Monthly Archives: November 2013

Best? Brightest?

Robert McNamara, center, as US secretary of defence, with President Kennedy in 1963

I admit it. Whenever I read a book about war, I am looking for confirmation of my (perhaps naive) belief that there has never been a “just war” and that war is never the answer. David Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest”—”the most comprehensive saga of how America became involved in Vietnam” (Boston Globe)–did nothing to change my mind about the futility and shame of all wars.

The initial decisions that led to US involvement in Vietnam were made during the Truman years (i.e., the early 1950s). By 1963, according to DH, “a lie had become a truth, and the policy makers were trapped in it; their policy was a failure, and they could not admit it.” After four more Presidents, the government, the military and the diplomatic corps were still mired in their poorly planned, poorly communicated, poorly executed policies, and “each dead American became one more rationale for more dead Americans.” Forgive me, but I don’t follow that logic.

Throughout the war, waged under the banner of strengthening a European ally (France) and opposing the spread of Communism, key members of the government refused to acknowledge that “many of these forces were simply outside our control, and by trying to control them we could not affect them but might turn them against us.”

The tragedy of wasted lives and wasted billions spent in a self-serving cause—dishonestly promoted and executed—confirm again for me that war is not the answer.

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Filed under History, The Book I Read