The President and Secretary Haig

The new President acknowledged his own lack of experience in international affairs, and nominated a recognized authority in the field, General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., as Secretary of State. Although Haig was a military man, he was politically adept and played a key role in domestic as well as foreign policy under President Nixon. A former Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. European Command, Haig was also well versed in current military strategy on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

General Alexander M. Haig, Jr.

During the transition, Reagan assured Haig that his administration would speak with one voice on foreign policy—but the reality was sometimes different. Haig described his role as the “vicar” for the “formulation, conduct, and articulation of foreign policy.” But because Haig had no prior personal relationship with the President and White House advisers strictly controlled access to the Oval Office, there was little policy coordination and the government spoke with several voices on foreign policy. Both sides were suspicious of the other and refused to send Reagan a draft directive defining National Security Council responsibilities. As a result, during its first year the Administration lacked the traditional foreign affairs machinery necessary to coordinate long-term planning. Foreign policy decision-making was chaotic.