Monday, July 06, 2009
Robert S. McNamara, who died today at 93, may, in President Kennedy's estimation, have been the brightest of them all. He came to public service, as JFK's and later Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of Defense, from the presidency of Ford Motor Company, where he and his fellow "whiz kids" succeeded with a new toolkit of statistical techniques that refined the earlier, blunter techniques of Fordism and Taylorism. He brought that toolkit to Defense, and to the conduct of the war in Vietnam, where the emphasis on statistics was reflected in the periodic "body count" reports. His decisions led to the death or maiming of many thousands, both American and Vietnamese.
He later acknowledged that "we were wrong" (he never said "I was"), in the apology shown in the video clip above.