An Impossible Balancing Act: France and the Lebanese Civil War, 1975–1982

Master thesis

Lunde Colleuille, Erlend (2021) An Impossible Balancing Act: France and the Lebanese Civil War, 1975–1982. MA thesis, Department of Archeology, Conservation and History (IAKH), University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.

When civil war broke out in Lebanon in April 1975, France, the former mandate power, found itself in a conundrum. Its centuries old connection to Lebanon as protector of the Maronite Christians meant much was expected from French authorities. At the same time France had established strong ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization another actor of the civil war.

This thesis studies France’s involvement in the first half of the Lebanese Civil War, from 1975 to 1982. Officially France remained neutral in the conflict. The aim of this thesis is to look at France’s initiatives and the policies elaborated towards the different actors of the war. Yet, the many initiatives worked more as a show of presence and not many, if any, had a profound impact on the war. The vague French slogan of keeping Lebanon’s integrity, sovereignty and unity became increasingly hard to follow. France also failed to deliver on its attempt to stay fully neutral. Sides were taken; however, depending on developments in Lebanon, it was sometimes towards the Maronites, sometimes towards the PLO. France found itself in an impossible balance, between old and new alliances, and as such was not able to change the course of war in any significant way.

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