90. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Preliminary Assessment of Situation in Cambodia

Attached are three reports from General Haig containing his initial impressions of the situation in Cambodia. Among the more significant observations in the cables at Tabs A and B2 are the following:

  • —There is a lack of information in the capital concerning the political and military situation in the rest of the country. Judgments are [Page 222] often made on the basis of rumors or stale factual data. Steps are being taken to improve collection but efforts may also be necessary in Washington to insure Embassy personnel get out into the field.
  • —The military situation is serious but not critical.
  • —The enemy obviously is determined to carry the battle to the Cambodian army and their goal appears to be maximum attrition of Cambodian forces.
  • —Cambodian performance has been spotty. Tactics have been poor and command and control procedures weak. However, despite these shortcomings and recent setbacks there is no evidence of shaken confidence or morale problems. Lon Nol is much more self-assured but his basic confidence about the future may be somewhat unrealistic. Whether the enthusiasm and nationalism displayed is confined to the capitol, whether the basic optimism of the leaders is misplaced and whether a few serious military setbacks might unravel the situation is difficult to assess.
  • Sirik Matak is very concerned about the impact of continuing interdiction of road and water arteries on the economy and political loyalty of the people. He believes, however, that Hanoi may be ready to negotiate and cited the Sontay Raid as a contributing factor.
  • —Among the immediate military needs are: improved capability for evacuation and care of wounded, some armor riverine forces to secure water supply routes, and improved South Vietnamese responsiveness to emergency requests. These and other Cambodian needs have been discussed with General Abrams and responsive measures are being taken in all areas. (See status report, Tab C).3
  • —A serious political problem is the continuing ARVN misbehaviour in Cambodia.
  • —Under present circumstances it would not be wise for Mr. Ladd to return to Washington.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1011, Haig Special File, Haig’s Southeast Asia Trip December 1970 [1 of 4]. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. A stamped notation reads, “The President has seen.”
  2. Tab A is not attached but is attached to another copy of this memorandum. It is a retyped message from Haig to Kissinger, December 14. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 3, Chronological File 11/70) Tab B is attached but not printed. It is a retyped copy of backchannel message 992 from Haig at MACV to Kissinger, December 15. The original is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1012, Haig Special File, Haig Trip File—Vietnam, Phnom Penh, December 11–18, 1970.
  3. Attached but not printed is Tab C, a retyped copy of backchannel message 994 from Haig at MACV to Kissinger, December 15. The original is ibid.