250. Memorandum From President Nixon to His Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1
I have covered the points I will be making in this memorandum for the most part in conversations with Henry and with you, but I simply want to put them in writing so that you will have guidance for the period that we are gone on our trip to Moscow.2
With regard to Vietnam, it is vitally important that there be no abatement whatever in our air and naval strikes while we are gone. It is particularly important that any stories in the press indicating that we are letting up during this period be knocked down instantly, preferably in Saigon, if necessary at the Pentagon and if necessary even by you at the White House. There is nothing that could hurt us more in the minds of public opinion than some suggestion that we made a deal [Page 964] with the Russians to cool it in Vietnam while trying to negotiate agreements with them in Moscow.
Just to be sure that there is absolutely no misunderstanding with regard to my orders they include the following:
- There should be a minimum of 1200 air sorties a day and with the Saratoga on station this might be increased to 1300. What I am saying is that the number of sorties should be at maximum level during the entire period we are gone, unless you receive orders to the contrary from me directly.
- At least 200 of these sorties should be on targets in the Hanoi–Haiphong area. With the Saratoga on station that number might well go up to 250 or 300. In fact, it would be well to increase it just slightly in that period so that there can be no implication at all to the effect that we are letting up because of our trip to Moscow. The only restrictions to the air sorties in that area are the 15-mile area around Hanoi proper and the belt of 15 miles or whatever we have previously ordered next to the Chinese border. But otherwise I want a relentless air attack on our targets in North Vietnam during this period—particularly on rail lines, POL and power plants. Concentrate on those targets which will have major impact on civilian morale as well as accomplishing our primary objective of reducing the enemy’s ability to conduct the war.
- On the propaganda front, I expect not only implementation of the orders I have previously given, some of which were covered in the memorandum you prepared for me, but I want some new ideas developed and implemented as quickly as possible. The entire effort should be to create pessimism in the North among the civilian population and pessimism in the South among the North Vietnamese forces there. What disturbs me is the routine way that CIA and USIA simply report the news of my speech rather than putting out reports with regard to more planes landing expected, riots in the streets of Hanoi and desertions in the troops in the South. This patty-cake method of handling the propaganda is typical of our conduct of the war on the military side, and I want it changed instantly to conform with my thinking as to how we are to act militarily from now on. As I have pointed out on several previous occasions, we shall have to admit that this is one of our major failures—not having an adequate propaganda and public relations effort going along-side what I believe is a superb foreign policy in most respects. When I get back I have some other ideas as to how we can correct this and we will probably set up a new office in the White House directly under Haldeman, similar to the one C.D. Jackson had under Eisenhower, so that we can finally begin to get the benefit we deserve from our foreign policy initiatives.
- I want you to direct Abrams and Bunker to get out more information with regard to morale in the South. This certainly is something we should be able to do because it is true and also because it will [Page 965] help at home. If they say they don’t want to get out on a limb ask them what they think I have done. I also believe that the French report or any other reports that you have through secret channels of morale problems in North Vietnam must be leaked into the press—not in a column which is read by a few hundred people, but some way in to wire service or television stories. Colson will know what to do if you give him the material. Follow up.
On another subject we face a critical problem in terms of avoiding a massive right-wing revolt on the SALT agreement. All of us who have worked on this problem know that the deal we are making is in our best interest, but for a very practical reason that the right-wing will never understand—that we simply can’t get from the Congress the additional funds needed to continue the arms race with the Soviet in either the defensive or offensive missile category. I want you to develop a team, consisting of yourself, Moorer, Rush and Laird when he returns, to pick off individual Senators and very important opinion makers who are on the right to try to mute their criticism when the announcement comes in from Moscow. Barry Goldwater, John Tower, Peter Dominick, Scoop Jackson, Eddie Hebert are among those who should be contacted. It is particularly important that Moorer and Rush have a talk with Agnew and get him aboard. Also, it would be very helpful to get Teller3 to come back and get him aboard so that he can lobby for us. This should be done on a person-to-person basis and should be done in a very hard-headed way. The most important point to make is that the President is not being taken in and that the military totally supports what we are doing and in fact strongly recommended the inclusion of SLBMs on the basis that we included them.
The most convincing argument you can make to this group is that the President is determined that we must go forward at the fastest pace possible with ULMS, MIRV, B–1 and any new weapon systems not covered by the agreement.
I think our case can be sold to some of the more sensible hawks, but it must be done on an individual basis before they get the announcement from Moscow and make up their minds and dig in against us.
It is no comfort that the liberals will praise the agreement, whatever it is. But let us always remember that the liberals will never support us—the hawks are our hard-core, and we must do everything that we can to keep them from jumping ship after getting their enthusiasm restored as a result of our mining operation in the North.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Box 3, Memoranda From the President. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The memorandum is unsigned. A copy was sent to Kissinger for information.↩
- In his memoirs Kissinger described Nixon’s memorandum to Haig as the end of a “blizzard of paper,” noting that Nixon wanted no basis for press stories that the administration was “letting up” during the summit. (White House Years, p. 1200)↩
- Nuclear weapon scientist Dr. Edward Teller.↩