Robert S McNamara, the man who served as the Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and was one of the staunchest early advocates of U.S millitary action in the Vietnam War, and was often compared to one of his equally sardonic and arrogant successors Donald H Rumsfield, has died at the age of 93.
McNamara became a lightning rod of critics for his conduct of the U.S involvement in Vietnam, and although the massive financial aid to the South Vietnamese had its origins in the later years of the Truman administration and the South Vietnamese economic system as well as the introduction of U.S advisors began during the Eisenhower administration; McNamara helped implement the policy of dramatically introducing 16,000 additional military advisors during the Kennedy administration and into the Johnson administration, where he advocated and helped design sustained air attacks and the introduction of U.S forces into the conflict.
Though one of its earliest and most stalwart proponents and the public face of the war, McNamara later had mounting doubts about the war.
WASHINGTON – Robert S. McNamara, the cerebral secretary of defense who was vilified for prosecuting the Vietnam War, then devoted himself to helping the world’s poorest nations, died Monday. He was 93.
McNamara died at 5:30 a.m. at his home, his wife, Diana, told The Associated Press. She said he had been in failing health for some time. His death was first reported Monday by the Washington Post.
For all his healing efforts, McNamara was fundamentally associated with the Vietnam War, “McNamara’s war,” the country’s most disastrous foreign venture, the only American war to end in abject withdrawal rather than victory.
McNamara’s tenure also saw a number of other foreign policy and military events during perhaps the most challenging and dangerous days of the Cold war era. He was Defense Secretary during the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion, helped guide the world through the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the point in which the possibility of a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States was at its most highest point of danger, and saw the implementation in 1963 of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the first nuclear test ban treaty between the two cold war superpowers.
During the Johnson administration he headed the Pentagon when the Vietnam war and protest of it reached a fever pitch, saw the introduction of U.S Forces into the Dominican Republic, the capture and return of the USS Pueblo, and the 1967 Six Day War.
In 1968 he left his post after seven years, serving as one of the longest U.S Defense Secratary’s in U.S History to become the President of the World Bank, a capacity in which he served through four administrations from 1968 until 1981, as he hearalded increased foreign aid to impoverished countries and in the 1980s championed a nuclear freeze.
Though he hesitated to come out and directly criticize the Bush/Cheney administration on the War in Iraq, he met with them twice and even hinted at his opposition at one point.
McNamara was one of the last surviving members of the Kennedy administration.
(Image from wiki media)
Related Items: If You want to see a dramatic account of the decisions made in the early years of the Vietnam War centering on those in the Johnson administration, chronicling their disasters rise and fall check out the 2002 HBO film “Path to War”.