Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Robert McNamara, 1916—2009

He didn’t die a dove, but pretty damn close.

I chose not to remember McNamara as the architect and stubborn supporter of the American war in Viet Nam. I wish the war had never been; I wish the McNamara’s apology and open discussion of what went so terribly wrong had been sooner after the fact. But that does not tarnish or diminish what we can learn from the man.

Of course, I am going to recommend a book, one not mentioned in any of the obligatory obituaries: Wilson's Ghost: Reducing the Risk of Conflict, Killing, and Catastrophe in the 21st Century. I stumbled across it a few years ago in a remainder pile in one of the major bookstores, bought it and read it with fascination. Scholarly, insightful and collaborative. I put it high on my list of “must read’s" for any student activist, particularly a refugee from the 60’s. Following McNamara’s wishes, there will be no service, no memorial to mark his death. Reading his book would be a far better tribute.

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