294. Memorandum From the Senior Military Assistant (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Attached is Phnom Penh 925 which summarizes a conversation between Rives and Lon Nol on May 15.2 While it is easy to understand the dilemma in which Rives has found himself, I am nevertheless concerned that he has conveyed U.S. policy to Lon Nol in stark black and white terms which cannot but have the effect of discouraging the Cambodian regime excessively. It is inconceivable to me that Rives did not draw Lon Nol’s attention to the massive effort being made by U.S. and ARVN forces in the sanctuary areas and the impact this has had on enemy forces. There are, of course, other hints that could have been made with respect to future ARVN operations and possible US VNAF air action.

In fairness to Rives, however, it should be understood that he has a very poor feel for the President’s real thinking on the subject and cannot therefore be expected to be much more encouraging when dealing with Lon Nol. All of this underlines the necessity to develop an updated policy position with respect to the future of Cambodia within the broad parameters already enunciated. It also underlines the need to have an individual on the ground in Phnom Penh who is fully abreast of the President’s thinking and who would hopefully manifest a higher level of diplomatic skill than has Rives thus far. You have with you a CIA paper which deals at length with future policies and operations in Cambodia and Southeast Asia.3 It is not a polished document but does outline a number of possible options. Dick Kennedy and I have reviewed the document and Dick is preparing a careful analysis of it.

In the meantime it is becoming increasingly evident that we are rapidly approaching a point where a finite Cambodian policy must be hammered out. This process is likely to be a painful one given all that has gone before. Despite this, however, we cannot expect the departments [Page 980] and our representatives in the field to perform adequately without the benefit of definitive guidelines from here. In this regard Alex Johnson is sending to us this afternoon a policy message on ARVN operations in Cambodia which we will forward to you with our comments as soon as it is received. This is unquestionably the key policy issue in the entire Cambodian package and should be most carefully considered by you and the President before it is dispatched.

I have spoken to Alex Johnson per your instructions and will also move through CIA channels.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 589, Cambodian Operations, Chronology, Vol. II, Nodis/Khmer, through 25 May 1970. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. May 15 is handwritten on the memorandum.
  2. Document 293.
  3. This 12-page memorandum from Karamessines to Kissinger, May 14, provides “recommendations for a coordinated diplomatic, political, propaganda and military scenario to promote major American objectives in Indochina.” Kissinger read it and made notes on it. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 530, Country Files, Far East, Indochina, Vol. I, 1970–71)