Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 20, 1972 · Page 114
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 114

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 20, 1972
Page 114
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Page 114 article text (OCR)

whose father just happened to be MacArthur's deputy chief of staff. "She was playing Chopin," Haig recalls. "She was quite good, and I was impressed both by the piano-playing and her looks, so I made a point of getting to know her. The result was that we got married in Tokyo and honeymooned in Japan, and after that I had to go to Taiwan and from there to the war in Korea." Three children The Haigs have three children: Alex, 20, a junior at Georgetown University; Brian, 19, .who's just finished his plebe year at West Point, and Barbara, 16, who attends parochial school in Arlington, Va. A fast perusal of Haig's military career reveals a proper mixture of desk duty, field duty, luck, and good contacts. He fought in Korea, was invalided out with hepatitis. He commanded an armored company in Fort Knox, pulled stints at West Point and Annapolis, served as operations officer in a tank battalion in Germany, then got assigned to Georgetown University for graduate study. With a master's degree in international relations, he wound up in the Pentagon, working on top-level Middle East and European affairs in the international plans and policy division. In 1961 when the Central Intelligence Agency fouled up so badly on the Bay of Pigs fiasco, President Kennedy desperately turned to the Army for help. He ordered Cyrus Vance of the Defense Department to take over Cuban affairs. Vance brought in Major Haig as his military assistant. It was during the Kennedy Administration that Al Haig began to earn a well-deserved reputation as a bright, perceptive, industrious administrator who could subordinate himself to the demands of more volatile superiors. He also developed expertise in the political and diplomatic aspects of military affairs. In the course of his work Haig met )oe Califano, then the Army's general counsel. Moving up When later, Cyrus Vance was appointed Robert McNamara'sDeputySec- retary of Defense, Vance wisely moved both Haig and Califano up with him. Subsequently Lyndon Johnson came to believe that Joe Califano was the source of much of McNamara's creative brilliance. He insisted that Califano be transferred to the White House, a move which immediately provided Haig with influential contacts in the highest echelons of government. Although Califano, a Democrat, is no longer in government--he is a senior partner in the prestigious Washington, D.C., law firm of Williams, Connolly Califano--he and Al Haig remain the closest of friends and see each other frequently. Says Califano: "Al Haig is one of the new breed of sophisticated Army officers. He knows politics, international affairs, and how to get along with people. He has a first-rate mind, and he is not afraid to speak it. He was my deputy in the Pentagon, and he argues brilliantly and forcefully. Once you hear him out, he will go along with the decision. But he is a man of great integrity." Haig returns the compliment. "Joe Califano," he says, "is one of the most brilliant men I've ever worked with." Haig also applies similar superlatives to describe Henry Kissinger. Kissinger, in turn, predicts flatly, "One day Al is sure to become Chief of Staff of the Army or maybe chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He has all the attributes: intelligence, diligence, discipline, and experience." The Haig-Kissinger mutual admiration society was founded in December of 1968, Haig was then a deputy commandant at West Point, the equivalent ings for Nixon on the world situation. "Concurrently," Haig remembers, "Henry gave me some work to do in an organizational way in tailoring the staff as he developed experience with it." Arguments rare A former member of Kissinger's staff who worked with Haig, recalls, "In the early days, Al's job was not particularly well-defined. But it quickly became apparent to some of us that his outstanding virtues were reliability and obedience. He rarely argued with Henry, in contrast to the academic types who did, and being a military man, he never questioned authority. He respectfully did what he was (old to do, and he made no waves. He never constituted a threat lo Henry's position, which back then was not nearly as secure as it is now. And in time Henry came to rely Kissinger and Haig relax at San Clemente after a working session with Nixon. Should Kissinger take up another post, Haig is regarded as likely successor. of dean, and Kissinger was working at the Hotel Pierre in New York City, putting together a foreign affairs staff for the newly elected Nixon. As Haig recalls it, he received a telephone call from Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, either one of the most brainy or overrated officers in the Army (depending upon whom one talks to), informing him that "they were taking a look at me as a possible military adviser on the staff of the newly reinvigorated National Security Council." Queried by Kissinger "When I met Dr. Kissinger," Haig narrates, "he asked some very brief questions. He explained that he was interested in a military man who was a field soldier and a commander and not so much a military intellectual." Since Haig had commanded troops in Vietnam in 1966, and had in fact won a battlefield promotion for leading troops in action on Route 13 near An Loc, Kissinger decided he might do. He asked Haig to report to Washington where Haig soon began preparing daily brief- upon him, and even more important, to trust him." Haig phrases it differently. "Over a period," he explains, "Henry and I developed a special rapport. From my perspective I found most of his views compatible with mine. "The first time he suggested ! go over to Vietnam to assess things for him and the President was in January or February of 1970. Since then I've gone back almost every six months. Usually the trip is at a juncture in the situation which requires a personal assessment for the President. He and Henry don't rely totally on reports from the field. They're much too prudent for that." Last month on July 13th, Sen. Barry Goldwater, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the guests at a $100-a-plate Republican fund-raising dinner in San Diego, "I predict that in the next month or 60 days the war will formally be over." When General Haig was asked to make a prediction on the same subject, based on his past knowledge and his most recent inspection trip, he smiled and shook his head negatively. "I think prediction is no more than an intellectual exercise," he demurred. "What I can say is that we have arrived strategically, militarily and in a sense, psychologically, at a point which makes the character of this particular juncture somewhat different from past crisis periods. "I think many times Americans have a great tendency to look for a millenium in which struggles will stop. I don't think the world is made that way. All I can say is that the chances for peace, in my opinion, are better now than they have ever been, that the character of the conflict will be fundamentally modi fied." Assesses Hanoi drive When asked how he assessed ihe North Vietnamese offensive which began on March 30th this year, Haig replied: "I believe they had a number of objectives. One was to destroy the ARVN (South Vietnamese Army) as a fighting force, if not physically, at least in the context of inflicting a psychological defeat. I think, too, that they hoped to establish some territorial strong points, enclaves, from which they could raise the North Vietnamese flag and stake a legitimate claim for whatever political negotiating solution would be arrived at, "There's no question that the persistence with which they hit such objectives as An Loc, Kwantom, and Hue gives credence to the fact that they were willing to pay almost any price, because they suffered severely there. "I don't believe they've accomplished their objectives," he went on. "The enemy initiatives have dropped off. They've taken very severe local defeats. ARVN morale is on the rise, and at this juncture they're as strong if not stronger than before they were attacked. I would see an improving situation for the South Vietnamese. Now I don't mean to imply," he hastily hedged, "that there will be no local setbacks and that there won't be some sharp fighting from time to time. But I believe that with U.S. air and naval power, they will hold." Stimulating--but Haig, who puts in a 13- to 15-hour day as Kissinger's deputy, assigning, supervising, and reading the endless papers prepared by Henry's foreign affairs specialists, says that he finds the desk life intellectually stimulating, challenging, and rewarding. "But at some time," he concedes, "I'd like to return to the Army, which after all, is my chosen profession." In Army circles, the word is that Al Haig, now a two-star general, is headed for four-star rank. "No matter who's elected President," one envious colleague declares, "Haig can't miss. His good friend, )oe Califano, is general counsel for the Democratic Party, and his good friend Henry Kissinger, is tops with Nixon. On all sides he's surrounded by friends. Al's star is rising." D

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