The current policies of the United States in Lebanon are extremely dangerous, both for the people of Lebanon and all the Middle East. Continuation of U.S. military involvement in the Lebanese civil war cannot serve the cause of peace and national reconciliation. On the contrary, direct military support for the Lebanese army exacerbates the bitter tensions and deep divisions in that tragic, war-torn land. In addition, U.S. actions threaten to draw the United States into direct confrontation with Syria and/or the Soviet Union.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that concerned people of faith seek answers to the questions surrounding the deepening U.S. involvement in Lebanon. Why are the Marines in Lebanon? What interests are being served? How does U.S. policy in Lebanon relate to the larger Middle East context? What realistic alternatives can be offered to minimize further violence and suffering in Lebanon? In order to respond to these questions, some background information is necessary.
Formerly a French colony, Lebanon was granted independence near the end of World War II after various Christian and Muslim groups reached a settlement, called the National Pact, wherein political power was divided according to the 1932 census. In 1932 Maronite Christians were the largest confessional group. The government structure constructed by the French dictated that the Lebanese president always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister be a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the house be a Shiite Muslim. Over a period of three decades, tensions and open conflict developed as major demographic shifts occurred. The Maronite Christians, although now the third largest confessional group behind the Shiite and Sunni Muslims, have maintained their position as a minority of the population controlling a majority of the wealth and political power.