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

Hakto 44/224. Deliver immediately. Ref: Tohak 82.2

I’m astonished that you would think that I would even consider pressing on to the last stop in these circumstances. I was prepared to go on with Thieu’s approval but without an assurance of Hanoi’s agreement to our requests. It would be insane to proceed without either one of these, as I have made clear in previous messages. The main problems now are (1) What to tell Dobrynin; (2) What to do about the bombing; and (3) What to do with Rogers and Laird.

With respect to Dobrynin, I would not go nearly so far as you suggest because we cannot afford to let the Communists think that we are totally disassociating ourselves from Thieu. I would tell Dobrynin that there were three basic problems here. First, the rapid pace which Hanoi has sought to impose on us. Second, Hanoi’s breach of faith in the article which describes Thieu as expendable and an agreement already reached at the precise moment Thieu is making his crucial decision; he had to construe this as collusion previously arranged. Third, the unimpaired presence of the entire North Vietnamese army in the South, a matter which I have repeatedly raised with Dobrynin.

I agree completely that Dobrynin be told that a public attack on us by Hanoi would have the most violent reaction.


With respect to the bombing, I don’t see how we can do anything but undertake a visible reduction, in order to give Moscow an incentive to help, to let Thieu know that we mean business, and to save something of Hanoi’s face.

I can see the arguments against a complete cessation of bombing of the North. There are strong arguments for stopping it at least for a day and then resuming it up to 19 degrees 15 minutes repeat 19 degrees 15 minutes, in other words in an area clearly related to combat operations. I do not believe it is enough to say we are staying at the present level when Hanoi is clearly not the obstacle. We should be able to live with this for two weeks, and we can easily go North again if our course fails.

With respect to Rogers and Laird, they should be told of developments but should be brutalized into total secrecy. As I have said, it is [Page 269] essential that we give the impression that major progress is being made.

I still believe we will come out of this with a solid plus. For public opinion it is sufficiently clear that major progress is being made and reduced bombing can only reinforce that. Our failure to settle before the election will enhance the President’s position of statesmanship, and settling afterwards will make clear that we have gone more than the extra mile.

The most likely outcome is something close to the present agreement signed by the DRV and ourselves and recommended to the South Vietnamese parties, which Thieu will then accept while charging he was raped. The next most likely outcome is a military extraction by the U.S. I do not favor this because it is too close to a bug out, though we may be driven to it.

To sum up, I believe we should stop bombing for at least 24 hours and then resume up to 19 degrees 15’. This would keep all our options open. Your course of maintaining the present rate is not good enough. Please consider the concessions Hanoi has made just in this past week—the timing and composition of the international conference, Laos, Cambodia, replacement, and prisoners. I do favor, however, a bloody threat that if they go public we will have no choice but to blow up the negotiations and undertake massive escalation.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 59, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Trips, Kissinger, Henry, 1972, October, Chronological File. Top Secret; Flash; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. Document 44.