29. Editorial Note

In telegram 35565 to Paris, February 11, 1981, the Department of State indicated that Secretary of State Alexander Haig would appear on a French television program during French Foreign Minister Jean Francois-Poncet’s visit to Washington on February 23. The Department continued, “Program will be special edition of ‘Cartes sur Tables’ to be broadcast evening of Feb 23 on Antenne 2. It will consist of replies by Francois-Poncet and the Secretary to questions posed by Alain Duhamel and Jean-Pierre Elkabach. Two interviews will be recorded separately and melded for broadcast.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D810066–0546)

During the February 23 interview, which took place at the Department of State, Haig addressed developments in U.S.-Soviet relations since President Ronald Reagan’s Inauguration, noting President Reagan’s desire for consistency in the conduct of foreign affairs. The interviewers asked: “Do you have the impression that the fact of having spoken loudly, strongly since the new Administration started has had a positive effect on the Soviet Union?”

Haig responded: “I think it’s much too early to tell, but clearly this Administration—President Reagan—has felt that it is vitally important that the United States enter into a period of greater consistency in the conduct of our affairs abroad with both our friends and allies, members of the nonaligned states, as well as those of the Soviet bloc.

“He also feels that the United States must project an image of relevancy. There has been at least the appearance of what I’ve referred to as the ‘Vietnam syndrome’ where many of our friends have been confused, befuddled, and fearful that we have, in that post-Vietnam experience, tended to withdraw from the world. And we’ve also talked about balance. By balance I mean a clear recognition of the great number of contradictions that involve solutions to any particular problem area—the need to integrate political, economic, and security aspects of these problems.”

After Haig responded to questions on a variety of topics, including the possibility of a U.S.-Soviet summit, Poland, Latin America, Afghanistan, arms control, the U.S.-Soviet nuclear balance, and the state of U.S.-French relations, the interviewers posed one final question regarding the ideological underpinnings of U.S. foreign policy: “Should the United States have, as an idea in its foreign policy—in other words, since a general is at the head of the State Department, are you going to have a ‘big stick’ type of policy? This is at least the image of U.S. foreign policy now that many people in Europe seem to have.”

Haig replied: “I understand that one of my background might bring forth those perceptions, but I think also that one who has participated [Page 100] personally in two wars in my lifetime recognizes the great sacrifices that anguishing human consequences of conflict bring to the mix of statecraft a heightened concern and a very sensitive feel for the need for peacekeeping efforts and international stability, but they also bring forth a sharp sensitivity to the consequences of unpreparedness and weakness, vacillation and inconsistency. If that is ‘big stick,’ I’m afraid the arsenal is out.”

The interviewers responded: “So you’re not a hawk?”

Haig answered: “I think these labels are sometimes misleading. I have no doubt that whether you be a hawk or a dove, you both seek the same thing—peace. The problem is how best to achieve it. And I believe that our strength is the most important guarantee of our ability to maintain international peace and stability.” (Department of State Bulletin, April 1981, pages 13–17)