4. Memorandum for the President’s Files by the President’s Press Secretary (Ziegler)1


  • Department of State Luncheon with Secretary William P. Rogers and State Department Officials, Tuesday, March 6, 1973 at 12:50 p.m.

[Omitted here is discussion of the murders of the diplomats in the Sudan by terrorists.]

Discussion then moved to the defense budget. There was comment that most people don’t understand that the defense budget has already been cut. Discussion went to the period immediately after World War II when our foreign policy did accomplish great objectives in terms of NATO and the Greek-Turkish situation,2 but at that point we went too far down in our defense budget and helped create the conditions that lead to Korea. The ability to get support for adequate foreign policy and foreign assistance, the President said, is going to be quite a challenge. How do we combat opposition to it? It means a united front for maintaining adequate defense and foreign assistance. We must get across [Page 14] the point that to have the US to turn inward would be dangerous. If the US turns inward the China and Soviet initiatives will go down the drain. The day the US ceases to be a formidable defense and diplomatic power, economics will not be enough to hold it together. It is a dangerous situation, the President said. The old isolationists and the new isolationists could be a majority. Our failure to succeed could lead to a period when we could draw away from our responsibility. We must inform the country that having ended the war and with our new initiatives in China and the Soviet Union, this is the time for the US to continue to play a forceful role in the world—militarily, economically and diplomatically. The President recalled when he left Washington in 1960, we had an 8 to 1 defense advantage. Today we are behind in throw weight.

With the Vietnam war over, we must inspire the American spirit and accept the role of world leadership. The game is more difficult to play today than before. If the Soviet Union and the PRC continue fighting with one another, that adds to the complexities. Let’s not let the impression get around that now that we have gotten out of Vietnam, let’s get out of the world. The President then expressed his appreciation to all of those present.

Rogers said that he had spent two days on the Hill and he didn’t detect opposition. The President said, “That’s combat pay now,”—referring to a trip to the Hill.

The President said that Scott 3 had told him in the morning that we would lose our Foreign Assistance Bill 65–34, and was talking about how your leaders are supposed to come in and build you up when you’ve had a hard day. And, referring to Scott’s comment, the President said, “I’ve had a helluva hard day!”

“The U.S. must play a world role but a different world role. We can’t call all the shots; we can’t dominate; but, we can’t let the world be shaped in a way that would be counter to our interests.”

If we can get people in this country proud of their world role and the record in Vietnam, then there is much to be accomplished. But if you tell them that it was all in vain, we will never get them to try again. “This country needs a sense of direction; this country needs a sense of pride; this country needs a positive attitude,” the President said.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Staff Member and Office Files, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, President’s Meeting File, 1969–1974, Box 91, Memoranda for the President—Beginning February 4 [1973]. No classification marking. Nixon attended a luncheon at the Department of State where he met with Rogers, Kissinger, Kenneth Rush, William Porter, William Casey, Curtis Tarr, William Macomber, Richard Pedersen, Joseph Donelan, David Newsom, Willis Armstrong, Marshall Green, Walter Stoessel, Marshall Wright, Samuel DePalma, William Hall, Joseph Sisco, John Richardson, U. Alexis Johnson, Armin Meyer, Robert McCloskey, Theodore Eliot, and Ziegler. (President’s Daily Diary; ibid., White House Central Files) Nixon also delivered remarks to Department of State personnel at an afternoon memorial ceremony honoring Ambassador to the Sudan Cleo Noel, Jr., and Deputy Chief of Mission George Curtis Moore. Members of the Black September terrorist group had kidnapped and slain Noel, Moore, and Belgian Chargé d’Affaires Guy Eid on March 2. For text of these remarks, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1973, pp. 169–171.
  2. Reference is to the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 and the events leading to the promulgation of the Truman Doctrine in 1947.
  3. Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott (R–Pennsylvania).