148. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Your Meeting with Secretary Rogers, Secretary Laird, The Attorney General, and Mr. Kissinger, 10:30 a.m., November 15, 1969

Secretaries Rogers and Laird, Attorney General Mitchell and I will meet with you to discuss issues left over from the plane trip from Key Biscayne. You will wish to review the forthcoming key issues on the Vietnam situation.

Major Issues

  • —There has been a fairly constant flow of suggestions from various sources favoring a U.S. initiative for a ceasefire proposal. Secretary Rogers may support this position—certainly Marshall Green does and we have just received a paper from Ambassador Sullivan which is strongly slanted to favor a U.S. proposal for a ceasefire and which he [Page 487] has already sent to Saigon.2 In addition, the Senate resolution which was drawn from the House Resolution and modified by Senator Mansfield also contains a proposal for ceasefire.
  • Your View:
    In general, we have already expressed a willingness to discuss mutually agreed-upon ceasefire with guarantees and in coordination with the GVN.
    You have and will continue to reject unilateral ceasefire.
    For the time being and in the light of the support your November 3 speech has generated, we should avoid any new proposals on Vietnam, including ceasefire, until Hanoi has had an opportunity to ponder carefully the strong domestic support for your position.
    Concerning the Senate (Mansfield) Resolution, we should take the position that the ceasefire proposal contained in the resolution is a reiteration of our already stated position rather than to highlight it as a new initiative from which new proposals should result.
    You should discourage any effort to make the ceasefire seem like a bold, new step.
Troop Withdrawals:
  • —There are two issues: (1) the timing and size of the next withdrawal increment; and (2) the longer term program for troop withdrawal.
  • Next Increment: You are presently considering three alternative plans which would provide for the withdrawal of:
    50,000 troops over a three-month period.
    60,000 troops over a 4½ month period or,
    100,000 troops over a 6½ month period.
  • Your View: You may wish to point out that you favor (1) or (2) since we are now in the wake of a positive public attitude and since this will give you flexibility later on to consider the announcement of a larger increment should the conditions favor it. Also, a smaller increment now will confirm that you are not succumbing to Dove pressures just four weeks after your strong stand on November 3.
  • —You may wish to inform the group that you anticipate making the next increment withdrawal announcement during mid-December and you might ask for the group’s views on this timing and the form in which the announcement should be made.
  • Longer Term Program: You have consistently maintained that you wish to retain flexibility applying the three criteria rather than be restricted to a fixed, predetermined time schedule on troop withdrawals. Secretary Rogers appears to favor the adoption of a predetermined time schedule for the overall program. On the return flight from Key Biscayne last weekend, he stated that he could not testify on the Hill that we have a “plan” if you do not approve such a schedule.
  • Your View: I recommend that you reiterate the need to maintain flexibility on the longer term program so that we do not find ourselves harnessed to a fixed, inflexible schedule which would not be responsive to changing conditions and which would very likely soon become the target of attack by the Doves with the claim that it is inadequate.
  • —For the above reasons you are considering two alternative plans—one which would contemplate a minimum withdrawal program and another which would contemplate a maximum program. You may wish to direct Secretary Laird to proceed accordingly.
  • —I have discussed the foregoing with both Secretary Laird 3 and Attorney General Mitchell and they are in full accord with this flexible approach. Both agree that it constitutes a sound plan upon which to proceed and are prepared to endorse it completely.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 140, Vietnam Country Files, Vol. XII, 1–15 November 1969. Top Secret; Sensitive. Nixon met with Kissinger, Laird, Mitchell, and Rogers from 10:20 a.m. to 12:28 p.m., November 15. (President’s Daily Diary, November 15; ibid., White House Central Files) No other record of this meeting has been found.
  2. Sullivan sent the study to Kissinger on November 10. In a November 13 covering memorandum to Kissinger, Holdridge summarized the study and suggested that, “essentially this is the same type of special pleading which you received from Ambassador Sullivan personally in your conversation with him and Assistant Secretary Green on November 5.” Kissinger wrote the following comment on Holdridge’s memorandum: “Unacceptable. Backchannel Bunker & Lodge to take care not to push progress.” (Ibid.) For Kissinger’s conversation with Green and Sullivan, see Document 145.
  3. On November 14 at 7 p.m. Kissinger talked to Laird on the telephone. The notes of their conversation read: “K wanted to give Laird, for his own information, the current thinking of the President. The Pres. feels that he is in pretty good shape on Vietnam and doesn’t want to get triggered on dramatic initiatives. He thinks he has the doves for once. He would like to see impact of unity on Hanoi.” Kissinger then told Laird that the President did not want to make the “ceasefire look like a hot new item.” As for troop withdrawals, “K said the Pres is beginning to lean for the smaller one and the bigger one in March and give them another slug in September.” Kissinger asked “how would withdrawing 50,000 troops by April work? Laird thought that would be fine.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 361, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)