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

SUBJECT

  • Breakfast Plan

I. Major Political/Psychological Reasons for Action

A.
Failure to take action in response to Saigon/Hue shellings—especially after repeated Presidential warnings—would appear to Hanoi as a demonstration of weakness.
B.
Failure to act would encourage Hanoi to use shellings and other military pressures in an effort to force major concessions at the Paris negotiations.
C.
The GVN will be more willing to agree to private talks, and less suspicious about our statements on the conditions for a bombing halt. Indeed, the Thieu/Bunker conversation is likely to be sticky if we respond to the latest shelling of Saigon with a request to initiate private talks.
D.
Retaliatory action, if combined with a proposal for private talks, will serve as a signal to the Soviets of the Administration's determination to end the war. It would be a signal that things may get out of hand.

II. Arguments Against

A.
Domestic critics of the Vietnam war could seize on this to renew attacks on war and pressure for quick U.S. withdrawal.
B.
Hanoi could try to buttress domestic critics with attacks aimed at gaining large U.S. casualties.
C.
Could start escalatory cycle.

III. Some Possible Consequences of Breakfast Plan

A.
Minimum Possible Consequences
1.
Pro-forma Cambodian protest.
B.
Larger Possible Consequences
1.
If attack on COSVN is formally announced as “appropriate response” major protest by Cambodia is probable, cutting off prospect of resuming diplomatic relations for the present. (NVN will probably try to pressure Sihanouk on this point.)
2.
Soviets could feel compelled, probably under Hanoi pressure, to register strong protest which might affect our other talks with them.
3.
Hanoi will feel compelled to retaliate, should our public statements indicate action is retaliatory.

IV. Scenario

A.
Basic Plan of Action
1.
NVN military concentrations in the DMZ will be attacked 12 hours prior to Breakfast Plan. This attack, in response to currently well publicized NVN buildup in the DMZ, will be acknowledged as the “appropriate response” to the shelling of Saigon and Hue. This would have the following advantages: (a) it would indicate a response; (b) it would divert public attention; (c) it would therefore enable Cambodia to play down the Breakfast Plan and; (d) it would still show restraint.
2.
Breakfast Plan will be treated as a routine military operation within the framework of our current military actions in Cambodian territory and not publicly or in any messages identified as a retaliatory action against the shelling of Saigon and Hue. Hanoi is likely to recognize the action as our response, without a public statement. Any public statement identifying it as a retaliatory action, on the other hand, would be more likely to induce retaliatory actions by Hanoi, a major protest by Cambodia, a Soviet protest, and major domestic criticism in the press.
3.
The military action will be combined with an effort in Paris to initiate private talks.
B.
Press Scenario
1.
The attacks on the DMZ will be publicly announced with no additional comment. If the press asks whether these attacks are the “appropriate response” mentioned by the President, the spokesman will state that the press can draw its own conclusions.
2.
Breakfast Plan would be announced routinely by Saigon as a normal B–52 operation against targets along the Cambodian border. The targets would not be specifically identified.
3.
Press briefing and backgrounders would in no way directly identify the action as the “appropriate response” to the Saigon/Hue shellings.
4.
All press queries should be referred to the Saigon spokesman who will neither affirm nor deny reports of attacks on Cambodia but state that this is under investigation. With respect to any attacks against Cambodia, we will take the same public position of “no comment” as in the case of bombing attacks on Laos, with the additional statement that reports of such attacks are under investigation.
5.
If the Cambodians protest publicly, we will state publicly that we are investigating the Cambodian protest.
6.
At no point will attacks against Cambodia be officially denied. When we reply to a Cambodian protest, we will state that we have apologized and have offered compensation.
C.
Diplomatic Scenario
1.
On March 18, Ambassador Bunker will inform President Thieu privately about DMZ strike and Breakfast Plan and seek Thieu's immediate agreement to the initiation of private talks on this basis.
2.
On March 18, following Thieu's agreement, Ambassador Lodge will be authorized to initiate a request immediately for private talks with the North Vietnamese.
3.
If Cambodia makes it normal routine protest, we will agree to investigate and subsequently confirm that the raid took place in Cambodian territory, apologize, and offer compensation.
4.
If Cambodia makes a major protest, we will acknowledge responsibility, offer compensation, explain that incidents along the Cambodian border occur due to the extensive VC use of military exploitation of Cambodian territory in this area, and request an ICC investigation of the area.
5.
If the Soviet Union privately makes a major protest against our action, we will point out the military reasons for the action, the fact that both Saigon and Hue were shelled after full warning, that more provocative options were available but not undertaken, and that we would now like to get down to serious negotiations and have initiated a request for private talks as suggested by them.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 89, Vietnam Subject Files, Breakfast Plan. Top Secret; Sensitive.