counter create hit In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam

Availability: Ready to download

The #1 national bestseller--an indispensable document for anyone interested in the Vietnam War. McNamara's controversial book tells the inside and personal story of America's descent into Vietnam from a unique point of view, and is one of the most enlightening books about government ever written. This new edition features a new Foreword by McNamara. of photos. (Military The #1 national bestseller--an indispensable document for anyone interested in the Vietnam War. McNamara's controversial book tells the inside and personal story of America's descent into Vietnam from a unique point of view, and is one of the most enlightening books about government ever written. This new edition features a new Foreword by McNamara. of photos. (Military History)


Compare
Ads Banner

The #1 national bestseller--an indispensable document for anyone interested in the Vietnam War. McNamara's controversial book tells the inside and personal story of America's descent into Vietnam from a unique point of view, and is one of the most enlightening books about government ever written. This new edition features a new Foreword by McNamara. of photos. (Military The #1 national bestseller--an indispensable document for anyone interested in the Vietnam War. McNamara's controversial book tells the inside and personal story of America's descent into Vietnam from a unique point of view, and is one of the most enlightening books about government ever written. This new edition features a new Foreword by McNamara. of photos. (Military History)

30 review for In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hai Quan

    In the struggle among the great powers for the domination of the world, many smaller countries became the victims with untold death and destruction. Viet-Nam was one of them. All sides of this war-for-profit (More so on the Western side than the other sides) employed all the self-serving rhetoric , arrogant , false and paternalistic "brotherly love" to impose their imperial ambition upon their preys.Particularly, all American governments involved in the Viet-Nam war have successfully THREATEN ALL In the struggle among the great powers for the domination of the world, many smaller countries became the victims with untold death and destruction. Viet-Nam was one of them. All sides of this war-for-profit (More so on the Western side than the other sides) employed all the self-serving rhetoric , arrogant , false and paternalistic "brotherly love" to impose their imperial ambition upon their preys.Particularly, all American governments involved in the Viet-Nam war have successfully THREATEN ALL OF THEIR "ALLIES" WITH POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC PENALTY if they fail to support them in this blood soaked , dirty, despicable expansionism RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MODERN TWENTY CENTURY, THE CENTURY WHEN PEOPLE OF THE WHOLE WORLD were EXPECTING ALL THE HORROR OF NAZISM were THING OF THE PAST. They and the Viet-Namese were in for a big surprise ! NAZISM were STILL ALIVE AND FLOURISH ! ( Minus the gas chambers and concentration camps, replaced with B52's carpet bombings, jet bombers, tanks, guided missiles, great bomber carriers, automatic machine guns, hundreds of thousands of well armed mercenaries and conscripted poor young men ( technically they were not really being conscripted, but were forced into joint the army as the only escape from their desperation and hopelessness of common serfs) toxic defoliating chemicals and a host of other most advanced killing devises...used by ( and for ) the American government 's ethnic cleansing , not unlike that of Hitler of yesteryear) A great number of Viet-Namese, mostly in the South, do not realize the following facts : ********** WHAT RIGHT did THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENTS have TO MAKE THE DETERMINATION for the Viet-Namese people regarding their national affair ? You , as foreigners, historically and justly were being despised by the Viet-Namese as barbarians ( really, just look at their society, what with sexual "freedom", extremely high crime rate, decadency in every way, every where....)........who gave you the right to be the Viet-Namese 's big "brother" ? ( Of course , no one gave them that right, they have just self-appointed them that fake,make believe role ) Were there a referendum, a vote or some form of even dubious "democratic" steps from some Senate or some House of Representative , however meaningless they may be, from the legislature branch of Viet-Nam to legitimize that dirty war , a war-for-profit of the U S Corporations ? Hey , that soldier, you, do you have a visa allowing you to enter our country ? with GUNS AND AMMO ? Do you have a license to keep a gun issued by the South Viet-Nam government ( even it is only a scarecrow) ?What are you doing here IF NOT ROBBING ,rapping and KILLING civilians ? (Please read my review of"48 HOURS IN My Lai ") For the despicable Viet-Namese traitors who were licking the boots of the invading foreign barbarians, let me ask you one question : In the remotest possibility, can you imagine you are racing through downtown New York,without a VISA ? Yes, just running around without a legal document permitting you to enter into that country . WHAT IS THE POSSIBILITIES YOU CAN - NOT ONLY RUNNING AROUND -but also ARMED up TO YOUR TEETH, WITH THE SUPPORT OF HEAVY ARTILLERY units, tanks, bombers, helicopters ?Actually, can you imagine you are not just running around, you CAN kill anyone you want to, even unarmed civilians, WITH ABSOLUTE IMPUNITY ? Well, you stupid, brainless idiots, the reason for that wild dream can not be a reality because even if you and your buddies somehow , by some miracle, found themselves inside the US border, all of you will be ELIMINATED by the local people , even if they are armed only with sticks and stones, even if they have to fight to the last person. Therefore , you stupid IDIOTS,why WERE you labeling yourself as "FREEDOM FIGHTERS", accepting the uniforms, guns, amo's, greenbacks supplied to you by the invading barbarians, and went killing your brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, burning their thatch huts , killing their domestic animals, destroying their crops REGARDLESS OF THEIR IDEOLOGICAL ,POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS CHOICES .If you don't like their choices, why didn't you settle the argument with "democratic" processes or as the last resort , armed struggle BUT ONLY BETWEEN your brothers and sisters WITHOUT THE HAIRY HANDS FROM THE INVADING FOREIGN BARBARIANS ? What justification could you use to collaborate, aid, abet , and turn a blind eye to such criminal acts from invading foreign barbarians upon your own people, in your own fatherland ? *********** Why should Viet-Nam been used as a battle field for the struggle of the "FREE WORLD" ( Free ? you have much less freedom than many of the third world countries, people there will attest for this , if only they once became a U S citizen) against communism ? Why didn't you guys bring your quarrels and fighting somewhere else ? China mainland or Russia , for example.Why should DEMOCRACY, an ill smelled American version, a very rotten , vicious , bloody , unfair version be used as a ideal political model for Viet-Nam and in fact the whole world ? What right do you have to try to shove this rotten product into our throats ? ( Every one are pretending the EXECUTIVE, LEGISLATIVE AND JUDICIAL are NOT the instrument of the CORPORATIONS , bought out ( "legally, by "campaign contributions" } , all of 'em crocs with the money from THE CORPORATIONS with the purpose of keeping an iron grip onto HIGHEST POWER, FAME AND FORTUNE for the ruling gang) To prove my point , let me ask you : How much "DEMOCRATIC" dose the Viet-Namese were injected with all the American Lap Dogs, from Diem's brothers ( who were "elected" at an ONE CANDIDATE referendum , most unique in the whole history of the world !) to all the MILITARY STRONG MEN after them ? ( Some of them weren't even strong, KY for example, always sported TWO pistol with pearl inlaid handle,kept a big harem throughout the country, drank , gambled and was "lovingly" ---if not despicably -- referred to by his MASTERS as " our boy" together with Khanh (a comical figure and stature as the rest of the "Generals" including Big Minh } I don't even see the need to analyze McNamara story, reasoning, apology ,assessment, regret and all other tangential writing of his memoir.After all, as a lieutenant for THE CORPORATION, THE U. S CORP. UNLIMITED, he couldn't do anything otherwise. McNamara , as a slave for his masters in the White house and Pentagon, had a duty to carry out their order : FIGHT THAT WAR, there were profit to be made from the sale of all kinds of military hardware, but you must PRETEND you are fighting for SOUTH VIET-NAMESE 's SELF-DETERMINATION, FREEDOM, DEMOCRACY ....blah...blah....( Self-determination my foot !) With this facts in mind, one will but laugh at all of McNamara lengthy discourse, white washing ,self -serving statements.( If one can ignore about how much blood had spilled , from both sides, especially from the "little yellow brothers" side) It is not necessary , at least as a Viet-Namese to analyze the author reasoning , as much as a deer who are being tearing by a tiger to care about listening to its killer 's explanation of its vicious, bloodthirsty , pure animal instinct act. ( Sorry, this analogy is not apt at all, actually this deer has in fact managed to KICK ASS , BIG TIME the "paper tiger" , hee hee ) Incredible as it seems,many Viet-Namese would read this memoir and discuss, analyze, recount old memories, offer opinions AS THOUGHT THE BOOK REPORTS A MOST NATURAL incidences happen years ago in their country, like a natural disaster or a civil war among the people of Viet-Nam. Few people realize McNamara was but a colonialist , modern one at that, no less than his brother-in-arm of yesteryear , the French, the British, the Spaniard.......They went to rob and kill, to expanse their empire, to bring monetary profit home to their Kings and Queens ( or Corporations , as in the U S case), to subjugate new territories, to plan their national claims, it not their FLAGS, into far away, exotic islands and continents and to bring home gold, spice (Spaniard) , native slaves, diamonds , pearls and other precious stones and minerals. Why should I care about the what ,the how and the why of the author 's reasoning? But for the hell of it, let just thumb through this blood soaked memoir of this modern Viking. Incredible, pages after pages, he "agonizing" recounted , in great details how stupid he and his bosses in the Pentagon and White house were while conducting the whole sale massacre in Viet-Nam.He admitted all the wrong decisions, based on all the wrong assumptions, ignorance, arrogance, self-serving and FALSE NOBLE CAUSES . He realized, a little too late, HO CHI MINH , actually was first and foremost a nationalist , and not an agent for Moscow or Peking.Therefore the theory of " DOMINO effect "was a serious wrong assumption. He realized , also a little too late, maybe one decade later, ALL THE AMERICAN LAP DOGS, from Diem's brothers to all the successor military "strong" men , and what was known as SOUTH VIET NAM military forces , were hopeless "boys and girls" , immature crybabies, corrupt,POSSESSED VERY low moral AND motive , and hopelessly dependent on their Green eyed Masters . FOR THIS STUPID "MISTAKES" MILLIONS OF LIVES HAS BEEN DESTROYED, A WHOLE COUNTRY WAS BOMBED TO DUST ! What a big surprise for the very intelligent man of his stature ! When you "help" a man who has all his body parts together, do you expect him to be a man , with balls ? I want all the pathetic , despicable, shameless Viet-Namese traitors who collaborated with the invading American barbarians to read this memoir, to know the following facts, clearly, openly , arrogantly , unashamedly admitted by this war criminal Honcho McNamara : **** The Top Honcho of this gang of modern Vikings , Kennedy has referred to Viet-Nam as "...our offspring...." (Page 32). What arrogance ! What stupidity ! Little did he realize , or foresee that "our offspring" was a very heroic , patriotic, tough, resourceful, determined , fiercely independent . absolute indomitable people ,a fact displayed throughout its glorious history of defeating all foreign invading barbarians, the fearsome Mongol, Chinese, French and a host of other colonialists , American the most recent one among others. ***** This gang of war criminals, McNamara among them, arrogantly "allowed" Diem to remain in power (Page 57) and removed him when Diem drifted away from being the American puppet .They switched the green light for a coup (Page 36, 53,55) , and a bunch of American running dogs , Viet-Namese "Generals" were too happy to oblige , resulting in the execution , mafia style of the Diem's brothers. *****All the Viet-Namese running dogs - "GENERALS"- were deeply, openly despised , looked down by McNamara and his buddies. Thieu and Ky, were ..." ...bottom of the barrel, absolutely the bottom of the barrell..." (No number of page available ) Khanh was considered as a child, a servant child ( ...."we must therefore make Khanh "our boy"..." (Page 112) ) This gang of war profiteers AND war criminals acted as thought Viet-Nam WAS a banana republic, a possession in their pockets. They came and went as they please, assuming the role of the owners and masters of the people and land of Viet-Nam.They have chosen and removed their puppet "government" in that land as easy as a movement in a game board.I am not making this up.Throughout this memoir, one can see this facts,openly admitted by the author. Had they studied, even cursorily , even just thumbing through high school text book of World History, as they should have, they could have learned the glorious history of the Viet-Namese victorious struggle against ALL INVADING BARBARIANS,most notable, most recent, their brother-in-arm FRENCH COLONIALISTS with the most infamous , inflamed, face-losing AND dishonoring defeat at the valley of DIEN BIEN ( In fact the American government at the time had opted - for whatever reason - NOT to rescue the hopeless , bloodied, desperate French Legionaire mercenaries trapped inside that valley, not unlike a rat in - of course - a rat trap} (On page 32 of his memoir, he admitted his ,his bosses' and his buddies ' total ignorance of the history, language and custom of the region that they were about to invade ! Talking about THE STUPIDITY of a high school drop out | ) The despicable Viet-Namese traitors should realize that among those rats was one of their heroes, THE FAMOUS FORMER "Red Loin Cloth" WEARER Legionair mercenary (linh kho do in Viet-Namese parlance ) ,a dog with the name of Gen. Pham Van Phu. These traitors just posted in the internet an online memorial honoring this dog 's passing away not long ago ! Talking about utter shamelessness ! Talking about absolute nauseousness ! Not only for the Viet-Namese traitors,but also for their masters (McNamara included) as well ! MERCY ME !!!! More later

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gerry

    This is by far the most self centered and lousy book of the most unforgiving nature I read in 2017. As promised - I have burned every page in fire pit with Vietnam Veterans of the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force. (Posted 20 November 2017 update) This book is book #2 of my personal trilogy that I decided to undertake. Book 1: Last Stand at Khe Sanh by Gregg Jones (this book represents where the rubber meets the road on "McNamara's War") Book 2: This piece of trash by Robert McNamara Book 3: This is by far the most self centered and lousy book of the most unforgiving nature I read in 2017. As promised - I have burned every page in fire pit with Vietnam Veterans of the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force. (Posted 20 November 2017 update) This book is book #2 of my personal trilogy that I decided to undertake. Book 1: Last Stand at Khe Sanh by Gregg Jones (this book represents where the rubber meets the road on "McNamara's War") Book 2: This piece of trash by Robert McNamara Book 3: Dereliction of Duty by H.R. McMaster When this book first came out 1n 1995 I recall having a phone call with a retired Marine friend, it seems in 1995 this book was plastered all over television, radio, school campuses – literally everywhere. It was a book I told my friend during the call that I would “not” read – now I believed I was compelled to read this book after having read “Last Stand at Khe Sanh” by Gregg Jones. Once I finished "In Reflection" of McNamara's account of events, I feel none-the-better that I have and none of my questions have been answered. I served in the U.S. Marines and knew many who stayed in the Marine Corps after their return from Vietnam - they realized they couldn't work anywhere else and society didn't want them anyway. One Marine was a cannon cocker at Khe Sanh, the other a Tunnel Rat with the 1st Battalion 9th Marines; a host of other mid-level enlisted and officers I knew who served in Vietnam would later reach higher rank before my own honorable discharge from the Marines. There were parts in this book that made me question his truthfulness, that in other words McNamara was not coming to full disclosure with. There were even less parts that I could accept his accounting with; mostly, I was disappointed that he did not outright dedicate this book to memory of lost service men and women who died fighting his war, that there was no apology within the overall framework to the parents and loved ones of these service members and no reference what so ever to the mental anguish the combat survivors had to endure years afterwards. There are many repetitive internalized questions he presents to the reader; these are useless to which he provides no answer (and make no mistake, this arrogance is directly tied to no apology); and, therefore makes no sense - had he attempted to answer these "internalizations" with disclosing his management style at DOD then one could at least attempt a better understanding of why he speckled his book with these unasked questions of the time. The obvious questions he fully ignores. To add insult to injury, when he left the Defense Department on 29 February 1968 the battle of Khe Sanh was more than a month old, the Tet Offensive was nearly 30 days old, and by this point there had been more than 30,000 KIA or MIA in the Republic of Vietnam – he acknowledges only Khe Sanh and Tet once on page 314 as an almost *asterisk* to his departure – one word “disgusting” and totally unacceptable. (For the record he does the same thing earlier on with the Battle of Ia Drang of October/November 1965 - a hidden battle buried in a sentence another point I found repulsive.) Thousands of families bore the brunt of the losses incurred based on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of August 1964 - an election year by the way with action on the Republic of Vietnam to be changed on 7 February 1965 - coincidence you say??? I came away from this book with a complete emptiness and disappointed he didn’t have the dignity to do what was right within this work. Overall, I speculate that Mr. McNamara (with this book) was able to put his mind at ease before he passed away, because he certainly didn’t provide any written sorrow for all that was lost within the "Betrayed Generation" of "McNamara's War." The “whiz kids” should have stayed at the Ford Motor Company; they weren't the "Best and Brightest" - the "Best" died on the battlefields of Vietnam, the "Brightest" tried to stop this idiocy or attempted to sway a micromanaged administration toward an outright win over the Communist North; this was a war based on politics/political strategy. The RAND Corporation ran two SIGMA tests on Vietnam SIGMA I ('62, '63, and '64) and SIGMA II '64. All of these ended unfavorable to a high degree - vacating South Vietnam was apparent and available through February 1964 and several points there after but "graduated escalation" was RSM's philosophy and goal to attempt to put North Vietnam on notice and to force a negotiated peace settlement. Meanwhile, all of the indicators (to include the SIGMA testing) provided only the determination of the North Vietnamese to do what they ultimately did - stick it out and fight a protracted war on their terms. No sense trying to get into the enemy's head and have him do what you would want him to do - no one confronted McNamara on this point. I bought this book used for a few dollars online – I intend to burn every page with some Vietnam Veterans I know that were injured, maimed, or remained otherwise challenged in some form mentally as a result of this war. I give two stars to this book only because there were parts reflected of his family that were “truthful” – full disclosure was never his forte and this is obvious.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Addendum 9/9/09. As I follow the discussion over Afghanistan, I was reminded of a report cited by McNamara that was begun at the behest of CIA director Richard Helms. Super-secret it was done to examine contingencies to see what might happen if there were an unfavorable outcome in Vietnam. Over 30 CIA analysts were consulted. It was not to be an argument for ending the war, just responses to a hypothetical question. The memo was entitled "Implications of an Unfavorable Outcome in Vietnam." (The Addendum 9/9/09. As I follow the discussion over Afghanistan, I was reminded of a report cited by McNamara that was begun at the behest of CIA director Richard Helms. Super-secret it was done to examine contingencies to see what might happen if there were an unfavorable outcome in Vietnam. Over 30 CIA analysts were consulted. It was not to be an argument for ending the war, just responses to a hypothetical question. The memo was entitled "Implications of an Unfavorable Outcome in Vietnam." (The entire report makes fascinating reading and has been declassified. It’s available at: http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/star/image... Basically, it made four observations: A. Failure in Vietnam would be a major setback to reputation that would reduce influence as a world power B. Net effects of failure would not be permanent and that over a short time the U.S. could regain its stature C. “The worst potential damage would be of the self-inflicted kind – lead to loss of confidence in internal dissension which would limit our future ability to use our resources and power wisely and to full effect and lead to a loss of confidence by others in the American capacity for leadership.” D. Destabilizing effects in immediate area of SE Asia, some realignments in neighboring countries “The frustration of a world power, once it has committed vast resources and much prestige to a military enterprise must be in some degree damaging to the general security system it upholds. . . .If the analysis here advances the discussion at all, it is in the direction of suggesting that such risks are probably more limited and controllable than most previous argument has indicated.” McNamara claims he never saw the memo until he wrote the book. Johnson may not have shown it to anyone. A book worth mentioning is Harold Ford's CIA and Vietnam Policymakers: Three Episodes, 1962-1968 by Harold Ford, available from Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=UkdG... Harold Ford’s book (at least excerpts I have read on Google books) indicates that CIA estimates were far more accurate than those coming publicly out of the White House. Informative review at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william... re Ford’s comments on McNamara’s book. 7/6/09 McNamara died today, thought I might review my earlier review. Clearly, the policy wonks made many errors in their decision to pursue the war in Vietnam. Halberstam in The Best and the Brightest catalogs many of those arrogant positions and their failures to listen to southeast Asia experts. But there was also a visceral fear of Communism (not to mention a fear of right-wing McCarthyites who had ruined many a reputation for failure to be anti-Communist enough. That's why only Nixon could go to China. The military was sure that just a few more soldiers would win the war, just a few more bombing missions, etc. etc. The book reveals a level of amateurism that is scary and that from the "best and the brightest," a phrase that when I hear it now gives me the willies. They failed to learn as much as they could about Vietnam McNamara, by 1966, had already decided that the war could not be won. Johnson knew that McNamara and RFK were friends and spoke frequently and by this time RFK was running for president and had come out against continued involvement in Vietnam. Already, McNamara and Dean Rusk both by this time were showing the strain physically. Diplomatic efforts continued to fail and in 1967, Buddhist uprising intensified and the fragility of the South Vietnamese government became obvious. The military situation while not great, was overshadowed by political problems. Johnson had even hinted in April of 1966 that he might be willing to withdraw troops from Vietnam and "make a stand in Thailand." (I'm not sure what the Thais would have thought of that, but no matter, other people's considerations don't seem to be taken into account when the U.S. is on the march.) "Looking back I deeply regret that I did not force a probing debate about whether it would ever be possible to forge a winning military effort on a foundation of political quicksand.. . . I believe it is clear today that military force especially, when wielded by an outside power, just cannot win in a country that cannot govern itself." His colleagues saw things differently, and inaccurately says McNamara. Dean Rusk was already sure in 1966 that the situation was such that the North Vietnamese could not succeed. Ambassador Lodge was convinced the military war was going well (this was before Tet) and that the war would be lost only if the political will failed in the United States. McNamara reports that he laid out the reasons why the US could not succeed in the fall of 1966 after a trip to Vietnam. (McNamara was pilloried when the book came out by critics who faulted him for not going public with his dissent, or at least making a stronger effort to persuade the president of the lost cause. I think that's being a little harsh given the overwhelming support for the war from Johnson's other advisers. I would hope that current administration officials would read this book, obviously the Bush folks did not, or maybe they didn't care. I would hope that we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Just take a stroll along the Vietnam Memorial to realize the import of those decisions. An important book, if a cynic-maker. Update 7/6/09CIA and Vietnam Policymakers Three Episodes, 1962-1968

  4. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    Vietnam with my war. I was a teenager a college student and a young adult. I wasn't drafted as a result of a series of deferments. This is an after-the-fact story by Robert McNamara who was the secretary of defense under Kennedy and Johnson for seven years. He thinks Kennedy would've gotten out of Vietnam if he would've lived. And he thinks the Johnson should've gotten out of Vietnam in the mid 60s. He thinks he made some mistakes and failed to push issues as he should have as the US pushed Vietnam with my war. I was a teenager a college student and a young adult. I wasn't drafted as a result of a series of deferments. This is an after-the-fact story by Robert McNamara who was the secretary of defense under Kennedy and Johnson for seven years. He thinks Kennedy would've gotten out of Vietnam if he would've lived. And he thinks the Johnson should've gotten out of Vietnam in the mid 60s. He thinks he made some mistakes and failed to push issues as he should have as the US pushed further and further into the big muddy. It is a fascinating story to me even though we have moved out of the Vietnam era and are now second-guessing about Iraq and Afghanistan. We couldn't win somebody else's war in Vietnam or Iraq.

  5. 5 out of 5

    LPenting

    Journalist David Halberstam believes that former Defense Secretary McNamara "is guilty of something even more serious than war crimes -- the crime of silence while some thirty or forty thousand young Americans died... after he changed his mind on the war." Then why did McNamara decide to break his silence suddenly in 1995? For one thing, he claims to have figured out the lessons of Vietnam only around 1993. Second and more plausibly, he says he decided it was time at long last to further the Journalist David Halberstam believes that former Defense Secretary McNamara "is guilty of something even more serious than war crimes -- the crime of silence while some thirty or forty thousand young Americans died... after he changed his mind on the war." Then why did McNamara decide to break his silence suddenly in 1995? For one thing, he claims to have figured out the lessons of Vietnam only around 1993. Second and more plausibly, he says he decided it was time at long last to further the healing process .... His, that is, not ours. For McNamara, now 85, has been worried about his legacy. In the past decade, he has been the subject of critical studies by Shapley, McMaster and Hendrickson. Who will tell "his side" if not McNamara himself? It is clear that McNamara sees himself as a maligned patriot: his memoir, he hopes, will help you think better of him. Wearing a figleaf of remorse, he recounts his "honest mistakes" and the folly of some critics. Along the way, he tells us of his commitment to public service as a 12 year-old Eagle Scout, his tough guy exploits (scaling Mt. Rainier, standing up to a mob of antiwar demonstrators, etc) and his encounters with the rich and famous, as when he discussed poetry with Yevtoshenko and Jackie O. (Oddly, there's nary a mention of his parent's names). He concludes with 11 potted lessons -- lessons he hopes will help us heal our wounds and steer clear of future threats. In the appendix, he adds his imprimatur to the efforts of policymakers seeking a non-nuclear world. He's deeply moved, he says, by readers who've expressed their gratitude for the healing wisdom of his book. YET MUCH AS MCNAMARA IS EAGER FOR US TO LEARN FROM HIM, IT APPEARS THAT IN THE PAST THREE DECADES HE HAS NOT YET DEIGNED TO LEARN FROM US. Consider two examples from the 11 "lessons" he first wrote in longhand "off the top of [his] head". (The result, you'll see, is consonant with the effort.) 1) "We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion," McNamara now admits. Yet he still believes he was right to give Johnson his complete loyalty -- proud of it in fact (p.314). He seems oblivious to the stark contradiction. Hasn't he learned that he owed his ultimate allegiance to us, not Johnson? That he betrayed our trust? 2) He bemoans his failure to gather enough information. "No Southeast Asian counterparts existed for senior officials to consult when making decisions on Vietnam". Otherwise, he would not have "underestimated the power of [Vietnamese] nationalism," or failed to win "the hearts and minds" of the Vietnamese. Nonsense. In 1965 Southeast Asian specialist George Kahin lead a national "teach-in" that made precisely these points. Another scholar of intelligence and integrity, Bernard Fall, who died in Vietnam in 1967, witnessed the French failure firsthand; he, too, could have enlightened McNamara, if only McNamara weren't convinced that he knew it all. The same goes for military experts like Victor Krulak, who argued that a war of attrition was doomed to fail. Though seemingly shaken by the reasoning, McNamara never let Krulak, or dozens of other military naysayers, meet with Johnson. McNamara still doesn't know how to listen. His book ignores eminent antiwar critics like Prof. Hans Morgenthau, who, by 1965, pointed out the very lessons McNamara recycles for us as his own wisdom. He impugns honorable men like Fall and Halberstam as erstwhile hawks who helped drum up support for the war. Perhaps it goes back to his schooldays, when he "worked his tail off to beat" the "Chinese, Japanese and Jews" in his class. Does McNamara still fear the humiliation of bringing home less than an A? Of conceding something to his "rivals"? McNamara, as he repeatedly reminds us, is a most courteous, modest man. Cultured, too. His morality reminds me of what Professor Schucking said of his compatriots after WWI: Germans are unwilling to put themselves completely in the position of others, which is why one kind of humaneness is poorly developed in them... not the humanity... [of the striving intellect], but the humaneness which comes from respect for one's neighbor as a moral personality. The Germans confuse these two, as was shown when they put up posters in WWI listing the German winners of the Nobel Prizes to rebut the Allies charges of inhumanity." Now consider McNamara again. Is it any wonder that he refused to donate the proceeds of this book to Vietnam Vets? That it will go to some ivory-tower program dedicated to establishing "dialogue" with the Vietnamese? McNamara still thinks he made "honest mistakes" of cognition. Incredibly, he persists in blaming these mistakes on insufficient organization and information. His very metier. (What did I.F. Stone know, one wonders, that he didn't?) But McNamara, ever the organization man, ever the artificial intelligence machine, still fails to grasp an elemental point: There can be no intelligence without *emotional* intelligence. In McNamara's failure to consider how Vietnam decisionmaking was affected -- not only by wrenching ambivalence-- but by politics, pride, macho, ambition, groupthink, and unexamined fears, he is even now further from reckoning with the past than the garden-variety, educated layperson. Unlike McNamara himself, we can glimpse the emotional factors that led him to control, manipulate, distort, invent, and filter the tremendous information he had at his disposal. If this memoir is self-delusion on his part, it is pathetic self-delusion. If it is self-serving spin, it is beneath contempt. McNamara has made a career out of telling people what he thinks they want to hear. After reading this book, I've concluded that he is as bereft of emotional intelligence -- empathy, honesty, judgment, self-awareness -- and yes, remorse, as he was three decades ago. Ingratitude on my part? Heavens, no. Let the headlines one day proclaim, "A Grateful Nation Buries McNamara."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cam

    I find myself repeating a common sentiment felt after reading non-fiction: where are your editors? Allow me to summarize the whole thing in a few sentences: "We made a lot of mistakes in our decision-making and administration of the war. We had the nation's best interests at heart and whole-hearted thought that we were doing the right thing. However, we made decisions based on faulty premises and, in general, did a poor job of understanding the geopolitical climate of Southeast Asia which was I find myself repeating a common sentiment felt after reading non-fiction: where are your editors? Allow me to summarize the whole thing in a few sentences: "We made a lot of mistakes in our decision-making and administration of the war. We had the nation's best interests at heart and whole-hearted thought that we were doing the right thing. However, we made decisions based on faulty premises and, in general, did a poor job of understanding the geopolitical climate of Southeast Asia which was largely due to an utter lack of expert advisers in the region. Had we been better organized and better informed, there are many actions that would have been taken in a different direction." I'm glad that I read the book, I have had a long-standing interest in the Vietnam war. This account is different in that no time is focused on battles, maneuvers, Agent Orange, napalm, carpet bombing, war crimes, or protests. This is strictly an account of the political machinations and decision-making processes involved in the administration of the war and setting the foreign policy that dictated our actions. That said, I would have liked to see it weigh in at 200 pages instead of 335.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Miriam Holbrook

    Defensive and arrogant as ever, McNamara offers nothing new but a long list of excuses that go as far back as the Edsel during his days with Ford. There are much better and more sincere books our there; keep looking.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Félix

    Informative. Disturbing. Well written. Sad.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eric Hollister

    This is a very interesting a highly readable memoir from Robert McNamara about the decision-making process during the Vietnam War. It is a bit shocking to read, in hindsight, how unfocused the debate about strategy and progress was during this time period, and how wedded the administration was to staying the course, almost regardless of the consequences. I was reminded of the Freakonomics radio broadcast "The Upside of Quitting" as I read this. Ironically, McNamara completely missed the boat in This is a very interesting a highly readable memoir from Robert McNamara about the decision-making process during the Vietnam War. It is a bit shocking to read, in hindsight, how unfocused the debate about strategy and progress was during this time period, and how wedded the administration was to staying the course, almost regardless of the consequences. I was reminded of the Freakonomics radio broadcast "The Upside of Quitting" as I read this. Ironically, McNamara completely missed the boat in his vision of the future of US (and global) national security in the Lessons of Vietnam chapter, but he certainly was not alone in doing so. There is an interesting appendix regarding the military utility of nuclear weapons which I think is still very applicable to today's landscape.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam by Robert S. McNamara was a very good read. If you look at the reviews, some readers loved the book and some hated itand often it was because some loved the man and some hated him. But if you can push aside your feelings for a moment, the book is a fascinating study of our drift into war during the 1960s. For those in their 60s, this book will be a reminder of events that transpired and that you saw in the news every night. For those that are “In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam” by Robert S. McNamara was a very good read. If you look at the reviews, some readers loved the book and some hated it…and often it was because some loved the man and some hated him. But if you can push aside your feelings for a moment, the book is a fascinating study of our drift into war during the 1960s. For those in their 60s, this book will be a reminder of events that transpired and that you saw in the news every night. For those that are younger it will be pure history. The reader must keep in mind that this is but one man’s view of what happened…and it is not a perfect view. McNamara waited almost 30 years to share his thoughts and actions as Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) during the early years of the Vietnam War. When this book was published in 1995 a lot of his contemporaries had already passed on, so we do not get the chance to hear informed critiques of this work. We have to take McNamara at his word for a lot of the material. In addition, there are parts of the narrative that read like an excuse…one gets the feeling that McNamara is holding back a little and trying to make his part in the tragedy seem a bit smaller. He often admits to shared guilt (we, they, us)…rarely is it him alone. In addition SECDEF McNamara sometimes comes off as smug. But even with these slights, the story holds your attention. This tale is about the political maneuvering that took place during the McNamara years…it is not a list of the battles that occurred in Vietnam; it is not about what our advisors were sent there to do; it is not about the aerial herbicides such as Agent Orange that caused so much trouble later…it is the politics – which mainly take place in Washington DC and Saigon. Ambassadors, generals, security advisors, Vietnamese government bureaucrats, Soviet and Chinese officials, and a host of others all get their due in this tale. McNamara claims that as early as June of 1966 he was trying to get LBJ to understand that there was no way the U.S. could win this war, and that we should look for the best exit. This may be so, but McNamara stayed the course with LBJ through the huge escalation of troops. Could he have brought more attention to the issues had he thrown his feet out and resigned? Who knows, and the book won’t answer this question. It will make you think though. As an aside, the similarities between Robert S. McNamara and Donald H. Rumsfeld are fascinating: both served as SECDEF for two presidents (RSM – JFK and LBJ…DHR – Ford and GW Bush); both presided over very unpopular wars which began under faulty information (RSM – Vietnam/torpedo attacks on U.S. destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy in the Tonkin Gulf…DHR – Iraq/WMD); both left office early and under a cloud (RSM – left 2/1968 roughly 11 months early…DHR – left 12/06 roughly 25 months early). All-in-all this is good stuff. Whether you like the man or not and whether you believe the man or not, it is still worth listening and forming your own judgement.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I am slugging through this book. It is very interesting, but not as compelling to me as fiction. I once told my dad that I didn't learn enough about the Vietnam War in school. He replied that when I was in school, people still weren't sure what really happened in Vietnam. I feel like the puzzle pieces are now being put together. It is intriguing to be reading about a polarizing war at a time when the US is engaged on multiple fronts. It changes the way I read the newspaper.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laurajsouthwick

    Very interesting. Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense, takes an apologetic and critical look at the decisions he and others made regarding US involvement in Vietnam. I hate to get all political, but some of the missteps are quite a bit too familiar for comfort, even if some of them "seemed like a good idea at the time."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tara Busch

    I cursed McNamara many times reading this book, but I have to appreciate that he wrote it knowing that would be the case for many, if not most readers. He will never redeem himself in my opinion, but history needs to have the various points of view documented to avoid making the same mistakes

  14. 4 out of 5

    Richp

    This is one of those books that is difficult to rate because it is truly excellent, as an account of one man's experience in the war business; and truly evil, as praise and excuse for many of the people who killed millions of people.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nick Black

    the description of the cuban missile crisis in this excellent memoir's appendix is one of the most terrifying things i've ever read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Like someone trying to make sense of a great tragedy in his life, I seem to never be able to get enough information regarding America's fiasco in Vietnam. This is another of many books in which I look for answers. As always, though, I wind up with still more questions. There just aren't enough answers to explain the enormous loss of life on both sides of the war. How can you satisfactorily explain the death of a son to nearly 60,000 Moms and and the same number of Dads? What possible Like someone trying to make sense of a great tragedy in his life, I seem to never be able to get enough information regarding America's fiasco in Vietnam. This is another of many books in which I look for answers. As always, though, I wind up with still more questions. There just aren't enough answers to explain the enormous loss of life on both sides of the war. How can you satisfactorily explain the death of a son to nearly 60,000 Moms and and the same number of Dads? What possible justification is there for loss of approximately 4 million Vietnamese lives (both sides combined)? This book begins with the Kennedy administration, when Robert McNamara was first asked by President Kennedy to accept the position of Secretary of Defense. At that time, American involvement in Vietnam was relatively minimal. After McNamara's appointment, however, the war came to be known as "McNamara's War," because under him (and President LBJ), the number of American military men increased to greater than 500,000. It became apparent all too quickly that North Vietnam had the ability, thanks to Russia and China, to escalate the war to equal and/or exceed any amount of escalation we were capable of. The war became "unwinnable" in the minds of many Americans, and did untold damage to our country back home. McNamara admits in this book that we "blundered" in to the war with no clear vision; i.e. we fully underestimated the resolve of the North Vietnamese to continue the war, we had no plan as to how to conduct the war, and we had no exit strategy. In essence, we soon found ourselves bogged down in the proverbial "quagmire," from which there was no way out. McNamara speaks of the many lessons we learned from the Vietnam War, thereby giving the book its title: "In Retrospect, The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam." May God help us from ever again becoming involved in such a blunder as this.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Lackey

    This wasn't really a "tell all" about McNamara's role in Vietnam, but more an attempt to rehabilitate his reputation. It addressed some of the biggest problems with the war (the unexamined belief in the domino theory, the lack of understanding of nationalism as a key motivation of the Vietnamese, that the South Vietnamese forces were essentially unwilling or incapable to win, and that the escalations we chose, especially the air war, were insufficient to win, but merely a way of "doing This wasn't really a "tell all" about McNamara's role in Vietnam, but more an attempt to rehabilitate his reputation. It addressed some of the biggest problems with the war (the unexamined belief in the domino theory, the lack of understanding of nationalism as a key motivation of the Vietnamese, that the South Vietnamese forces were essentially unwilling or incapable to win, and that the escalations we chose, especially the air war, were insufficient to win, but merely a way of "doing something"), but his own role was limited to wishing he had challenged more assumptions by other people. It's good that there has been some reflection on the causes of the war, but the real problem was something deeper. When a large and powerful country can choose to enter a war by choice and doesn't really have much stake in the outcome, it can prosecute that war in a completely ineffectual way. The country should be able to defend itself robustly, and maintain an absolute deterrent force, but wars of choice should not be the role of the military. We would be better off if such non-existential conflicts were waged entirely by private organizations, through something like a letter of marque or corporate security forces, and they would be far more efficient in their use of force -- in the case of the Vietnamese conflict, the reasonable policy would have been working with the nationalist/pro-independence movement and establishing a truly independent state, potentially neutral or even allied with the US, rather than continuing a colonial war and turning it into an anti-Communist crusade when it didn't need to be.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Phil Murray

    A fascinating and disturbing book. It is important for what it says but interesting for what it does not say. He is criticised for being arrogant but one must give him much credit for changing his mind unlike almost all those around him. What does the book not say? - He saw his role to present options to the President but this rather shows him as a person without convictions. I don't think Roosevelt saw his New Deal as just a slightly more favoured option? Sometimes logical analysis is not A fascinating and disturbing book. It is important for what it says but interesting for what it does not say. He is criticised for being arrogant but one must give him much credit for changing his mind unlike almost all those around him. What does the book not say? - He saw his role to present options to the President but this rather shows him as a person without convictions. I don't think Roosevelt saw his New Deal as just a slightly more favoured option? Sometimes logical analysis is not enough. - Seeing the conduct of the war as a series of options may in some way have resulted in not just sticking to one of two essential central truths, such as the South Vietnamese leaders needed to own the war and the need for a thorough understanding of Vietnamese political thinking. They just confused themselves. - Yet having decided against the war, his sense of politeness meant he avoided subsequent criticism of Johnson. Again he showed his inability for personally identifying with a right course of action. - He seemed quite happy to walk away in mid-war to have some fun, so to speak from his perspective, at the World Bank. What was in his mind? - it seemed he played squash very competitively every day. OK he needs exercise but this seems to reflect a quite carefree attitude to his responsibilities? - The senior military seemed to just see Vietnam as a challenge to their capabilities rather than the wider context of what was best for the world. - It was not sufficiently emphasised that all this took place in a USA which still had the 50's paranoia about communism. In summary, he never really learned what he did wrong.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Spencer Newcomb

    In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam gives a unique inside perspective at the thought process behind the policy regarding the United States decision to escalate the Vietnam War from the perspective of Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense for both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. McNamara does not try to cover his tracks, and fully admits when, where, and how his (and our nations leaders) decisions were wrong and the lessons our country must learn from this most divisive In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam gives a unique inside perspective at the thought process behind the policy regarding the United States decision to escalate the Vietnam War from the perspective of Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense for both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. McNamara does not try to cover his tracks, and fully admits when, where, and how his (and our nations leaders) decisions were wrong and the lessons our country must learn from this most divisive time in our nations history. As a melenial, growing up neither me nor my classmates were taught about the Vietnam War. It was one of those subjects that when asked about most people my age (22) simply replied "Oh yeah I think we lost that war" or "We never should have been involved". Although those statements may be true, most people my age are only repeating what they heard from someone else, and don't have sound reasoning and historical context for these conclusions. Vietnam is a lot to tackle, but I feel significantly more educated on the matter after reading In Retrospect.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    The one great hole in McNamara's account of the US decision to ramp up our presence in Vietnam is his explanation for why he didn't tell the truth to the American people about the unlikelihood of our saving Vietnam. It would have given aid and comfort to the enemy, he says. He says it in passing, and the question deserved more, especially since he gives eleven reasons for not having done what we did. In the Ken Burns documentary, McNamara says to Sam Willis "Why didn't anybody tell me?" "You The one great hole in McNamara's account of the US decision to ramp up our presence in Vietnam is his explanation for why he didn't tell the truth to the American people about the unlikelihood of our saving Vietnam. It would have given aid and comfort to the enemy, he says. He says it in passing, and the question deserved more, especially since he gives eleven reasons for not having done what we did. In the Ken Burns documentary, McNamara says to Sam Willis "Why didn't anybody tell me?" "You didn't want to know," Willis said. Besides, McNamara had made two fact-finding trips to Vietnam with Maxwell Taylor and John McCone that had answered the question of South Vietnam's political instability and military shortcomings as early as 1963. He had been told. He knew that JFK wanted us out of Vietnam, and he agreed, but he carried out escalation for five more years, and intensive bombing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jason Hillenburg

    McNamara's book is an exhaustive yet accessible look back on his Vietnam-era tenure as Secretary of Defense illustrating, yet again, why he deserves consideration as one of the most thoughtful and intelligent individuals to ever hold the post. His ruefulness over errors in judgment is convincing; McNamara certainly comes across as a man who learned many hard lessons from his experiences serving in that unenviable position. There is no sense of settling scores present in the book though he McNamara's book is an exhaustive yet accessible look back on his Vietnam-era tenure as Secretary of Defense illustrating, yet again, why he deserves consideration as one of the most thoughtful and intelligent individuals to ever hold the post. His ruefulness over errors in judgment is convincing; McNamara certainly comes across as a man who learned many hard lessons from his experiences serving in that unenviable position. There is no sense of settling scores present in the book though he depicts his relationships with President Johnson, other cabinet members, and the military in honest and unflinching fashion. I came away from this book with a sense of a man more than a little haunted by the turns of his political service, but a man who also gleaned important truths from that same service. It is essential reading for anyone interested in this period of American history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brian O'Hara

    I did not find this particularly good. It seemed clear from the start that Secretary McNmara was a part of ill prepared executives in the administrative branch who handled a number of critical events in our history poorly. Not that I could have done better, but it appeared quickly in his text that both Kennedy and Johnson would have benefited from a more experienced cabinet. However, there is also a prevailing question that seems to go unasked in the book by anyone and that is "why should we be I did not find this particularly good. It seemed clear from the start that Secretary McNmara was a part of ill prepared executives in the administrative branch who handled a number of critical events in our history poorly. Not that I could have done better, but it appeared quickly in his text that both Kennedy and Johnson would have benefited from a more experienced cabinet. However, there is also a prevailing question that seems to go unasked in the book by anyone and that is "why should we be in Viet Nam to begin with?" We should not, as a country be in the business of manipulating regime's at the expense of American lives.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chrismcginn

    I decided to read this following the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War that aired recently. Written by Sec of Defense Robert McNamara, it traces the internal discussions and thought processes of him and others in the White House during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. I admittedly know little a but the actual war other than a piecemeal cultural history. This book filled in a few gaps. It was a bit longer than it needed to be, but a contribution to the war's history by a man who I decided to read this following the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War that aired recently. Written by Sec of Defense Robert McNamara, it traces the internal discussions and thought processes of him and others in the White House during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. I admittedly know little a but the actual war other than a piecemeal cultural history. This book filled in a few gaps. It was a bit longer than it needed to be, but a contribution to the war's history by a man who was humbled and repentant about his role in it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Craig Jordan

    McNamara wrote this confessional much too late. He owed the country a forthright explanation for executing the policy and will of the Vietnam War during his tenure as Secretary of Defense and immediately afterward. Instead, he chose the path to explain in detail for a retail book price at the closing of his life. Because of the subject matter contained, the timing of this book couldn't be more wrong. I am curious about the thoughts and emotions of Vietnam War veterans and or their family members McNamara wrote this confessional much too late. He owed the country a forthright explanation for executing the policy and will of the Vietnam War during his tenure as Secretary of Defense and immediately afterward. Instead, he chose the path to explain in detail for a retail book price at the closing of his life. Because of the subject matter contained, the timing of this book couldn't be more wrong. I am curious about the thoughts and emotions of Vietnam War veterans and or their family members who have read this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dan Farley

    A mostly self-serving account, but nonetheless instructive of the lessons learned and the historical oversights present. We should learn as a nation that we are generally not to be regarded as saviors when we are invading a sovereign land. It is also prudent to understand the land we're sending our soldiers into, not just the landscape but the people. Our decision-makers had no idea that the Vietnamese had been at war with China for eons. Wow.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Palacio

    Not really the insight I was looking for, McNamara gave a good account on the ills of the Vietnam war. but like many said, it was too late to make a difference. The insight was not new. so you will not find any new reasons to go to war other than stopping the communist threat. which is and was never a threat to Americas' individualism.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tom McCormack

    McNamara does all but beg us to believe that he is not a war pig. Humanizing so many of the players in the Viet Nam debacle or giving lame excuses as to what led up to certain events. He does accept responsibility and comes up with a comprehensive list of lessons to be learned but I think his credibility becomes overshadowed by not being much more public about his ideas after leaving the DoD

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bill S.

    Even though the writing style at times reads like a memo, this book is absolutely fascinating as we get the inside story of a key adviser who had the courage to admit he was wrong. His portrayals of JFK and LBJ, whom he admits he admired, paints a very different picture of their actions and thinking than what I have read elsewhere.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    Got about 1/3 a way through but felt like I learned enough for a whole book :P The level of detail is intense, as it the absurdity of internal & international politics. The way this war arose/unraveled is disturbing in its unnecessity. Very tough to swallow it all.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Angela Thompson

    Powerful and heartfelt. This man really struggled with the things that time (and his involvement with critical oral history) revealed to him. A good read, that felt honest. He took a lot of flak for this one, and stood his ground. A very different McNamara.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.