64. Memorandum From President Nixon to His Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

I think we need a bold move in Cambodia, assuming that I feel the way today (it is five AM, April 22) at our meeting as I feel this morning to show that we stand with Lon Nol. I do not believe he is going to survive. There is, however, some chance that he might and in any event we must do something symbolic to help him survive. We have really dropped the ball on this one due to the fact that we were taken in with the line that by helping him we would destroy his “neutrality” and give the North Vietnamese an excuse to come in. Over and over again we fail to learn that the Communists never need an excuse to come in. They didn’t need one in Hungary in 1956 when the same argument was made by the career State people and when Dulles bought it because he was tired and it was during the campaign. They didn’t need one in [Page 210] Czechoslovakia when the same argument was made by the State people, and they didn’t need one in Laos where we lost a precious day by failing to make the strike that might have blunted the whole offensive before it got started, and in Cambodia where we have taken a completely hands-off attitude by protesting to the Senate that we have only a “delegation of seven State Department jerks” in the Embassy and would not provide any aid of any kind because we were fearful that if we did so it would give them a “provocation” to come in. They are romping in there and the only government in Cambodia in the last 25 years that had the guts to take a pro-Western and pro-American stand is ready to fall. I am thinking of someone like Bob Murphy who would be sent there on a trip to report back to me and who would go in and reassure Lon Nol. This, of course, would be parallel to your activities which will be undertaken immediately after the NSC meeting,2 in the event that I decide to go on this course,3 with some of the lily-livered Ambassadors from our so-called friends in the world. We are going to find out who our friends are now, because if we decide to stand up here some of the rest of them had better come along fast.

I will talk to you about this after the NSC meeting.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 341, Subject Files, HAK/President Memos 1969-1970. Confidential. Also scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Southeast Asia, 1969–1972.
  2. An NSC meeting on Cambodia took place on April 22 but at the President’s instruction no notes were taken. Additional information on the meeting is scheduled for publication ibid.
  3. On May 1 U.S. forces crossed the border of South Vietnam into Cambodia. They followed South Vietnamese forces which had invaded North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia 2 days earlier.