204. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to the Philippines (Byroade) to the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Green)1

41. Eyes Only Asst Secretary Green, Dept of State. Ref: [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] 35889.2

[1 paragraph (4 lines of source text) not declassified]

My primary point, even considering the level of the handwritten notation you refer to, is that I just do not think the problem should be approached in this manner by either me or the Department. If such drastic cuts are to be made out here, it seems to me that the message would have to go to the Pentagon, and they would have to decide how they would have to reorganize their forces in order to meet the requirement. The final decision would then have to be made taking into account the effects of this on our strategic posture, as well as the views of the Department on what the effect of cuts of this magnitude would have in the Philippines. The latter could properly include from us the effect of such cuts on our overall relations with the Phils, their economic impact, etc.

[Page 433]

I see no way for me to even approach the initial problem of the proposed 50 percent cut at Clark. It is true that the base is on Philippine soil, but what we are really talking about is a drastic cut in the 13th Air Force with headquarters and support staff and many of its operating units at Clark but which, in actuality, extends from Taiwan to Thailand. One needs to get into what units, activities, and capabilities of the 13th Air Force would have to be reduced, or abandoned, and how this would fit into the picture with the present situation in Vietnam and our future national posture in the Far East. Exactly the same type of problem would be involved in a similar, even if reduced, reduction at Subic, substituting only the Seventh Fleet for the 13th Air Force and such matters as to where its future center of gravity and maintenance facilities should be. And we should not forget in the process that we are talking about very expensive facilities indeed, which if transferred elsewhere would be very costly. I realize that I am probably over-simplifying the matter because I do not know in just what context this all occurred, but it looks to be like initial action on this, at least, would have to be transferred to the Pentagon. State should of course have its voice, but I really think not an initial one as its role, or at least it seems to me, should be after the initial military appraisal.

We could, I suppose, volunteer through normal channels what the economic and political effect of cuts of this magnitude would mean in the Philippines, but I would feel much easier about it if we had a normal channel request to do so. The reason I feel this way is that I can not believe that cuts of this magnitude are consistent with our best interests, and I therefore have no reason to raise the prospects of such an eventuality.3 I do not mean to say that a well thought out strategic plan of our posture in the Pacific of some years hence might not indicate reductions of this magnitude, and I would personally be glad if they could. But I really do think that it must be approached from that direction and not from the direction of cutting bases by name by specific percentages. The latter type of approach is merely the question of swinging the pendulum back, and when done for that reason alone, all past experience shows that it tends to swing too far and too fast, and that it has been costly to get it back to where it belongs.

I would as well in such a volunteered message have to say that I believed that both the political and economic effects in the Philippines [Page 434]would be adverse,4 so I would in effect be giving the appearance of raising a straw man and then shooting him down. On the political level I think it would hurt our position here. The Nixon Doctrine is very sound policy but unfortunately its press treatment and, more importantly, actions in the Senate have local leaders concerned that in effect it is a policy of cutting and running beyond what the nations out here believe to be in their best interests. I would guess the Vice President will have a most important report on this aspect of the situation when he finishes his tour. And on the economic front only a brief but important point. I know we can’t let this be a big factor in any decision to retain bases abroad. But it is a very important factor here at present. If the Phils should keep on the recent path of better policies, they would still need help. What better way to do it than by utilizing facilities of theirs which are useful to us.5 At least this way we get something in return.

I have re-read my letter to you of last August regarding San Clemente.6 I well see that as constructed that letter could have been misunderstood. As it actually happened, when the President asked if I could give him a good feel of the situation here by January, it was clear to me at the time that he had in mind a report on the general situation here containing broad policy recommendations. We were not at that moment focusing on the reduction-in-presence theme as the letter implies.

I have been wondering of late just how to best comply with my affirmative answer to this query of his, particularly as it is too early as yet to know in which direction Marcos will go in his new administration, or whether it will be more of the same. My doubts are affected somewhat by my indecision at the moment as to whether I shouldn’t come home briefly on consultations some time in the next few weeks in order to be better equipped to handle the forthcoming talks with Marcos. I do not herein, however, raise this question for decision but may be in touch with you separately on this one.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 556, Country Files, Far East, Philippines, Vol. II. Secret; Priority; Eyes Only; Exdis. A notation on the message indicates that Green saw it.
  2. Document 203.
  3. After receiving such a “normal channel request,” telegram 3094 to Manila, January 12, Byroade emphasized in telegram 419 from Manila, January 15, that the projected plan would effect a “drastic cut in the 13th Air Force.” At the same time, Byroade stated that “my own view is that considerable reductions could be made in the number of personnel that the military says is necessary to perform the roles assigned to it.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 556, Country Files, Far East, Philippines, Vol. II)
  4. Telegram 420 from Manila, January 15, stated that the extent of the adverse impact “would depend primarily on timing, phasing, and the rationale offered to the GOP and to public opinion.” (Ibid.)
  5. A Department of State report, February 19, noted that U.S. spending in the Philippines “would drop from the current annual figure of about $140 million to a reduced level of about $83 million,” and concluded that the Philippine economy would be hurt by the loss of foreign exchange income, reduced economic activity, and a presumed reduction of Philippine employment at the bases. It added that the $57 million reduction “would theoretically cut back Philippine economic activity by $171 million,” using the standard multiplier of three effect, and that this “would be equivalent to about 2 per cent of the 1969 Philippine GNP of $8.5 billion.” (Ibid.)
  6. Not found.