Filed under: TOK
After the presidential inauguration of John F. Kennedy, the incumbent CEO of Ford, Robert S. McNamara was made Secretary of Defense for the United States. A documentary called “The Fog of War” was released in 2003 which had interview material with McNamara several decades after his actions in office shaped the world we live in today. The director of “The Fog of War” stated: “McNamara was both witness to and participant in many of the crucial events of the 20th century; he was an idealist who saw his dreams and ideals challenged by the role he played in history.” – Errol Morris
When Robert S. McNamara was in office, a Quaker named Norman Morrison set himself on fire below McNamara’s office with fatal consequences. Morrison’s wife later issued the statement: “Human beings must stop killing other human beings.” Interestingly, McNamara commented “that’s a belief that I shared. I shared it then and I believe it even more strongly today.” Whether this is true is hard to believe considering his actions. He was a “prime architect” of the Vietnam War having deployed thousands of US troops to South Vietnam. He did however state that his actions and support where simply him following orders of the president. This is backed by recordings from the Oval Office between McNamara and President Kennedy, where he suggests that the US should start pulling out advisors from Vietnam. Hearing recordings later with President Johnson, he admonishes McNamara for his “unwarranted optimism”, McNamara later endorses the President’s wish to continue the war. So if McNamara’s belief was that ”Human beings must stop killing other human beings.” I believe there would have been other ways to follow that belief instead of simply following orders.
Linking back to Morrison’s incident, McNamara states “It’s a very, very difficult position for a sensitive human beings to be in. Morrison was one of those. I think I was.” It is understandable that he was torn between his beliefs and his loyalty to his administration, however by not doing anything for his beliefs and only standing by and following orders, he didn’t seem like such a strong believer. With that, he even called himself a Pacifist. This however, seems like an exaggeration, because a Pacifist believes that any violence is unjustified. McNamara said that “you need to do whatever killing is necessary but minimize it” so he may believe in little violence, but he definitely is no Pacifist.
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