126. Minutes of the Secretary of State’s Principals and Regionals Staff Meeting1

[Omitted here are decisions unrelated to Cambodia.]

Recent Cambodian military defeats and their significance. The Secretary asked that Amb. Dean be asked for his evaluation and what he plans to do and be told of our perception that the RKG must give up its losers before they’re seized.


[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Cambodia.]

Mr. Ingersoll: Well, there are two items, suggested by your staff.

One is the Cambodian Government defeats in recent weeks—which has sort of reversed the psychological—

Secretary Kissinger: Is it my staff that’s suggested these topics? There’s no prohibition against Assistant Secretaries sharing that information that they consider most important.

Mr. Ingersoll: We do that; we do that. But sometimes we don’t have any real hot topic. You fellows have good ideas on it, but this one—there seems to be a psychological reversal of the—

Secretary Kissinger: Just because the Deputy Secretary is running an empire all by himself doesn’t mean everyone can do it. (Laughter)

O.K., Bob.

Mr. Ingersoll: Well, the psychological effect of these recent defeats by the Communists has been a setback to the government and it may also have some impact on the Cuson Bond’s2 visit to Europe and Africa.

Secretary Kissinger: What’s the reason for these defeats?

Mr. Ingersoll: Well, the Communists were making a major effort to take Phnom Penh. They were defeated in January and February. They regrouped later and went after some of the provincial capitals and are really beating off small outposts. And it’s in this area that they seem [Page 524]to have been successful. I would say their success has been due to the same reason that they’ve had success before—possibly ineffective leadership on the part of the Khmers. Here’s the specialist (pointing to Mr. Enders)—

Secretary Kissinger: What’s the problem?

Mr. Enders: The problem, I think, since I’ve been away—the problem is the failure of the Khmer Government—particularly the Khmer High Command—to make a hard decision to evacuate threatened provincial capitals. There were two involved. One is slightly to the north of Phnom Penh. There’s another one now off the Mekong River to the east—a place called Prey Veng. Both of them should have been evacuated. But in order to get them evacuated, one has to kick ass very, very hard and—

Secretary Kissinger: I hope you remember you’re in a very respectable place here. (Laughter.)

Mr. Ingersoll: He’s back from the front. (Laughter.)

Mr. Enders: It’s really as simple as that. They’re all of the things Bob mentioned.

Secretary Kissinger: But then why didn’t you get them to evacuate the provincial capitals when you were there? No—I mean, seriously, is that something your successor should do?

Mr. Enders: It’s something he should do. There was an agreement to evacuate one of them. The other one is now threatened. That’s because we didn’t push them hard enough. They’ve got to be pushed. Lon Nol agreed to that in late March.

I can’t sit here, Mr. Secretary, trying to kibbitz my own successor, but that’s my own feeling.

Secretary Kissinger: But, frankly, I’m not interested in maintaining lines of authority; I’m interested in maintaining Cambodia. Bob, you kibbitz the successor; they don’t give any awards for losing the chain of command.

Mr. Rush: There’s something very heavy in individual losses in these special towns?

Mr. Enders: Yes; it’s dangerous—very dangerous. And they didn’t have to lose the one that they lost because it was understood—

Secretary Kissinger: Why don’t we ask him, first of all, to give us his evaluation—and what he intends to do about it? Secondly, tell him what our perception of it is.

Mr. Ingersoll: His concern has been that the leadership—and just as Tom points out—you ask them to do a certain thing; they don’t follow through. They go to the opposite—they reinforce instead of evacuate.

[Page 525]

Mr. Enders: But I think you should specifically mention in this cable that they should redefine the provincial capital, as Lon Nol agreed, from Prey Veng, reinforce the Mekong—and maybe it’s too late to do that, but it was agreed. The other enclave—it was agreed; they had two enclaves to the north. One of them just fell. It was agreed the two of them could be put together. One of them was put together.

Mr. Ingersoll: They don’t seem to make progress. They haven’t been able to open any of the roads. They haven’t been able to relieve some of the garrisons, even though they put superior forces in the field. It sounds like leadership.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Cambodia.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–1977, Entry 5177, Box 3, Secretary’s Staff Meetings. Secret; Nodis. Kissinger chaired the meeting, which was attended by all the principal officers including the assistant secretaries for the regional but not functional bureaus of the Department or their designated alternates.
  2. Not further identified.