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


  • US Negotiating Team in Paris
[Page 241]

Attached is a memorandum handed to me by Mel Laird which offers some additional insights into the problems within our Paris negotiating team. This memorandum was prepared by a high ranking officer detailed to Paris (but not the source of the previous statements).


Paper Given by Secretary of Defense Laird to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) 2


General Frederick Weyand and Col. Paul Gorman (and possibly Herbert Kaplan, the press spokesman) seem to be the only realists on the delegation. The State Department people, especially Richard Holbrooke and Carl Salans, are taking positions and attempting to formulate policies and démarches that are not in keeping with—and in fact contrary to—the President’s publicly-stated commitment on Vietnam. (Witness the “Lodge-authored” suggested démarche for 31 May, re our withdrawal of troops on the basis of “understanding” rather than concrete conditions.3 Also the earlier message (para 16) re our withdrawal if North Vietnam “is going to withdraw.” Sullivan apparently concurred in the Lodge cable.)4
Ambassador (Judge) Walsh seemed totally out of it, not at all forceful, and with no firm views. He is not kept informed by junior members of the staff.
Ambassador Lodge appeared to be an old man who had been encapsulated by the bright young State Department boys.5 His staff meetings are unfocussed, disorganized, and with no central direction. Of the regulars, General Weyand seems to be the only realist in attendance.
The GVN delegation, especially Ambassador Lam and Colonel Nguyen-Hui-Loi, evince doubts regarding the firmness of our commitment, mainly based, it seems, on the analyses they read in the US press. The South Vietnamese have little or no contact with the US delegation, aside from General Weyand’s military component.
A matter of first priority should be to establish White House control over the delegation.5 A statement of policy should be imposed on the delegation, and the machinery should be regularized. There are too many cut-outs (e.g., General Weyand did not see the Lodge cable before Phil Habib hand-carried it to Washington).
In short, the State Department members of the delegation seem bound and determined to fly in the face of historical experience and, if left to their own devices, to secure a peace at almost any price.5
Another extremely disturbing factor is whether or not the “advocates” have thought through the ramifications—out-of-country as well as within Vietnam—of the proposed démarche. It would be interesting to task them (if such was possible) with preparing a contingency paper gaming out a post-Vietnam Southeast Asia as they see it. If honestly played, the game would be a nightmare, both for US credibility and for future US initiatives (given the assumable domestic public opinion that would obtain).
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 183, Paris Talks/Meetings, Memos and Miscellaneous, Vol. XIV, 1969. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Secret; Nodis; Background Use Only.
  3. In telegram 7755 from Paris, May 26, Lodge suggested that he meet alone with Tho at the end of the meeting and state: “I quite understand that public discussion of such subjects as troop withdrawal might create problems. Such problems can be avoided. We could try to establish the circumstances in which troop withdrawal takes place. This could be done by prior understanding rather than by prior conditions. Is there some de facto way in which troops could be withdrawn from South Vietnam which would not appear to be a result of negotiations between us—something which would just apparently happen as part of the normal course of events.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 181, Paris Talks/Meetings, Private Paris Meetings, Memos/Codeword) In telegram 10617 from Saigon, May 28, Bunker expressed misgivings about such a statement and suggested substituting “perhaps this could be done by prior understanding” for “prior understanding rather than prior conditions.” (Ibid.) Lodge was instructed to follow Nixon’s statement in his speech of May 14: “If North Viet-Nam wants to insist that it has no forces in South Viet-Nam, we will no longer debate the point—provided that its forces cease to be there, and that we have reliable assurances that they will not return.” (Memorandum from Sneider to Kissinger, May 27; ibid.)
  4. Not further identified.
  5. Nixon underlined this sentence.
  6. Nixon underlined this sentence.
  7. Nixon underlined this sentence.