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Robert McNamara

Sir Tokyo Sexwale

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Robert McNamara, one of the US government's chief architects of the Vietnam war, died today aged 93.



McNamara died early this morning at his home after long-term health problems, his wife, Diana, told the Associated Press.



As the defence secretary to the presidents John F Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, he managed much of the day-to-day conduct of the ill-fated war in Vietnam, which is sometimes referred "McNamara's war".



Known as a cerebral policymaker with a fixation for statistical analysis, McNamara was recruited to run the Pentagon by Kennedy in 1961. He was previously president of the Ford Motor Company after analysing the efficiency of bombing raids for the US air force during the second world war.



He stayed seven years as secretary of defence, longer than anyone since the job's creation in 1947.



His association with Vietnam became intensely personal. Even his son, as a Stanford University student, protested against the war while his father was running it.



At Harvard, McNamara once had to flee a student mob through underground utility tunnels. Critics mocked McNamara mercilessly; they made much of the fact that his middle name was "Strange."



After leaving the Pentagon on the verge of a nervous breakdown, McNamara became president of the World Bank and devoted his energies to the belief that improving life in rural communities in developing countries was a more promising path to peace than the build-up of arms and armies.



McNamara, regarded as being a private person, declined for many years to write his memoirs, to lay out his view of the war and his side in quarrels with his generals.



In the early 1990s he began to open up. He told Time magazine in 1991 that he did not think the bombing of North Vietnam – up to that time the biggest bombing campaign in history – would work, but he went along with it "because we had to try to prove it would not work, number one, and [because] other people thought it would work".



Finally, in 1993, after the cold war ended, he undertook to write his memoirs because some of the lessons of Vietnam were applicable to the post-cold war period, "odd as though it may seem".



In 2003 he was the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary entitled The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S McNamara. It was based on 20 hours of interviews with McNamara.




The Fog of War is well worth a watch...

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