Lessons of Vietnam

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In Retrospect: The tragedy and lessons of Vietnam.
By: Robert S. McNamara

Robert S. McNamara's book, In Retrospect, tells the story of one man's journey throughout the trials and tribulations of what seems to be the United States utmost fatality; the Vietnam War. McNamara's personal encounters gives an inside perspective never before heard of, and exposes the truth behind the administration.

In McNamara's first chapter he discusses his journey into the Washington spot light and the three events that shaped his life. The first even that shaped his life was The Great Depression, at the time; fully 25% of male adults of this country were unemployed and McNamara's drive for scholastics excellence derived from the fact that neither his mother, nor father attended college. The second and third events that ultimately shaped McNamara's life was attending the University of California at Berkeley and meeting his wife, Margaret. From Berkeley to Harvard McNamara contours his path into politics. From living in a cramped one bedroom apartment with wife Marg, to being known as apart of the "Whiz Kids" McNamara eventually lands himself the secretary of defense for President Kennedy and created a bond between the two men that will last forever.

In the Early Years: 1961-1963, Kennedy administration and Vietnam take flight. Assumptions behind the administration's decisions to increase U.S involvement in Vietnam strains two very important aspects that would gainsay obligation; one, the fall of South Vietnam to Communist control and the U.S military role and support. Discussion of knowledgeable ties to Southeast Asia emerged. Lack of governmental experts created obstacles. When the Berlin crisis occurred in 1961and during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, President Kennedy was able to turn to senior people like Llewellyn Thompson, Charles Bohlen and George Keenan, who knew the Soviets intimately. There were no senior officials in the Pentagon or State Department with comparable knowledge of Southeast Asia. Ultimately, the administration failed to critically analyze their assumptions and the foundations of their decisions, which inevitable ended in disaster. A momentous decision would soon follow. On July 1965 175,000 U.S combat troops were to be sent by the end of the year to defend South Vietnam, and again, by the years end in 1966 another 200, 000 to be sent, understanding the likelihood of the wars coming to an end was slim to none, however, the fundamental logic expressed throughout was that Laos is the present Key to the entire area of South East Asia. If Lao were lost to the Communists, it would bring an unbelievable pressure to bear on Thailand, Cambodia and South Vietnam. In the administration debate was constant and the stitches of governmental bondage seemed to be unraveling. Treasury Secretary designate Douglas Dillon expressed that Eisenhower and [Secretary of State] Herter, both got a certain inner satisfaction from laying a potentially intractable problem in Kennedy's lap. Again incidents of tragedy now, within our own administration, at a imperative epoch of U.S contribution in Vietnam, in reality, American citizens needed their government the most. Weeks after President Kennedy's October 2 verdict to begin the extraction of U.S forces, President Kennedy is assassinated, and America the almighty, crumbles. On Friday afternoon, November 22, 1963, as President Kennedy rode to a speaking engagement in Dallas, I met in a conference room adjoining my Pentagon office with my senior associates…in the midst of our discussion-at about 2:00 pm-my secretary informed me of an urgent, personal telephone call…it was Bobby Kennedy, even more lonely and distant than usual. He told me simply and quietly that the president had been shot. …A second call from Bobby came about forty-five minutes later. The President was dead.

After the assassinations of both Kennedy and South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, it...
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