The Two Wars Of Robert McNamara
In the beginning
In 1937, this young ‘genius’ (supposedly) scored 800 all correct answers in his GMAT test (reputedly, a first in the history of GMAT) – and joined Harvard Business School. Harvard milked this story to sell its struggling business school. In the next 60 years, (as the urban legend goes) only 3 others scored 800 points – all Indians (confirms IIT, Mumbai website).
The young ‘genius’ was Robert S. McNamara (ironically, S. stands for Strange). During WW2, he was a part of the Statistical Control Office. Statistics is what the legendary Edward Deming used to increase production and improve quality during WW2 in the USA. Robert McNamara, Col. Charles B. “Tex” Thornton and 8 others were a team that were in-charge of war transportation and logistics. They made these ‘boring’ jobs glamorous – and used their academic excellence to create an aura around themselves.
At Ford Motors
After WW2, this team joined Ford Motors. The Ford PR team promoted them as the Whiz Kids, the American press lionized them, even as Ford’s business results were ordinary. This Ford connection was to prove relevant to McNamara’s activity later, we will see. The Ford in charge of the company was Henry Ford II, a direct descendant of the racist Henry Ford, who bankrolled Hitler and funded research into Eugenics – whose most famous practitioner turned out be Joseph Mengele.
The Kennedy Presidency
In 1961, Robert McNamara became Secretary of Defense under President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy’s presidency was marred by more scandals than any other. Joseph Kennedy, JFK’s father made his fortune from bootlegging, many Wall Street Scams – and reputed shorted the market, which resulted in the Great Depression. On the other side was the inspired leadership of Ho Chi Minh.
The story picks up speed
In 1954, the Viet Minh defeated the French Army at Dienbienphu. Eisenhower outlined the infamous Domino Theory – based on Anglo Saxon paranoia that the whole world was against them (unfortunately, not true) and an assumption that Asia was retarded and incapable of making a suitable political choice – and that the Anglo Saxons knew better. The French handed over their mess to the Americans and walked away in 1956. And thus started McNamara’s War.
Fools Rush In Where Angels Fear To Tread
Kennedy-McNamara turned this into a war. Lyndon Johnson (on advice of McNamara) increased American involvement against the Vietnamese – without permission from the US Congress, which is essential as per US constitution. Then began the lies, duplicity, covert operations – directly monitored by McNamara. No wonder, McNamara boasted that “each hour of testimony requires 3 to 4 hours of preparation.”
The Vietnamese had the support of the Russians and the Chinese. American troops increased to 500,000 in this unconstitutional (and hence, illegal) war. Cost to the USA – more than 200,000 dead or disabled. Cost to Vietnam – incalculable.
What McNamara Learnt From Vietnam
Americans lost the Vietnam War. Against a determined enemy (like the Viet Cong), the technological edge that America had was not very useful. Worse, American technological edge, was only temporary. The experience of the Vietnam War, preyed on McNamara’s mind. The Vietnam War brought home the reality that India and China could raise an army bigger than the entire population of United States.
McNamara’s unique contribution to the Vietnam War was ‘body count’
he was so impressed by the logic of statistics that he tried to calculate how many deaths it would take to bring North Vietnam to the bargaining table … (later) he wanted to know why his reckoning had been wrong, why the huge casualties that he had helped inflict had failed to break the will of the men in Hanoi …
His ruminations about this began at the Americans’ April meeting in Washington, where he, Cooper and General Vesser agreed that casualties did not seem to weigh heavily with North Vietnam …. “Was there any consideration of the human cost in Hanoi as they made these decisions?” McNamara asked. “Is the loss of life ever a factor?” He noted that while 58,000 Americans had been killed, the most authoritative estimate — in a September 1995 article by General Uoc — put the number of Vietnamese deaths at 3.6 million. “It’s equivalent to 27 million Americans!” McNamara exclaimed.
To explain this to himself, he remembered … There were some people to whom life was not the same as to us, he reasoned as he stood one evening in the hotel lobby. (Ellipsis, bracketed text mine).
He was right. Only he could have killed an equivalent of 27 million Americans – and still talk about the value of life, with a straight face. For American neo-colonial objectives.
Against America’s temporary technology superiority, the population superiority that the Indians and the Chinese had was permanent. India’ subsequent rise in technology (with engineering skills in software, pharma, automobiles, etc.) and the Chinese rise in manufacturing proved some of McNamara’s ‘fears’ true. McNamara’s legendary quantitative skills made him a convert to The Population Crisis propaganda.
The Population ‘Crisis’ Ideology
You win, we lose.
That is what Lester Thurow proposed in his book, The Zero Sum Game. The ‘rise’ of India and China is a threat to America – and the West? In Anglo Saxon terms, the ‘rise’ of India and China is a zero-sum gain.
If India and China prosper, the West will lose, goes the paranoid thinking. Contributory growth as opposed to supplanting growth is an alien concept in Anglo Saxon strategy. Hence, the theory that population is the biggest problem for India and China – was ‘created’ as a development strategy.
How the Developing World was sold this dud
Initially the Carnegie Endowment and the Ford Foundation worked with USAID, (part of the US Government) to sell this theory – specially to the Chinese and the Indians. Since, there was no ‘apparent’ economic or political interest of the Americans, this paranoid construct was given respect as a theory. This lack of ‘apparent’ self interest also helped the ‘Ugly American’ (The Ugly American, by Eugene Burdick William Julius Lederer) to cover his face.
Next, the American economic aid started coming with the ‘population control’ strings attached. It took a while for the dots to start getting connected. At the first whiff of a scandal, USAID, Ford Foundation and Carnegie Endowments handed over this project to the UN, World Bank and IMF. This gave the Population Control programme, the respect it did not deserve.
Paul Ehrlich, Robert McNamara, Club Of Rome – False Doomsdayers
Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (1960 coincided with the start of Robert McNamara’s World Bank stint. Together, the “smartest man” (Lyndon Johnson’s description of Robert McNamara) and Paul Ehrlich did a hatchet job on this. Economists Herman Kahn and Max Singer (of the Hudson Institute) did come out with a alternative model which disproved this theory. Yet in the midst of the din, the furore and the determined PR push by various UN bodies, the World Bank and the IMF, poor Third World countries never examined this theory critically.
The Western world synchronised and the infamous Club of Rome’s The Limits to Growth predictions were released …”the world would run out of gold by 1981, mercury by 1985, tin by 1987, zinc by 1990, petroleum by 1992, and copper, lead, and natural gas by 1993. The end was nigh” intoned the The Club Of Rome (from Reasononline …). This psuedo-academic report was jointly authored by heavyweights – Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III.
The venue for the release of this report was carefully chosen – Smithsonian Institute, to give it an air of solidity and authority. This report itself was released with much fanfare, publicity and PR. Yale economist Henry C. Wallich noted, “the quantitative content of the model comes for the authors’ imagination, although they never reveal the equations that they used.”
Economist Julian Simon rubbished this theory and made the famous Simon-Ehrlich US$100 bet – against the population doomsdayers. Julian Simon won the bet. Of course, he may bet either because he believed in the continued dominance of the western mode of exploitation or the inability of the rest of the world to stop this exploitation.
The bottom line was that these economists (the Ehrlich’s, The Club Of Rome, The McNamara’s, etc.) wanted the poor of this world to feel guilty about sex, about electricity, about having cattle, drinking milk and eating food.
Western critics (like critics Hermann Kahn and Max Singer) of the population theory were saying “Why bother? Our technology and military, economic might ensure that they (the poor) never lay their hands on the goodies!”
Population Crisis and The Population Problem
Nothing but re-packaged Eugenics programs of Pre-WW2. Hitler made these programs notorious. Hence, family planning and population crisis and population problem became other names for the same programs that killed more than 10 million Jews, Roma Gypsies and others. The repackaging and reselling was supervised by World Bank – under Robert McNamara.
McNamara’s two wars – on Vietnam and population control (of India and China) have both been a disaster. Strange, that a ‘genius’, supported and backed by the world’s only ‘superpower’ and the largest economy, could not achieve much against backward and developing nations like Vietnam, India and China.