozny before the collapse of Soviet Communism. The lack of good inside reporting may have contributed to the Kremlin's unrealistic estimates of the situation, particularly with respect to the fighting capacity of Dudayev's forces. Similarly, there were no reliable Russian contacts with members of the Tadjik opposition whose real motives were never understood by Moscow. Instead, political judgments and decisions were based on information provided either by on-scene Russian commanders sympathetic to the Tadjik government or by the latter's own representatives. Invariably, such information was one-sided and distorted.

The Role of the Military

The U.S. defense establishment has considerable influence over the course and outcome of American intervention decisionmaking. Although it does not have a veto by any stretch, it has very strong leverage. One recurrent practice on its part has been to oppose, as a matter of principle, interventions that might undermine the prestige and respectability that it has taken the U.S. armed forces two decades to reconstitute in the wake of the Vietnam war. In all the cases of U.S. force employment examined in this volume, the military was averse to going in because of the absence of clearly-defined goals and consequent concerns over spontaneous "mission creep." When intervention was being seriously weighed, the Pentagon's tactic was never to say "no" outright, but to table operational objections on operational or technical grounds that made any intervention proposal appear to be unworkable in practice. (The problem for others in the U.S. decision hierarchy, of course, was that such a hypercautious approach often became an excuse for taking no action at all.)

On the basis of presently available information, the Russian military seems far less hesitant to intervene than its American counterpart. What matters most in today's Russia, however, is not so much the military's policy outlook and breadth of influence on decisionmaking as its subordination and accountability. In Trans-Dniestria, the 14th Army under General Lebed acted entirely on its own in bringing force to bear to stop an incipient outbreak of local fighting within just a day and a half. Although his 14th Army played a stabilizing role rather than one of local interference, Lebed was not thinking of the interests of Russia but rather about the well-being of his own forces. No corresponding command was given by Moscow there were no presidential decrees or parliamentary resolutions. Lebed acted on his own, in total defiance of his instructions from Moscow. Instead of controlling the 14th Army, Moscow found its agenda in Moldova being driven by Lebed's independent actions. In effect, Lebed privatized the 14th Army, an act that would have been not just impossible but unthinkable in the United States.

Similarly, the progressive involvement of Russian troops stationed in Tadjikistan in an inter-Tadjik armed dispute was almost wholly spontaneous and unmanaged by Moscow. Decisions regarding the use of force were made either by junior officers on the spot or else through coordination between the Tadjik government and on-scene Russian commanders, with only minimal and inconsistent guidance from Moscow until very late in the game. All of this points to a badly underdeveloped civil-military polity in Russia, with the military often acting in rogue fashion, in either indifference or outright disobedience to Moscow. This was most recently demonstrated yet again by the clear lack of coordination between Russian field commanders in Chechnya and Yeltsin's newly-appointed National Security Advisor Alexander Lebed.

Executive-Legislative Relations

One trait which the American and Russian Executive Branches have in common is a deep distrust of their respective legislatures and a strong inclination to exclude them from the shaping of intervention policy. There is a natural desire on the part of Executive Branch leaders in both countries to prevent meddling from without by hundreds of elected representatives, each of whom is convinced that he or she has a rightful voice in the formulation of national policy, yet none of whom is accountable for that policy's content and consequences. Nevertheless, the gap between the Executive and Legislative branches is much narrower in the United States than in Russia, where there is no tradition of bipartisanship in Russia, and where the behavior of Duma deputies with respect to domestic and international conflict has been driven, at least so far, less by concern for the interests of constituents or the nation than by partisan and group interests, often with the express intent to antagonize executive power.

In the Ossetian-Ingush crisis, for example, the Russian legislature was even more at fault than the Executive Branch in sending misleading signals to the warring parties. In effect, it played a spoiler role, seeking to obstruct Yeltsin's efforts to solve the conflict through talks. Similarly, Yeltsin's efforts to maintain at least a semblance of neutrality in the mini-war in Abkhazia were constantly undermined by a parliamentary opposition that was outspokenly pro-Abkhaz and welcomed every opportunity to discredit Yeltsin's leadership and embarrass him both domestically and internationally.

Prior to Russia's adoption of a truly post-Soviet constitution in 1993, the Parliament had a contestable but defensible claim to be not only the ultimate arbiter of the country's security policy but the principal locus of strategic decisionmaking. With the adoption of the current "presidential" constitution in 1993, however, the balance of power has tilted sharply toward the Executive Branch as regards decisions to employ force. In this respect, one could say that Russia has become more like America, where clear constitutional provisions narrowly circumscribe the role of Congress in foreign and security policymaking. Ironically, however, the supremacy of the Executive Branch is now so overwhelming in Russia that the Parliament has been freed to behave even more irresponsibly than before. By the same token, the Executive Branch has been freed of any need to seek the advice and consent of those politically independent "outsiders" and can therefore act even more arbitrarily than before. While strong presidential leadership is as essential to rational policymaking, it does not guarantee it and is subject to serious abuse in the absence of institutionalized checks and balances.

Implications for Russian-American Relations

The case studies in this volume offer at least a first-order answer to questions that Russia and America frequently ask about each other. For Russians, a key question is whether the United States is taking advantage of the disappearance of the Soviet Union to become a post-Cold War global hegemon&mdashand hence a potential threat to Russia's security. For their part, Americans ask whether Russia continues to harbor imperialistic ambitions or is finally becoming a post-imperial power, inclined to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem of international security. These questions are not just academic, for their answers carry major implications for how each country views the other's emerging role in international politics, as well as for the prospects of the United States and Russia eventually forging effective cooperative security ties.

Although it would take a major study of each country to offer more conclusive answers to these controversial questions, there is nothing in any of the preceding case studies to suggest that either Washington or Moscow have particularly grandiose ambitions. If anything, the tendency in the United States has been toward isolationism rather than globalism. American military intervention in recent years have typically been reactive and even inertial rather than instrumental in pursuit of grand "strategic" goals. As for Russia, its force has been less reflective of any Russian "imperial" grand design than of a perceived need to ensure stability along the conflicted southwestern periphery of Russia and within Russia itself.

If the preceding case studies provide considerable reassurance against the likelihood of a U.S.-Russian confrontation in the foreseeable future, they raise substantial doubts about the near-term prospects for close cooperation, let alone genuine partnership in regional peace-keeping operations. The principal stumbling block is not an absence of common interests but a marked disparity in levels of political development. For all its vagaries, the highly institutionalized political system of the United States can be counted on to produce relatively transparent and responsible policies over time. In marked contrast, Russia's "transitional" system is far less stable and far more prone to unpredictable and inconsistent behavior. The various instances of Russian force employment outlined above offer repeated testimony to opacity at the presidential level, rampant chaos throughout the interagency arena, recurrent military insubordination at lower echelons of the implementation system, virtually nonexistent legal and legislative checks and balances, and a persistent absence of more than the most vague accountability on the part of the president to the electorate. All of this points to a Russian political system that may not be ready for some time to join Western partners in meaningful peacekeeping and other global security operations.

US Multinational Force [USMNF] Lebanon

The U.S. Multinational Force (USMNF) operated in Beirut, Lebanon from 25 August 1982 to 26 February 1984. During this period four different MAUs served as peacekeepers. The terrorist bombing of the US Marines barracks became a quintessential exemplar of the conditions under which military intervention may not be effective.

Israeli-Palestinian fighting in July 1981 was ended by a cease-fire arranged by U.S. President Ronald Reagan's special envoy, Philip C. Habib, and announced on July 24, 1981. The cease-fire was respected during the next 10 months, but a string of incidents, including PLO rocket attacks on northern Israel, led to the 06 June 1982, Israeli ground attack into Lebanon to remove PLO forces. Israeli forces moved quickly through south Lebanon, encircling west Beirut by mid-June and beginning a three-month siege of Palestinian and Syrian forces in the city.

Throughout this period, which saw heavy Israeli air, naval, and artillery bombardments of west Beirut, Ambassador Habib worked to arrange a settlement. In August 1982, he was successful in bringing about an agreement for the evacuation of Syrian troops and PLO fighters from Beirut. The agreement also provided for the deployment of a three-nation Multinational Force (MNF) during the period of the evacuation, and by late August 1982, U.S. Marines, as well as French and Italian units, had arrived in Beirut. On 10 August 1982 the alert posture of the Mediterranean Amphibious Ready Group was heightened in light of a likely deployment as part of a peacekeeping force to oversee the evacuation of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) forces from West Beirut.

The 32d Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) from Camp Lejeune deployed to Beirut to oversee the safe departure of thousands of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) fighters out of the war-torn city. On 24 August (EDP), the first of 800 Marines began going ashore at Beirut as part of a joint U.S.-French peacekeeping force. When the evacuation ended, these units departed. On 8 September, following the removal of the PLO forces from West Beirut, the Marines redeployed aboard the MARG ships. The US Marines left on 10 September 1982.

In spite of the invasion, the Lebanese political process continued to function, and Bashir Gemayel was elected President in August, succeeding Elias Sarkis. On September 14, however, Bashir Gemayel was assassinated. On 15 September 1982, Israeli troops entered west Beirut. During the next three days, Lebanese militiamen massacred hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in west Beirut. Bashir Gemayel's brother, Amine, was elected President by a unanimous vote of the parliament. He took office 23 September 1982.

MNF forces returned to Beirut at the end of September 1982 as a symbol of support for the government. On 22 September 1982, following the Phalangist Christian force massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps, the Mediterranean Amphibious ready Group was ordered to the Eastern Mediterranean. President Ronald Reagan ordered the 32d MAU back into Lebanon to support the Lebanese Armed Forces where it was soon relieved by Camp Lejeune's 24th MAU. The 1st Battalion, 8th Marines Headquarters building was located at the Beirut International Airport and housed the Battalion Landing Team (BLT). From 27 September through 21 January 1983, two carriers were tethered to Lebanon to provide support for the Marine Corps forces ashore. On 11 February 1983, the response posture for carrier support was relaxed as the situation had stabilized. In February 1983, a small British contingent joined the U.S., French, and Italian MNF troops in Beirut.

On 17 May 1983, an agreement was signed by the representatives of Lebanon, Israel, and the United States that provided for Israeli withdrawal. Syria declined to discuss the withdrawal of its troops, effectively stalemating further progress.

The USMNF was initially successful but, as the strategic and tactical situations changed, the peacekeepers came increasingly under fire. Opposition to the negotiations and to US support for the Gemayel regime led to a series of terrorist attacks in 1983 and 1984 on US interests, including the bombing on 18 April 1983 of the US embassy in west Beirut (63 dead), and of the US embassy annex in east Beirut on 20 September 1984 (8 killed).

Just before 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 23, 1983, a Mercedes truck passed a Lebanese checkpoint on the airport road without halting. The truck turned into the airport parking lot, circled twice and picked up speed for a deadly run at the headquarters building. Orders prohibited Marines from being locked and loaded, but small arms fire probably would not have made much difference, according to reports. A sentry did get some shots off with a pistol, however. The driver of the speeding van was determined to put a huge dent in the American presence in Lebanon. After breaking through several barriers, it sped between two sentry boxes and crashed through more obstacles, penetrating the building's first floor before detonating tons of explosives, taking the lives of 241 Marines, Sailors and soldiers, a majority of which were stationed at Camp Lejeune. Most died in their sleep or were crushed as the building collapsed, while a handful have died in the years that followed due to injuries sustained from the bombing.

On 3 December 1983, two F-14s flying over Lebanon were fired upon by Syrian antiaircraft artillery. On 4 December 1983, aircraft from Kennedy and Independence were launched against Syrian targets two were shot down, and one U.S. airman was taken prisoner by Syrian troops.

The virtual collapse of the Lebanese army in February 1984, following the defection of many of its Muslim and Druze units to opposition militias, was a major blow to the government. As it became clear that the departure of the US Marines was imminent, the Gemayel Government came under increasing pressure from Syria and its Muslim Lebanese allies to abandon the May 17 accord. On 26 February 1984, the withdrawal of the USMC contingent of the international peacekeeping force was completed. The Lebanese Government announced on 05 March 1984 that it was canceling its unimplemented agreement with Israel.

View of the remains of the Marine battalion Landing Team headquarters and barracks at Beirut International Airport. The building was destroyed by a terrorist bomb attack.

Views of damages to the US Embassy caused by a terrorist bomb attack. Marines were participating as members of a multinational peacekeeping force.

U.S. special operations history: Milestones and missions

1750s: Maj. Robert Rogers of New Hampshire organized and led a company of colonists known as Rogers’ Rangers against the French in Canada during the French and Indian War. Rogers’ 28 Rules of Ranging became a blueprint for Ranger fighting tactics.

Rogers’ 1759 raid on the Abenaki Village of St. Francis in Quebec inspired James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel, “The Last of the Mohicans.”


1775: Notable Ranger companies fought for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, including “Morgan’s Riflemen” led by Capt. Daniel Morgan of Virginia and the South Carolina company led by Capt. Francis Marion, known as the “Swamp Fox.”

1805: During the Barbary Coast War, Marine 1st Lt. Presley O’Bannon led seven Marines and a band of mercenaries in a successful attack on the port city of Derna, Tripoli, in what is now eastern Libya, to rescue the crew of the American frigate Philadelphia who had been captured by pirates.

O’Bannon and his men are immortalized in the Marines’ Hymn, “From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.” Like later special operations troops, these early Marines were an elite force operating behind enemy lines against overwhelming odds.

1860s: During the Civil War, the Union fielded the 1st and 2nd Regiments of United States Sharpshooters organized by Hiram C. Berdan of New York. The best-known Rangers were led by the Confederate Col. John S. Mosby.

1866: One year after the Civil War ended, Congress authorized the president to enlist a limited number of American Indians as Army Scouts. In the 1890s, the Army enlisted scouts in units attached to the regular Army infantry and cavalry.

1890: Army Scouts were authorized to wear the branch of service insignia of crossed arrows. During World War II, crossed arrows were worn by officers and enlisted personnel assigned to the First Special Service Force. The crossed arrows became part of the insignia of the Army Special Forces in 1984.

March 1937: Marine Corps 1st Reconnaissance Battalion activated at Quantico, Va. The 1st Recon was deployed to the Caribbean and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1940.

1942: The Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. special operations, was created to run guerrilla campaigns behind enemy lines during World War II. Elite military units modeled on British Commandos — including Marine Raiders and reconnaissance companies, Army Rangers, Special Reconnaissance Units (Scouts), Air Commandos, Amphibious Scouts and Raiders and Naval Demolition Units (“frogmen”) — were activated throughout the war.

February 1942: Marine Corps 1st Raider Battalion activated under Lt. Col. Merritt Edson followed by the 2nd Raider Battalion under Lt. Col. Evans Carlson, earning them the nicknames Edson’s Raiders and Carlson’s Raiders. The four Marine Raider battalions created during the war were disbanded by February 1944.

April 18, 1942: Airmen of the Army Air Forces, led by Lt. Col. James H. (Jimmy) Doolittle, conducted a daring bombing raid on Japan. Doolittle’s Raiders boosted American morale following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

June 1942: United States’ 1st Army Ranger Battalion activated in Northern Ireland under Maj. William O. Darby. Six Ranger battalions were formed for war service.

Soldiers who completed the rigorous British training won the right to wear the British Commando green beret, although it did not become the official headgear worn by Army Special Forces until 1961.

July 1942: Formation of 1st Special Service Force, a joint American-Canadian commando unit established under Lt. Col Robert T. Frederick. The Devil’s Brigade was a precursor to modern U.S. and Canadian special forces.

August 1942: Selected Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel began exercises at the Amphibious Training Base in Little Creek, Va. The Army and Navy jointly established the Amphibious Scout and Raider School at Fort Pierce, Fla.

Phil H. Bucklew, known as the “Father of Naval Special Warfare,” led the first group of amphibious Scouts and Raiders. He was a professional football player before joining the Navy.

August 1942: Carlson’s Raiders lost 30 men in an assault on Makin Island that was intended to keep Japanese reinforcements from reaching Guadalcanal.

September 1942: In a pivotal special operations battle during the Guadalcanal campaign, Edson’s Raiders and Marines of the 1st Parachute Battalion defended a ridge overlooking a critical airfield against a much larger Japanese force.

Sept. 25, 1942: President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, establishing a large-scale ground training facility for Marine island-hopping operations in the Pacific.

November 1942: Amphibious Scouts and Raiders were first deployed in Operation Torch, an invasion of North Africa.

January 1943: Marine Corps Amphibious Reconnaissance company activated at Camp Elliott in the Kearny Mesa area. Training also took place at Camp Pendleton.

February 1943: Raider Training Center established at Camp Pendleton to train qualified replacements for battalions overseas.

June 1943: Lt. Cmdr. Draper Kauffman established Naval Combat Demolition Unit training at Fort Pierce. That same month, the secretary of the Navy authorized the establishment of an amphibious training base in the San Diego area.

Kauffman, who was born in San Diego, is given credit for “hell week,” a grueling one-week training course meant to eliminate all but the best candidates.

August 1943: Army Air Force Lt. Col. Donald Flickinger, Sgt. Harold Passey and Cpl. William McKenzie parachuted into the dense jungle of Burma to rescue a group of men, including CBS reporter Eric Sevareid, who had bailed out of a stricken C-46. That jump led to the birth of Air Force pararescue.

November 1943: Heavy losses during the amphibious assault at Tarawa emphasized the need for a combat force that could clear water hazards ahead of landings. Shortly afterward, 30 officers and 150 enlisted men began training as Underwater Demolition Teams, also called “frogmen,” at Hawaii.

Jan. 30, 1944: The Army Ranger force lost two battalions at the Battle of Cisterna in Italy.

Jan. 31, 1944: Frogmen saw their first combat during Operation Flintlock in the Marshall Islands.

Feb. 24, 1944: Maj. Gen. Frank Merrill’s commando force, nicknamed “Merrill’s Marauders,” began an arduous campaign through the jungles of northern Burma. In five major and 30 minor engagements, the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional) disrupted Japanese supply and communications lines before being disbanded Aug. 10, 1944. Every member of the unit received the Bronze Star.

March 29, 1944: The first American air commandos, along with British “Chindit” commandos, launched a dramatic aerial invasion of Burma as part of a successful attempt to push back Japanese forces and re-establish the land route between India and China. The 1st Air Commando Group provided fighter cover, airstrikes and transportation for “Wingate’s Raiders,” a British force operating behind enemy lines.

June 6, 1944: Special forces units played key roles in the Normandy landings. Naval demolition units cleared obstacles from the beaches and Rangers scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc. At Omaha Beach, Maj. Gen. Norman Cota yelled, “Rangers, lead the way!” to soldiers of the 5th Battalion, coining the Rangers’ future motto.

During the assault, 37 men from the Naval Combat Demolition Unit were killed and 71 wounded, making D-Day the single deadliest day in the history of Naval Special Warfare.

June 14, 1944: Navy divers scouted and cleared planned landing beaches for the invasion of Saipan. Following the success at Saipan, the Navy’s underwater demolition teams were involved in most of the major amphibious landings in the Pacific during World War II.

Jan. 30, 1945: In one of the most daring raids of the war in the Pacific, Army Rangers, Scouts and Filipino guerrillas liberated more than 500 Allied prisoners of war from a Japanese POW camp near Cabanatuan.

May 1946: The Army Air Force established the Air Rescue Service, known at the time as para-jumpers or PJs, the highly trained combat medics of the Air Force Special Operations community.

1950: Army Ranger Training school established at Fort Benning, Ga. Fifteen Ranger companies were formed during the Korean War.

September 1950: Underwater demolition teams scouted landing sites and cleared the harbor of mines before the surprise amphibious assault on the port of Inchon on Korea’s west coast.

June 20, 1952: The Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was formed at Fort Bragg, N.C. under Col. Aaron Bank, who was called “the father of the Green Berets.”

June 1957: Marine Corps 1st Force Reconnaissance Company activated at Camp Pendleton under the command of Maj. Bruce F. Meyers. In 1958, half of the company transferred to Camp Lejeune to form the 2nd Force Recon Company.

May 1961: President John F. Kennedy sent 400 Green Beret special advisers to South Vietnam to train South Vietnamese soldiers.

April 1962: U.S. Air Force re-established and activated the 1st Air Commando Group.

January 1962: Two Navy Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) operating teams were established. SEAL Team 1 formed in Coronado to support the Pacific Fleet under the command of Navy Lt. David Del Giudice. SEAL Team 2 was established in Little Creek, Va., to support the Atlantic Fleet, under the command of Navy Lt. John Callahan.

One of the first missions was a reconnaissance of the Havana Harbor. SEAL units were deployed extensively to conduct training and counter-guerrilla operations during the Vietnam War.

June 6, 1962: Speaking to the graduating class at West Point, Kennedy outlined his strategic vision for special forces in unconventional warfare.

“This is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origins: won by subversives, insurgents, assassins, won by ambush instead of combat, by infiltration instead of aggression,” the president said.

July 1963: Special operations teams began organizing and training tribesman in the Central Highlands of Vietnam into the Civilian Irregular Defense Group.

July 6 1964: In the Battle of Nam Dong, Capt. Roger C. Donlon, commander of a 12-man Army Special Forces team of Green Berets, led a successful defense against a much-larger Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army attack. Donlon was awarded the war’s first Medal of Honor for his actions.

1966: Marine Force Recon, operating under the code name “Sting Ray,” began conducting clandestine patrols behind enemy lines near the Laotian, Cambodian and North Vietnamese borders.

March 1966: “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” written by Robin Moore and Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, topped the U.S. music charts and enshrined a patriotic image of the special forces soldier in popular culture.

The lyrics included: “Fighting soldiers from the sky / Fearless men who jump and die / Men who mean just what they say / The brave men of the Green Beret.”

Feb. 7, 1968: Vietnamese tanks overran the U.S. Army Special Forces camp at Lang Vei, near Khe Sanh.

July 4, 1968: “The Green Berets,” a film loosely based on a book by Robin Moore, was released starring John Wayne as a colonel in Vietnam and David Janssen as a newspaper correspondent who questioned the war’s wisdom.

1969: Army Col. Robert B. Rheault and five of his men were accused of murder and conspiracy in the death of a suspected South Vietnamese double agent in what became known as the Green Beret Affair. Although charges were dismissed, the case was used as a discrediting tactic against special operations forces.

Nov. 21, 1970: Special operations troops conducted a rescue operation to free Americans from captivity at Son Tay in North Vietnam, only to find the POWs had been moved from the camp. Despite rescuing no prisoners, the raid was considered a tactical success.

1978: Delta Force, a full-time Army counterterrorism unit, was formed by Col. Charlie Beckwith after numerous, well-publicized terrorist incidents in the 1970s.

1979: In Francis Ford Coppola’s film “Apocalypse Now,” Martin Sheen played an Army captain sent upriver in Vietnam to assassinate a renegade special forces colonel played by Marlon Brando. In the film, the overt patriotism and adulation of the special forces reflected in “The Green Berets” is replaced by a stark moral ambiguity.

April 1980: A desperate mission to rescue 53 American hostages from Iran ended in failure and the deaths of eight servicemen, but was a turning point for U.S. special forces after a decline in the 1970s.

October 1980: In the wake of the failed Iranian hostage rescue attempt, SEAL Team Six was created as a maritime counterterrorism unit under Cmdr. Richard Marcinko. (In 1987, SEAL Team Six was dissolved and U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU, took its place.)

October 1981: Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion, also known as Night Stalkers, was officially created at Fort Campbell, Ky. Today’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) was activated in June 1990.

1982: “First Blood,” a film based on the David Morrell novel, starred Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a troubled Vietnam War veteran and former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier. The film spawned thee sequels.

March 1983: All Air Force Special Operations were transferred from the 23rd Air Force in Illinois and based at Hurlburt Field, Fla., as the 1st Special Operations Wing.

Oct. 25, 1983: Special operations units suffered comparatively heavy casualties as part the U.S. invasion of Grenada. The mixed outcome highlighted command and control problems in the special forces.

January 1984: Department of Defense created the Joint Special Operations Agency to coordinate counterterrorist military units in each of the armed services.

June 1985: After Lebanese hijackers seized TWA Flight 847 en route from Cairo to San Diego and murdered U.S. Navy diver Robert Stetham, anti-terrorist Delta Force units were dispatched to the Mediterranean but never engaged the hijackers, who shuttled the aircraft between Beirut and Algeria over 17 days before releasing the hostages.

April 16, 1987: U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, was established at MacDill Air Force Base, near Tampa, Fla., to provide a uniform command for Air Force, Army and Navy special operations resources. Naval Special Warfare Command was established in Coronado.

September 1987: SOCOM’s first tactical operation involving Navy SEALs and Army Special Operations aviators working together took place during the Iran-Iraq War while the American military was protecting Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. On Sept. 21, the Iran Ajr, an Iranian ship, was disabled by Army special operations helicopters and boarded by SEALs after it was caught laying mines.

Dec. 1, 1989: Army established the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Dec. 20, 1989: Shortly before the U.S. invasion of Panama, members of Delta Force freed American Kurt Muse from a heavily guarded prison near Gen. Manuel Noriega’s headquarters. During Operation Just Cause, four SEALs were killed and eight wounded at Paitilla airfield trying to capture Noriega’s personal jet.

May 22, 1990: Air Force Special Operations Command was established.

1991: During Desert Storm, the first war with Iraq, special operations forces participated in search-and-rescue and missions and combat operations including the capture of oil platforms used by Iraqi soldiers as anti-aircraft positions and efforts to stop Scud missile attacks on Israel by tracking the mobile missile launchers and calling in airstrikes behind enemy lines.

Jan. 21, 1991: An American Navy pilot was rescued in the Iraqi desert by an Air Force team after an Iraqi missile brought down his F-14 60 miles northwest of Baghdad. Two days later, SEALs jumped into the water and rescued an Air Force F-16 pilot who had bailed out over the gulf.

Jan. 31, 1991: Air Force SpecOps AC-130 Spectre gunship shot down in the Persian Gulf, killing all 14 aboard, including Sgt. Damon Kanuha, 28, of San Diego.

Oct. 3, 1993: A failed operation to capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Mogadishu, Somalia, led to the deaths of 18 Army Rangers and Delta Force special operations soldiers, an incident recounted in the book and movie “Blackhawk Down.”

1997: In the Ridley Scott film “G.I. Jane,” Demi Moore played a female naval intelligence officer assigned to train for a spot as a SEAL.

1999: During the NATO bombing campaign in Serbia and Kosovo, Air Force commandos rescued an F-117A pilot who was shot down near Belgrade on March 27 and an F-16 pilot shot down in western Serbia on May 2.

November 2001: U.S. Green Berets linked up with Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum to capture Mazar-e Sharif, the first major victory for the U.S.-led coalition in the war in Afghanistan.

December 2001: Afghan forces under the coordination of U.S. special operations teams overran the Taliban mountain stronghold known as Tora Bora, but top al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, escaped.

March 4, 2002: Seven Americans were killed and 11 were wounded when Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and pilots and Air Force combat controllers and pararescuemen fought against entrenched al-Qaeda fighters atop a 10,000-foot Afghan mountain called Takur Ghar at the outset of Operation Anaconda in eastern Afghanistan.

August 2002: Sony released the video game “SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs,” which was partially created at Sony’s San Diego offices using a Navy SEAL from Coronado.

March 2003: Unlike in Operation Desert Storm 12 years earlier, special operations forces played an integral role in the invasion of Iraq. Attack helicopters from the Air Force 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Night Stalkers) struck Iraqi positions along the southern and western borders. The 352nd helped open the northern front, flying in elements of the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group to Kurdish-held locations while the 5th Group was on the ground in western Iraq. Naval Special Warfare secured offshore oil terminals and infrastructure and cleared Iraqi waterways.

April 2003: Army Rangers and other special operations troops rescued 19-year-old Pfc. Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital.

Dec. 13, 2003: A covert joint special operations team captured former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein hiding in a hole at a farmhouse in Adwar, Iraq, near his hometown of Tikrit.

2004: Journalist Evan Wright published “Generation Kill,” a book based on the experiences of Marines from the 1st Recon Battalion during the U.S. military’s invasion of Iraq the year before. It was adapted as an HBO miniseries in 2008.

September 2004: Nine SEALs and another sailor were accused of beating an Iraqi detainee who died in CIA custody in 2003 at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. One officer was charged with a crime, and later acquitted.

June 28, 2005: Three Navy SEALs — Lt. Michael Murphy and Petty Officers Danny Dietz and Matt Axelson — were killed during a covert mission in Afghanistan. Eight SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers also died when their rescue helicopter was shot down. The events of the ill-fated mission were chronicled in the book “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell, which was adapted into a film of the same name and in the e-book “Operation Red Wings: The Rescue Story Behind Lone Survivor” by Peter Nealen.

Feb. 24, 2006: Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command was officially activated at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

June 2006: Special operations forces led the hunt ending in the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

April 12, 2009: SEAL snipers killed three Somali pirates and rescued an American cargo-ship captain, ending a five-day standoff. The event was dramatized in the 2013 film “Captain Phillips.”

Feb. 21, 2010: Hellfire missiles launched by U.S. special operations helicopters killed as many as 27 civilians in three trucks in Uruzgan Province, central Afghanistan, after Predator drone operators mistook them for the Taliban.

Nov. 9, 2010: The “Call of Duty: Black Ops” video game sold more than 5.6 million copies worldwide within 24 hours of going on sale.

May 2, 2011: SEALs stormed a fortified compound in Pakistan and killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Aug. 6, 2011: Eight Afghans and 30 Americans, including 22 Navy SEALs, died when their helicopter was shot down in the United States’ single deadliest day of the decade-long war in Afghanistan. It was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II.

Jan. 25, 2012: SEALs parachuted into Somalia and rescued two aid workers being held hostage.

February 2012: “Act of Valor” movie premiered, featuring active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs as actors.

September 2012: Ex-SEAL Matt Bissonnette published “No Easy Day” under the pen name Mark Owen. It was a military memoir about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

December 2012: “Zero Dark Thirty” premiered, depicting the epic manhunt for Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and his death at the hands of Navy SEALs.

February 2013: A former Navy SEAL anonymously detailed the bin Laden raid in Esquire magazine.

February 2013: Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered all U.S. special operations forces to leave a province west of Kabul, alleging that they had been involved in the torture and murder of innocent people.

Oct. 5, 2013: U.S. special operations forces launched raids in Libya and Somalia. Members of Delta Force seized the militant known as Abu Anas al-Libi outside his home in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Hours earlier, a Navy SEAL team swam ashore and raided the villa of an al-Shabab commander in a predawn firefight on the coast of Somalia.

March 2014: Navy SEALs seized a rogue oil tanker controlled by armed Libyan militiamen.

June 2014: Delta Force operatives, supported by FBI agents, captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected ringleader of the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, in a secret raid in Libya.

Sept. 1, 2014: U.S. special operations forces in Somalia killed Ahmed Abdi Godane, leader of the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab. Godane had claimed responsibility for the Sept. 21, 2013, attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed 67 people.

November 2014: The movie “American Sniper” was released it was based on former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s book of the same name.


Nov. 16, 2014: The militant group Islamic State beheaded Peter Kassig, a former U.S. Army Ranger turned aid worker who had been captured while delivering relief supplies to refugees in Syria.

Dec. 6, 2014: American photojournalist Luke Somers and a South African teacher were killed during a U.S.-led raid to free them from al-Qaeda-affiliated militants in Yemen. On Nov. 25, U.S. special operations forces and Yemeni soldiers had freed eight hostages in a raid near the Saudi border, but Somers was not at that location.

June 19, 2015: Marine Corps holds ceremony to add “Raider” to the formal names of its special operations units, resurrecting a moniker made famous by World War II units that carried out high-risk amphibious and guerrilla operations.

Sources: News reports, Department of Defense, official histories published by the U.S. Special Operations Command, Air Force Historical Research Agency, U.S. Army Special Forces Command, Naval Special Warfare Command, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, “U.S. Special Forces: A Guide to America’s Special Operations Units — The World’s Most Elite Fighting Force” by Samuel A. Southworth and “Elite Warriors: 300 Years of America’s Best Fighting Troops” by Lance Q. Zedric and Michael F. Dilley.

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Lebanon (Civil War 1975-1991)

Non-Lebanese military and paramilitary forces retain significant influence over much of the country. Palestinian groups hostile to both the Lebanese government and the US operate largely autonomously inside refugee camps in different areas of the country. Intra communal violence within the camps has resulted in violent incidents such as shootings and explosions.

The population of Lebanon comprises Christians and Muslims. No official census has been taken since 1932, reflecting the political sensitivity in Lebanon over confessional (religious) balance. The US Government estimate is that more than half of the resident population is Muslim (Shi'a, Sunni and Druze), and the rest is Christian (predominantly Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, and Armenian). Shi'a Muslims make up the single largest sect. Claims since the early 1970s by Muslims that they are in the majority contributed to tensions preceding the 1975-76 civil strife and have been the basis of demands for a more powerful Muslim voice in the government.

There are over 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and thousands of stateless undocumented persons resident in the country (mostly Kurds and Syrians). Palestinians and stateless persons are not accorded the legal rights enjoyed by the rest of the population.

With no official figures available, it is estimated that 600,000-900,000 persons fled the country during the initial years of civil strife (1975-76). Although some returned, continuing conflict through 1990 sparked further waves of emigration, casting even more doubt on population figures. As much as 7% of the population was killed during the civil war between 1975 and 1990. Approximately 17,000-20,000 people are still "missing" or unaccounted for from the civil war period.


Lebanon's history from independence has been marked by periods of political turmoil interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut's position as a regional center for finance and trade. In 1958, during the last months of President Camille Chamoun's term, an insurrection broke out, and U.S. forces were briefly dispatched to Lebanon in response to an appeal by the government. During the 1960s, Lebanon enjoyed a period of relative calm and Beirut-focused tourism and banking sector-driven prosperity. Other areas of the country, however, notably the South, North, and Bekaa Valley, remained poor in comparison.

In the early 1970s, difficulties arose over the presence of Palestinian refugees, many of whom arrived after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and "Black September" 1970 hostilities in Jordan. Among the latter were Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Coupled with the Palestinian problem, Muslim and Christian differences grew more intense.

Beginning of the Civil War--1975-81

The spark that ignited the civil war in Lebanon occurred in Beirut on April 13, 1975, when gunmen killed four Phalangists during an attempt on Pierre Jumayyil's life. Perhaps believing the assassins to have been Palestinian, the Phalangists retaliated later that day by attacking a bus carrying Palestinian passengers across a Christian neighborhood, killing about twenty-six of the occupants. The next day fighting erupted in earnest, with Phalangists pitted against Palestinian militiamen (thought by some observers to be from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). The confessional layout of Beirut's various quarters facilitated random killing. Most Beirutis stayed inside their homes during these early days of battle, and few imagined that the street fighting they were witnessing was the beginning of a war that was to devastate their city and divide the country.

Despite the urgent need to control the fighting, the political machinery of the government became paralyzed over the next few months. The inadequacies of the political system, which the 1943 National Pact had only papered over temporarily, reappeared more clearly than ever. For many observers, at the bottom of the conflict was the issue of confessionalism out of balance--of a minority, specifically the Maronites, refusing to share power and economic opportunity with the Muslim majority.

The government could not act effectively because leaders were unable to agree on whether or not to use the army to stop the bloodletting. When Jumblatt and his leftist supporters tried to isolate the Phalangists politically, other Christian sects rallied to Jumayyil's camp, creating a further rift. Consequently, in May Prime Minister Rashid as Sulh and his cabinet resigned, and a new government was formed under Rashid Karami. Although there were many calls for his resignation, President Franjiyah steadfastly retained his office. As various other groups took sides, the fighting spread to other areas of the country, forcing residents in towns with mixed sectarian populations to seek safety in regions where their sect was dominant. Even so, the militias became embroiled in a pattern of attack followed by retaliation, including acts against uninvolved civilians.

Although the two warring factions were often characterized as Christian versus Muslim, their individual composition was far more complex. Those in favor of maintaining the status quo came to be known as the Lebanese Front. The groups included primarily the Maronite militias of the Jumayyil, Shamun, and Franjiyah clans, often led by the sons of zuama. Also in this camp were various militias of Maronite religious orders. The side seeking change, usually referred to as the Lebanese National Movement, was far less cohesive and organized. For the most part it was led by Kamal Jumblatt and included a variety of militias from leftist organizations and guerrillas from rejectionist Palestinian (nonmainstream PLO) organizations.

By the end of 1975, no side held a decisive military advantage, but it was generally acknowledged that the Lebanese Front had done less well than expected against the disorganized Lebanese National Movement. The political hierarchy, composed of the old zuama and politicians, still was incapable of maintaining peace, except for occasional, short-lived cease-fires. Reform was discussed, but little headway was made toward any significant improvements. Syria, which was deeply concerned about the flow of events in Lebanon, also proved powerless to enforce calm through diplomatic means. And, most ominous of all, the Lebanese Army, which generally had stayed out of the strife, began to show signs of factionalizing and threatened to bring its heavy weaponry to bear on the conflict.

Syrian diplomatic involvement grew during 1976, but it had little success in restoring order in the first half of the year. In January it organized a cease-fire and set up the High Military Committee, through which it negotiated with all sides. These negotiations, however, were complicated by other events, especially Lebanese Front-Palestinian confrontations. That month the Lebanese Front began a siege of Tall Zatar, a densely populated Palestinian refugee camp in East Beirut the Lebanese Front also overran and leveled Karantina, a Muslim quarter in East Beirut. These actions finally brought the main forces of the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), into the battle. Together, the PLA and the Lebanese National Movement took the town of Ad Damur, a Shamun stronghold about seventeen kilometers south of Beirut.

In spite of these setbacks, through Syria's good offices, compromises were achieved. On February 14, 1976, in what was considered a political breakthrough, Syria helped negotiate a seventeen-point reform program known as the Constitutional Document. Yet by March this progress was derailed by the disintegration of the Lebanese Army. In that month dissident Muslim troops, led by Lieutenant Ahmad Khatib, mutinied, creating the Lebanese Arab Army. Joining the Lebanese National Movement, they made significant penetrations into Christian-held Beirut and launched an attack on the presidential palace, forcing Franjiyah to flee to Mount Lebanon. Continuing its search for a domestic political settlement to the war, in May the Chamber of Deputies elected Ilyas Sarkis to take over as president when Franjiyah's term expired in September. But Sarkis had strong backing from Syria and, as a consequence, was unacceptable to Jumblatt, who was known to be antipathetic to Syrian president Hafiz al Assad and who insisted on a "military solution." Accordingly, the Lebanese National Movement successfully pressed assaults on Mount Lebanon and other Christian-controlled areas.

As Lebanese Front fortunes declined, two outcomes seemed likely: the establishment in Mount Lebanon of an independent Christian state, viewed as a "second Israel" by some or, if the Lebanese National Movement won the war, the creation of a radical, hostile state on Syria's western border. Neither of these possibilities was viewed as acceptable to Assad. To prevent either scenario, at the end of May 1976 Syria intervened militarily against the Lebanese National Movement, hoping to end the fighting swiftly. This decision, however, proved ill conceived, as Syrian forces met heavy resistance and suffered many casualties. Moreover, by entering the conflict on the Christian side Syria provoked outrage from much of the Arab world. Despite, or perhaps as a result of, these military and diplomatic failures, in late July Syria decided to quell the resistance. A drive was launched against Lebanese National Movement strongholds that was far more successful than earlier battles within two weeks the opposition was almost subdued. Rather than crush the resistance altogether, at this time Syria chose to participate in an Arab peace conference held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 16, 1976.

The Riyadh Conference, followed by an Arab League meeting in Cairo also in October 1976, formally ended the Lebanese Civil War although the underlying causes were in no way eliminated, the fullscale warfare stopped. Syria's presence in Lebanon was legitimated by the establishment of the Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) by the Arab League in October 1976. In January 1977 the ADF consisted of 30,000 men, of whom 27,000 were Syrian. The remainder were token contingents from Saudi Arabia, the small Persian Gulf states, and Sudan Libya had withdrawn its small force in late 1976. Because of his difficulties in reforming the Lebanese Army, President Sarkis, the ADF's nominal commander, requested renewal of the ADF's mandate a number of times.

Thus, after more than one and one-half years of devastation, relative calm returned to Lebanon. Although the exact cost of the war will never be known, deaths may have approached 44,000, with about 180,000 wounded many thousands of others were displaced or left homeless, or had migrated. Much of the once-magnificent city of Beirut was reduced to rubble and the town divided into Muslim and Christian sectors, separated by the so-called Green Line.

In 1982 Lebanon began to rebuild their armed forces with assistance from the United Staes. In 1988, these new modern forces gave General Aoun, the interim prime minister, the will to declare a war of liberation against the Syrians who were still occupying the country. However, within two years General Aoun was defeated and exiled to France. Syria maintained its presence while also rebuilding the Lebanese Armed Forces, which were devastated by the brief war.

U.S. Intervention--1982-84

An interim cease-fire brokered by the U.S. in 1981 among Syria, the PLO, and Israel was respected for almost a year. Several incidents, including PLO rocket attacks on northern Israel, as well as an assassination attempt on the Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom, led to the June 6, 1982 Israeli ground attack into Lebanon to remove PLO forces. Operation "Peace for Galilee" aimed at establishing a deeper security zone and pushing Syrian troops out of Lebanon, with a view toward paving the way for an Israeli-Lebanese peace agreement. With these aims in mind, Israeli forces drove 25 miles into Lebanon, moving into East Beirut with the support of Maronite Christian leaders and militia.

In August 1982, U.S. mediation resulted in the evacuation of Syrian troops and PLO fighters from Beirut. The agreement also provided for the deployment of a multinational force composed of U.S. Marines along with French and Italian units. A new President, Bashir Gemayel, was elected with acknowledged Israeli backing. On September 14, however, he was assassinated. The next day, Israeli troops crossed into West Beirut to secure Muslim militia strongholds and stood aside as Lebanese Christian militias massacred almost 800 Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Then-Israeli Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon was held indirectly responsible for the massacre by the Kahane Commission and later resigned. With U.S. backing, Amin Gemayel, chosen by the Lebanese parliament to succeed his brother as President, focused anew on securing the withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian forces. The multinational force returned.

On May 17, 1983, Lebanon, Israel, and the United States signed an agreement on Israeli withdrawal that was conditioned on the departure of Syrian troops. Syria opposed the agreement and declined to discuss the withdrawal of its troops, effectively stalemating further progress. In August 1983, Israel withdrew from the Shuf (southeast of Beirut), thus removing the buffer between the Druze and the Christian militias and triggering another round of brutal fighting. By September, the Druze had gained control over most of the Shuf, and Israeli forces had pulled out from all but the southern security zone, where they remained until May 2000. The virtual collapse of the Lebanese Army in February 1984, following the defection of many Muslim and Druze units to militias, was a major blow to the government. With the U.S. Marines looking ready to withdraw, Syria and Muslim groups stepped up pressure on Gemayal. On March 5, 1984 the Lebanese Government canceled the May 17 agreement the Marines departed a few weeks later.

This period of chaos witnessed the beginning of terrorist attacks launched against U.S. and Western interests. These included the April 18, 1983 suicide attack at the U.S. Embassy in West Beirut (63 dead), the bombing of the headquarters of U.S. and French forces on October 23, 1983 (298 dead), the assassination of American University of Beirut President Malcolm Kerr on January 18, 1984, and the bombing of the U.S. Embassy annex in East Beirut on September 20, 1984 (9 dead).

It also saw the rise of radicalism among a small number of Lebanese Muslim factions who believed that the successive Israeli and U.S. interventions in Lebanon were serving primarily Christian interests. It was from these factions that Hizballah emerged from a loose coalition of Shi'a groups. Hizballah employed terrorist tactics and was supported by Syria and Iran.

Worsening Conflict and Political Crisis--1985-89

Between 1985 and 1989, factional conflict worsened as various efforts at national reconciliation failed. Heavy fighting took place in the "War of the Camps" in 1985 and 1986 as the Shi'a Muslim Amal militia sought to rout the Palestinians from Lebanese strongholds. The Amal movement had been organized in mid-1975, at the beginning of the civil war, to confront what were seen as Israeli plans to displace the Lebanese population with Palestinians. (Its charismatic founder Imam Musa Sadr disappeared in Libya 3 years later. Its current leader, Nabih Berri, is the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies.) The combat returned to Beirut in 1987, with Palestinians, leftists, and Druze fighters allied against Amal, eventually drawing further Syrian intervention. Violent confrontation flared up again in Beirut in 1988 between Amal and Hizballah.

Meanwhile, on the political front, Prime Minister Rashid Karami, head of a government of national unity set up after the failed peace efforts of 1984, was assassinated on June 1, 1987. President Gemayel's term of office expired in September 1988. Before stepping down, he appointed another Maronite Christian, Lebanese Armed Forces Commanding General Michel Aoun, as acting Prime Minister, contravening Lebanon's unwritten "National Pact," which required the prime minister to be Sunni Muslim. Muslim groups rejected the move and pledged support to Salim al-Hoss, a Sunni who had succeeded Karami. Lebanon was thus divided between a Christian government in East Beirut and a Muslim government in West Beirut, with no president.

In February 1989 Aoun attacked the rival Lebanese Forces militia. By March he turned his attention to other militias, launching what he termed a "War of Liberation" against the Syrians and their Lebanese militia allies. In the months that followed, Aoun rejected both the agreement that ultimately ended the civil war and the election of another Christian leader as president. A Lebanese-Syrian military operation in October 1990 forced him to take cover in the French Embassy in Beirut and later into a 15-year exile in Paris. After Syrian troop withdrawal, Aoun returned to Lebanon on May 7, 2005 and won a seat in the 2005 parliamentary elections. He is now the leader of the largest opposition bloc in parliament.

End of the Civil War--1989-91

The Ta'if Agreement of 1989 marked the beginning of the end of the war. In January of that year, a committee appointed by the Arab League, chaired by Kuwait and including Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Morocco, had begun to formulate solutions to the conflict, leading to a meeting of Lebanese parliamentarians in Ta'if, Saudi Arabia, where they agreed to the national reconciliation accord in October. Returning to Lebanon, they ratified the agreement on November 4 and elected Rene Moawad as President the following day. Moawad was assassinated in a car bombing in Beirut on November 22 as his motorcade returned from Lebanese Independence Day ceremonies. Elias Hrawi, who remained in office until 1998, succeeded him.

In August 1990, parliament and the new President agreed on constitutional amendments embodying some of the political reforms envisioned at Ta'if. The Chamber of Deputies expanded to 128 seats and was divided equally between Christians and Muslims (with Druze counted as Muslims). In March 1991, parliament passed an amnesty law that pardoned all political crimes prior to its enactment. The amnesty was not extended to crimes perpetrated against foreign diplomats or certain crimes referred by the cabinet to the Higher Judicial Council. In May 1991, the militias (with the important exception of Hizballah) were dissolved, and the Lebanese Armed Forces began to slowly rebuild itself as Lebanon's only major nonsectarian institution.

In all, it is estimated that more than 100,000 were killed, and another 100,000 left handicapped, during Lebanon's 16-year civil war. Up to one-fifth of the pre-war resident population, or about 900,000 people, were displaced from their homes, of whom perhaps a quarter of a million emigrated permanently. The last of the Western hostages taken during the mid-1980s were released in May 1992.

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