Some years ago now a friend lent me his copy of Fog Of War, which was at once a brilliant and yet incredibly intriguing documentary featuring Robert McNamara. I had always wondered about The Vietnam War, feeling that it was deeply misunderstood at a public level and that although the underlying policy that motivated it (containment) was valid, the way the policy was being pursued (through warfare) was undermining the policy and the reputation of the United States.
Fog Of War only offered more questions and made the story even more complex. Errol Morris, the director of that movie has a thoughtful piece on McNamara over on the New York Time’s website. One section that struck me was this:
His refusal to come out against the Vietnam War, particularly as it continued after he left the Defense Department, has angered many. There’s ample evidence that he felt the war was wrong. Why did he remain silent until the 1990s, when “In Retrospect” was published? That is something that people will probably never forgive him for. But he had an implacable sense of rectitude about what was permissible and what was not. In his mind, he probably remained secretary of defense until the day he died.
I think what I like about it us the sense that there is no black & white in cases like this.
For more thoughts and coverage of McNamara, read this or this or this.
In Dublin, taking it easy,