Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History

Keeping Kissinger Current at the Outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War


Ted Feifer wrote daily briefs for Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the outbreak of Lebanon’s civil war in 1975.  By the time it ended in approximately 1990, the war had claimed the lives of over 120,000 civilians.  Feifer was on his first tour in the Foreign Service, which found him working in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence Research (INR). As the war intensified, Feifer’s duties expanded.  He was responsible for describing the various sectarian and political militias participating in the fighting, including the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Often coming into work as early as midnight, Feifer would analyze the growing complexities of the war before compressing them into two-page briefs and handing them off to Secretary Kissinger’s assistants at six the following morning. Feifer joined the Foreign Service in 1974; during his career with the Department of State he served in various posts throughout Europe and the Middle East. Feifer also served as Deputy Director of Egyptian Affairs at the Office of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) before retiring from the State Department in 2000. Feifer was interviewed by ADST’s Charles Stuart Kennedy in October 2015.

Read Theodore Feifer’s full oral history HERE.

Excerpts:
“The civil war destabilized what had been a friendly state, and was tragic for all those living in Lebanon, Lebanese and Palestinians.”

Working at the desk of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) during the Civil War in Lebanon: “As the Lebanese Civil War intensified, the data coming in increased as well. I had to review all the open source reports, such as monitoring radio news all over the region, embassy cables, intelligence reports, special intelligence. I had to wade through stacks of paper, increasingly tall stacks of paper. The situation was complex: international involvement, the military situation on the ground, sectarian, political and local militias — Maronite, Sunni, Druze, Armenian; the disintegrating Lebanese Army and security forces, and the PLO and the other Palestinian organizations. Trying to follow and understand as much as possible of this constantly changing situation and complexity was an adventure in and of itself. I was expected to understand the broad policies of the many state, sub-state, and non-state actors, as well as the fluid situation on the ground. Moreover, I was trying to explain not very clear developments, even to me, in some sort of coherent way. What were the Syrians trying to do on any particular day? What was their strategic objective? What are the PLO trying to do and the same for various Sunni factions? Trying to understand the dynamics was fascinating.”

 

“The civil war destabilized what had been a friendly state, and was tragic for all those living in Lebanon, Lebanese and Palestinians. Developments in Lebanon had obvious implications for Israel, but Israel was at first cautious. Nonetheless, as the Maronite militia leaders stepped up their appeals, Israel increased its support. This was highly sensitive stuff and of great interest to the leadership in the Department. This was a rare opportunity for a first tour officer. I was writing the Secretary’s morning brief on Lebanon and associated issues, which was read by all the Seventh Floor principals. I was coming in, first of all, at 4 a.m., then 3, 2, and 1 a.m. I was eventually coming in at midnight to review the incoming material and write a coherent two-page briefing paper, which had to be ready at 6 a.m.. This was pre-computer, so here I am with my two fingers on the typewriter trying to prepare a two-page memo appropriate for a demanding Secretary of State. Not surprisingly, there is nobody at that time of day to clear it. I’m writing whatever fanciful thoughts come through my mind in the course of the night and present them to the Secretary’s personal assistant by 6 a.m. How many opportunities like that does a first tour officer have?”

 

Drafted by Tyler Ventura

TABLE OF CONTENTS HIGHLIGHTS

Education

     BA in Political Science, City College of New York City (CCNY)                                                        1968

     MA in Political Science, City College of New York City (CCNY)                                                       1970

     Ph.D in Government and Politics, University of Maryland at College Park (UMD)                     1974     

Entered Foreign Service                                                                                                                    1974

     Tel Aviv, Israel – Economic/Commercial Officer                                                                                 1976-1980

     Washington, DC – Special Assistant for Middle East negotiations, NEA                                        1981-1985

     Washington, DC – Deputy Director of Egyptian Affairs, NEA                                                           1992-1994 

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