A couple of us at Broken Spines read McNamara’s In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam and we’re not sure whether McNamara ought to be vilified for his role as architect of the Vietnam War or forgiven because he regretted many of the decisions he made. McNamara was part of the east coast establishment that JFK christened “the best and the brightest.” They were arrogant technocrats that thought they could manage war like a business. I suppose I could forgive him if he had really helped the country learn the lessons of Vietnam. Donald Rumsfeld’s term as Secretary of Defense bears striking similarities to that of Robert McNamara–and he made all of the same mistakes–much to the shame of Robert McNamara.
John McCain wrote the foreword to David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest’s 20th Edition. In it McCain wrote:
It was a shameful thing to ask men to suffer and die, to persevere through god-awful afflictions and heartache, to endure the dehumanizing experiences that are unavoidable in combat, for a cause that the country wouldn’t support over time and that our leaders so wrongly believed could be achieved at a smaller cost than our enemy was prepared to make us pay.