Robert McNamara : biography
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara is a 2003 Errol Morris documentary consisting mostly of interviews with Robert McNamara and archival footage. It went on to win the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. The particular structure of this personal account is accomplished with the characteristics of an intimate dialog. As McNamara explains, it is a process of examining the experiences of his long and controversial period as the United States Secretary of Defense, as well as other periods of his personal and public life. In this documentary he referred to the Vietnam War and he said, "None of our allies supported us. Not Japan, not Germany, not Britain or France. If we can’t persuade nations with comparable values of the merit of our cause, we’d better reexamine our reasoning." (However, 60,000 Australians & 3,500 New Zealanders fought in the Vietnam War, where respectively 500 & 37 died, and 3,000 & 187 were wounded.Australian War Memorial: The Vietnam War 1962 – 75 http://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/vietnam.asphttp://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/vietnam-war)
The eleven lessons explored in the documentary are:
- Empathize with your enemy
- Rationality will not save us
- There’s something beyond oneself
- Maximize efficiency
- Proportionality should be a guideline in war
- Get the data
- Belief and seeing are both often wrong
- Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning
- In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil
- Never say never
- You can’t change human nature.
McNamara maintained his involvement in politics in his later years, delivering statements critical of the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. On January 5, 2006, McNamara and most living former Secretaries of Defense and Secretaries of State met briefly at the White House with President Bush to discuss the war.
McNamara has been portrayed or fictionalized in several films The Missiles of October; Thirteen Days; Path to War; Transformers: Dark of the Moon and in at least one popular video game.In Call of Duty: Black Ops McNamara and Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon make common cause with Fidel Castro against attacking zombies.
Secretary of Defense
After his election in 1960, President-elect John F. Kennedy first offered the post of Secretary of Defense to former secretary Robert A. Lovett; Lovett declined but recommended McNamara. Kennedy then sent Sargent Shriver to approach him regarding either the Treasury or the Defense cabinet post less than five weeks after McNamara had become president at Ford. McNamara immediately rejected the Treasury position but eventually accepted Kennedy’s invitation to serve as Secretary of Defense.
According to Special Counsel Ted Sorensen, Kennedy regarded McNamara as the "star of his team, calling upon him for advice on a wide range of issues beyond national security, including business and economic matters."Sorensen, Ted. Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History. McNamara became one of the few members of the Kennedy Administration to work and socialize with Kennedy, and he became so close to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy that he served as a pallbearer at the younger Kennedy’s funeral in 1968.McNamara, Robert S. In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. McNamara’s specialty was to statistically analyze the efficiency of fighting the protracted Vietnam War, including how to maximize the use of defoliants, bombs, and cannon.Karnow (1997), p. 271
Initially, the basic policies outlined by President Kennedy in a message to Congress on March 28, 1961, guided McNamara in the reorientation of the defense program. Kennedy rejected the concept of first-strike attack and emphasized the need for adequate strategic arms and defense to deter nuclear attack on the United States and its allies. U.S. arms, he maintained, must constantly be under civilian command and control, and the nation’s defense posture had to be "designed to reduce the danger of irrational or unpremeditated general war". The primary mission of U.S. overseas forces, in cooperation with allies, was "to prevent the steady erosion of the Free World through limited wars". Kennedy and McNamara rejected massive retaliation for a posture of flexible response. The U.S. wanted choices in an emergency other than "inglorious retreat or unlimited retaliation", as the president put it. Out of a major review of the military challenges confronting the U.S. initiated by McNamara in 1961 came a decision to increase the nation’s "limited warfare" capabilities. These moves were significant because McNamara was abandoning President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s policy of massive retaliation in favor of a flexible response strategy that relied on increased U.S. capacity to conduct limited, non-nuclear warfare.