Monday, July 6, 2009

McNamara gets to die in his sleep at 93

Understatement for the day:
"One of the lessons of Vietnam was that we as a people, as a nation, must learn to empathize with others in the world -- particularly our opponents. Sympathy is not a synonym of empathy: Empathy means understanding; sympathy means agreeing or embracing. I don't think we as a nation have learned to empathize."

Digby, at Hullabaloo: "Part of the framing of The Fog of War as well as one of McNamara's later books was the 11 causes and lessons that he listed coming out of Vietnam... Although I'd like to think that some statesman could learn from these lessons and take America off such a self-destructive course, given the nature of the people who rise to power in [the US] I don't know if that's possible... The peculiar dynamics of the political world, the need to act tough in foreign policy, the seeming inability for leaders to step outside themselves and view things through the lens of others, the narrow and incomplete renderings of history often at work, and of course the lure of money and power and the industry of war, resist politicians coming to any of these conclusions... [The US has] so frequently bungled into conflicts, presuming our role in them when the other participants see it differently, making shortcuts while rationalizing ourselves as heroic, changing the rules if found to violate them, and controlling the message of moral rectitude rather than the actions. I find these cautions from McNamara to be crucially important, but even in my most optimistic moments I don't believe America is even wired to live up to them."

From The Fog of War, McNamara talking about the firebombing of Tokyo in World War II: "Curtis LeMay said, 'If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals.' And I think he's right. He, and I'd say I, were behaving as war criminals... But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?"
Image source here.