In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam
Vintage Books, 1996 - 518 pages
Robert S. McNamara, secretary of defense for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, helped lead America into Vietnam. McNamara believed that the fight against communism in Asia was worth the sacrifice of American lives, and yet he eventually came to believe that the war was, in fact, unwinnable. Outnumbered by those who wanted to continue fighting, he left the Johnson administration and his involvement in Vietnam behind. He refused any public comment on the war, and for almost three decades has kept his silence - until the nineties. Drawing on his personal experience and a wealth of documentation - much of it only declassified decades later, and some presented here for the first time ever - McNamara has crafted an insider account of Vietnam policy making. He reveals exactly how we stumbled into the war, and exactly why it quickly became so difficult to pull out. McNamara takes us into the Oval Office for late-night discussions with the president, into the halls of the Pentagon as military strategy is argued, and into the chambers of Congress as policy is debated. He also reveals his own inner torment as the war effort becomes increasingly frustrating, and then utterly disastrous. The result is a book that is not only history of the highest order, but also revealing portrait of the trials of leadership.--adapted from publisher description.