"As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever." - Reagan, January 20, 1981

"In Vietnam, we tried and failed in a just cause. No More Vietnams can mean we will not try again. It should mean we will not fail again." - from No More Vietnams by Richard Nixon

Saturday, February 20, 2010

RIP - Gen. Alexander M. Haig. A Cold War Hero

I want to thank Fox News and Newsmax's Dave Eberhart and Arnaud de Borchgrave for separately giving Gen. Haig the honorable tributes he deserves.

It was June 25, 1950. Alexander Haig Jr., then just a junior Army officer fresh out of West Point and assigned to the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Tokyo, took the phone call offering ominous news: The North Korean communists had just crossed the 38th parallel and started a war.

Haig awoke a sleeping MacArthur to inform him of the [Stalin approved] surprise attack.

And he was there on the frontline when the tide turned: "Haig missed World War II, graduating from West Point in 1947, and then saw action in ... the Korean War (including action at the Inchon landing that turned the tide against North Korea) ..."

He then went on to serve with distinction in Vietnam

Lt. Col. Haig was a battalion commander in Vietnam when he won the Distinguished Service Cross during a battle near [Ap Gu]. He went on to command a brigade.

As the CO of 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, Haig boarded a helicopter and flew to where his troops were engaging a superior enemy force. An excerpt from Haig’s citation for his exceptional conduct follows:

“When two of his companies were engaged by a large hostile force, Colonel Haig landed amid a hail of fire, personally took charge of the units, called for artillery and air fire support and succeeded in soundly defeating the insurgent force. . . the next day a barrage of 400 rounds was fired by the Viet Cong, but it was ineffective because of the warning and preparations by Colonel Haig.

“As the barrage subsided, a force three times larger than his began a series of human wave assaults on the camp. Heedless of the danger himself, Colonel Haig repeatedly braved intense hostile fire to survey the battlefield. His personal courage and determination, and his skillful employment of every defense and support tactic possible, inspired his men to fight with previously unimagined power.

“Although his force was outnumbered three to one, Colonel Haig succeeded in inflicting 592 casualties on the Viet Cong.”

He then "was tapped by Henry Kissinger to be his military adviser on the National Security Council under President Richard M. Nixon. Haig 'soon became indispensable,' Kissinger later said of his protege."

It was Haig who broke the news of the "Pentagon Papers" leak to President Nixon.

He first rose to national prominence as chief military aide to national security adviser Henry Kissinger in the Nixon White House. He quickly became President Richard Nixon’s principal military adviser, not an official position, but the president liked him and they talked frequently informally. Promoted to brigadier general, he rose quickly to major general.

Kissinger also liked the handsome, brilliant young general, and made him his de facto chief of staff. He became a key player in organizing Kissinger’s secret trip to China to prepare for Nixon-Mao summit, and the Vietnam peace initiative.

Communist China's Propaganda channel itself acknowledged Haig's key behind the scenes contribution to the US-Chicom rapprochement initiative.

But he was certainly not immune from the controversies

His central role in the White House's internal negotiation that paved the way for Nixon's resegnation and Ford's pardon was discussed on Meet The Press in 2001

MR. RUSSERT: Seven months later, and things were moving very, very quickly. Bob Woodward, this is how you portray the scene: “At 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 1, 1974, Nixon’s chief of staff, Alexander Haig, entered the vice president’s suite. He looked troubled and on edge. ‘Are you ready, Mr. Vice President, to assume the presidency in a short period of time?’ Haig asked. New Watergate tapes, he said, would show Nixon had ordered the coverup of the burglary. Ford was stunned. Haig presented Ford with six scenarios: Nixon could step aside temporarily under the 25th Amendment, he could just wait and delay the ongoing impeachment process, or he could try to settle for a formal censure.

In addition, there were three pardon options. Nixon could pardon himself and resign. Or he could pardon the aides involved and then resign. Or Nixon could agree to leave in return for an agreement that the new President Ford would pardon him. Haig handed Ford two pieces of paper. The first sheet contained a handwritten summary of a president’s legal authority to pardon. The second sheet was a draft pardon form that needed only Ford’s signature and Nixon’s name to make it legal. ‘It’s my understanding from a White House lawyer,’ Haig said, ‘that the president does have authority to pardon even before criminal action has been taken against an individual.’”

After that meeting, Gerald Ford met with this staff. What happened?

MR. WOODWARD: Well, of all kinds—this is one of the most dramatic moments in Watergate, to say the least. And of course I’ve interviewed Ford extensively about that moment. And he acknowledges that he believes that Haig was offering him a deal. I mean, to, to hand a draft pardon, and say, “Oh, by the way.” Ford got it, but he—when he told his staff, they said, you, you know, “You have—you’ve entered into dangerous legal territory. You have to call Haig and say there’s no deal.” Ford also acknowledges that he was naive about all of this, and at the same time—and again, there’s, there’s a complexity in this that doesn’t yield a sound bite. Ford had his reasons for granting the pardon, to get over Watergate and Nixon. At the same time, this, this loyalty and friendship with Nixon was intense, and he gave the pardon. I, I think it turns out to be very, very wise. But he—it, it was, on one level, the last, last act of loyalty.

Now, what, what is most significant to history in all of this, part of the arrangement with the pardon was that Ford insisted that the government keep Nixon’s tapes. And we now know this rather complete history of Watergate because of Ford’s decision. And there was a wise lawyer in the White House who told Ford, “Don’t give Nixon those tapes, he’ll burn them. It will be considered the last act of the coverup.” So having the tapes, most important to understanding the Nixon presidency.

Haig can be heard discussing the tapes here.

After the Watergate storm had passed, he did his time under Ford and Carter as head military commander of NATO, during which

[Haig] was the first to blow the whistle ... on the still secret, one-per-week deployment of the Soviet SS-20, a medium range nuclear missile designed to change the balance of power in Europe in Moscow’s favor.

The NATO counter became known as “Euromissiles,” and communist-controlled or influenced unions pulled out all the stops against their deployment. Haig’s forceful views prevailed and the Soviet SS-20 ploy was checkmated.

On June 25, 1979, Haig was the target of an assassination attempt in Mons, Belgium. A land mine detonated under a bridge as Haig’s car passed over it, narrowly missing Haig’s car but wounding three of his bodyguards in a car that was following it. The Red Army Faction was blamed, and a German court sentenced an RAF member to prison for the assassination attempt.

In July 1979, Haig resigned from his NATO post, reportedly because of President Jimmy Carter’s efforts to remove the Shah of Iran from power during the Iranian Revolution. Haig predicted that the fall of America’s strong ally, the Shah, would lead to negative repercussions throughout the region. Haig once said in an interview that the Carter administration “stabbed him [the Shah] in the back.”

I don't know if it was intentional, I highly doubt it. Although, as Reagan said, he certainly didn't do enough to help him.


In 1979, he retired from the army to become chief operating officer of United Technologies, a major defense firm that produced the Sikorsky helicopter family. While there, he underwent quintuple heart bypass surgery.

Upon recovery, he also tested the waters for a run for the White House and soon concluded he would rather back Ronald Reagan, who also took a shine to Haig’s strong conservative views, tough anti-communist and anti-Soviet positions, links to the Republican establishment, and made him his first secretary of state. His confirmation hearings were stormy.

The “namby-pamby” liberals once denounced by Haig seized the opportunity to retaliate. Haig lasted only 18 months at the State Department. An equally strong personality with strong views and an intense dislike for the four-star general as secretary of state was Richard C. Allen, the new national security adviser, also a hawk, but not a super hawk. Their turf battles were the stuff of countless news articles.

I'll skip the BS.

Two months into the new administration, Haig was portrayed as pounding a table in frustration when the chairmanship of a crisis management team went to Bush. Despite the clashes, Haig received high praise from professional diplomats for trying to achieve a stable relationship with the Soviet Union.

He also conducted shuttle diplomacy between the British and Argentine governments in an unsuccessful attempt to avert a war over the Falkland Islands.

Well, the "running feud over turf with Allen led to Haig submitting his resignation to Reagan once too often. Reagan finally said, 'Al, I accept your resignation,' which stunned Haig, according to Allen." But he received thanks from those who worked with him, even PM Thatcher.


Almost all public figures since they left office were assessed severely. His least known accomplishment was a close working relationship with Irving Brown, the AFL-CIO’s roving ambassador abroad. Together, at SHAPE HQ, Brown and Haig got together to assist Poland’s Lech Walesa as he led the Lenin shipyard workers in Gdansk against their communist overlords.

It was the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire. Brown received the Medal of Freedom for his efforts. Haig’s contribution to the same endeavor that changed the world and led to the collapse of the Soviet Union was critical.

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