Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mcnamara's Tears Too Late for Victims of Savage War

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mcnamara's Tears Too Late for Victims of Savage War

Article excerpt

Permit me to express the fury I have felt since learning of Robert McNamara's confession of error, published to coincide with the American scramble from the embassy rooftop in Saigon 20 years ago and due, no doubt, to be a great success.

Thirty-two years and something like a million and a half killed human beings later, not to speak of the millions more mutilated and blinded and burned who survived, McNamara says that he was wrong. "The United States could and should have withdrawn from South Vietnam" in 1963.

He says that by the mid-1960s it was clear that achieving political stability under effective American suzerainty in South Vietnam was a chimera, and that "the South Vietnamese, even with our training assistance and logistical support, were incapable of defending themselves." This insight did not cause the secretary of defense to change personal course or attempt to alter the nation's policy.

McNamara identifies the following as among his errors: He believed in the domino theory. He did not recognize the significance of Vietnamese nationalism. He believed that puppet generals who found their legitimacy at the American embassy could mobilize the country against the Viet Cong revolutionaries. He failed to grasp that high-technology weaponry, including bombing on a larger scale than in World War II, might be irrelevant in a war against a peasant-based guerrilla movement. He believed that uprooting and relocating peasants could win their hearts and minds. He believed that lying to the American public was justifiable.

McNamara and his associates were told as early as 1962, when the U.S. Military Assistance Command was created in South Vietnam, that every one of those assumptions was wrong. He was not told this by clamoring demonstrators in the streets or on university campuses. That came later. He was told it by anthropologists and Asian specialists who had spent their professional lives in Indochina. He was told it by historians of the region, political scholars and even by journalists. He could have heard it from soldiers and intelligence officers who knew the area and its problems, or who simply possessed common sense and a feeling for other peoples' motivations. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.