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THE FORD ADMINISTRATION AND SECURITY POLICY IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC AFTER THE FALL OF SAIGON*

  • ANDREW J. GAWTHORPE (a1)
Abstract

This article enhances our understanding of the Ford administration's foreign policy by examining how it sought to react to a changed situation in the Asia-Pacific after the fall of Saigon in May 1975. It shows how changes in regional politics forced the administration to adapt to a situation in which allies began to look to the Communist countries for friendship and to reconsider having American forces on their soil. It illustrates this situation by looking at base negotiations in Thailand and the Philippines, and the administration's search for an alternative arrangement in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. It then reconsiders two crisis situations in the region to examine the relevance of the superpower competition to the administration's responses. This aids our understanding of the role that regional factors played in tactical foreign policy decisions taken by the Ford administration, extending beyond a focus on the superpower competition that has marked the historiography of the administration in the past.

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Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, CB3 0DGajg70@cantab.net
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*

I would like to thank Clare Jackson, Edmund Rogers, and my anonymous referees at the HJ for their helpful comments; the staff of the Gerald Ford Library for their valuable assistance; and Fitzwilliam College for its financial support. But my most effusive thanks are due to Mike Sewell, who constantly reviewed the results of my research in this area from a dissertation presented for the BA in History at the University of Cambridge in 2006 through to this article.

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1 John Robert Greene, The presidency of Gerald R. Ford (Lawrence, KA, 1995), p. xiii.

2 Yanek Mieczkowski, Gerald Ford and the challenges of the 1970s (Lexington, KY, 2005).

3 Jussi Hanhimakäki, The flawed architect: Henry Kissinger and American foreign policy (Oxford, 2004); Walter Isaacson, Kissinger: a biography (New York, NY, 1992); Robert D. Schulzinger, Henry Kissinger: doctor of diplomacy (New York, NY, 1989).

4 John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of containment: a critical appraisal of American national security policy during the Cold War (Oxford, 2005), pp. 272–341; Richard A. Melanson, American foreign policy since the Vietnam war: the search for consensus from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush (London, 2005); Raymond L. Garthoff, Détente and confrontation: American–Soviet relations from Nixon to Reagan (Washington, DC, 1994), pp. 489–620.

5 A. James Reichley, Conservatives in an age of change: the Nixon and Ford administrations (Washington, DC, 1981), p. 357.

6 Mieczkowski, Gerald Ford, p. 275.

7 Gaddis, Strategies, p. 331.

8 Mieczkowski, Gerald Ford, p. 288; Reichley, Conservatives, pp. 347–54.

9 See Robert S. Litwak, Détente and the Nixon Doctrine: American foreign policy and the pursuit of stability (Cambridge, 1984).

10 William R. Kintner, ‘U.S. policy interests in the Asia-Pacific area and the U.S. purpose in Asia’, 15 Jan. 1976, folder ‘Ambassador Kintner's study of U.S. policy interest in the Asia-Pacific region’, box 1, national security advisor: presidential country files for East Asia and the Pacific (country files), Gerald Ford Library (GFL), p. 1.

11 Kintner, ‘U.S. purpose in Asia’, pp. 26–7.

12 Ibid., pp. 27, 45.

13 Public papers of the presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, 1975 (Washington, DC, 1977), pp. 1950–3.

14 James Mann, About face: a history of America's curious relationship with China, from Nixon to Clinton (New York, NY, 1998), pp. 66–73.

15 Papers: Ford, 1975, p. 1952.

16 Kintner, ‘U.S. purpose in Asia’, p. 33.

17 Clubb, O. Edmund, ‘The new power imbalance in Southeast Asia’, Current History, 69 (1975), pp. 209–12, 242–3, at p. 212.

18 Smyser and Granger to Kissinger, 15 Apr. 1975, folder ‘Thailand (10)’, box 17, country files, GFL.

19 Smyser to Scowcroft, 24 Apr. 1975, folder ‘Thailand (6)’, box 16, country files, GFL.

20 Memcon: Ford, Kissinger, Rowling, 7 May 1975, folder ‘May 7, 1975 – Ford, Kissinger, Rowling’, box 11, NSA Memcons, GFL.

21 Kissinger to Masters, 22 Apr. 1975, folder ‘Thailand (6)’, box 16, country files, GFL.

22 Masters to Kissinger, 28 Apr. 1975, folder ‘Thailand – State Department telegrams: to SECSTATE – NODIS (1)’, box 18, country files, GFL.

23 National security decision memorandum 327, 21 Apr. 1976, folder ‘U.S. policy toward Thailand’, box 1, national security advisor: national security study memoranda and decision memoranda, 1974–7, GFL.

24 ‘Memcon: the Philippines, July 10, 1975’, 10 July 1975, folder ‘Philippines (3)’, box 15, country files, GFL.

25 ‘DOD assessment of US strategic interests and objectives in Micronesia’, 29 Nov. 1976, folder, ‘Micronesia study (2)’, box 37, national security advisor: NSC East Asia and Pacific affairs staff files (staff files), GFL.

26 ‘Statement of the chairman of the Philippine delegation’, 12 Apr. 1976, folder ‘Philippines (4)’, box 15, country files, GFL.

27 Barnes to Scowcroft, 6 Aug. 1976, folder ‘Philippines (5)’, box 15, country files, GFL.

28 Robinson to Sullivan, 6 Oct. 1976, folder ‘Philippines – State Department telegrams from SECSTATE to NODIS’, box 16, country files, GFL.

29 Robinson to Sullivan, 2 Dec. 1976, folder ‘Philippines – State Department telegrams from SECSTATE to NODIS’, box 16, country files, GFL.

30 Memcon: Ford, Kissinger, 3 Dec. 1976, folder ‘December 3, 1976’, box 21, NSA Memcons, GFL.

31 Kissinger to Sullivan, 4 Dec. 1976, folder ‘Philippines – State Department telegrams from SECSTATE to NODIS’, box 16, country files, GFL.

32 Sullivan to Kissinger, 6 Dec. 1976, ‘Philippines – State Department telegrams from SECSTATE to NODIS (2)’, box 16, country files, GFL.

33 ‘Review of Micronesian status negotiations’, 29 Nov. 1976, folder ‘Micronesia study (1)’, box 37, staff files, GFL.

34 ‘DOD assessment of US strategic interests and objectives in Micronesia’.

35 Ralph Wetterhahn, The last battle: the Mayaguez incident and the end of the Vietnam war (New York, NY, 2002); Menétray-Monchau, Cécile, ‘The Mayaguez incident as an epilogue to the Vietnam war and its reflection on the post-Vietnam political equilibrium in Southeast Asia’, Cold War History, 5 (2005), pp. 337–67.

36 Menétray-Monchau, ‘The Mayaguez incident’, p. 348.

37 ‘Secretary Kissinger's news conference of May 16’, Department of State Bulletin, 72 (9 June 1975), p. 757.

38 ‘Minutes: NSC meeting’, 12 May 1975, folder ‘NSC meeting, May 12, 1975’, box 1, national security advisor: NSC meeting file, 1974–7 (NSC meetings), GFL.

39 ‘Minutes: NSC meeting’, 14 May 1975, folder ‘NSC meeting, May 14, 1975’, box 1, NSC meetings, GFL.

40 ‘Minutes: NSC meeting’, 13 May 1975, folder ‘NSC meeting, May 13, 1975 (Evening)’, box 1, NSC meetings, GFL.

43 Memcon, 14/07/1975, ‘May 14, 1975’, box 11, NSA Memcons, GFL.

44 Ford, A time to heal (London, 1979), pp. 275, 284.

45 Public papers of the presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford. 1974 (Washington, DC, 1975), p. 654.

46 ‘Secretary Kissinger interviewed for NBC “Today” show: portion broadcast May 6’, Department of State Bulletin, 72 (26 May 1975), p. 669.

47 Don Oberdorfer, The two Koreas: a contemporary history (New York, NY, 2001), pp. 47–83.

48 John K. Singlaub with Malcolm McConnell, Hazardous duty: an American soldier in the twentieth century (New York, NY, 1991), pp. 358–65.

49 This narrative is based on the testimony of Ambassador Arthur W. Hummel, Jr, assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, to the House subcommittee on international organizations and international political and military affairs. See ‘Statement by Ambassador Hummel’, 1 Sept. 1976, folder ‘War powers resolution: Korean incident’, box 65, Philip Buchen files, GFL.

50 ‘Korean WASAG’, 19 Aug. 1976, folder ‘Korea – North Korea tree incident, 8/18/76 (2)’, box 10, country files, GFL.

51 ‘Statement by Ambassador Hummel’.

52 ‘DMZ incident: Korea, 18 August 1976’, undated, folder ‘Korea – Operation Paul Bunyan’, box 10, country files, GFL.

53 ‘Washington Special Action Group meeting: August 18, 1976’, 19 Aug. 1976, folder ‘Korea – North Korean tree incident 8/18/76 (1)’, box 10, country files, GFL.

54 ‘Korean WASAG’.

55 Hyland to Scowcroft, untitled, 18 Aug. 1976, folder ‘Korea – North Korean tree incident 8/18/76 (1)’, box 10, country files, GFL.

56 ‘Statement by Ambassador Hummel’.

57 ‘Korean WASAG’.

58 Singlaub, Hazardous duty, p. 376.

59 William Hyland to Brent Scowcroft, 19 Aug. 1976, folder ‘Korea – North Korea tree incident, 8/18/76 (2)’, box 10, country files, GFL.

60 ‘Panmunjom incident: situation report as of 0600 hours’, 21 Aug. 1976, folder ‘Korea – tree incident, Aug–Sept, 1976 (2)’, box 7, NCS press and congressional liaison staff: files, 1973–6, GFL.

61 Quoted in Oberdorfer, Two Koreas, p. 81.

62 ‘Statement by Ambassador Hummel’.

63 Sneider to Kissinger, 21 Aug. 1976, folder ‘Telegrams (3)’, box 10, country files, GFL.

64 Stern to Kissinger, 19 Aug. 1976, folder ‘Telegrams (2)’, box 10, country files, GFL.

65 Singlaub, Hazardous duty, p. 378.

66 Richard D. Stillwell to joint chiefs of staff, 25 Aug. 1976, folder ‘Telegrams (3)’, box 10, country files, GFL.

67 ‘Statement by Ambassador Hummel’.

68 ‘Panmunjom incident: situation report as of 0600 hours’; ‘Statement by Ambassador Hummel’.

69 Telegrams, box 143, Robert T. Hartmann papers, GFL.

70 For examples, see New York Times, 23 Aug. 1976, p. 22; Christian Science Monitor, 24 Aug. 1976, p. 28; Washington Post, 24 Aug. 1976, p. A16.

71 Litwak, Détente and the Nixon Doctrine, p. 96.

72 Quoted in Anne H. Cahn, Killing détente: the right attacks the CIA (University Park, PA, 1998), p. 31.

* I would like to thank Clare Jackson, Edmund Rogers, and my anonymous referees at the HJ for their helpful comments; the staff of the Gerald Ford Library for their valuable assistance; and Fitzwilliam College for its financial support. But my most effusive thanks are due to Mike Sewell, who constantly reviewed the results of my research in this area from a dissertation presented for the BA in History at the University of Cambridge in 2006 through to this article.

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