McNamara's Lesson

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The documentary, Fog of War, allows some insight into the choices and decisions that were faced by former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. I believe McNamara’s worldview has and continues to persist that America has a duty to act on behalf of the world community and that stability between and within nations is paramount to national security. It is this worldview that was the basis for his strategy throughout the Cold War. Previous administrations had committed the US to assisting Vietnam, but during Kennedy’s years Vietnam fell into further conflict after the coup in 1963. McNamara’s advice to withdraw military personnel prior the coup was no longer an option as instability in Vietnam posed a threat to national security. Although McNamara concedes the conflict was a civil war, he presses the importance of understanding the conflict as an element of the Cold War. Out of fear for further spread of communist interest, the US began to unilaterally support South Vietnam militarily. McNamara however argues that had the US been more able to empathize with and to better understand the Vietnamese, large-scale military intervention could have been avoided. America’s duty to act where others can not or will not stems from McNamara’s belief that there’s something beyond oneself. Just as a person has a duty and responsibility to the society in which he lives, the nation has a duty to the world. McNamara further argues that, although the United States is economically, politically, and militarily more powerful than any other nation, it should not take it upon itself to act unilaterally. Negotiation and compromise, even if US interests are damaged, should take precedence. If the US is unable persuade or garner support for its actions, perhaps our reasoning is wrong. I believe McNamara felt US action in Vietnam unilaterally was wrong, evidenced by the fact that he was
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