Monday, July 06, 2009

Robert McNamara's lessons

I've had the movie "The Fog of War" sitting around for a month without having found time to view it. I now wish I had done so before the news of the death of former Secretary of Defense [War] Robert McNamara.

I'm old enough to remember McNamara as the "corporate genius" who was going to streamline the Pentagon in the early 1960s. Under Donald Rumsfeld's tenure, I sometimes thought I was hearing echos of that long-ago hubris so brutally derailed in South East Asia. No management expertise can make war predictable and clean -- especially if the political calculations that lead to the war are not brutally honest.

Over at Hullabaloo, dday -- who has seen the movie -- lists the lessons that McNamara took from Vietnam. They are overwhelmingly worth reading. Here's just one:

We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people’s or country’s best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.

President Obama, listen up. You and your smart operatives are following former Secretary McNamara's prescriptions for failure in Afghanistan. Stay on that course and you'll certainly derail the train of hope that got you elected.

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