Robert McNamara began his career with the United States Armed Forces when he was teaching analytical approaches used in business to officers, leading him to become a captain in 1943 and serve in the army during WWII with the Office of Statistical Control. There he measured the US bombers’ efficiency and effectiveness. After the war he worked with the Ford Motor Company, becoming the first president of Ford from outside Henry Ford’s family in 1960. In that same year he was appointed Secretary of Defense by John F. Kennedy.
Along with Kennedy, McNamara moved the United States policy away from unlimited retaliation and first-strike attack to limited wars and a flexible response.
His involvement in the Vietnam War was so strong that it is often referred to as “McNamara’s War”. He was instrumental in the escalation of the war, using analysis and logic both to determine targets as well as the outcome of the war. Later he became skeptical of his own strategy, seeing that he had underestimated the number of Viet Cong fighters.
Later McNamara claimed that his support for the Vietnam War was out of loyalty to the presidential office. In the documentary The Fog of War he stated “None of our allies supported us. Not Japan, not Germany, not Britain or France. If we can't persuade nations with comparable values of the merit of our cause, we'd better reexamine our reasoning." He also states in the documentary the lesson that “Rationality will not save us”, clearly developed in response to his approach of using reason and logic to determine actions in the Vietnam War.
He later issued critical statements of the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, and did meet with President Bush to discuss the war in 2006.
For more info on McNamara breaking his silence to criticize the Iraq War, see this article from The Globe & Mail: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0125-01.htm
Transcript from a 1984 court proceeding with McNamara
Q: You said, Secretary McNamara, that you had reached the conclusion that the [Vietnam] war cold not be won militarily no later than mid-1966. Is that correct?
RM: I said I believed I had reached the conclusion the war cold not be won militarily no later than sixty-six.
Q: And am I correct that it was your recollection, at least at the time of your deposition, that you might have reached the conclusion as early as 1965?
RM: I believe I may have reached the conclusion as early as the latter part of 1965.
October 21-November 12