212. Memorandum From the Senior Military Assistant (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Reduction of U.S. Presence in the Philippines

I must say this action borders on the ridiculous. This is an incredible reduction in U.S. presence in the Philippines no matter how unnecessary our presence may be. The degree to which our facilities in the Philippines are directly linked to operations in South Vietnam is substantial and no one with any knowledge of this fact has even been asked to comment.

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If we were to send out a memorandum of this type2 calling for a reduction of this magnitude over the time frame cited, I think we will ultimately provide either the biggest laugh in the bureaucracy or shake whatever confidence they may have in our ability to run foreign affairs on a sound and systematic basis. Our job is to prevent the President from making the kinds of mistakes which we know only too well he can make in times of emotional peak. This action fits into that category despite the fact that the President has reiterated his intention of reducing our presence in the Philippines on countless occasions.

The Philippine cut, the near 50% reduction in Korea, the precipitous draw down in South Vietnam and Thailand, the All-Volunteer Army ploy, the posturing for an assault on NATO next year, and the 10% across-the-board reduction of our overseas strength already accomplished this year cannot but convince the most amateur observer that despite all of our rhetoric we are adopting a fortress America concept which is not only inward looking but emotionally orchestrated. I think the Korean studies, even though triggered by a capricious directive, at least went through the motions of a clear and systematic interdepartmental review. In that instance the wisdom of reduction was confirmed by that review. We should certainly as a minimum follow a similar procedure on the Philippine issue.

I would suggest that you talk to the President about this before signing this memorandum and underline your concern that such a drastic reduction could not but be interpreted as a wholesale bug-out, which will have an incalculable impact on our efforts in Southeast Asia to say nothing of inflicting untold hardships on the economy and people of the Philippines. I also strongly recommend that we accomplish the Philippine reduction as a result of an objective NSDM which would initiate the kind of interdepartmental review of the type which we will all have confidence in with the kind of time we need to do it and with careful consideration given to the impact of this reduction on the Vietnam war, Pacific Fleet and air operations and the economic stability of an irritating but nevertheless long-time ally and ward.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 556, Country Files, Far East, Philippines, Vol. II. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Haig evidently was referring to a draft memorandum outlining severe cuts in U.S. personnel in the Philippines, as insisted upon by Nixon; see Document 203. A March 11 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, attached but not printed, advised the President that Kissinger had informed Laird of the President’s decision to cut personnel at Clark Air Base by one-third and that Laird had reported that he would have a “detailed” plan for the reductions completed by about April 20. In a March 10 memorandum Laird stated that the plan would call for the personnel reductions to be fully implemented by September 1. Kissinger asked if “this target date is acceptable to you,” and Nixon initialed his approval. (Both ibid.)