12 July 2009


Last week Robert McNamara died. He was the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War era and is sometimes credited as the architect of that war. I was surprised by the continuing vilification of this man, in spite of his acknowledgment that the War was a mistake. Here's an excerpt from an interview he did with Fresh Air's Terry Gross, in 1995:

"You have to understand where we came form . Many of the protesters had not. President Kennedy, Dean Rusk and I and many others of us had fought in World War 2. Three years, 4 years, 5 years. Churchill said millions of men lost their lives in that War because the West acted too late to Hitler's menace to the security of Western Europe. And, by God, says Churchill, we should never do that again. Just after that War, the Soviet Union took control of Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. After that, in my period, in August of 1961, the Soviet Union sought to take Berlin. This was a dangerous world. A year later, Khrushchev put nuclear missiles into Cuba. To this day, the American public doesn't know how close we came to nuclear war. It was a dangerous world that was driving us to our action in the Vietnam War. We were wrong. The protesters turned out with hindsight to be right. We didn't believe it at the time."


naomi said...

Wow. Nancy, thanks for putting things into context. We all forget that we're prone to a thing called 'hindsight', and then there's the great music that was made in the anti-war era, which helped later generations identify with, and perhaps overlook the decisions ppl like McNamara had to make. It's a shame that he was slammed even when he admitted his mistakes. What are your thoughts on Churchill?

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