101. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Indochina.]

K: Well, we’ve got another cable from Graham Martin today2 whom we were called that son of a bitch and he is very optimistic about South Vietnam. He thinks even Cambodia might be held off.

P: Hmm, wonder why? You never know. You never now. These things are not going to go that quickly unless there is a hell of a psychological crack but basically let’s face it, the Khmers don’t have any Air Force.

K: No that’s right. It’s a question of . . . Well we could still continue bombing. We’d probably even win because right now . . .

P: I know. I know that because I could tell from even reading the thing this morning they were doing rather well, the little guys. You know they, in their molasses-like way they took this back or they rolled this back. You know what I mean.

K: That’s right.

P: And we all know it because frankly I was glad to see you got those ______ up to 48.

K: That’s right.

P: That’s alright. Let them hit a few things. As long as we’re there let’s don’t go out with a whimper. So, on Cambodia he feels that maybe even that they will hang on a while does he?

[Page 411]

K: That’s what he thinks. Yes.

P: He didn’t give any basis for it did he?

K: Well, he went over there.

P: I know he went over but he didn’t give his reasoning.

K: That’s right.

P: He didn’t give any reasons for . . .

K: No, no he didn’t give any basis for his reasoning, that’s what I meant.

P: He didn’t tell anybody probably. We don’t know. And incidentally, what frankly he guesses is as good as our guess, I don’t know. Let’s just pray for the best.

K: It’s entirely a question of psychology. They have the resources to hang on.

P: Why sure. They have the resources without the bombing Henry. You know that.

K: Well, if we had had a decent Ambassador there—that’s one of my mistakes there. I should have insisted on getting that son of a bitch . . .

P: I know, I know.

K: I don’t mean this year. This year wouldn’t have made any difference.

P: Let me see. But right now—

K: But two years ago.

P: But right now though they have, in terms of military resources, ground forces and so forth, they are not inferior to the Khmers are they?

K: Oh no, they are superior to the Khmers.

P: That’s my point.

K: But they don’t have the discipline and the dedication.

P: That’s the point. I understand. So therefore, the chances of the Khmers going in and cutting them up and so forth and then their collapsing are considerable. But let me say this. That isn’t going to mean the fall of South Vietnam and it’ll frighten a lot of people. It’ll frighten the Thais and it’ll frighten a lot of others but I don’t intend to get—we can’t get discouraged about any of those things.

K: Well, in this one you were right. The longer we could have held on in Cambodia the surer the situation in South Vietnam would have been. But even with that he thinks South Vietnam can hold six years which he says there is realistically but would get into the next Presidential period. His major concern is that the new President in 1976 have your conviction. After that he thinks it doesn’t make any difference what happens.

P: Yes.

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K: I mean he put it as coldly as that.

P: You mean he thinks it could hang for six years.

K: That is what he thought.

P: I think he’s right. We’ve started a legacy there. Let’s not . . .

K: Mr. President, if you had had the support that Ike had after the Korean war, that thing would be in—76 would be seen as a triumph and I must tell you honestly I didn’t think it could hold beyond 1974, much beyond 74.

P: Yes. Well we’ll see. You want to remember too that the North has its problems. They are trained and it may be the Russians aren’t helping them quite that much and the Chinese haven’t got that much to put in there. You know what I mean. Let’s face it.

K: I don’t think either of them are putting in a hell of a lot.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Indochina.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry A. Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 21, Chronological File. No classification marking. Nixon was at Camp David; Kissinger was in Washington. Blank underscores are omissions in the original.
  2. Telegram 13672 from Saigon, July 29; ibid., RG 59, State Archiving System.