322. Editorial Note

On November 10, 1971, President Nixon met with Secretary of Defense Laird and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger to discuss foreign policy matters, including Indonesia. They met from 3:16 to 4:20 p.m. in the Executive Office Building. At the time, Secretary of the Treasury Connally was traveling to various East Asian countries; see Document 323 for a report of Connally’s trip to Indonesia. The following is an excerpt of the conversation among Nixon, Laird, and Kissinger:

President: “Let’s get a hardnosed judgment, and when Connally gets back I think it will be very useful for him to sit down and give us his feel of Suharto, of Indonesia, don’t you agree?”

Laird: “Oh, yeah. Well, I’m all for the Indonesian thing. I—”

President: “Mel—Well, let me ask you—”

Laird: [unclear]

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President: “Let me say, Mel, I want you within the administration to push quite hard on the Suharto thing.”

Laird: “I’ve been pushing hard.”

President: “You will. And in public meetings—I mean in our meetings with the NSC. Because this is one thing I, we, have a constant battle with Marshall Green. Marshall Green is wrong about this. You can’t have a thousand miles of islands with no damn equipment to defend those damn islands.”

Laird: “No, I don’t think we don’t. We won’t prod them” [unclear]

President: “With Suharto in power …”

Laird: [unclear]

President: “We have to keep Suharto in power, too. Let’s face it. Otherwise, you get another goddamn Sukarno in there.”

Laird: “Well, I’m going to let Westy go in there. Now Westy [unclear]. Apparently he wants to travel around the” [unclear]—

President: “Let him take a look.”

Laird: “I think so—”

President: “Don’t you think so, Henry?”

Kissinger: “Absolutely.”

President: “That’s excellent. When’s he going?”

Laird: “He’s going in there the first week in January.”

President: “Well, have him drop over and have a talk with me. I mean I should give him a little blessing anyway. He’ll appreciate it. Let’s do that. Let’s get—you bring him over with [unclear]. He’s a fine man. He deserves a little—and tell him to give us a real report on that. Not a silly report. Indonesia is the big prize. It’s a big prize. We don’t think of it very often.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation among Nixon, Laird, and Kissinger, Executive Office Building, Conversation No. 299–19)

General William Westmoreland traveled to Southeast Asia in late January and early February 1972. He delivered a letter from Nixon to Suharto ( Document 327) and met with Suharto on February 3 ( Document 329).

On November 14, 1971, Nixon and Connally met in the Executive Office Building from 5:02 p.m. to 6:41 p.m. about the latter’s trip to Southeast Asia. In this wide-ranging discussion, Connally included a report of a conversation with President and Imelda Marcos in Manila and a substantive conversation with the King of Thailand in Bangkok. The following is an excerpt of Connally’s conversation with Nixon about his meetings with Suharto and some of the leading ministers in Indonesia:

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Connally: “So I gave them—I said: ‘The President asked me to see you and [unclear] too great to withdraw. The Nixon Doctrine is designed to draw on these [unclear] and so forth.’ And I talked about the foreign aid thing and I told him that I’d talk to him on the foreign aid picture and said that you had recognized that [unclear] of protectionism of the United States largely because of what had been happening to it, and that you took the steps on August 15th both to correct the imbalance in our trade situation, and secondly, Congress still wants protectionism before they became too vocal in the United States. As part of that, you felt just that you could cut foreign aid ten percent and you did that. Well, but the Congress said, because they were in control of an opposite Party, thought that they had to get in some of the political popularity of protectionism—ok, so—growing in this country, so they just cut it all out. Now I’m sure the President can get it restored, and I said, ‘I don’t know in exactly what forms or in what amount but the administration is going to do everything within our power—’”

President: “Um-hmm.”

Connally: “‘to restore foreign aid.’And I said, ‘We’re not going to leave Indonesia. We’re going to stay in Southeast Asia militarily, financially, economically, [unclear], for as long as we can now see.’ And— so this is quite reassuring to all of them. And I think it particularly was to Suharto. His wife entertained at a luncheon for us, took us all to her home. One night with about ten of his Cabinet, he had dinner for us and all of our group and we had—we had a real good meeting with them on three different occasions. We met with all of his top economic people. And I’m very impressed with them.”

President: “Are you? In Indonesia?”

Connally: “Yes, sir.”

President: “Good. Good.”

Connally: “Oh, they are over there.”

President: “That’s an important country.”

Connally: “They’re all articulate. They’re all highly educated. They’re all fluent in English. They’re all graduates, most of them, from United States schools. The Finance Minister spent 4 years at Berkeley. One of them is a graduate of Pennsylvania. One of them is from Purdue. They’re all, as I’ve said, they’re all damn smart, all of importance—”

President: “Good.”

Connally: “—[and] very aggressive. I found all of them extremely honest, extremely busy people, and he’s listening to them. Suharto listens to them. As I’ve said, he’s got a couple of old military buddies, a couple generals that are still around, that at least our people don’t like; they think they’re bad men, real [unclear], but—”

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President: “Suharto raised the military aid thing with the U.S.? Did you reassure him that we are [unclear]—”

Connally: “Yes. And primarily he’s—”

President: “At least that’s one place where there’s no damn difference with the State Department there.”

Connally: “He very much wants military and other aid for the simple reason that he wants to help Cambodia, and he’s willing to do it.”

President: “Um-hmm.”

Connally: “He’s willing to do it himself.”

President: “Um-hmm.”

Connally: “Or he’s willing to serve as a conduit, but he is extremely interested in the military agreement” [unclear]. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Connally, Executive Office Building, Conversation No. 296–16) The editor transcribed the portions of the conversations printed here specifically for this volume.