The force of the explosion ripped the building from its foundation. The building then imploded upon itself," read a Defense Department report on the attack. "Almost all the occupants were crushed or trapped inside the wreckage (CBS News, 1983)."
If one looks at the events of 1983 closely, it is perhaps possible to see what might have occurred differently in the Middle East if the United States had proceeded in a policy that was multi-lateral, as opposed to unilateral with respect to the Middle East.
Reagan wanted a Palestinian homeland, and Yasser Arafat wanted a Palestinian state (Winslow, p. 238). Reagan seemed to have made the mistake, too, of believing that all the players in the Middle East were had a defined role in a Middle East peace plan, at from his perspective; and when they did not react to his proposals in the way that Reagan had anticipated they would, then the Reagan administration was left trying to figure out how to do things differently in a way that bring the parties together towards peace. Reagan clearly was blind to the fact that it was in the interest of countries other than the United States to be involved in the processes in the Middle East; but his policy of unilateralism prevented other world leaders from being involved and, therefore, rather than support him, they criticized him. Lebanon, in the mean time, slid back in time to levels of violence that it had not experienced in two years (Winslow, p. 237).
Although the Reagan initiative represented a reasonable preliminary from the standpoint of the parties' needs, it did not give any one of them enough of what they wanted. Mr. Reagan had been given a useful script-his Middle East experts had told him it was in line with Saudi thinking -- and he was prepared for the actors to play their parts. No one did, of course, and the play was never performed. Thereafter, the Reagan administration was reduced to a minimalist approach, tied to Israel, trying to stabilize things in Beirut, and finding itself complaining to the parties that their actions did not support the cause of peace. Attempting to sponsor various settlements rather than take the lead meant that poor Gulliver was likely to get torn up in the Middle East souq again. In fact, Gemayel, Assad, Begin, and Arafat used Reagan as a means of furthering their particular goals, mostly to block each other as much as possible and hold onto what they already had (Winslow, p. 238)."
Syria managed to strengthen its position in Lebanon, and:
President Assad's major demands in 1983 were that Israel must withdraw from Lebanon and that the government of Amin Gemayel should not sign a separate agreement normalizing relations with the invader from the north. These demands, however, put Damascus on a collision course with Washington, whose diplomats had hoped to restart the peace process by making progress in Lebanon (while Arafat was out of the way). The Americans believed that an IDF withdrawal from Lebanon, coupled with an agreement to conduct normal state relations, would have helped break down barriers in Israel's relations with Lebanon just as the Sinai withdrawal had done with Egypt (Winslow, p. 239)."
The picture in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon, was becoming a much more complicated one. The Reagan Administration proved reluctant to admit to the reality of the situation with which it was faced (Winslow, p. 239). As such, they became polarized in their unilateralism. This gave Menachem Begin, teamed with Ariel Sharon, the opportunity to gain ground for Israel (Winslow, p. 239).
The Begin-Sharon combination hoped to scatter the Palestinians as one of the steps toward settling and establishing "Greater Israel."
With the Palestinian military threat removed, for both the Israelis and the Lebanese Christians, the latter could once again have their Lebanon while the Israelis patrolled the south. "Choose, Lebanon, choose, " said the Israelis. "It is either us or the Muslims, " i.e., the Syrians and Soviets (Winslow, p. 240)."
It was clear that matters had completely escaped the Reagan Administration realm of influence. On January 1, 1983, fighting broke out in Lebanon anew, and Lebanon was once again a ground for the warfare of other nations and interests (Winslow, p. 240). Christian and Muslim forces positioned themselves, and the melee that ensued was difficult to discern who was where (Winslow, p. 240).
It was, after all of this, says Charles Winslow, America's own attempt to rescue itself from the humiliation of having completely lost the effort in Lebanon (p. 242). It was under the direction of Robert McFarlane, Winslow says, that McFarlane declared the Marines guarding the American Ambassador's residence at ...
This action took the Americans out of the role of being independent peacekeepers and negotiators in the weighty processes of the Middle East; they had, Winslow says, taken the side of the Christians in the Lebanon's wars (p. 242). It was, says Winslow, the beginning of fundamentalist jihad against America (p. 243).
Why carry out such a deed? The most likely immediate purpose was to remove the American component from the Christian-Muslim conflict in Lebanon, one that Washington should never have involved itself with in the first place. A secondary purpose was surely to reduce American influence in the area generally, by demonstrating that only a large, costly commitment of forces could yield the results which Washington's policy sought. Although it took some time and an additional conflict before the United States could extricate itself from the mess that Israel and the Phalangists had caused, the lesson was finally learned. Unable to neglect completely its responsibilities in the area, the United States was forced to treat the Lebanese question only as part of the overall peace process. The bombers demonstrated the reality in the only way politicians can understand. They altered the context of involvement for outsiders in Lebanon; they contested the power of five-inch shells with the power of plastic explosives (Winslow, p. 243)."
When we think about the Beirut incident in terms of loss, there is, of course, the 241 American Marines who had almost made it home - should have made it home. But for Ronald Reagan's need - and this, frankly, is consistent with either party - to make a historic record for his legacy, we might not have been in the Middle East under those conditions.
Ronald Reagan did not get his legacy as regards the Middle East; 241 families lost loved ones in the Beirut attack, and America came under the scrutiny of Islamic fundamentalist who perceived America's efforts as a weakness by virtue of American unilateralism. America lost credibility with its allies in the United Nations, and weakened the UN block of multi-lateral strength that had been built up in the years preceding the Reagan Administration.
The Reagan administration has accused the United Nations of straying far from its original goals, arguing that it has been hijacked by the Soviet Union and Third World leftists. Even the Security Council, according to Charles Lichenstein, former deputy U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, "has become the captive of a Soviet/Third World working majority and of that bloc's political agenda: anti- Israel, anti-West, anti-U.S." The administration has further charged that the United Nations undermines freedom, democracy, capitalism, human rights, and peace in the world. Indeed, officials like Ambassador Lichenstein seem to share the opinion of Heritage Foundation research director Burton Yale Pines -- that "a world without the United Nations would be a better world (Johansen, p. 603)."
There was no admitting responsibility for the deterioration of America's loss of credibility on the world stage due to the policies of the Reagan Administration.
To discredit the United Nations, Washington accuses it of bloc voting and the use of double standards designed to inflict diplomatic losses on Washington. 11 but U.S. officials greatly exaggerate the significance of these problems. U.N. records do not show bloc voting, as Washington claims, but the growth of more complex voting patterns and the end of the pro- U.S. majority that existed throughout the United Nations 'first two decades. From the United Nations 'founding until 1970, Washington never lacked a majority on important issues and never exercised its veto in the Security Council. Moscow, on the other hand, used its veto 105 times in the same period. But the pattern has now been reversed; in the 1980-86 period, the United States vetoed 27 resolutions, while the Soviet Union vetoed only 4 (see Table 1). In General Assembly actions between 1975 and 1980 the United States still voted with the majority, or abstained, more often than it was outvoted. But by 1983, the United States voted with the majority only one-third as often as it had in 1977 and 1978.
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