172. Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Tohak 191/WH 29896. Thank you for Hakto 44.2 Your experiences today convince me that the options which you have outlined are sound. I am presenting them to the President this afternoon, together with the rationale which you have included. As I pointed out in my last message,3 I sense a strong resistance to undertake the turn to the Right now. The President asked me if I favored doing so and I answered affirmatively. The President then went through a long exposition of the fact of how difficult this would be. The American people would not understand and the realities were that it was the U.S. and not Hanoi that was backing away from the agreement because we had, in effect, placed additional demands on them. He also added that the other culpable party was Saigon and not Hanoi and that we can expect a massive push from the Left charging us with being tools of Thieu. When you combine this logic with an equally adamant refusal to attempt to rally the American [Page 626] people to do what is right, it is obvious we are faced with some very difficult obstacles here.

Since you may have some questions about my views, I think I should cite them for you clearly: (1) I believe the time has come to initiate massive military pressure against Hanoi and North Vietnam. No other course of action will meet the present need, despite the severe domestic risks which this course of action will entail; (2) It is our own failure to keep sight of this fact that has brought us into the current dilemma; (3) I do not share your or the President’s view that the American people, the Congress and whoever else is asked to support the action will not ultimately do so. There will, of course, be a lot of White House discomfort but the simple facts are that the American people understand Hanoi’s treachery and would never understand abandoning Thieu because of his failure to accept the presence of North Vietnamese troops in the South. This has always been my view. It is inconceivable to me that the Congress could cut off funds to Thieu while Hanoi held our prisoners or refused to meet reasonable demands associated with the peace settlement.

You now have my views unequivocably which I am presenting without reservation. I do want you to know that with the exception of your own staff—Jon Howe, Holdridge and Kennedy—there is probably not another official in Washington who would join in this assessment but I have had the benefit of observing Hanoi’s intransigence first hand. You have seen it more extensively. It is important that you are aware before you arrive here of the attitudes as I sense them. Secretary Laird has just forwarded a memorandum to the President which urges him not to take military action. The memorandum also maintains that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Mr. Rush hold identical views. I checked personally with the Chairman and he does not hold these views but the typical lineup that we have known for so long is again developing.4

It is my view that our best strategy is to meet with the President at 10:00 am in the morning to lay out the alternatives in a forthright and decisive manner and to recommend that we take the only viable option, which is to react now. The President’s instincts without this kind of advice will be to do otherwise. He may, in fact, decide to do otherwise despite our advice. I will be at the airfield to meet you tonight to explain in greater detail my own thinking.

With respect to the Agnew trip, I agree with you completely5 if the trip is associated with the turn to the Right. If it is merely another act of [Page 627] theater which further raises the American belief that we are on the verge of a settlement, I frankly see no reason for undertaking it at all. Since given the record of the past ten days meeting, there can be no excuse for further theater which suggests to the American people that progress is being made which is not in fact justified. The more we play this game, the greater our culpability. It makes sense only if it is accompanied by a firm determination to do what is right and to bring the situation to a successful conclusion.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 27, HAK Trip Files, HAK Paris Trip Tohak 100–192 December 3–13, 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent via Lord.
  2. Document 171.
  3. Document 170.
  4. See Document 166 and footnote 2 thereto.
  5. See Document 171.