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""In Retrospect""
"In Retrospect"
Jessica Linton
In Retrospect

By: Robert S. McNamara

Vietnam had long since been a place of controversy, and where the American government focused its fear of communism for many years. Throughout the Kennedy and Johnson administrations the government maintained that the war between the Communist north and the south could have only been won by the South Vietnamese, and that US military could not have won it for them. It stressed that the fall of South Vietnam to communism would threaten the rest of the western world.

McNamara's book, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, begins with a dozen or so interesting but terse pages on the author's background; his schooling; his meeting, and marriage to, Margaret McKinstry Craig, to whose memory the book is dedicated; his wartime service as an air corps statistical control officer; and his postwar service with the Ford Motor Company. He had been president of that company for only seven weeks when John Kennedy made him Secretary of Defense in 1961. The problems of Vietnam from 1961 to early 1968 occupy virtually the rest of the book. Although the war lasted some eight more years, the story ends with McNamara's transition to the World Bank in 1968, as the Tet offensive begins.

In the period 1965-67, Robert McNamara came to believe that Vietnam was "a problem with no solution." This is the theme of his book. His frustration arose because the war was fought under five rules, which, as he saw it, proved incompatible with victory. These rules were: (1) that Southeast Asia as a whole must be kept from communist control; (2) that US troops should not be sent outside the borders of South Vietnam; (3) that the South Vietnamese should achieve political stability and--with US tutelage and military aid--learn to defend themselves; (4) that the United States...

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