15. Memorandum From President Nixon to his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

In reading the January 31 news report on the Paris negotiations, it seems vitally important to me at this time that we increase as much as we possibly can the military pressure on the enemy in South Vietnam. Will you convey this view to Wheeler and tell him I believe it is absolutely urgent if we are to make any kind of headway in Vietnam that we find new ways to increase the pressure militarily without going to the point that we break off negotiations. I do not like the suggestions that I see in virtually every news report that we anticipate a “Communist initiative in South Vietnam.” I believe that if any initiative occurs it would be on our part and not theirs.2

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 64, Vietnam Subject Files, 8F Reappraisal of Vietnam Commitment, Vol. I. No classification marking. The memorandum is unsigned.
  2. Kissinger sent this memorandum to Laird who responded to Kissinger in a memorandum of February 11 that, “I hope the President will be assured that everything possible is being done with our present military resources to apply military pressure on the enemy.” Laird noted that U.S. killed in Vietnam had increased to 200 per week recently due to largely unsuccessful U.S. efforts to “gain contact with major enemy units.” Laird suggested “we must be sensitive to the incremental and total costs involved in our operations as well as marginal benefits.” Laird suggested that United States forces could not prevent large scale attacks in Vietnam, at best they could be ready to repulse them at large cost to the enemy. Laird concluded that maximum military pressure in Vietnam would not result in a change in the military situation over the short run. (Ibid.)