McNamera and the Vietnam War
McNamera, former secretary of defense for the United States, learned eleven huge lessons from his involvement in the wars of the wars of the 20th century. Several of these lessons were applied in his approach to the Vietnam War, while others failed to be successfully used. The first of these lessons, to empathize with the enemy, was unfortunately dismissed in this war. The United States, with over 500,000 troops alone, believed that they could easily overpower North Vietnam’s fighting force of fewer than 300,000. The United States, however, did not count on just how intense Vietnamese nationalism was. During Kennedy’s presidency, McNamera supported the increase of troops in the country. They were surprised with the difficulty they faced with guerilla warfare employed by the Vietnam fighters. This type of fighting was the kind that they were used to using in their country prior to the conflict with America and had McNamera and the U.S. empathized with their enemy, they would have known that Vietnam soldiers would use this technique. They also thought that their massive fighting force would lower Vietnam morale and would allow them to crush the enemy.
Another lesson was that to do good, sometimes you must engage in evil. During the war, the United States and McNamera came under fire for their intense bombing campaign throughout Vietnam, mainly in major North Vietnamese cities such as Hanoi. McNamera had to face the press and defend his actions. The bombings killed many civilians, not all of whom were communist and pro-North. However, he argued, it was a necessary action to wear down the communist regime’s morale and put blows to the enemy’s resources. These attacks were important to the overall outcome of the war and though evil, McNamera felt they were necessary.
The last lesson, get the data, was a lesson that McNamera used during the war but the United States ignored. During Johnson’s presidency, Secretary of Defense McNamera...