A general at State

Unless his confirmation hearings unexpectedly reveal some improper or dishonorable act while serving as presidential chief of staff during the year prior to Richard Nixon's resignation, there is every reason to expect the Senate will find Gen. Alexander Haig Jr. well qualified to be secretary of state.

There should be a thorough, good-faith searching of General Haig's record of public service and experience, military and civilian. That is the constitutional duty of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- its duty to the Senate, to the President, and to General Haig himself.

As a long-standing Haig-watcher -- in the Pentagon, in Europe as supreme commander of NATO, and in the White House under Nixon in his most trying months and under President Ford -- I suspect he will emerge with enhanced respect from those who review all the record.

About Watergate: There is always the possibility of some heretofore undisclosed impropriety, but I am aware of no one who knows the whole Watergate background better than special prosecutor Leon Jaworski. He has volunteered this testimony: "I do not know of anything which Haig did as chief of staff which was wrongful."

I was covering the White House closely at the time and I satisfied myself that no deal was engineered by General Haig or by anyone else with Vice-President Ford to assure a Nixon pardon if Ford succeeded to the presidency.

On a general as secretary of state: I would agree that no ordinary military man would be likely to make a good secretary of state, but General Haig is an extraordinary military man just as Gen. George C. Marshall and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower were extraordinary military men who discharged high civilian responsibilities.

Some have a fixation that generals are more likely to get the nation into war. Are they? As a Washington correspondent, I watched two generals -- Matthew B. Ridgway, Army chief of staff, and President Eisenhower -- keep us out of the Vietnam war and two "civilian" Presidents -- John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson -- put us in.

When President Eisenhower was being pressed to go to the defense of South Vietnam, he sent General Ridgway to Southeast Asia to examine the prospect and consequences. Upon his return General Ridgway strongly urged that US ground troops not be sent to the Asian mainland. Eisenhower adopted that recommendation and never departed from it. Kennedy and Johnson carried the Eisenhower policy of arms aid to South Vietnam to a policy of ground participation.

Georgie Anne Geyer, a foreign correspondent for the Washington Star and now a foreign affairs columnist, covered General Haig quite often during his tour of duty in Europe. She wrote these impressions a few days ago:

"Several autumns ago I was with a small group of American correspondents who interviewed General Alexander Haig in Northern Germany. What I remember most about him was that he was not at all what any 'typical general' was supposed to be.

"What was most remarkably striking about Haig . . . was how 'unmilitary' his basic thinking was. He swayed even many of us, as he had so masterfully swayed the Europeans as NATO chief to invest more in the military, political, and diplomatic defense and to see that the 'military' problems of the world must be solved by diplomatic and political means first.

"In fifteen years as an overseas journalist, I have never heard a more brilliant or more cogent exposition from either politicians or diplomats as to why the Western democracies must remain strong to keep the peace but primarily must remain diplomatically agile to prevent war."

From my knowledge of the man, that is authentic Haig.

Georges Clemenceau once remarked that "war is too serious a matter to be entrusted to the military." Gen. Charles de Gaulle is supposed to have commented that "politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians."

To a degree President-elect Reagan may have drawn from the advice of both by appointing an experienced, tough civilian administrator (Caspar Weinberger) to be secretary of defense and a politically experienced general to be secret ary of state.

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