7. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between David Kraslow, Washington Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles Times, and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]

[DK:] Doesn’t Hanoi appear to be behaving as if it has the upper hand and can therefore hang tough.

HK: My own judgment—and this is absolutely unattributable—there is a high probability that they will negotiate and on something like this proposal. It would be uncharacteristic for them to leave a proposal like this on the table. They never have when they wanted to close the book on something. I think they will shoot their wad.

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DK: Militarily?

HK: Yes, and if it fails, but in a position of demonstrated—maybe exaggerated strength . . . They may figure they may negotiate later this year.

DK: But first they want to shoot their wad.

HK: In ’68 when Tet hit, you ask people who talked with me, I said this means a negotiation. In ’67 they didn’t wipe the table off with that either.

DK: They may want to get their ______ out of the way as a prelude to negotiation.

HK: That’s right. What they may be doing . . . it would be very odd for them not to turn a proposal down. It has never happened. Now they may.

DK: They have.

HK: It would not have been turned down had we not surfaced it. In every secret contact I have had with them they always made a formal turndown, except in October of 1967 and then they settled on what I proposed a year later in effect.

DK: You think they felt they would win militarily?

HK: Or make clear . . . In this case this is even more important for them. If it comes to a political contest, they have to prove that they are a major political force in the country. If they do it in a position where they haven’t done anything in three years . . . If they don’t want to negotiate, it’s much better for them to have a series of high points this year and then next year either have a Democrat in office who will get out, or have us back but with such a reduced chance to be able to do what they are doing now.

DK: . . . to topple Thieu and second, failing that, to demonstrate force.

HK: To make clear they seem the stronger of the two parties if not decisively.

DK: When do you anticipate this whallop?

HK: February or March.

DK: As big as Tet?

HK: Not as big . . .

DK: What will we do?

HK: Bomb the sons of bitches back into the stone age.

DK: Seriously.

HK: There will be setbacks. The question is how calm and wise our people are going to be. I think there’s a better than even chance to get the thing settled this year.

DK: But first we have got to go through the agony.

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HK: But we have put it in the open to see if we can avoid the agony or at least have people understand it isn’t caused by the determination of a military victory.

DK: . . . if the whallop comes, it would entail a serious stepup in bombing on our part?

HK: It depends on where it is.

DK: But it’s possible?

HK: I don’t want to speculate on that. You followed these negotiations and when all the smoke has cleared any fair minded person has to say we have gone practically to the limit of what is possible.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 13, Chronological File, January 25–31, 1972. No classification marking. All blank underscores are omissions in the original.