We have a new “Think Again” column called “Conflicts by theRich, for the Rich,” here.
I also did a Daily Beast post on Palin’s defenders on Sunday, whichis here. (Otherwise, I’ve been at the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake which I’ll write about a bit next week.)Meanwhile:
Eric’s obituary for Robert McNamara, (lifted from When Presidents Lie):
A Harvard Business School graduate and the former president of FordMotor Company, McNamara was a figure, even in this impressive company,of unsurpassed self-possession and confidence. The ultimate “can-do”executive, he could reduce any problem presented to him to numericalinputs and outputs. McNamara displayed little patience for doubt, secondguesses, or gray areas. There were problems and there were solutions, period. It was only a matter of putting all the information into the right places andensuring that the answers flew freely to the men who required them.Like Lyndon Johnson, McNamara was also a compulsive liar. He told oneset of stories to one group of people and then turned around andexplained behind closed doors that the opposite was true. On occasion he may have forgotten which version actually represented the truth, and so he found himself defending propositions that, however illogical, enabled him to appear tohave been right all along.
Robert McNamara ran the Department of Defense as if it were thebiggest private company on earth–which in fact it would have been, hadit been private–and thereby ignored much about what was unique to itscharacter and mission. Moreover, McNamara treated the American people withthe same contempt a successful CEO enjoys demonstrating to peskystockholders. They had, in his mind, the right to the information he chose to give them and nothing more. Unfortunately, he ignored the elementary rulethat governs all informational systems: “Garbage in, garbage out.” When itcame time to evaluate the progress of the war he was planning andimplementing, McNamara forgot that he had been fabricating, dissembling, and at times outright lying about the conflict almost from day one. He also neglected to factor in that the intense pressure he placed on the military to providepalpable signposts of progress led many of those who reported to him up and downthe line to fabricate the information they were providing as well. Asearly as March 1962, for instance, British officials were shocked to hear USambassador to Vietnam Frederick Nolting tell them of the pressure he felt todemonstrate results. But human nature being what it is, McNamara came tobelieve his own lies as well as those he inspired others to tell him. Inhis 1999 investigation of the war, Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy, McNamara seems to imply that if he had known the truth about what took place in the Gulf of Tonkin, the United States might neverhave gone to war. But the Secretary of Defense could easily have discoveredthe truth within days of the crisis had he committed himself to doing sobefore advising Lyndon Johnson to embark on a series of rash military andpolitical responses. In fact, the great mathematical mind of the Vietnam War built an entire system on an edifice of information that would not survive eventhe most cursory of audits. The literally incalculable cost of this faultyapplication of systems analysis–and Johnson’s unwitting reliance on it–would soon become evident for all to see.