Friday, September 26, 2014

Ultra-Gonzo Highbrow Par Excellence: the words and wisdom of Robert Strange McNamara

I must say I don’t object to its being called McNamara’s War. I think it is a very important war and I am pleased to be identified with it and do whatever I can to win it.

Management is the gate through which social and economic and political change, indeed change in every direction, is diffused through society. 

You can never substitute emotion for reason. I still would allow a place for intuition in this process, but not emotion. They say I am a power grabber. But knowledge is power, and I am giving them knowledge, so they will have more power. Can’t they see that? 

Robert S. McNamara (2004), Official Teacher’s Guide for The Fog of War, p. 5:
1.             Empathize with your enemy
2.             Rationality will not save us
3.             There’s something beyond one’s self
4.             Maximize efficiency
5.             Proportionality should be a guideline in war
6.             Get the data
7.             Belief and seeing are often both wrong
8.             Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning
9.             In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil
10.         Never say never
11.         You can’t change human nature
I would rather have a wrong decision made than no decision at all. 

Neither conscience nor sanity itself suggests, that the United States is, or should or could be the global gendarme. 

In the Cuban Missile Crisis, at the end, I think we did put ourselves in the skin of the Soviets. In the case of Vietnam, we didn't know them well enough to empathize. And there was total misunderstanding as a result. They believed that we had simply replaced the French as a colonial power, and we were seeking to subject South and North Vietnam to our colonial interests, which was absolutely absurd. And we, we saw Vietnam as an element of the Cold War. Not what they saw it as: a civil war.

Never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you.

I’m not so naive or simplistic to believe we can eliminate war. We’re not going to change human nature anytime soon. It isn’t that we aren’t rational. We are rational. But reason has limits. There’s a quote from T.S. Eliot that I just love:
We shall not cease from exploring
And at the end of our exploration
We will return to where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Now that’s in a sense where I’m beginning to be.

Robert leading from the lectern

No comments: