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118. Memorandum From John Holdridge of the Operations Staff of the National Security Council to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Positions of Key US Officials on a Ceasefire in Vietnam2

Following is a brief summary of the known views of officials who will attend the NSC meeting on September 12.

Secretary of State Rogers: He favors a US initiative for a cease fire in which the main condition would be prior agreement in principle on the withdrawal of external forces and on the South Vietnamese working out a political solution themselves. Once this agreement was signed, an international body would be established and a cease fire would take effect. He believes this position might be acceptable to the North Vietnamese. Rogers also thinks that we must begin to work out a detailed position on a cease fire since the issue may soon come very rapidly to the forefront.

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Secretary of Defense Laird: So far as we can ascertain, Laird has no strong views one way or another on a US cease fire initiative. He recognizes the problem which would be posed by an enemy cease fire initiative, however, and is in favor of immediate planning on a detailed allied cease fire position. He is said to believe that a cease fire is most likely to come about tacitly with the Communist side gradually slowing down its offensive operations in which case he is said to believe we should respond by cutting our own offensive actions.

Ambassador Bunker: He is in favor of consulting soon with the GVN on a cease fire in order to be prepared for any enemy initiative. He does not favor our taking the initiative, but believes that our response to the Communists should be to accept a cease fire in principle pending satisfactory resolution of the “circumstances” which would make a valid cease fire possible. These circumstances basically involve prior agreement on the withdrawal of external forces, and adequate provision for verification of that withdrawal and for the supervision of the terms of the cease fire.

Philip Habib of the Paris Delegation: Habib is said to favor a US initiative for a cease fire, but does not believe it has much chance of acceptance by the enemy. He would condition implementation of the cease fire to prior agreement on the withdrawal of the NVA and adequate arrangements on supervision.

General Abrams: He, of course, is primarily concerned with the adverse military implications of any cease fire which does not provide for adequate disposition and control of the NVA and VC forces. Like Bunker, he strongly favors tieing a US initiative, or our response to an enemy proposal, to prior agreement on NVA withdrawal and to very careful and complete terms on supervision of the cease fire. We have no recent reading on the details of Abrams thinking, but at one point he was in favor of starting with a cease fire in one area (e.g., the DMZ sector) as a test proposition.

CINCPAC, Admiral McCain: We have no reliable reading on McCain's current position, although in the past he has been in step with General Abrams in opposing any cease fire which did not provide adequately for allied security and the disposition of the enemy forces. If anything, he is probably to the right of General Abrams on this aspect.

CIA Director Helms: He is unlikely to take any position on a cease fire, since he believes his role is not that of policy formulation. If pressed for his view, he would probably favor a cease fire conditioned to prior agreement on withdrawal and adequate supervision.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), H–024, Special NSC Meeting, 9/12/69, Vietnam. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent for information.
  2. On August 28 Kissinger sent the President a 22-page paper on a cease-fire in Vietnam. Although Nixon wrote “excellent analysis” on the covering memorandum, the paper contained none of the President's characteristic underlining or comments.