55. Information Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs (Burt) and the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Wolfowitz) to Secretary of State Haig1


  • Suggested Priorities for You during the Next Four Months2

Despite the charges of Reston, Vance, and others, that the Administration has no foreign policy, we believe we have in fact gotten off to a solid start.3 The President’s economic recovery program is about to pass the Congress4 and we have begun the revitalization of our military forces. TNF and our relationships with the NATO Allies are broadly on track (with France as an unsettling wild card) and your visit to Asia5 has reestablished our deep security interest in that region and the importance of China in the global balance. The Soviets and their proxies meanwhile, have been put on notice that we expect a new brand of responsible behavior from them. Indeed, only the lifting of the grain sanctions against the Soviet Union may have any lasting negative consequences for our foreign policy.6

We have not yet made any of the major blunders that plagued the last Administration’s foreign policy even in its first few months.7 The current spate of criticism that we lack a foreign policy will not gain much purchase, especially not outside of Washington, unless we begin [Page 190] to act in ways that suggest confusion weakness or disarray.8 However, if we begin to have tangible failures, it will be seen as proof of the contention that our policy is merely a collection of ad hoc actions without a design.9

There are, in light of the above considerations, several important issues approaching critical decision points.10 These decisions will affect the immediate perception here and abroad of our skill in managing the country’s foreign policy and will determine to a considerable extent the stability of the base from which we will build our policies in the next three and one-half years. If we fail to address successfully these matters, if you are diverted by the innumerable, but largely passing problems which will vie for your attention, the Administration’s foreign policy will be hard put to recover any time soon.11 Thus, we recommend that in the next four months or so you concentrate above all else in putting your personal imprint on the following issues which will be joined during this period.12

(1) The MX and Bomber decisions. If we stumble here we will pay for it for the rest of the century.13

(2) AWACS. We must win on the Hill or our whole strategy for the Middle East and Persian Gulf will be still-born. We must not only win the vote; we must do so in a way that persuades people that we have a serious strategy, not merely a policy of pleasing the Saudis and selling arms to anyone who wants them.14

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(3) Aircraft for Pakistan. Whether through early F–16 deliveries or an enhanced F–5 package, we must meet Zia’s basic requirements in order to maintain the momentum of our renewed relationship with the Paks.15

(4) Security Assistance. A failure to reverse the Long Appropriation Subcommittee’s decision to eliminate concessional FMS financing will have a devastating impact on our relations with friends around the world, and especially on Egypt and Turkey.16

(5) Caribbean Basin. We must convince the naysayers that our new policy is more than rhetoric, and that over time it will fundamentally alter both the internal instabilities in a region on which Cuba preys, and Castro’s capacity to export revolution there.17

Success or faillure on these issues is largely a question of Congressional politics and internal bureaucratic politics in Washington. This means that the perceived success of your foreign policy over the next six months will depend more on what we do within the US Government than on what we do in our relations with others.18 While we need to develop our thinking on foreign policy initiatives that will begin to be decisive five or six months from now, particularly arms control and the Middle East peace process, and although we may be forced to attend to crises that could arise in Poland, El Salvador or Iran or between Egypt and Libya or Israel and Syria, your primary focus needs to be on winning these internal issues.19

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Finally, we agree with you that the time has come for you to give a series of speeches which systematically lay out the Administration’s approach to the major foreign policy questions we face. If we can resolve the five issues listed above in a sensible way while we creep forward on the Palestinian problem and on Southern Africa, and if you use the bully pulpit, we are confident that historians will see this Administration’s first year of foreign policy as one of the most coherent and effective in a very long time.20

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/P Files, Memoranda and Correspondence from the Director of the Policy Planning Staff to the Secretary and Other Seventh Floor Principals: Lot 89D149, S/P Chrons PW 7/1–10/81. Secret; Sensitive. Not for the system. Drafted by Blackwill. Haig’s stamped initials appear in the top right-hand corner of the memorandum. Bremer initialed the memorandum and wrote “7/15.” He also initialed the top-right hand corner of the memorandum and wrote “7/20.”
  2. Haig highlighted the subject line.
  3. Haig underlined “gotten off to a solid start,” drew a line from it to the margin above this sentence, drew a checkmark, and wrote: “agree!”
  4. The economic recovery program, introduced by the President in his February 18 message and March 10 FY 1982 budget proposals (see footnote 2, Document 39), outlined both individual and business tax cuts as well as spending cuts designed to reduce inflation and increase productivity. Presumably, Wolfowitz and Burt are referring to the tax and budget reconciliation legislation then pending in Congress. The President would subsequently approve both the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 (H.R. 4242; P.L. 97–34; 95 Stat. 172) and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 (H.R. 3982; P.L. 97–35; 95 Stat. 357) on August 13.
  5. See footnote 4, Document 54.
  6. At the end of this sentence, Haig drew a line to the margin and wrote: “I agree—it was costly in this regard—so we need sensitive handling of it—i.e. don’t add to problem.”
  7. Haig highlighted this sentence.
  8. Haig underlined “will not gain much purchase, especially not outside.”
  9. Haig highlighted this sentence. He also underlined the portion of the sentence beginning with “as” and ending with “design.” In the margin below the sentence he drew four checkmarks.
  10. Haig highlighted this sentence beginning with “several” through the end.
  11. Haig placed two vertical, parallel lines in the left-hand margin next to the portion of the sentence beginning with the word “passing” and wrote: “don’t agree it’ll come more quickly if we are right—as we have been & if org. & W.H. is under control.”
  12. Haig highlighted the portion of this sentence beginning with the word “we” to the end.
  13. Haig highlighted this point’s heading. He drew a line from the end of the sentence to the upper margin and wrote: I agree & we are clearly headed in precisely that direction—see me Wed [July 8] on this.”
  14. Haig highlighted this point’s heading. He drew a line from the end of the paragraph to the margin and wrote: “only unified work will get it—& it’s uphill—mark my words.” Reference is to the proposed sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia; see footnote 2, Document 53. In August, the administration notified Congress of the proposed sale through a Department of Defense “informal” notice, followed by an October 1 “formal” notice. Congress considered the AWACS sale package throughout the month of October. (Congress and the Nation, vol. VI, 1981–1984, p. 131) For information concerning the outcome of the proposal, see Document 67.
  15. Haig highlighted this point’s heading and wrote in the margin: “we’ll handle OK! Cap likes it!!!” Reference is to the proposed sale of 40 F–16 planes to Pakistan, as part of a larger military and economic aid package for that country. Although the Carter administration had suspended development assistance and IMET in April 1979, the Reagan administration proposed the 6-year aid package, partly to counter Soviet actions in Afghanistan. Documentation on the sale is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXXIII, South Asia.
  16. Haig highlighted this point’s heading. He also highlighted the fragment “reverse the Long Appropriations Subcommittee’s.” At the end of the point, he wrote: “agree—if we fail Pres. fails!” Reference is to the subcommittee’s June 23 decision to cut $1 billion from the administration’s Foreign Military Sales request. According to the Washington Post, “Chairman Clarence D. Long (D–Md.), in an interview, said that increasing military aid to Third World countries badly in need of economic help is ‘obscene,’ and also inappropriate while Congress is busily cutting so many domestic social programs.” (Michael Getler, “Planned Weapons Sales Abroad Encounter Resistance at Home,” June 25, 1981, pp. A1, A2)
  17. Haig highlighted this point’s heading and wrote at the end of the paragraph: “we can win this & are doing so!!!”
  18. Haig highlighted this and the previous sentence.
  19. Haig highlighted the portion of this sentence beginning with the word “your” and ending with “issues.” He also underlined “winning these internal issues.” He drew an arrow from the bottom margin back to this sentence and wrote: “problem is they are no longer mine they are in hands of others you know that. I would suggest a completely different set—1) War in ME. 2) articulating a F.P. 3) getting [unclear] order 4) US/USSR relationship (maybe # 1—Stop reading news items think strategically.”
  20. Below this paragraph, Haig wrote: “don’t agree—see me you & Paul—and I’ll explain why this is so—nevertheless you are not all wrong—just too theatrical!!!! AMH.”