THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 527, July 12, 2009
"Robert McNamara It is good that he died."
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
The architect of the Vietnam war is dead. He was a loathsome and despicable creature, and it is good that he is dead. He was one of the worst Americans ever.
McNamara got an MBA from Harvard in 1939 when it was a new idea. Turns out many MBA recipients have done enormous harm in the world.
True to form, McNamara went into the military where he was involved in pushing the idea of strategic bombing of civilian population centers in Japan and Germany. He later commented to Curtis LeMay that had the Americans lost that war, he and LeMay would have been tried as war criminals. McNamara was a significant proponent of policies that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians in strategic bombing raids.
After the war, he got a cushy job at Ford motor company thanks to the old geezer network. He joined Ford in 1946 as a golden boy just in time to be involved in the decisions to make the Edsel, which he later supposedly tried to end. However, he was one of the key decision makers when they started making it. It was, of course, one of the worst blunders in automotive history, a car that car lovers hated. McNamara had never been a car enthusiast, which is one of the reasons he was so worthless as a car company executive.
The good ol' geezer network got him another job in 1961, this time as Secretary of Defense under JFK. Among his blunders, he created the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Defense Supply Agency. In other words, crafting intelligence to suit the policies and corrupt allocation of government contracts to maximize graft and inefficiency.
McNamara was SecDef at the time of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. He played a large role in the Cuban missile crisis, not one of America's finer moments. He was also responsible for the policies of Kennedy with regard to the Vietnam war, including raising the number of American military advisers in the country from a legal 500 to an unlawful 16,000. (Treaty obligations had previously capped the number of advisers, but McNamara didn't care.)
It was McNamara in charge of policy when president Johnson escalated the war based on the lies about the Gulf of Tonkin "incident." There was no incident, as the NSA revealed in official documents released in 2005. McNamara knew it, but still ordered troop increases to over half a million soldiers in Vietnam. McNamara also designed the policies for the illegal bombing of Laos (a country the USA was not at war with) and for the bombing of civilian targets in North Vietnam. Ultimately, strategic bombing in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia would cause some two million casualties (dead and injured).
It is also widely reported that McNamara was enthusiastic about defoliants and other chemical warfare agents, including Agent Orange. Though McNamara has subsequently denied his role in approving the use of that chemical, and his detailed briefings on its affects on American troops, his denials are widely discredited among the veteran community.
In his book about the CIA, Legacy of Ashes, Tim Wiener says that as early as April 1966 it was obvious to CIA analysts that the war in Vietnam could not be won. McNamara apparently reached similar conclusions by November 1967, and began proposing policy shifts that were rejected by president Johnson and the joint chiefs of staff of the military.
Subsequently, the arch militarist became president of the World Bank from 1968 to 1981. He is widely credited with food aid projects that have destroyed wheat production in diverse countries such as Ethiopia, and clothing aid projects which have destroyed textile industries and put tailors and seamstresses out of work. Among the idiotic projects the World Bank funded under his tenure were a number of steel mills hundreds of miles from the nearest coal resource which inevitably failed.
At the World Bank, McNamara provided billions of dollars to prop up dictators like Romania's Ceausescu, Tanzania's Nyerere, Somalia's Siad Barre, and others. James Bovard writes extensively about what a horror show those choices were.
"McNamara's profusion of aid allowed politicians in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere to seize far more power over farmers, businessmen, factory owners, and other productive individuals. The result was a profusion of state monopolies that helped destroy hope for entire generations."
Alexander Cockburn also writes about McNamara's policies:
"The managerial ideal for McNamara was managerial dictatorship. World Bank loans surged to Pinochet's Chile after Allende's overthrow, to Uruguay, to Argentina, to Brazil after the military coup, to the Philippines, to Suharto after the '65 coup in Indonesia, and to the Romania of Ceausescu."
On September 29, 1972, a ferry boat passenger on the ride to Martha's Vineyard recognized McNamara on board and tried to throw him into the sea. He failed, and McNamara refused to press charges. Just think how many other Vietnam veterans would have liked to do the same, and how many people in lesser developed countries would have benefited had his obituary been published 37 years ago.
There can be no doubt that the mass murderers of Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Maoist China were more effective at racking up the body counts.McNamara was a particularly banal sort of evil, an American sort of evil.He was the faceless bureaucrat "just doing his job" and sending hundreds of thousands to their deaths.He was the advocated for and the supporter of dictatorship. He was authoritarian through and through.
It is good that he died.