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McNamara's legacy

July 08, 2009

Re "Robert S. McNamara, 1916 - 2009: Architect of Vietnam War later revealed his regrets," Obituary, July 7

I do not dispute the intellectual prowess of Robert McNamara, even going back to the time he was considered the young genius of Ford Motor Co.

What Americans should remember is the hubris he displayed during the Vietnam War as secretary of Defense through his total endorsement of the domino theory, not challenging the faulty and inferior advice of military commanders and, most of all, not resigning in protest when President Johnson greenlighted the number of U.S. troops deployed to over half a million.

He later admitted he was wrong to have endorsed Johnson's policies due to loyalty, a tragic action that contributed to thousands more combat deaths.

Sid Skolnik

West Hollywood


McNamara was part of the generation that David Halberstam wrote of in "The Best and the Brightest." Considering their take on Vietnam and the domino theory, I think the book should have been titled "The Dumb and the Dumbest."

Bernadine Bednarz

Los Angeles


McNamara learned well the lessons of Vietnam: Guerrilla insurgents win by not losing. And wars are won not by firepower but by people.

History will love McNamara. Not only does he embody the contradictions of the Vietnam War, but also the great cleavage that exists in America, between those who see military aggression as the source of our strength and those who do not.

William DuBay

Costa Mesa


McNamara's epitaph should read: "A brilliant man who was not very smart." Regards from a three-tour veteran.

Ralph F. Wetterhahn

Long Beach


Re "Learning from McNamara," Editorial, July 7

As an Air Force pilot during McNamara's reign as secretary of Defense, I have a different view of his legacy in both the Cold War and the Vietnam fiasco. His leadership was dictatorial and unfocused. His assumptions about his ability to apply "measured violence" in pursuit of success resulted in the unnecessary loss of people (theirs and ours), equipment, treasure and the war.

Brilliant (theory vs. execution)? Successful CEO (the Edsel)? Yet devoted to his country and finally willing to accept responsibility during that time of national testing.

Gary Tompkins

Lake Arrowhead


Regarding your editorial, I think you left out a link between McNamara and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. To me, both lied concerning the circumstances of going to war. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was spun out of all proportion, and there are no weapons of mass destruction or links between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Jim lynch

Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif.

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