The 11 mistakes Robert McNamara says we (they) are repeating in Iraq
- My favorite "mistake"(one which imperialism could not exist without
making) is:We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a
people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.
Of course its hard to blame McNamara too harshly for this "mistake"
since the great bulk of the left in this country, including myself
(despite the fact that I spent about 15 of the last 20 years being
berated for "adaptation to nationalism"), are still playing catch-up
with it, when they are even trying.
Published on Sunday, January 25, 2004 by the Globe & Mail (Canada)
'It's Just Wrong What We're Doing' In an exclusive interview,
repentant Vietnam War architect Robert McNamara [Kennedy's Secretary
of Defense] breaks his silence on Iraq: The United States, he says, is
making the same mistakes all over again
by Doug Saunders
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
McNamara's 11 lessons
In 1995, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara published In
Retrospect, the first of his three books dissecting the errors, myths
and miscalculations that led to the Vietnam War, which he now believes
was a serious mistake. Nine years later, most of these lessons seem
uncannily relevant to the Iraq war in its current nation-building,
We misjudged then -- and we have since -- the geopolitical intentions
of our adversaries . . . and we exaggerated the dangers to the United
States of their actions.
We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own
experience. . . . We totally misjudged the political forces within the
We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to
fight and die for their beliefs and values.
Our judgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance
of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and
the personalities and habits of their leaders.
We failed then -- and have since -- to recognize the limitations of
modern, high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine. . . .
We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning
the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.
We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and
frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale
military involvement . . . before we initiated the action.
After the action got under way and unanticipated events forced us off
our planned course . . . we did not fully explain what was happening
and why we were doing what we did.
We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are
omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people's or country's
best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in
international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape
every nation in our image or as we choose.
We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action . . .
should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces
supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international
We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other
aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no
immediate solutions. . . . At times, we may have to live with an
imperfect, untidy world.
Underlying many of these errors lay our failure to organize the top
echelons of the executive branch to deal effectively with the
extraordinarily complex range of political and military issues.
© 2004 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc
Full article at at www.commondreams.org