Macnamara - Architect of Viet Nam debacle - has died

#1
US Vietnam war architect Robert McNamara diesBy Carlos Hamann – 18 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Robert McNamara, the US secretary of defense whose broad career was overshadowed by his role as key architect of the Vietnam War, died at his home in Washington. He was 93.

From 1961 to 1968, McNamara oversaw the escalation of US combat efforts in the highly divisive Vietnam War that became known as one of the biggest military blunders in US history -- a conflict McNamara himself came to describe as "terribly wrong."
==========
in later years, the cerebral and dominating McNamara came to regret his Vietnam role, although he remained silent until publishing his controversial 1995 memoirs "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam."

Top US officials "who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this nation," McNamara wrote.

"We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why."

IN FULL: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jYoSMpKljjPY6O5CHpQigSmWwOYg
There's a lesson in his words somewhere, for the retirees of the last US administration, for that preening spiv B'liar and for our own politicians.

R.I.P.
 
#2
His view that modern military technology, including the first use of helicopters in large scale airmobile operation would defeat a peasant enemy, has some mirrors in todays conflicts.

I read Robert masons "chickenhawks" still as i think it shows the fundamental flaw of taking and retaking the same piece of ground.

It will be interesting if the two architects of chaos who decided on much of what has and is going wrong today show the contriteness as to the loss's!
 
#3
Stonker said:
US Vietnam war architect Robert McNamara diesBy Carlos Hamann – 18 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Robert McNamara, the US secretary of defense whose broad career was overshadowed by his role as key architect of the Vietnam War, died at his home in Washington. He was 93.

From 1961 to 1968, McNamara oversaw the escalation of US combat efforts in the highly divisive Vietnam War that became known as one of the biggest military blunders in US history -- a conflict McNamara himself came to describe as "terribly wrong."
==========
in later years, the cerebral and dominating McNamara came to regret his Vietnam role, although he remained silent until publishing his controversial 1995 memoirs "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam."

Top US officials "who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this nation," McNamara wrote.

"We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why."

IN FULL: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jYoSMpKljjPY6O5CHpQigSmWwOYg
There's a lesson in his words somewhere, for the retirees of the last US administration, for that preening spiv B'liar and for our own politicians.

R.I.P.
Good riddance.
 
#4
I don't know why you re all getting so hot and bothered about a chap from that era to be honest.

Yes, he made decisions that cost lives etc etc...

But, let's get things into perspective, shall we?

It's not as if he was the leader of a band.................
 
#6
halo_jones said:
His view that modern military technology, including the first use of helicopters in large scale airmobile operation would defeat a peasant enemy, has some mirrors in todays conflicts.

I read Robert masons "chickenhawks" still as i think it shows the fundamental flaw of taking and retaking the same piece of ground.

It will be interesting if the two architects of chaos who decided on much of what has and is going wrong today show the contriteness as to the loss's!
I wouldn't say they were a "peasant" army... they had massive help from the Russians and Chinese. And due to various reasons were unable to widen operations and destroy supply lines in neighbouring countries very easily.

The North Vietnamese Army was pretty much a professional force that fought and defeated the French Army (prior to the Vietnam War). The Viet Cong are a funny bunch... inthat they like to think of themselves seperate to, but the NVA like to think they were part of the NVA.

Viet Cong operated in the South and Cambodia.

It would be hard to say exactly why Viet Nam descended in to such a shambles for the Yanks.
 
#7
chocolate_frog said:
...
It would be hard to say exactly why Viet Nam descended in to such a shambles for the Yanks.
Martin van Crefeld on Moshe Dayan views on Vietnam
...
Dayans last important contact, Robert McNamara, had a reputation of being hard to approach. This turned out to be untrue and Dayan was pleasantly surprised; at a small dinner party with Margot (McNamaras wife), Walt Rostow and several journalists, the Secretary Defense did what he could to answer all the questions that were directed at him. He admitted that many of the figures being floated by the Pentagonparticularly those pertaining to the percentage of the country and population "secured"were meaningless at best and bogus at worst. No more than anybody else could he explain to Dayan how the Americans intended to end the War. What set him apart was the fact that he was prepared to admit it, albeit only in a half- hearted way; as we now know, he already had his own doubts which led to his resignation in the next year. He consoled himself by saying that the War was not hurting the US economy. In other words, it could go on and on until one side or the other gave way.
...
As to what he was told of the wars objectives, such as defending democracy and helping the South Vietnamese people, he considered it "childish" propaganda; if many of the Americans he met believed in them, clearly nobody else did. Over a year before the Tet Offensive proved that something was very, very wrong, he left Vietnam with the definite impression that things were not going at all well. In his own words, "the Americans are winning everythingexcept the war". Perhaps this was one reason why, instead of flying home by way of the United States as both Taylor and McNamara had asked him to do, he chose the other route. When he wanted to he could be very tactful and rubbing salt into the Americans wounds was the last thing he wanted. The trip did, however, provide a welcome opportunity to keep his military knowledge up to date.
...
First, according to Dayan, the most important operational problem the US Forces were facing was intelligence, in other words the inability to distinguish the enemy from either the physical surroundings or the civilian population. Had intelligence been available then their enormous superiority in every kind of military hardware would have enabled them to win the War easily enough. In its absence, most of the blows they deliveredincluding no fewer than six million tons of bombs droppedhit empty air. All they did was make the enemy disperse and merge into the civilian population, thus making it even harder to find him. Worst of all, lack of accurate intelligence meant that the Americans kept hitting noncombatants by mistake. They thus drove huge segments of the population straight into the arms of the Viet Cong; nothing is more conducive to hatred than the sight of relatives and friends being killed.

Second, as Dayan saw clearly enough, the campaign for hearts and minds did not work. Many of the figures being published about the progress it was making turned out to be bogus, designed to set the minds of the folks at home at rest. In other cases any progress laboriously made over a period of months was undone in a matter of minutes as the Viet Cong attacked, destroying property and killing "collaborators". Above all, the idea that the Vietnamese people wanted to become Americanized was an illusion. All the vast majority really wanted was to be left alone and get on with their lives.

The third and most important reason why I think Vietnam is relevant to the situation in Iraq is because the Americans found themselves in the unfortunate position where they were beating down on the weak. To quote Dayan: "any comparison between the two armies was astonishing. On the one hand there was the American Army, complete with helicopters, an air force, armor, electronic communications, artillery, and mind-boggling riches; to say nothing of ammunition, fuel, spare parts, and equipment of all kinds. On the other there were the [North Vietnamese troops] who had been walking on foot for four months, carrying some artillery rounds on their backs and using a tin spoon to eat a little ground rice from a tin plate".
...
I'd say failure in Vietnam had an awful lot to do with systemic problems in US democracy. Despite its military might the US is still a very inward looking nation. It's simply not set up to fight prolonged offensive wars and let's face it nation building is something Septics don't even like doing at home.

Power is too centralized in the Oval Office during wartime. The incumbent is too often a poor war leader with a partisan domestic agenda. He is almost impossible to sack even if plainly incapable. Congress has just enough power to occasionally throw a damaging spanner in but otherwise all rests with the Commander In Chief.

Frantic two year electoral cycles and an obsessive fear of rejection by the voter do not make for wise strategy. Wars are conjured up as a political means to a domestic end. They are entered into with the likely costs cooked from the books, a muddle of objectives and sugar iced with delusional missionary rhetoric. This leads to dishonest, rosily spun expectations of early victory and an emphasis on the tactical. Errors are more often white washed than corrected. Finally it ends in a bar lowering eagerness for precipitous withdrawal from the whole messy business having left behind a house of cards.

Once a war stretches beyond a presidential term DC is handicapped. An implacable and farsighted opponent like Uncle Ho can hope that an unforced pratfall will eventually provide a window for victory. These problems are actually worse now than in the LBJ era and then at least the country wasn't in hock to Beijing.
 
#8
Perhaps-but he and his ilk caused good men (some of mine included) to die for a cause he knew was a lie. Call me petty.
 
#11
I should point out that that discussion that I posted a link to, like the book it takes its name from, could be seen as taking a naval viewpoint - at least in places. Nichols and Tillman suggest greater use of USN assets, such as an amphibious landing NORTH of the DMZ and not waiting until 1972 to mine Haiphong harbour would have made a difference.
 
#12
Yokel said:
I should point out that that discussion that I posted a link to, like the book it takes its name from, could be seen as taking a naval viewpoint - at least in places. Nichols and Tillman suggest greater use of USN assets, such as an amphibious landing NORTH of the DMZ and not waiting until 1972 to mine Haiphong harbour would have made a difference.
It was the 'limited war' scenario that both killed hundreds of thosands of people for no good reason and lost the war. A landing in 1969 near Haiphong harbour followed by a 3-way advance to Hanoi from the south, west and from an air landing would have shattered the NV war efforts in weeks. You'd have been left with a insurgency, but with no nation-state or vast amount of supplies to support them, they could have been taken care of. 40 years of communist dictatorship in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos could have been avoided, and all three states would have likely followed the South Korean emergence from authoritarianism and become prosperous democracies. If anything should haunt Macnamara, it's that.
 
#13
parapauk said:
Yokel said:
I should point out that that discussion that I posted a link to, like the book it takes its name from, could be seen as taking a naval viewpoint - at least in places. Nichols and Tillman suggest greater use of USN assets, such as an amphibious landing NORTH of the DMZ and not waiting until 1972 to mine Haiphong harbour would have made a difference.
It was the 'limited war' scenario that both killed hundreds of thosands of people for no good reason and lost the war. A landing in 1969 near Haiphong harbour followed by a 3-way advance to Hanoi from the south, west and from an air landing would have shattered the NV war efforts in weeks. You'd have been left with a insurgency, but with no nation-state or vast amount of supplies to support them, they could have been taken care of. 40 years of communist dictatorship in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos could have been avoided, and all three states would have likely followed the South Korean emergence from authoritarianism and become prosperous democracies. If anything should haunt Macnamara, it's that.
Would you buy a used car from so,eone who gives that kind of gurantee?

20/20 counter-historical hindsight and wishful thinking

Deal with the facts, not you fancies, PPuke
 
#14
Stonker said:
parapauk said:
Yokel said:
I should point out that that discussion that I posted a link to, like the book it takes its name from, could be seen as taking a naval viewpoint - at least in places. Nichols and Tillman suggest greater use of USN assets, such as an amphibious landing NORTH of the DMZ and not waiting until 1972 to mine Haiphong harbour would have made a difference.
It was the 'limited war' scenario that both killed hundreds of thosands of people for no good reason and lost the war. A landing in 1969 near Haiphong harbour followed by a 3-way advance to Hanoi from the south, west and from an air landing would have shattered the NV war efforts in weeks. You'd have been left with a insurgency, but with no nation-state or vast amount of supplies to support them, they could have been taken care of. 40 years of communist dictatorship in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos could have been avoided, and all three states would have likely followed the South Korean emergence from authoritarianism and become prosperous democracies. If anything should haunt Macnamara, it's that.
Would you buy a used car from so,eone who gives that kind of gurantee?

20/20 counter-historical hindsight and wishful thinking

Deal with the facts, not you fancies, PPuke
Keep those personal insults coming Stonker, they really do make you look more credible than if you'd bothered to come up with a coherent counter argument to the points I've made.
 
#15
parapauk said:
Yokel said:
I should point out that that discussion that I posted a link to, like the book it takes its name from, could be seen as taking a naval viewpoint - at least in places. Nichols and Tillman suggest greater use of USN assets, such as an amphibious landing NORTH of the DMZ and not waiting until 1972 to mine Haiphong harbour would have made a difference.
It was the 'limited war' scenario that both killed hundreds of thosands of people for no good reason and lost the war. A landing in 1969 near Haiphong harbour followed by a 3-way advance to Hanoi from the south, west and from an air landing would have shattered the NV war efforts in weeks. You'd have been left with a insurgency, but with no nation-state or vast amount of supplies to support them, they could have been taken care of. 40 years of communist dictatorship in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos could have been avoided, and all three states would have likely followed the South Korean emergence from authoritarianism and become prosperous democracies. If anything should haunt Macnamara, it's that.
And if it failed? The NVA were a remarkably resilient army with a great deal of committed support from within and without Vietnam.

Actually this does look like a much better idea than the unsustainable mess that evolved later.

But what it had been succeeded. A re-unified Vietnam after the necessary Suharto style blood bath somehow converted into a beacon for democracy? Might have been a better outcome for this little corner of the world. It's not clear that such successful missionary zeal would have greatly benefited DC.

It has to be remembered that Vietnam finally proved to be little more than a blow to US moral. It did cause a couple of million dead but defeat in fact left a healthily chastened DC with rather favorable options. Would DC's now vital economic relationship with China have evolved without its failure to quickly defeat the North? Would DC have taken boneheaded maximalist positions and pressed Beijing into the Kremlin's arms? Would we still be fighting the Cold War? Not unlikely, that's if our luck held and the ICBMs stayed in their silos.

With hindsight of course it would have been far better for Truman to have come good on the Atlantic Charter and cut a deal with Uncle Hồ. The OSS had worked with him extensively and he repeatedly petitioned DC. Ike would betray the French over the rather similar case of Algeria later and pull the rug out from under Suez.

It might have been an exemplary fissure in what would prove to a communist block riven by nationalist passions with little of the nightmare ideological cohesion DC feared existed. At worst judging by how belligerently Hanoi started to butt heads with Beijing once Saigon fell, that could have been happening two decades earlier.

After all after throwing up a fog of pious motivations the only decent justification for this awful choice of theater the Pentagon chaps could offer Moshe Dayan with was containing Red China.
 
#16
Not backing the commies in South East Asia in any way,but Laos had something like 1,000 years of civil war prior to the Prathet Lao(communist) takeover on 2nd December 1975.Since then a sort of stability has reigned and Laos can be said to be emerging from being one of the ten poorest countries in the world.

Vietnam and Cambodia are also emerging from the devistation inflicted by the Vietnam War.Vietnam could be a candidate to be one of the next Asian Tiger economies.

Cambodia is a Kingdom again.

Communism is a thouroghly evil creed,but the way it was fought in South East Asia was totally wrong with the Americans backing corrupt dictatorships.
 
#18
Desertbootz said:
If Communism is 'evil' then presumably Christianity is too?
Forgive me for being thick but what is the connection? Surely you are not contending the 1st century church was communist merely because they regarded themselves as a community? I seem to remember from Political Science 101 (basic college course) that communism connotes a government that involves among other things centralized ownership and control of the means of production. That is a critical difference since it is through government power that the elites within such a system can methodically rule over the masses through coercion typified by the Gulag. To suggest moral equivalence between the 2 is ludicrous.
 
#19
jumpinjarhead said:
Perhaps-but he and his ilk caused good men (some of mine included) to die for a cause he knew was a lie. Call me petty.
100% with you. A self-serving twat of the highest order. I hope that he is on Naglfar right now.
 
#20
alib said:
parapauk said:
Yokel said:
I should point out that that discussion that I posted a link to, like the book it takes its name from, could be seen as taking a naval viewpoint - at least in places. Nichols and Tillman suggest greater use of USN assets, such as an amphibious landing NORTH of the DMZ and not waiting until 1972 to mine Haiphong harbour would have made a difference.
It was the 'limited war' scenario that both killed hundreds of thosands of people for no good reason and lost the war. A landing in 1969 near Haiphong harbour followed by a 3-way advance to Hanoi from the south, west and from an air landing would have shattered the NV war efforts in weeks. You'd have been left with a insurgency, but with no nation-state or vast amount of supplies to support them, they could have been taken care of. 40 years of communist dictatorship in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos could have been avoided, and all three states would have likely followed the South Korean emergence from authoritarianism and become prosperous democracies. If anything should haunt Macnamara, it's that.
And if it failed? The NVA were a remarkably resilient army with a great deal of committed support from within and without Vietnam.

Actually this does look like a much better idea than the unsustainable mess that evolved later.

But what it had been succeeded. A re-unified Vietnam after the necessary Suharto style blood bath was somehow been converted into a beacon for democracy? Might have been a better outcome for this little corner of the world. It's not clear that such successful missionary zeal would have greatly benefited DC.

It has to be remembered that Vietnam finally proved to be little more than a blow to US moral. It did cause a couple of million dead but defeat in fact left a healthily chastened DC with rather favorable options. Would DC's now vital economic relationship with China have evolved without its failure to quickly defeat the North? Would DC have taken boneheaded maximalist positions and pressed Beijing into the Kremlin's arms? Would we still be fighting the Cold War? Not unlikely, that's if our luck held and the ICBMs stayed in their silos.

With hindsight of course it would have been far better for Truman to have come good on the Atlantic Charter and cut a deal with Uncle Hồ. The OSS had worked with him extensively and he repeatedly petitioned DC. Ike would betray the French over the rather similar case of Algeria later and pull the rug out from under Suez.

It might have been an exemplary fissure in what would prove to a communist block riven by nationalist passions with little of the nightmare ideological cohesion DC feared existed. At worst judging by how belligerently Hanoi started to butt heads with Beijing once Saigon fell, that could have been happening two decades earlier.

After all after throwing up a fog of pious motivations the only decent justification for this awful choice of theater the Pentagon chaps could offer Moshe Dayan with was containing Red China.
If it had failed things wouldn't have worked out any more poorly than they did.

China was in the middle of the Cultural Revolution in 1969. Unless the invasion of N.V. jolted them out of it they would have carried on as before. There is no reason to suspect that the elite of China would have been any less likely to move against the Soviets - indeed a US that hadn't suffered the trauma of Vietnam would have made a far more credible partner than the one Nixon presented. There is also no reason to suspect the US would have been any more reluctant to allie with the PRC - every President of the Cold War era had both their dove and their hawk moments. The idea that losing Vietnam somehow shortened the Cold War by humbling the US doesn't stack up: it might do it the Cold War had ended in the late 1970s, but as history went, the Cold War ended to the tune of 'Born in the USA' Reagan, and there was nothing humble about the US then.
 

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