Farewell, Troubled McNamara

Adam Case

“The evil that men do live after them, the good is oft interred with their bones”—so wrote the bard. Robert McNamara—Secretary of Defense under JFK and LBJ, and president of the World Bank after that—may live up to the quote, having been responsible for both good and evil in his life.With his passing Monday, the meaning of his legacy is once again being debated. An architect of the Vietnam War, he was reviled by the anti-war movement.)An architect of the Vietnam War, McNamara's love for and expertise in statistics led him to gauge success in Southeast Asia through numbers—he believed high "kill ratios" and body counts were the path to victory. His unwavering support for the war made him especially reviled by the anti-war movement.Toward the end of his life, McNamara spoke candidly and reflectively about his time as secretary of defense. The 2004 documentary The Fog of War should be considered one of his lasting legacies—it being the rumination of a man who was centrally responsible for a grave and incredibly deadly mistake. The Obama administration may want to get a second screening, as the president ramps up operations in Afghanistan.

Adam Case, a former In These Times editorial intern, is a San Diego-based I.W.W. organizer and freelance writer. He has traveled extensively throughout Latin America, encountering guerrillas, intellectuals and change-makers. But most of the time he tries to indulge his passions, which include surfing, social justice and a good Philly Cheesesteak.
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