The legacy of Robert McNamara can’t be deduced at this early stage, and if anyone were to do it, a layman such as myself certainly wouldn’t be fit for the task. McNamara was at the levers of power during a time when the United States was embroiled in one of the most doomed enterprises of its history - the Vietnam war. In the documentary film The Fog of War, McNamara appears to lay alot of the blame at then President Lyndon Johnson’s feet, while other analysis lays the blame at the feet of technocrats like McNamara:
John Ralston Saul, in Volatire’s Bastards, makes McNamara a central character in his tale of how Western governments came to rely on a cult of credentialed, jargon-y experts to make decisions that were better left to politicians.
Like the anti-poverty policies laid out by Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam was an utter failure. It may not have been such an explosive phenomenon, leading to deaths on college campuses, Woodstock and future presidential candidate John Kerry throwing his purple hearts in public anger, if Johnson had understood what his successor Richard Nixon understood: that those kids out there protesting weren’t protesting American policy in Indochina, but were really just protesting their enlistment to fight on behalf of that policy. If a draft had been a factor during the Bush years, the bitter words hurled at Bush’s policies would have likely turned into bitter action.