Alexander M. Haig Jr., who declined yesterday to state his views on foreign policy matters in deference to the Senate and to unencumbered government during this presidential transition, is on the record with dozens of public utterances since leaving the Ford White House to become NATO commander late in 1974. Not surprising in view of his military education and experience, the central problem described in nearly all his speeches and interviews is the growing military power of the Soviet Union.
"I have described the Soviet threat as relentless. That is a very considered term," said Haig in his address to the Republican National Convention in Detroit last July 16, little noted because delegates and news media were consumed at the time with speculation about Gerald R. Ford as the vice presidential nominee. "Clearly the task ahead for this vital decade before us will be the management of global Soviet power," Haig declared.
Whether the subject is military strategy, the competition for leadership among states, conflicts in the Third World of developing nations or other troubles of an unstable world, the Soviet Union looms large in the views of the secretary of state-designate. This is a traditional preoccupation of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization commander, the post that Haig held for five years before retiring from the Army as a four-star general in July 1979, and a preoccupation which followed him into private life as an academician and corporate executive.
If past rhetoric is any guide, Haig's concentration on Soviet power in all its facets is likely to be central to his stewardship of American foreign policy, especially in an administration headed by a president and other high officials of similar views. As by far the most experienced figure in foreign affairs in the top rank of the Reagan administration, Haig may have freer rein for his ideas, and greater unchallenged authority over policy and operations, than most of his modern predecessors as secretary of state.
When asked recently by The Washington Post to identify past speeches or interviews that convey his views most clearly, Haig ignored dozens of other speeches and referred to a four-year-old address to the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army here on Oct. 13, 1976. Haig spoke repeatedly in that speech of the challenge posed by "the relentless growth in sheer Soviet military power" and devoted most of the address to his prescription for a counter-vailing U.S. buildup. He also made these broader points:
The bipolar world of the early postwar years has given way to a complex multipolar world with "three competitive centers of Marxist influence -- one in Moscow, one in Peking, and one in the revolutionary Third World." Haig took little comfort in these divisions, however, observing that developing strains within the communist world increase the danger that the Soviet Union may "look outward as a diversion from its own problems."
Despite a "growing imperative" of interdependence among Western nations, "a counter-trend of nationalism on the ascendancy" is in view. U.S. power to manage globel crises unilaterally on behalf of all Western nations has declined. Western European nations are "on longer content to assume a junior role."
Strains within the West are intensified by the growth in power of the Third World, complicated by "the widespread existence of dictatorial governments of the right or left, capable of the most precipitous shifts in policy and alignment." If the West is to deal effectively and responsibly with Third World nations, "it must do so as a collective of consumers." He did not spell out how this would work.
How should the united States and the West at large deal with the growth of Soviet power? Haig's most emphatic and most oft-repeated answer is a counter-buildup to maintain a position of strength.
Beyond this, Haig has advocated a shift from an American two-piller policy of detente and strength to "a new twin pillar policy involving reciprocity and strength." (address to Republican National Convention, July 16, 1980.)
As Haig explained on other occasions, notably his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Aug. 2, 1979, he would firmly link U.S. cooperation with the Soviets in a variety of fields -- "wether they be arms control, credit or technology transfer" -- to Soviet activity in the Third World. Under existing circumstances, Haig said, "It is time for us to pull up our socks and rethink this issue and put the Soviet Union on notice that the kinds of activities we have been facing recently are no longer acceptable."
In addition to denial of benefits to the Soviet Union, Haig has said often that the United States "cannot recoil from challenging blatant illegal Soviet intervention" whenever it occurs. He has shed little light on the means by which a U.S. challenge to Soviet action should be carried out.
Haig has denied that his answer is "a stereotyped clarion call for hyperactive interventionism" (U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 26, 1979) and declared that instead he is suggesting "a broad and global strategic framework for those nations of the world who share common values." He has spoken of "integrating" Western political, economic and security assets, a concept familiar to the speeches of NATO commendanders, but without specifics.
The U.S. experience in Vietnam has played a key role in the making of Haig, who fought in combat there as a field commander and later served as an emissary of the Nixon White House to both South Vietnamese and North Vienamese in the quest for a diplomatic settlement. Haig has often introduced his more recent foreign policy views by calling for "a new kind of post-Vietnam leadership" that recognizes that "our self-hypnotizing, self-paralyzing, sackcloth and ashes attitude" arising from Vietnam must be ended.
In a lengthy television einterview on June 2, 1978 (Tom Snyder, "Tomorrow," NBC), Haig indulged in what is, for him, rare public hindsight on great events. Regarding Vietnam, he said "I think at any particular juncture the war cold have been ended very rapidly had an American president been able to apply the full range of American power." He also said that, in hindsight, the Cambodian invasion of 1970 was "justified and wise and strategically sound."
Haig refused substantive comment at his meeting with the press yesterday about Iran, a country that is likely to be one of his most immediate policy problems as secretary of state. In the past, though, he has not been so reticent.
In an interview with William F. Buckly on Feb. 21, 1979 ("Firing Line," Public Broadcasting Service), shortly after the fall of the shah, Haig said that, in hindsight, "I suppose we could question the level of Western greed associated with the influx of modern military equipment that we put into Iran over an extended period . . . Secondly, I suppose [there should have been] a greater sensitivity to the pace of modernization."
Explaining the latter point, Haig said the problem was not a failure on the part of the shah to modernize as rapidly as he should, but of modernization "perhaps exceeding the level of tolerance of a society that was just not prepared." U.S. policy was a contributing factor in the shah's mistakes, he said.
By the time of the seizure of the American hostages in November 1979, Haig was a private citizen testing the waters for the GOP presidential nomination and thus freer to speak his mind than while in uniform.In a Washington speech in early November to a group of businessmen (Boston Globe, Dec. 2, 1979), Haig called on American to "rally round the president." But then he lowered his voice and said the Carter administration should consider every option -- adding, after a dramatic pause, "even the unthinkable." According to the news report, nobody asked what "the unthinkable" would be.
In later comments, Haig was cautious. Speaking to a Republican fund-raising dinner in Fort Worth, Tex., on Nov. 14, 1979, he urged Americans to "rally behind our president" and warned against "macho statements from private citizens not plugged into the minute-by minute information" (Dallas Times-Herald).
And in an interview with the Los angeles Times on Dec. 2 1979, Haig was quoted as saying that he had no rush solution to the Iranian crisis. The use of military force at that point, according to Haig, might only assist the Khomeini regime in unifying the Islmic world against the United States.
Another high-profile foreign policy problem that emerged after he retired from the Army was the month-long episode of the Soviet brigade in Cuba in the early fall of 1979. In an interview in the winter 1979 issue of Chief Executive magazine, Haig said President Carter "unnecessarily corned himself" by making public ultimatums about the Soviet troops, and by failing to apply "a host of additional levers that could have been applied to deal with this problem."
When Haig was asked what he would have done, he replied: "I would not have engaged our national prestige in a contest of public daring. The crisis, if that's what it was, could have been averted if we had responded to earlier Soviet actions in Cuba and elsewhere instead of allowing them to go unchallenged. . . ."
"Our series of misjusgements, or failures to act, began with our unilateral termination of SR71 surveillance flights over Cuba, and continued with our efforts to normalize relations with that country during its illegal adventurism in Africa and in areas of vital interest to the West," Haig continued. He added that "it is curious that a few thousand troops should be the focus of the administration's attention" when the delivery to Cuba of Mig23 attack aircraft and two submarines is "a far more serious matter."
Haig has spoken in similar terms on several occasions about U.S. relations U.S. relations with the People's Republic of China. In an interview with The Retired Officer magazine (November 1979), Haig said he is "acutely conscious" that roughly one-fourth of Soviet forces are east of the Urals, facing China, and therefore he "would dread the consequences of the relief of Moscow's concern there."
In the period ahead, he added, the United States should avoid provoking the Soviets -- "poking sticks into the polar bear's cage," he called it. At the same time, he said, the United States can "enjoy the benefits of multipolarity by very hard-nosed assessments of the international behavior, day by day, of those two communist nations as we develop our policies toward each."
China must see the United States as "reliable," Haig said. On other occasions, he has hinted, that he would consider Western arms sales to China. oAsked about this issue by U.S. News & World Report (Feb. 26, 1979), Haig said "an increasingly pragmatic China . . . is going to be capable of accepting just so many disappointments from the West." In the winter 1980 issue of Washington Quarterly, published last summer, Haig wrote that "the advantages of the Chinese relationship will continue only if the Chinese leaders are convicted that ties with the West ameliorate their existing weaknesses vis-a-vis the Russians."
The secretary of state-designate has had little connection in the past with Middle Eastern affairs and relatively little to say in public on the subject. mDuring his late 1979 flirtation with a run for the GOP presidential nomination, he addressed the Zionist Organization of America in Miami (Oct. 27, 1979) and, according to a news release issued at the time, spoke warmly of Israel as a strategic asset whose "very existence serves to deter Soviet aggression."
On that occasion he also was quoted as saying that U.S. recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization is not necessary to maintaining U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia, suggesting that U.S. failure to contest Soviet activity and display political and economic strength are more important problems in relations with the Saudis. Elsewhere, Haig has often mentioned the Saudis and world oil production as highly important to U.S. security.
Statements on the public record by Haig, like those of other prominent figures, are suggestive but not conclusive in predicting a likely course upon assuming higher office. Circumstances change and views change with them.
In the case of Haig, an interview with a Chicago Tribune reporter (Aug. 19, 1980) is illustrative. "Haig said he had heard speculation that he would be nominated for secretary of state if Ronald Reagan were elected in November, but that he wasn't interested in the position," the Tribune reported.