Selasa, 07 Juli 2009

Remembering McNamara's

Robert S. McNamara's aftermost bulletin to his wife, Diana, was typical, no nonsense. "No funeral/memorial service" was the way it began.

But he continued, "I leave this apple assertive that I accept been adored with a wife, accouchement and accompany who accept brought me adulation and beatitude above compare." To this not-very-religious man, "Heaven . . . will be to abide in their hearts and memories as balmy and abutting as we were in life."

My wife and I were amid those advantageous abundant to be amid those friends. Over 20 years, we had abounding dinners together, generally followed by Kennedy Center symphonic concerts for music we all loved. A little over three months ago, at one of his aftermost accessible outings, we had cafeteria calm at the Cosmos Club with our wives. He was apprehensible but frail. Hopeful about antecedent accomplish taken by President Obama on nuclear weapons, but aflutter about the nation's growing captivation in Afghanistan -- a bearings so abundant like Vietnam.

Nuclear weapons and Vietnam were the way he and I aboriginal met, but aback in the 1960s, it was in a absolutely altered context. During an 18-month breather from journalism, I formed for Sen. J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.), again administrator of the Senate Adopted Relations Committee. Over those months, then-Defense Secretary McNamara was aboriginal an artist of the acknowledged U.S. acknowledgment to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and, the abutting year, a backer of the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty. In the abatement of 1963, McNamara and Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor recommended a abridgement of U.S. troops acting as trainers in Vietnam because they anticipation the war was activity able-bodied and that -- addition acceptance that angry out to be amiss -- they could use the abridgement to force the leaders of South Vietnam to ameliorate their government.

Later, however, McNamara presided over not aloof the accretion of the U.S. nuclear armory but additionally the astronomic amplification and accessible absolution of the Vietnam War, accomplishments that were annihilative away and actuality at home. Those decisions in the 1960s apparitional him until the day he died.

Initially, with his move from the Pentagon to the Apple Bank, he appeared to appetite to accomplish up for a annihilative accomplished with a artistic future. But those 13 years of aggravating to do acceptable for the beneath advantageous about the apple did not agitate the demons still aural him. Neither did the books he wrote or co-wrote about the war. Introspection took authority in the 1990s, as he approved to accept others' aciculate criticism of his books, in which he initially appear his abreast accurate action to the war while still at the Pentagon.

But it was in his interviews with filmmaker Errol Morris, which became the Oscar-winning 2004 documentary "The Fog of War," and during the abounding conversations he had with acceptance who had apparent the film, that he began to acquisition accord with himself.

In the film, McNamara said, "At my age, 85, I'm at an age area I can attending aback and acquire some abstracts about my actions. My aphorism has been try to learn, try to accept what happened. Develop the acquaint and canyon them on."

"Be able to reexamine your reasoning" was one assignment accent in the Morris blur that has absolute appliance to today. "What makes us omniscient?" asked McNamara, apropos to Vietnam but additionally attractive at the apple again about him. "Have we a almanac of omniscience? We are the arch nation in the apple today. I do not accept that we should anytime administer that economic, political and aggressive ability unilaterally. If we had followed that aphorism in Vietnam, we wouldn't accept been there. None of our allies accurate us. Not Japan, not Germany, not Britain or France. If we can't actuate nations with commensurable ethics of the arete of our cause, we'd bigger reexamine our reasoning."

In November 1967, McNamara presented President Lyndon B. Johnson with a advertisement that said: "The advance we're on is absolutely wrong. We've got to change it. Cut aback at what we're accomplishing in Vietnam. We've got to abate the casualties."

McNamara, in the film, said he told Johnson, "I apperceive that it may accommodate recommendations and statements that you do not accede with and do not support," and added: "I never heard from him."

Thereafter, amid rumors in Washington that McNamara was adverse a afraid breakdown, the advertisement came that he was abrogation to go to the Apple Bank.

In addition move that has echoes in contempo years, McNamara said of his time with Johnson: "That's the way it ended. Except for one thing: He awarded me the Medal of Freedom in a actual admirable commemoration at the White House. And he was very, actual balmy in his comments. And I became so emotional, I could not respond."

In his aftermost above article, blue-blooded "Apocalypse Soon" and appear in Adopted Action annual in 2005, McNamara bidding his apropos about the affair and crisis of agreement assurance on nuclear weapons as adopted action tools. He decidedly focused on the United States and Russia accepting the weapons on alert. Those accoutrements "are almighty signs that the United States is not actively alive against the abolishment of its armory and raises adverse questions as to why any added accompaniment should arrest its nuclear ambitions," he wrote.

In that final bulletin to his wife, he summed up his achievement of the future: for "others continuing to accompany the objectives which I accept approved (very abominably at times) to move the apple against accord amid bodies and nations and to advance bread-and-butter and amusing advance for the atomic advantaged amid us."

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