Robert McNamara Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:24:05
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As Defense Secretary of two administrations, the Johnson and Kennedy administrations, respectively, Robert McNamara played a great role in shaping US policies that led to the decision to intervene in the Vietnam War. Prior to his role in the Vietnam War, he was already involved in various roles in some of the most major decisions concerning nuclear weapons and delivery system. Such experience would have been useful for him to determine that going to war in Vietnam was a huge mistake and would end up catastrophically for the Americans.

However, he certainly mistook Ho Chi Minhs nationalist drive to unite Vietnam as the challenge of a monolithic Communist work and this proved to be fatal not only to the United States but to Vietnam as well as both camps suffered heavy losses not only in terms of lives but in terms of financial sources as well. But to his credit, he was the only with that kind of status who accepted responsibility for the Vietnam debacle which cost the United States thousands of military servicemen and millions of Vietnamese lives.

Despite his belief that the war should have been ended even in the middle of it, McNamara remained loyal to the President. Hence, even if his views were altogether different from the other key players in the Vietnam war, he did not act responsibly toward the American people as he instead kept his silence rather than challenging Johnson and his cabinet and quitting mid-war. His excessive faith in high-tech weapons and later expectations that massive bombing and frontal battles could wear down the Vietnamese enemy certainly added to his accountability.

Moreover, even with the increasing withdrawal of support and criticism of the Vietnam War, McNamara fastidiously held on to his silence and this might have resulted in creating the tone of ideological bitterness that now pervades U. S. politics, Bill Schneider, a contributing editor to Opinion, CNN, Los Angeles Times (p. 134). This can be seen by the evident gap or estrangement between the governing class and the people which is symbolized by the draft issue employed by the military.

The number of Americans who believe the Vietnam War was a mistake has steadily risen in the years since. Its in the range of 80% now, said John Mueller of the University of Rochester in New York, an expert on public opinion on foreign policy and war. [Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times opinion (p. 118). ] McNamara should not have kept his silence. As Vann puts it, he saw much that was wrong about the war in Vietnam, but he could never bring himself to conclude that the war itself was wrong and unwinnable (p. 8).

In fairness to McNamara however, he strongly opposed further bombing of North Vietnam and major deployment of a major ABM system which upset the military chiefs at that time. However, his resignation came in too late, when Johnson was already gunning for a re-election. He could have voiced out his objection when the odds are still with him and as Frank Rich succinctly puts it, the real wisdom he might finally have attained a recognition that he was wrong not to announce his mid-war about-face and quit the Johnson Cabinet when lives might still have been saved eludes him. Frank Rich, New York Times opinion (p. 126).

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